Myth II: Soulblighter

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Myth II: Soulblighter
Myth II Cover.jpg
Developer(s) Bungie
Publisher(s)
Producer(s) Tuncer Deniz
Programmer(s) Jason Regier
Artist(s) Mark Bernal
Writer(s)
Composer(s)
Series Myth
Platform(s) Windows, Mac OS, Linux
Release date(s) December 28, 1998 (1998-12-28)[1]
Genre(s) Real-time tactics
Mode(s) Single-player, online multiplayer

Myth II: Soulblighter is a 1998 real-time tactics video game developed by Bungie for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS. Published by Bungie in North America and by GT Interactive Software in Europe, the game was also ported to Linux by Loki Entertainment. It is the second game in the Myth series, and a sequel to Myth: The Fallen Lords. In 1999, an expansion pack, Myth II: Chimera, was released. Developed by the Badlands mapmaking group, in association with Bungie, Chimera is set ten years after Soulblighter. Originally released as a free download, Chimera was later published by Bungie as part of the Total Codex bundle, incorporating it into the official Myth canon. In 2001, a third Myth game was released, Myth III: The Wolf Age, set one thousand years prior to The Fallen Lords, and developed by MumboJumbo.

Set sixty years after The Fallen Lords, the game tells the story of the resurgence of Soulblighter, a supporting antagonist in the first game, and one of the titular Fallen Lords. Determined to defeat the forces of Light who vanquished his master, Balor, and conquer the free cities of the world, Soulblighter resurrects the Myrkridia, a race of flesh eating monsters not seen in over a thousand years. Standing against Soulblighter is Alric, the main protagonist in the first game, and now King of The Province, who must rally humanity to fight a war they never expected. Chimera is set ten years after Soulblighter, and tells the story of three veterans of the campaign against Soulblighter, who band together to fight a mysterious sorceress.

Soulblighter was a critical success, with reviewers feeling it improved on virtually every aspect of The Fallen Lords. They cited better, more detailed graphics, enhanced sound effects, more varied gameplay, better AI, more intricate and varied level design, and a more user-friendly interface and control scheme. Critics were also impressed with the improvements made to online multiplayer mode, and praised the variety of options available to players. They also lauded the mapmaking tools included with the game, which allowed users to create their own maps for both multiplayer gaming and single-player campaigns. The game also sold very well, considerably outselling the original, which had been Bungie's best selling game up to that point.

The Myth series as a whole, and Soulblighter in particular, supported an active online community for over a decade after the official servers went offline. The first formally organized group of volunteer-programmers was MythDevelopers, who were given access to the game's source code by Bungie. The most recently active Myth development group is Project Magma, an offshoot of MythDevelopers. These groups have worked to provide ongoing technical support for the games, update them to newer operating systems, fix bugs, release unofficial patches, create mods, and maintain online servers for multiplayer gaming.

Gameplay[edit]

Myth II: Soulblighter is a real-time tactics game, and as such, unlike the gameplay in real-time strategy games, the player does not have to engage in resource micromanagement or economic macromanagement, does not have to construct a base or buildings, and does not have to gradually build up their army by acquiring resources and researching new technologies. Instead, each level begins with the player's army already assembled and ready for combat.[2] During the game, the player controls forces of various sizes made up of a number of different units, each possessing their own strengths and weaknesses. In single-player mode, only Light units are playable, but in online multiplayer mode, the player can control both Light and Dark units.[3]

Screenshot of gameplay in Soulblighter, showing the selection of a single unit. The player has selected a bowman named Hadrian (the unit surrounded by a yellow rectangle). The image also shows unselected warriors, who are currently attacking enemy units. At the top of the screen is the Status Bar. The mini-map of the battlefield is just below on the right. At the bottom of the screen is the Control Bar.

Basic gameplay involves the player selecting and commanding units. To select an individual unit, the player clicks on that unit.[4] Once selected, the unit is surrounded by a yellow rectangle, beside which is a health meter, which diminishes as the unit takes damage.[5] Units capable of utilising magic also have a mana meter in addition to their health meter. As they use magic, this meter diminishes, and then slowly regenerates over time.[6] Units do not regenerate health, however, and there is no way to construct new units (although in some single-player missions, reinforcements are automatically received at predetermined points). To select all nearby units of a given type, the player double-clicks on any individual unit of that type. To select multiple units of different types, the player can either "shift click" (hold down the shift key and click on each individual unit) or use "band-selection" (click and hold the mouse button on a piece of ground, then drag the cursor across the screen. This causes a yellow box to appear, which grows and shrinks as it follows the cursor's movement. When the player releases the button, any units within the box are selected). The player can instantly select all units on screen, irrespective of type, by pressing the enter key.[7] The player can also assign manually selected unit groupings to a specific key on the keyboard, and when that key is pressed, it instantly selects the desired group of units.[8]

Once one or more units have been selected, the player can click on the ground to make them walk to the selected spot, or click on an enemy to make them attack. Units with projectile weapons, such as archers and dwarves can also be ordered to attack a specific spot on the ground, rather than an enemy.[9] It is also important that the player have their units facing in the right direction. This is accomplished by pressing the left or the right arrow key or moving the mouse to rotate the direction of the units as they move to the selected location.[10] Facing the correct direction is especially important when using formations, of which there are nine available. After selecting a group of units, the player must press the corresponding formation button on the keyboard, and then click on the ground where they want the units to form.[11] The player can also order all selected units to scatter and to retreat.[10] All formations, as well as commands such as stopping, guarding, scattering, retreating, and reversing direction, are also available via a single click in the Control Bar at the bottom of the screen.[12]

