I did that thing — you know the thing that people sometimes do. I cleaned the garage. This means that I’ll never have to do it again, right? Of all things I would rather have done on a weekend, cleaning the garage fell somewhere between writing my will and joining ISIS.
But lo, like exploring the mines of some lost, fabled land, I dug deep and discovered treasure. (But not so deep as to wake the Balrog.) Games. Games are what I found, specifically PC games from decades past, all shiny and somehow appearing fresh out of the box. I found The Simpsons: Cartoon Studio, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Red Faction, Starcraft and Diablo II. Of all the discs, however, there was one true gem: Myth: The Total Codex.
From developer Bungie — you know, the team behind that unheard-of indie title Halo — this collection, released in 1999, is one part tactics and 30 parts The Lord of the Rings. Dwarfs, elves and men are being forced to extinction by the oncoming storm that is the Nine Fallen Lords: repel them or die, to sum it up. There’s even a dwarf named Balin, if the Rings homage isn’t clear enough.
The set I discovered came with the first in the series, The Fallen Lords; its sequel, Soulblighter; and the expansion, Chimera. As of now, I’m still trying to win my way through the first installment, but as I installed it on my Windows 8 computer, I thought to myself, “Did I ever beat this game?”
The answer is no, and the reason is simple: It’s seriously difficult. Even on the normal setting, trying to maintain control over a group of archers, swordsmen and Molotov cocktail-hurling dwarfs is like trying to keep a dozen marbles in formation, and in 1999 I was 15 with an attention span the length of a neuron.
You are given a set number of troops (typically, a number of the three core classes) and tasked with completing a mission. Rarely is it that any of your men are replenished, so if they die, they stay dead until the next mission, when you’re resupplied. It pays to keep them alive, however, because surviving members often carry their attributes to the following stages.
The story revolves around the nine lords of old, returned to the world of Myth, only evil this time. Massive armies move across the lands and you basically act like Special Forces while the larger armies do their thing elsewhere.
The most difficult and profoundly annoying aspect of the game is the dwarfs, who chuck their bombs in careless glee at the enemy. Why is this annoying? Because friendly fire is very real. I cannot express how many times a dwarf has taken out 10 or more of my infantry with a single bomb as he runs for safety. Often, the dwarf will even take himself out, too.
Myth and its sequel are (despite my grievances) seriously fun. Both hark back to a time before World of Warcraft and, yes, even Halo, when strategy was the primary way to victory.
The game is almost 20 years old and it shows, but if cleaning the garage means finding a gaming gem, sign me up weekly. (I’m being hyperbolic, please don’t do that to me.)
Gamer’s Notebook is a bi-weekly column about the world of video games. Chris O’Neal is done cleaning garages. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @agentoneal.