A digital deck builder from the Dominion mold, how does Mythical stack up?
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Mythical is a straight-to-digital deck builder from Laser Ranch. In the game, one to four players attempt to earn honor by using resources to acquire a stronger set of cards (dubbed “things” in Mythical), generate more resources, and purchase more honor. Play continues until one or more of certain piles of things are depleted, at that point the game ends, points are tallied, and the player with the most honor is crowned the winner. A game lasts around 30 minutes, but that can vary wildly based on the game setup.
If you read the intro description and didn’t think “Dominion?” then you have probably never played Dominion. Mythical certainly adds some twists, but it is definitely inspired by Dominion and does not stray too far to it’s inspiration.
The base game of Mythical is free and contains 24 unique things to use. There are a wealth of expansions available currently, with many more planned. We will discuss those a bit later, but for now, unless specifically noted, everything we will be discussing is for the base game.
Mythical begins with each player having ten things, three constructs (Houses) which provide honor (the game’s point system) and seven land things (Fields) which provide resources to purchase new things. Players draw five things and receive one mana on each turn which is used to summon creatures, most of which can be summoned with a single mana. Creatures provide abilities such as more mana, “picks” which means to draw a thing from your pile, or a handful of others. Once the summoning is over for the turn, players play all of their lands which provide resources used to purchase new things. You can make one purchase per turn, unless you play a thing which provides additional purchase actions. After the purchase phase, all things are then sent to the wastepile (discard), and five more are drawn from your stockpile. Should your stockpile be empty, your wastepile gets shuffled and moved to the stockpile.
Play continues until either three of the reserve piles or the highest point construct pile (Castle, worth 6 honor) are empty. There are some constructs which will have varying honor levels based on in-game criteria, otherwise your constructs are simply added together to provide the final score.
It’s a deck builder, and the basic deck building concept remains the same here: build up an engine using whatever things are available in this particular game, strengthen your engine, and then turn the engine loose on acquiring as many points as possible before the game ends. It’s a tried and true formula and Mythical pulls it off well.
A big twist on the classic formula is the Realm. This is an area which you can gain the ability to send things which essentially can’t be drawn back into your hand. It’s a storage unit for constructs so they can happily earn you points, but not clog up your hand. Also, there are elements of Mythical which take advantage of its digital format that physical card games cannot. Certain cards grow more or less powerful with each use which is an exciting element. There is a stun ability which peeks into an opponent’s stockpile and temporarily nullifies the first creature it finds, which can be extra powerful if it ends up targeting a strong opponent creature.
The other night I was playing a game with a random setup (I was using the expansions). The game included three or four attacking creatures, one character which blocked attacks (Sphinx), and a Wall construct which is worth two honor but gains an addition two each time you are the target of an attack. One of the attack creatures would place two of the cheapest, weakest last cards in each opponent’s wastepile, clogging up the decks with poor cards. This game turned into a madhouse and really illustrated the potential of Mythical. Each player was attacking like crazy, and the cheap, Sphinx, usually with limited use, was crucial in blocking those attacks, while the Walls were accumulating huge points. The entire game was turned on its head, and it was a ton of fun. All of this is to say, the Dominion format has been proven, the question is whether the cards and their abilities are good enough to chain together really interesting combinations, and this is one example where it is pretty clear to me that Mythical has some cleverly designed abilities to keep things interesting.
Barrier to Entry
Mythical has a detailed tutorial which will step you through all of the basics by playing a few turns of a game. The tutorial hits all of the necessary points and allows you to finish the game against AI to get a better feel for how to play on your own. Like most deck builders, the details are in the cards (things) themselves. Mythical certainly has some twists to the traditional formula, and the basics there are well explained, but it will still take some time to understand how the different creatures, lands, and constructs play.
The way the game lets you learn things has some pluses and minuses. On the positive side, you can click a thing’s name at any point in the game to bring up the card details in full view. Clicking on any ability icon will then bring up a popup explaining it. There is also a view to see the basic abilities of all things on one screen. On the negative side, there is no attempt to convey the abilities of the things sitting in the reserve except for clicking to zoom into the detailed view. If you know the abilities through repeat plays, this is a non-issue, but when starting this will result in way more clicking on things than you’d like to learn their abilities.
The game could use a text rule/mode summary, as there are a lot of game modes and a handful of small details that aren’t covered. Not necessarily gameplay issues, but things like where to find the turn timer in online games. A simple reference for things like this would be great. The developers do have forum setup which clarifies many of these issues, but adding them to the game would be preferable.
Look and Feel
Mythical plays great. The controls work well and the game flows nicely. The only real complaint on the control side of things is the lack of an “undo” button which I’ve found myself wanting on occasion. Most of the controls are smooth, you simply click the thing you want to activate and it goes where it needs to. Additionally, the game will automatically finish phases and turns for you when appropriate, which provides a much smoother experience than having to click-to-confirm everything. Things are mostly well laid out, the online turn clock is oddly hidden in your Realm popup, but other than that, everything makes sense. By default, the game animations are slow, but can be toggled up two separate levels for speedup, which considerably reduces overall game times.