When a single unit is selected, information about that unit appears in the "Status Bar" at the top of the HUD; the unit's name, a brief biography, how many kills he has, how many battles he has survived, and (if he is capable of carrying items) his inventory. When multiple units are selected, the names, types, and quantity of units will appear, but there will be no biography or information on their kills or previous battles.[13] The HUD also features a transparent overhead mini-map, which displays information about the current battlefield; the player's field of vision is indicated by a yellow trapezoid, enemy units appear as red dots, friendly non-playable units as blue dots, and the player's army as green dots. The player can click anywhere on the mini-map to instantly jump to that location. However, the mini-map does not initially display the entire battlefield; the player must explore the area for it to become fully mapped.[14] The player can also order troops to move to any location on the mapped area of the battlefield by right-clicking on that area in the mini-map.[15]

The player has full control over the camera throughout the game, and can move it backwards and forwards, left and right, orbit left and right (keeps the camera focused on a single spot while making a 360 degree circle around that spot), rotate left and right (the camera remains in the same spot but the player's point of view moves from side to side), and zoom in and out.[16] All movements can be carried out via the keyboard and mouse. Using the mouse to move backwards, forwards, left and right is accomplished by moving the cursor to the top, bottom, left or right of the screen, respectively. The player can also select preferences to allow them to control rotation and orbiting via the mouse, by moving the cursor to the top and bottom corners of the screen, respectively.[17] Zooming can be controlled by either the keyboard or mouse wheel.[18]

Selecting and commanding units only forms the basic gameplay of Soulblighter, however. The battles are more complex than simply commanding units to attack the enemy, with strategy and awareness of the conditions of the battlefield, and even the weather, also playing important roles. For example, due to the game's physics engine, objects react with one another, with units, and with the terrain. This can manifest itself simply in a severed head bouncing off one of the player's units and changing direction. However, it can also have more serious consequences. For example, a dwarf could throw a molotov cocktail at an enemy on a hillside and miss, with the projectile rolling back down the hill towards the player's own units.[19] Projectiles in general, both those used by the player and the enemy, have no guarantee of hitting anything; they are merely propelled in the direction instructed by the physics engine. Arrows, for example, may miss their intended target due to a small degree of simulated aiming error that becomes more significant at long range, or the target may move out of the way, or behind a tree or building.[19] If archers are firing at enemies who are engaged in melee combat, they may also hit the player's own units instead of the enemy, causing the same amount of damage. This is also true of dwarfs' molotov cocktails. As such, friendly fire is an important aspect of the game.[20] The weather is also something the player must always bear in mind. For example, rain or snow can put out explosive-based attacks.[21] It is also much easier for projectile units to hit enemies below them rather than above them, and as such, positioning of the player's units is an important aspect of the game.[20]

Single-player[edit]

In the single-player campaign, the player starts each mission with a group of soldiers, and must use that group to accomplish a specific goal or set of goals. These goals can involve killing a certain amount of enemies, defending a location, reaching a certain point on the map, or destroying a specific object or enemy.[22] The focus of the single-player campaign is on a smaller force defeating a much larger enemy force; in every mission, the Light units are outnumbered by enemies, often vastly, and so the player must use the terrain, employ the specific skills of their individual units, and gradually decrease the enemy force, or attempt to avoid it altogether. Units in the single-player campaign acquire experience with each kill. Experience increases attack rate, accuracy, and defence, and any unit that survives a battle will carry over to the next battle with their accumulated experience (assuming the next battle features units of that type).[5]

Multiplayer[edit]

When it was released, Soulblighter could be used for multiplayer gaming on bungie.net, or via a LAN on PC or AppleTalk on Mac.[23] In multiplayer, the player starts with an army, and can customize it by trading units with other players, using point values that approximate the value of the units being traded.[24]

Multiplayer games include "Assassin" (each team has a "target unit", with the winner being the team who kills the opponents' target first), "Choke the Chicken" (identical to Assassin, except the target unit assigned to each team is a non-playable chicken), "Balls On Parade" (each team has a ball; the object is to capture as many of the opponents' balls as possible, with winner being the team in possession of the most balls at the end of the game), "Captures" (a number of balls are on the battlefield, with the winner being the player who is in possession of the most balls at the end of the match), "Flag Rally" (a number of flags are on the battlefield, with the winner being the first player to touch them all), "Hunting" (each team must kill as much wildlife as possible; each animal has a point value, and the winner is the team with the most points at the end of the game), "Last Man On The Hill" (a hill on the map is marked with a flag; whichever player owns the hill when time runs out is the winner), "Scavenger Hunt" (a number of balls are on the battlefield, with the winner being the first player to touch them all), "Stampede!" (each team starts with a herd of animals and a number of flags; the object is to shepherd the herd to the enemy flags, with each successfully herded animal earning the team one point. The winner is the team with the most points at the end of the game), "Steal The Bacon" (somewhere on the battlefield is a ball; the object is to get the ball and keep it away from the opponents, with the winner being the last team to touch the ball), "Territories" (a number of flags are on the battlefield, with the winner being the team to capture and hold the most flags), "Body Count" (team deathmatch), and "King Of The Hill" (a hill on the map is marked with a flag, with the hill captured when one or more of a team's units move within a certain range of the flag and eliminate any enemy units in the same area; the winner is the team who controls the hill for the longest amount of time).[25]

Plot[edit]

It is sixty years since the Great War, when Connacht, the hero who saved the world from the Myrkridia one thousand years previously, returned in the guise of Balor, and with his lieutenants, the Fallen Lords, attempted to destroy humanity. Alric, the only surviving Avatara, is now king of The Province, ruling from Madrigal.[26] It is an age of peace and prosperity,[27] with the Dark existing only in stories, although the fate of Soulblighter, Balor's chief lieutenant, remains unknown.[28] The game opens with Alric experiencing a nightmare remembering the carnage of the War. He awakens to find a crow with red eyes at his window, watching him.

