After tweaking the last few lines of code in the real-time strategy game Myth: The Fallen Lords, the folks at Bungie must have felt a bit like Michelangelo after applying the final daubs to the Sistine Chapel: "Not bad, but what are we going to do to top this?" The original Myth offered beautifully rendered 3-D terrain, a solid tactical element, superb physical modeling, free Internet gaming via bungie.net, cross-platform play, and support for 3Dfx-based hardware acceleration. Could the company produce a compelling sequel that wasn't a regurgitation of the original? In a word: yes.
Although Myth II maintains nearly all the elements of the original, the sequel refines rather than reiterates. You continue your battle with the forces of the Dark, but this time you discover a more detailed world in which the legions of both Light and Dark have an expanded set of characters, all with embellished abilities. Bowmen now carry a flaming arrow for setting grass afirea wonderful tactical enhancement for discouraging or fricasseeing your opponents. Regrettably, your troops are all too willing to march right into the same fire. And as if the too-quick-on-the-draw dwarfs from Myth I weren't nuisance enough, Myth II includes mortar dwarfs who fire deadlyalthough inaccurateprojectile weapons.
Bungie has also improved Myth's interface. All formations are now mouse selectable in a small menu bar at the bottom of the game screen, and rotating troops is easierjust select them and use the arrow keys to pivot.
The range of environments is wider in Myth II: you'll have occasion to fight indoors, within the walls of an enemy castle, and on board a ship. Animated 3-D objects such as windmills and drawbridges add to the visual luster of the game. Squeamish players can now turn off the blood and gore. Two powerful but complex editing tools let you alter game elements and create maps. And Myth II supports RAVE 3-D hardware acceleration on systems that carry at least 32MB of RAM and a Rage Pro or Rage 128 chip set.
Oh, and one more thing. Myth II is a kick to playin single-player mode or against human opponents.
Bungie has done a marvelous job of enhancing what was already a stellar game. It's a foregone conclusion that fans of the original will buy Myth II: Soulblighter. If you have the slightest interest in real-time strategy games, check it out.
RATING: PROS: Interface and graphics refinements; RAVE support. CONS: Troops are a bit dim about the hazards of fire. COMPANY: Bungie Software (312/397-0500, http://www.bungie.com ). LIST PRICE: $49.
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