The look of Mythical has me a bit torn. All of the things are cute 3D models that look good, but they also look slightly generic. Nothing is bad, but there’s not a ton of creativity, visually. A deck builder with a pasted on theme certainly isn’t rare. I don’t know, something about the overwhelmingly bright and cheery colors seems a bit odd to me compared to most other deck builders, but that might be more of a personal hangup than a legitimate complaint about the game. This is likely one that will come down to personal tastes.
The game board is quite crowded across all devices, but I found the game to be entirely playable on a large phone, which was a bit unexpected. The game is a bit less crowded on tablets and computer monitors, but if you want to play fully mobile, the mobile versions will work, with the biggest issue being some small buttons.
The game has nice, soothing background music and fun sound effects for the creatures when played, a good set of sounds is a nice, often overlooked, touch.
Online games in Mythical take a variety of forms, but they are all synchronous games at this point, with two minute turn timeouts, and 10 or 20 minute game timeouts, depending on the mode. You can play in three different modes: Friends, Casual, or Ladder. Friends allows you to invite friends (the friend system is a nice username-based system, no complaints), chat with them during games, and optionally play with AI bots. Casual will randomly match you with a player of similar skill, you won’t be able to chat and there will be no skill or coin rewards handed out. Ladder is the same as casual except you get points towards your skill level and can earn the Win of the Day for a silver coin (more on coins later).
Mythical is a game that plays out over a large number of turns. As such, it’s not really the best suited for asynchronous play, but at the same time, we always prefer seeing that option. Otherwise, the online games work really well. The matchmaking is easy and inviting friends to a game is as simple as you’d hope, and the gameplay experience is smooth. There is no option for local pass-and-play, unfortunately.
Note that we have seen a few hiccups in online play while reviewing a pre-release version. We’ve lost game connections and had trouble connecting, we will play more after the official release to see if they have been corrected.
Single player mode is dubbed “Practice” in Mythical, which is an odd choice of names, but ignore that and you’ll find four AI difficulty levels to go against. The easiest of the bunch, Servant, appears to essentially make random choices in thing purchasing, and should be an easy victory for all but beginners. The second AI is also fairly easy. The third, Scribe AI, begins to be a challenge for experienced deck builders, but is more akin to a normal “medium” level AI. The Noble AI provides a respectable challenge, as you would hope.
A weird one that we feel the need to call out is that you can play Mythical offline with any and all expansions you have purchased. This isn’t the case in another popular deck builder app, but we wanted to assure you it is here.
Learning to play
A few expansion things
Mythical includes a free, not freemium, base game. You get 24 things and can play in any game mode. This is enough to keep you busy for awhile if you enjoy the game. Should you want more, however, there is a wealth of expansions already available. They come in themed sets where the theme is usually just a visual theme, but every so often a set will come out with a mechanical theme as well. The sets that fall into the former category are simply more variations on the existing mechanics.
Expansions, which contain six or seven things (creatures, constructs, or land), are purchased for one gold which is purchased for $2. If you buy gold in bulk you get some free silver thrown in. Silver can also be earned through online play and is used to buy individual things (as in cards, I’m not just being lazy and saying “you can buy stuff”) and more environments, which are cards added to the game to change some basic rules for that game.
Like any good deck builder, the longevity of Mythical is tied to the expansions. They aren’t the biggest expansions we’ve seen, but there are quite a few of them at launch with plans to bring more each month. The success of these expansions, and Mythical in general, likely lies in the ability of the designers to make these expansions bring fun twists to the base game. Having used the expansions, there are some interesting mechanics added at this point, and we’re curious to see what types of things they come up with next. It is worth pointing out again that the base game is free and offers a decent amount of content to “try before you buy.”
The Wrap Up
Mythical is well made, with few obvious flaws, only a handful of nitpicks. The biggest hurdle for the game will be learning the thing abilities, which can be much more complicated than those seen in other deck builders. Not so much that they are doing complicated things, just that the text explaining them is sometimes quite long. The game has some issues with displaying thing abilities without needing to click a few times to get there. This is an issue that lessens the more you play as you learn the thing abilities. It will likely be a hurdle for new players, however. The lack of asynchronous play is the other top issue in Mythical.
Mythical is a really good digital stand-in for Dominion. The game has a fun ability set that adds some unique aspects which wouldn’t work in a physical game and creates a fun suite of options to play with. And, oh by the way, the base game is free, so it’s certainly worth trying it you are interested in the genre at all. If you dive into the game, the current and future expansions should provide a long line of options. Will it stand out in the sea of established digital deck builder ports? Only time will tell.