The game then cuts to a cluster of villages near Forest Heart. As with the first game, the story is told through the journal entries of a soldier in The Legion,[29] which is now led by Crüniac, who the soldiers think is more interested in politics than military matters, and spends its time on what the men perceive as trivial errands. Their latest assignment has them investigate reports of grave robbing,[30] however, they are shocked to find the village of Willow Creek besieged by undead Ghasts.[31] They clear the village, and learn the grave robbing leads to the keep of Baron Kildaer.[32] They head to the keep and see hundreds of Thrall moving towards Tallow. Crüniac sends a runner to warn the villagers, while The Legion attack the keep.[33] Crüniac proves a more skilled military tactician than his men believed, masterminding an attack which results in Kildaer's death.[34] Soon thereafter, the runner returns with news that every village in the vicinity has been destroyed, and an undead army is amassing nearby. Crüniac sets fire to the Keep, and The Legion flee into the Clouspine Mountains.[35]

However, their rearguard is attacked, and Crüniac mortally wounded. With his dying words, he reveals the undead are led by Soulblighter. The rest of The Legion make it to a World Knot and teleport to Madrigal,[36] where they inform Alric of Soulblighter's return. Alric fears he is trying to find "The Summoner", who, it is foretold, will resurrect the Myrkridia.[37] News soon arrives that Soulblighter has sacked several cities as he moves towards Madrigal, and that Shiver, a Fallen Lord killed during the Great War, has been resurrected.[38] Alric is soon forced to abandon Madrigal, fighting his way through a Myrkridian assault led by Shiver.[39]

The Legion head to Tandem, where Alric plans to hold the fortress at White Falls, on the river Meander, thus preventing Shiver from moving north.[40] Meanwhile, he decides to find The Deceiver, a Fallen Lord who was openly antagonistic towards the others during the Great War. He was thought killed, but his actual fate remains unknown.[41] Alric sends a small detachment to The Deceiver's last known location, and they learn he was trapped in the Dramas River when it froze solid around him, forcing him to use what little sorcery he had left to keep himself alive, unable to break free.[42] The detachment locate and release him, and he advises them to head north to enlist the aid of the Trow, allies of his in ancient times. The Legion do so, and the Trow agree to join the fight against Soulblighter.[43]

The detachment, The Deceiver and the Trow head south and meet with the rest of The Legion, learning Tandem has fallen. However, Alric has ordered The Legion to recapture Muirthemne, formerly Llancarfan, capital of the Cath Bruig Empire.[44] His plan is to find the Ibis Crown in the city's haunted catacombs, and reclaim the title of Emperor, rallying humanity behind him.[45] A small group of volunteers enter the crypts of the city and find the Crown, with Alric declared the new Emperor, and the journeymen resuming their position as the Emperor's Royal Guard; the Heron Guard.[46]

Meanwhile, The Deceiver and a detachment travel to Forest Heart to locate a fragment of the Tain, in which Alric believes The Summoner to be hiding.[47] They successfully find the fragment, enter the Tain, and kill The Summoner, cutting off Soulblighter from the Myrkridia.[48] Acting on his own authority, The Deceiver then attacks Soulblighter's camp, but he and his men are captured.[49] However, Phelot, a shade in charge of the prison, is in the service of The Deceiver, and frees them. The Deceiver attacks Soulblighter, who turns into a murder of crows to escape. He succeeds, but The Deceiver kills one of the crows, preventing him from fleeing in this manner again. The detachment then meet a scouting party near Silvermines; Alric and The Legion are moving to attack Soulblighter, but have been pinned down by Shiver, whom The Deceiver immediately heads to confront.[50][51] He hunts her down, and Phelot destroys her army. The Deceiver then kills her, but her death triggers a magical energy backlash that also kills him.

With Shiver dead, Soulblighter is forced back against the Cloudspine.[52] His army is defeated, but he flees into the volcano Tharsis, where he plans to shatter the Cloudspine itself, causing widespread devastation. Alric and The Legion pursue him,[53] and Alric breaks the rock on which he stands, plunging him to his death in the molten lava. With Soulblighter's death, the narrator learns of "The Leveler", an immortal evil spirit. The forces of Light and Dark rule the world successively in thousand-year cycles, with each Age of Light climaxing with the arrival of The Leveler, who ushers in an Age of Darkness. The Leveler inhabits the body of the hero who defeated him in the previous cycle — thus the hero who saves civilization is destined to destroy it; so Connacht returned as Balor. However, Soulblighter was not The Leveler; he tried to force the cycle, and as a result may have broken it. Whether this is the case will not be known for over nine hundred years, when it comes Alric's time to assume the mantle of The Leveler.[54]

Myth II: Chimera[edit]

When Alric restored the Cath Bruig Empire and reformed the Heron Guard, Four Bear Silent Oak chose to remain a journeyman, electing to lead a life of scholarship. Now, ten years later, he is plagued by visions of a mysterious woman, and a foreboding sense of evil. Convinced he must act, he seeks out his old ally, the legendary warrior Fenris, who has isolated himself in the fir'Bolg forest of Ruewood.[55] Fenris agrees to join Four Bear, and they decide to elicit the aid of ne'Ric, a celebrated fir'Bolg. However, they soon learn the Banded Wasps of Ruewood, a normally peaceful race of giant wasps, have suddenly become aggressive.

Fending off an attack by the Banded Wasps, and accompanied by fir'Bolg, a band of human warriors, and several dwarves, they head to the tomb of their former ally, Kyrand the Mage, where Fenris plans to take possession of Kyrand's amulet.[56] There, they encounter the woman from Four Bear's visions; a sorceress named Kyrilla, who also plans to retrieve the amulet. She orders an army of Thrall to prevent Four Bear, Fenris and their men entering, but they defeat the army. Kyrilla disappears, and they enter the tomb, retrieve the amulet, and resume their search for ne'Ric, who is fighting the Banded Wasps elsewhere in Ruewood.[57] As they search, they again encounter Kyrilla, who reveals it is she who is behind the Banded Wasps' attack. They eventually find ne'Ric, and force the Wasps to retreat.

Fenris then receives a letter from Baron Geoffrey Volsung begging him for help, as he believes Kyrilla has put in motion a plot to assassinate him.[58] Fenris, Four Bear, ne'Ric and their men head to meet Volsung on the beachhead at Cavanaugh. However, upon arriving, Volsung accuses them of betraying him. Fenris is able to convince him he is incorrect, narrowly avoiding a clash between Volsung's army and their own men. They then help his men repel an attack from an army of undead. Kyrilla appears, revealing she had hoped Volsung and Fenris would kill one another. Awaiting an attack in her castle, she summons the power of her "Lord", begging him to give her the strength to avenge her father's death.[59]

The heroes and their army attack the castle, defeating Kyrilla's undead legions. She confronts them, revealing herself to be Kyrand's daughter. Four Bear gives her Kyrand's amulet, in which are stored his memories, and she realizes her "Lord", the demon Cartuke, was actually the one who killed Kyrand, who sacrificed his own life to wound Cartuke and save the lives of Fenris, Four Bear and ne'Ric.[60] Cartuke had been manipulating Kyrilla in an effort to regain his power, but now she sees the truth, and joins the others. They head to his lair, finding him inside an energy sphere. Killing all of their men, he leaves only Fenris, Four Bear, ne'Ric and Kyrilla. In an effort to distract him, Fenris and Kyrilla attack, and as he turns them to stone, ne'Ric fires a magical arrow which kills him. Four Bear laments that once again, he has failed to save the lives of his friends, but he and ne'Ric take some consolation in the knowledge that Cartuke has finally been defeated.

Development[edit]

Bungie conceived of Soulblighter prior to the release of The Fallen Lords in 1997, with the only thing that would prevent them from making it being if The Fallen Lords was a commercial failure.[61] However, when the original game proved a success, becoming Bungie's biggest selling game thus far,[1] the sequel immediately went into development. One of their main goals with the sequel was to include numerous gameplay aspects and game mechanics which they had wanted to feature in The Fallen Lords, but had been unable to implement due to time constraints. Alex Seropian, co-founder of Bungie, explains "there were still some things at the end of Myth that we wanted to do, but we just ran out of time. Myth was a terrific product, but we knew we could do a lot better."[61] Of the initial planning for Soulblighter, Seropain states

We had a lot of specific design goals for Myth II. Part of those things are enhancements to the engine as well as the gameplay. There were some things in the gameplay and artificial intelligence that made the original annoyingly difficult, and those were some of the things we wanted to enhance. In addition to that, we decided to touch basically every facet of the game. We wanted to make the music and sound better, the graphics - so we basically retouched every area of the Myth gaming experience.[61]

New to Soulblighter were moving 3D models within the gaming world, something none of Bungie staff had ever created before. For example, the opening level features a fully functional windmill, and a later level features a drawbridge that closes as the level begins, and which the player must then lower so their army can gain access to a castle. Although the original game featured the same kind of 3D polygonal models, none of them moved, and implementing this feature proved to be one of the biggest challenges the team encountered in making the game.[1] Another challenge also involved something not seen in the first game; a level set indoors. For this level, which is set in a large castle, the AI had to be rewritten as two enemy units could be right beside one another but not be able to see each other because of a wall between them. Previously, two units standing beside one another would automatically attack. Writing this new code into the AI scripting language proved especially difficult for the programmers.[62]

The team also approached the cutscenes differently. In The Fallen Lords, the cutscenes had been created by an American animation studio, but had received a mixed response from both the developers and fans of the game, with some feeling they felt cartoony, and were tonally disconnected from the rest of the game. This was something the team wanted to ensure was not repeated in Soulblighter. As Seropian explains,

Myth has a different style to it, almost like a classic kind of look, and we just thought that rendered animation wouldn't look as good with it, so we went with cel animation. Some people liked it, some people didn't, and in the final analysis we decided that it looked a little more cartoon-like than we wanted. For Myth II we decided to go with a Japanese company and have more of an anime style, more of a cutting-edge, rougher-edge look and feel to the animation.[63]

In terms of the game's graphics, as with The Fallen Lords, each level in Soulblighter is constructed on a polygonal mesh. However, the mesh used is four times finer then in the original, and hence the graphics are more detailed and smoother. Also like the first game, although the game world itself is fully 3D, the characters populating each level are 2D sprites. However, the sprites in Soulblighter have many more frames of animation than those in The Fallen Lords, and so move much more smoothly.[64] Explaining why the team stuck with using 2D sprites in a 3D terrain, producer Tuncer Deniz states,

it's a performance issue. The reason we went with sprites for the characters is because in Myth you can have one hundred units on the screen at the same time, and if they were all polygonal models, even those with the fastest home computers wouldn't be able to play the game.[65]

Delays[edit]

Originally scheduled for North American release on November 1, 1998, Bungie were unable to have the game ready in time. According to Tuncer Deniz, the initial release date was missed because of "the time frame given to do the game, which was very small as opposed to most major titles. We added so many new things - ultimately that ends up extending the development cycle."[1] The team then set a release date for just prior to Christmas, meaning the game would need to go gold by the first week of December.[1]

By November 13, Bungie were still writing code for individual levels, although lead programmer Jason Regier felt "it seemed there was an end in sight."[1] On November 21, the team held a meeting, discussing whether to continue to aim for the Christmas deadline, or work to incorporate all of the still-evolving gameplay ideas and fix every bug, which would mean almost certainly missing the deadline. Deniz ultimately argued the team should continue to develop the gameplay and fix bugs, but they would also need to accept that not every detail they wanted to add was going to be included.[1] On November 22, Diane Donohue (director of operations) and Doug Zartman (director of public relations) sent out one-hundred-and-forty copies of the game to game reviewers across North America. The staff at Bungie had become so stretched trying to finish the game on time that Donohue and Zartman were hand inking the "This Game Is Huge" blurb, and then pressing them onto the boxes themselves.[1]

On November 24, the team decided to aim for a December 13 finish, which would get the game on shelves between Christmas and the new year. Zartman explains "It's not as catastrophic as it sounds. The second biggest time to buy games is immediately after Christmas. Gamers are taking back the game they didn't want and getting the game they did want - and they've also got all that holiday money."[1] By December 7, the entire Bungie staff were either playtesting the game or fixing bugs.[1] On December 10, the game went gold, with Zartman sending out an email to gaming websites;

Bungie Software tiredly but happily announces that Myth II: Soulblighter, sequel to 1997's seminal 3D strategy title Myth: The Fallen Lords, has gone to replication. As you read this, a plant somewhere in Atlanta is replicating and boxing hundreds of thousands of copies and preparing to ship them to the far corners of North America. Elsewhere in the world, GT Interactive, Pacific Software Publishing and other publishing partners are doing the same...this sequel has been turned in a mere seven months.[1]

The game made it to store shelves on December 28.[1]

Uninstall bug[edit]

On December 28, the day the game was shipped to stores, Bungie's head-office was contacted by their Japanese publisher, who informed them a woman working on the Asian translation of the game had discovered a major bug in the Windows version. She had installed the game in the root directory of her hard drive, and then used the uninstall program to uninstall it. The game was successfully uninstalled, but much of the contents of her hard drive were also erased. Jason Jones attempted to replicate the problem, quickly discovering what was wrong, and figuring out how to correct the faulty code. However, roughly 200,000 copies of the game were already in transit to major retail stores across North America. Jones, Alex Seropian, Doug Zartman, Diane Donohue, and David Joost (sales and marketing director) quickly convened a meeting to decide what to do. The team essentially had two choices. On the one hand, they could say nothing, and quietly fix the bug in a patch that would be immediately made available for download on their website. In favor of this course of action, it was argued that installing a game to the root directory of a hard drive was an unusual thing to do, something there was little chance of anyone repeating, and so it was unlikely anyone would ever encounter the bug. The other option was to publicly announce the problem and recall the game. This is what they did.[1] According to Jones,

The thing that made the decision easy was that if we were to ship the game anyway and try to fix the problem later, some people were gonna get screwed. And that was wrong. It might not have been very many people - maybe one or two. But it would have bothered us the rest of our lives. Maybe not - maybe just two years. We'd be sitting around today: "Damn, wonder when the next person's gonna call?" It was so clear that there was one decision that led down the road of eternal damnation. The other was to spend a lot of money and do the right thing - and never make the same mistake again.[1]

Bungie recalled every shipped unit of the game, a decision which cost them $800,000 in expenses and fines from retailers for missing their release deadline.[1] Meanwhile, Donohue called the Bungie factory in Atlanta and told the production managers to immediately stop printing copies of the game, and hold any shipments that hadn't already gone out, whilst Joost began calling the stores that were still awaiting shipments, telling them to refuse any orders that arrived. As the units that were in transit began to arrive back at the factory, each individual one had to be repackaged by hand.[66] Joost explains,

You open the carton, then the box for each individual unit, take out the jewel case, unwrap the shrink wrap, take out the old CD and destroy it, put in the new CD, re-shrink-wrap the jewel case, repack it in the box, put on a new UPC label that would electronically read this as version 1.1, and put a red sticker on the box saying that this is the new updated version 1.1.[1]

By December 30, v1.1 was on the way to stores. Bungie also issued a statement on their website telling players who had managed to get a copy of v1.0 to uninstall the game by manually dragging the game's folder to the recycle bin. They also made the v1.1 patch available for download.[67] The gaming press lauded Bungie's handling of the situation, praising their decision to take the financial hit and recall the game.[1]

"Fear" and "Loathing"[edit]

Screenshot from Blue & Grey, an American Civil War era total conversion, created by the community using the Fear and Loathing tools.[68]

With the release of Soulblighter, Bungie included two programming tools called "Fear" and "Loathing", which allowed players to create new units and maps.[69] Both The Fallen Lords and Soulblighter had been created using four tools developed by Bungie themselves; "Tag Editor" edited the constants stored in the cross-platform data files; "Extractor" handled the 2D sprites and the sequencing of their animations; "Loathing" acted as the map editor; and "Fear" dealt with the 3D polygonal models such as houses, pillars, and walls.[70] Speaking of Fear and Loathing, The Fallen Lords's producer and programmer Jason Jones explains, "Loathing is basically the map editor for Myth. You import your map into it, you change the heights, and you place your units on the map in Loathing. Fear takes care of all the models; it is used to import the 3D rendered models into Myth."[71]

Loathing was specifically built around the Myth engine and allowed the team to modify the 3D landscape, apply lighting, determine terrain type, script the AI, and position structures, scenery, and enemies. The 3D models were then imported into the game using Fear.[70] Bungie themselves strongly encouraged the creativity of their fan base in using these tools. For example, in April 1999, they issued a press release regarding the World War II total conversion Myth II: Recon, saying "This kind of plug-in was exactly what the Myth II tools were intended to inspire, and is an excellent sign that Myth mapmakers are taking this game world in fascinating new directions."[72]

Technology[edit]

The Fallen Lords originally supported both software rendering and 3dfx's Glide hardware acceleration.[73] Soon after it was released, Bungie released a v1.1 upgrade patch, which added support for Rendition's Redline,[74] and 3dfx's Voodoo Rush.[70] Soulblighter originally supported software rendering, all 3dfx and Rendition GPUs, and any graphics cards that supported Direct3D for Windows and QuickDraw 3D for Mac.[75][76] The game also supported 3D audio, specifically Aureal Semiconductor's A3D and Creative Labs' EAX.[77]

Later releases[edit]

In 1999, Bungie re-released Soulblighter for Mac OS and Windows as part of a special edition called Myth: The Total Codex. The bundle included The Fallen Lords, Soulblighter v1.3 (Bungie's last official update of the game[78]), the Soulblighter expansion pack Myth II: Chimera (developed by the Myth mapmaker group Badlands, in association with Bungie themselves), and official Strategies and Secrets guides for both of the main games.[79] Soulblighter was later ported to Linux by Loki Entertainment.[80]

In June 2000, Take-Two Interactive, who had purchased 19.9% of Bungie's shares in 1999, acquired the Oni and Myth intellectual properties after Bungie was purchased outright by Microsoft.[81][82] Take-Two's first Myth release was Green Berets: Powered by Myth II in July, 2001.[83] Set in the Vietnam War, Green Berets is a total conversion of the Soulblighter engine, and includes a copy of Soulblighter, as well as the Fear and Loathing tools.[84] Developed by mapmakers from within the Myth community, in association with TalonSoft, Green Berets also features eight new multiplayer maps, and the option to use Green Berets units whilst playing the Soulblighter single-player campaign.[85][86] Take-Two's second release was Myth II: Worlds in October.[87] Worlds includes a copy of Soulblighter, the Soulblighter Strategies and Secrets guide in PDF form, and two disks of fan-created single-player campaigns, multiplayer maps, and gameplay mods.[88]

Community[edit]

Although the official Bungie.net Myth servers closed in February 2002,[89] the Myth series continued to have an active online fanbase for over a decade, particularly Soulblighter. After Bungie released the Total Codex bundle in 1999, which contained The Fallen Lords v1.3, Soulblighter v1.3 and the Soulblighter expansion pack, Myth II: Chimera, they ceased working to develop the game's source code, as Microsoft, who purchased the company in 2000, wanted them to concentrate on Halo.[90] As such, they were approached by a group of programmers, artists and coders known as MythDevelopers, who asked for access to the code so as to continue its development.[91] With the blessing of Take-Two, Bungie released their entire archive of Myth-related materials to MythDevelopers, including the source code, artwork, all creative files (such as maps, 3D models, scripts, etc.), and documentation; over 80GB of material.[91] MythDevelopers were also granted access to the source code for Myth III: The Wolf Age, which was developed by MumboJumbo in 2001.[91] Bungie also open sourced their Myth metaserver source code in 2002.[89]

MythDevelopers used this material to improve and further develop the games. Although their initial focus was on the bug-ridden release version of The Wolf Age,[91] they also worked to update the first two games to newer operating systems on both Mac and PC, fix bugs, and create unofficial patches to enhance both the games themselves and the mapmaking tools.[91] They also developed their own library, dubbed the Myth Core Library, which provided networking, input routines, and other low-level functions.[78] This enabled MythDevelopers to avoid the necessity of licensing any external libraries, and instead allowed them to develop everything in-house. This was part of their deal with Take-Two, as they couldn't incorporate anything into the games which they would be unable to give Take-Two the rights to should the company ever ask for the source code back; all modifications remained the intellectual property of Take-Two, who were free to use them in a future commercial version of Myth, if they ever wanted to re-release an upgraded version of one or more of the games, or incorporate the modifications into the development of a new Myth game.[91]

MythDevelopers disbanded in December 2003, with Project Magma becoming the main development group for The Fallen Lords and Soulblighter,[78] and FlyingFlip Studios for The Wolf Age.[92] From 2003 to 2013, Magma released several major patches for Soulblighter, each of which featured fixes for bugs, graphical problems, gameplay problems, and interface issues, as well as improve the Fear and Loathing tools and the online multiplayer mode. However, each patch also featured one or more "major" enhancements. For example, v1.3.2, developed in association with MythDevelopers in 2003, allowed Soulblighter to run natively under OS X.[93] Also developed in association with MythDevelopers in 2003 was v1.4, which introduced OpenGL support for the OS X version and allowed the player to play Soulblighter with Fallen Lords style gameplay (dubbed vTFL).[94] In 2004, Magma released their first standalone patch, v1.5[95] which was originally intended as a minor clean-up patch for some of the problems introduced in v1.4. For example, v1.4 broke a number of fan-developed plug-ins. Additionally, as the developers did not have access to The Fallen Lords source code when designing vTFL, the feature was unreliable.[78] Magma's plan with v1.5 was to get the gameplay and plug-in compatibility back to the standard of Bungie's last official version of the game, but retain the v1.4 features that worked. The team went back to the v1.3 source code, and began to individually fix the features from v1.4 which no longer worked. During development of v1.5, they also gained access to The Fallen Lords source code, and so completely rewrote the vTFL option.[78] Eventually, they were able to fix every broken plug-in, and get vTFL working the way it was originally intended.[78] v1.5.1 subsequently added OpenGL support for the Windows version of the game.[96]

In 2006, v1.6 introduced backward compatibility with previous patches, and added a v1.5.1 compatibility mode.[97] The next major update, v1.7, was released in 2009. This was followed by v1.7.1 in 2010, and 1.7.2 in 2011.[98] v1.7 added support for high-resolution texture mapping and anisotropic filtering when the game is played using OpenGL.[99] A smaller "bug fix update," v1.7.1 included mainly gameplay and presentation tweaks, as well as bug fixes.[100] Concentrating on performance issues, v.1.7.2 improved OpenGL rendering, added rendering support for both DirectX 10 and DirectX 11, improved loading speeds, and made many enhancements to the Windows version of the game, including improved stability on Windows 7.[101] Magma's final patch, v1.8, was released in 2013,[102] and added several new game modes to multiplayer gaming, increased loading and saving times, improved the usage of CPU resources, added a new texture decompression code which loads sprite frames twice as fast as before, improved the general FPS, enhanced both the texture mapping and the pixel shader, and included (for the first time in a Magma patch) Linux-specific improvements.[103]

Magma's extensive work on Soulblighter has essentially rendered The Fallen Lords obsolete by porting almost every aspect of the game to the superior Soulblighter engine. For example, v1.4's optional vTFL gameplay mode made the game play more like The Fallen Lords.[94] All official Fallen Lords multiplayer maps were also ported to Soulblighter,[104] and a Fallen Lords interface was developed to make the Soulblighter HUD more resemble that of The Fallen Lords.[105] Magma's biggest project regarding porting the original game to Soulblighter was The Fallen Levels; a complete port of the entire Fallen Lords single-player campaign to the Soulblighter engine, available as a plug-in.[106][107] Additionally, players can download Magma's "Detail Texture Megapack", a plug-in released in 2013, which provides enhanced texture mapping for all Fallen Lords, Soulblighter and Chimera levels, as well as every official multiplayer map, and hundreds of user created maps.[108]

Servers[edit]

Prior to disbanding, MythDevelopers created and operated PlayMyth.net, the most popular online Myth server after the official servers were taken offline. Although built using the Soulblighter server, PlayMyth could also run both The Fallen Lords and The Wolf Age, which was developed by MumboJumbo using a network gameplay system designed to run on GameSpy rather than Bungie.net.[91] PlayMyth went offline in October 2007 after it was repeatedly hacked,[109] with the most popular servers becoming MariusNet.com and GateofStorms.net.[110]

MariusNet had been online since just prior to Bungie.net's Myth servers going offline, and was officially approved by Bungie.[111] The original impetus behind the project was as a temporary replacement for Myth players in case the original servers were shut down, which had been rumored for some time. The Bungie servers had not supported The Fallen Lords since November 2001, and the community believed the servers would soon close for Soulblighter as well.[111] When The Fallen Lords servers closed in November, the only way to play a multiplayer game was via a LAN or AppleTalk, and MariusNet was created as a Bungie.net "emulator", which, like PlayMyth, supported all three Myth games, and thus gave players a way to play The Fallen Lords online.[111] At the time, Bungie had not open sourced the metaserver source code, so creating a network for The Fallen Lords was accomplished via reverse engineering. Dave Carlile, the main programmer of the server, explains

We started with some information about the Myth 2 network protocol, and hoped Myth 1 was the same or very similar. [Todd Snyder] then used a packet sniffer to look at the data being sent back and forth between the Myth 2 client and the server in order to learn more. We initially made a partial Myth 2 server to get the basics down, then spent hundreds of hours figuring out the differences in packet structure in Myth 1. For a few of the more difficult pieces we used a disassembler to take apart the client code, and also a debugger to trace through the code.[111]

MariusNet closed in 2014 when the server company shut down, and the hardware was damaged whilst being moved to its new location.[112] GateofStorms, which was created by Project Magma,[110] and only supports Soulblighter v1.8, remains active, and continues to host individual games and tournaments.[113]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 88/100[114]
Review scores
Publication Score
Game Revolution A-[19]
GameSpot 9.3/10[22]
IGN 8.9/10[2]
PC Gamer (US) 88%[115]
PC Zone 8.5/10[116]

Soulblighter received "generally favorable reviews." It holds an aggregate score of 88 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on twelve reviews.[114]

GameSpot's Michael E. Ryan scored the game 9.3 out of 10, calling it "about as good as a computer game can possibly be." He felt it improved on the original in every way, specifically citing the graphics, gameplay, and multiplayer mode. He also praised the mapmaking tools. He concluded "Bungie basically improved all the good features in Myth; added a number of gameplay, multiplayer, and graphical enhancements; and then threw in some slick and powerful editing tools to boot. The end result is one of the best games to be released this year."[22]

Game Revolution's Calvin Hubble rated the game an A-, calling it "both one of the best sequels to hit the scene and one of the finest titles on the RTS market." He too felt it improved on the original, writing, "Bungie did an excellent job at reading the faults of the original by making change where change was needed and leaving the successful areas alone." He praised the level design and gameplay variety, citing "some of the most creative and immersive environments in the industry." He also lauded the graphics and multiplayer mode, concluding "Myth II offers the best real-time strategy experience in the industry. It has everything that made Myth one of the best games of last year, plus a free set of steak knives [...] Myth II is simply one of the best sequels ever designed."[19]

IGN's Tal Blevins scored it 8.9 out of 10, praising Bungie for seeking fan feedback from The Fallen Lords, and implementing the most requested changes. He was especially impressed with the graphics, writing "watching a line of troops wade across a stream, their reflections bobbing in the river's current is simply spectacular." He concluded by "highly recommending this game to anyone, even those who have never played an RTS game before [...] Myth II breathes enough new life back into this series to qualify as an incredibly fun game with tons of replayability."[2]

PC Zone's Paul Mallinson scored it 8.5 out of 10. He praised the improved controls, and the enhancements made to the game engine, concluding "If you liked the original Myth, you'll love this. Graphically, Soulblighter is much better, and there's not much wrong with the gameplay. There's a fine single-player game to get your teeth into, and an easily workable multiplayer alternative to back it up. There's even a campaign editor which enables you to make your own missions. Add all these things together and you have to conclude that Myth II: Soulblighter is undoubtedly an excellent package."[116]

Sales[edit]

Soulblighter considerably outsold The Fallen Lords, which had been Bungie's best selling game up to that point. In North America, pre-orders for the game reached 140,000 units.[1] When v1.1 was released on January 7, day one sales equaled the number of units the original sold worldwide in total; 350,000.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Mahin, Bill (March 23, 2000). "Monsters in a Box". Chicago Reader. Retrieved March 19, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Blevins, Tal (February 24, 1999). "Myth II: Soulblighter Review". IGN. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Characters". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 58. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Selecting Units". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 26. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b "Selecting Units". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 28. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Special Abilities". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 32. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Selecting Units". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. pp. 26–27. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Selecting Units". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 27. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Commanding Units". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. pp. 28–29. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  10. ^ a b "Commanding Units". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 30. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Commanding Units". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 31. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  12. ^ "The Interface". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. pp. 23–24. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  13. ^ "The Interface". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 22. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  14. ^ "The Interface". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 23. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  15. ^ "Commanding Units". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 29. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  16. ^ "The Interface". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. pp. 24–25. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Getting Started". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 20. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  18. ^ "The Interface". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 25. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  19. ^ a b c d Hubble, Calvin (January 1, 1999). "Myth II: Soulblighter Review". Game Revolution. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  20. ^ a b "Gameplay Tips". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. pp. 35–48. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Weather and its Effect on Battle". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. pp. 32–33. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  22. ^ a b c Ryan, Michael E. (December 30, 1998). "Myth II: Soulblighter Review". GameSpot. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  23. ^ "Multiplayer". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. pp. 35–48. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Unit Trading". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 52. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  25. ^ "Types of Network Games". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. pp. 49–51. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  26. ^ "Glossary". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 70. Retrieved March 14, 2016. Alric: An Avatara of years past, Alric is the only surviving member of the Nine sorcerers who opposed the Fallen Lords during the Great War. Alric reclaimed his throne after defeating Balor. He has spent the last sixty years rebuilding The Province. 
  27. ^ "The Story So Far". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 15. Retrieved March 14, 2016. Sixty years have passed since the end of the Great War against the Fallen. Alric sits on the throne in the rebuilt city of Madrigal. Warriors have returned to their villages, and allies like the fir'Bolg to their homelands. Peace reigns and the land prospers. 
  28. ^ "Prologue". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 9. Retrieved March 14, 2016. Some of the people in the village were veterans of the Great War, and the rest spoke of it so often one might be forgiven for thinking it had ended sixty days ago rather than sixty years. In light of Andir's developing skepticism, many of the tales told about the war seemed suspect. Hordes of reanimated dead defeated by small, ragged groups of mercenaries and volunteers? A severed head that spoke, lies slipping through its lips to an audience that would soon be dead? Alric, then simply a wizard of immense power and not a King, plotting and fighting against the walking dead without so much as a scratch on his chin from Balor's rotting armies? Balor himself, with a legion of creatures bound to him through sorcery and intimidation, unable to stop Alric from lopping off his head? And Soulblighter - the towering, mad thing who cut off his own face and tore out his own heart as part of a ritual too dark to speak of? None of it seemed especially believable, although the adults still spoke of Soulblighter in hushed tones; according to the stories, no one had ever discovered what became of him. 
  29. ^ "Glossary". Myth II: Soulblighter Instruction Manual. Bungie. 1998. p. 73. Retrieved March 14, 2016. The Legion: An army of the Light, The Legion took part in many of the pivotal battles in the closing years of the Great War. Travelling across the continent, they broke through the Fallen lines, and fought their way to Rhi'anon, where they sacrificed themselves in an assault on Balor's fortress in order to give Alric time to defeat Balor. 
  30. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Willow Creek. Narrator: Monday, August 25, Near Willow Creek. It was only yesterday that we entered the town of Tallow seeking rest after a month spent patrolling the southern regions of the Wild River. But our respite was cut short when the mayor beseeched us to investigate reports of grave robbing around the villages just north of Forest Heart. Crüniac, who seems to be more interested in political maneuvers than military ones, agreed to look into the matter. I am sure it will prove to be yet another unfounded rumor, no doubt caused by wild dogs searching for their evening meal in the newly turned earth of a graveyard. Alas, that is the life of a soldier these days, chasing hoodlums and thieves, and making sure the nobility get their due. 
  31. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Salvation. Narrator: Tuesday, August 26, between Tallow and Willow Creek. I can hardly believe what I have just witnessed. As we approached the village of Willow Creek, we saw what appeared to be a band of ruffians terrorizing the peasantry. If only it had been so. We rushed to the fray and were able to save a handful of people from the wretched claws of the walking dead. 
  32. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Into the Breach. Narrator: Tuesday, September 2, Near Brayle. When we reached Tallow, Rurik told the mayor he had overheard the brigands speaking of taking corpses to a castle near the town of Brayle. Indeed, the locals we encountered on the way said they had seen many wagons filled with bodies being hauled into the Keep. The master of this castle is Baron Kildaer. 
  33. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Into the Breach. Narrator: Tuesday, September 2, Near Brayle. This evening at our camp just outside the Keep, I was awakened by a low rumbling. We watched in helpless silence as a massive army of Thrall, ten abreast and a hundred deep, marched out of the main gate heading south. Crüniac fears their destination is Tallow and has sent a runner to warn the town. 
  34. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Into the Breach. Narrator: Tuesday, September 2, The Keep. Crüniac is more competent in military matters than I had given him credit for. Enlisting the help of Jari, a dwarven pathfinder, to infiltrate the Keep and lower the drawbridge was inspired. 
  35. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Gonen's Bridge. Narrator: Monday, September 15, Gonen's Bridge. The runner sent to warn Tallow had returned, only to tell us that Tallow, along with every other village and town along the northern border of Forest Heart, had been ravaged by the undead. Even worse, the enemy is amassing a huge army less than a day's march from here. Crüniac believes they are coming to recapture the Keep [...] Crüniac and some other men stayed behind to put the Keep to the torch, thus preventing it from falling back into the hands of the enemy. As we began our ascent into the foothills of the Cloudspine, I turned back and saw the blaze well under way. 
  36. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Beyond The Cloudspine. Narrator: Wednesday, September 17, Plain of Scales. Crüniac is dead. Our sergeant, Garrick, says he saw the commander and half of the color guard running like hell back through the lines ordering a general retreat. When Garrick caught up with him, Crüniac collapsed; he had been holding his guts in with his shield. Crüniac's last words were of the bravery of the color guard, who had given their lives trying to save him even as Soulblighter had delivered the killing blow. Soulblighter...I have not heard that name since the days of my youth, when my grandfather would tell me stories of the Great War. According to legend, Soulblighter was killed in the last battle of that war, when Balor's severed head was thrown into the Great Devoid and the armies of the dead collapsed. But after the horrors I have witnessed so far, no tale is too terrible to be believed. And if Soulblighter is alive and the minions of the Dark have risen to do his bidding, the events of the last few weeks begin to make sense. 
  37. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: The Great Library. Narrator: Tuesday, September 23, Madrigal. Alric is convinced that Soulblighter is searching for a man known as The Summoner. He says that the birth of a man "who would resurrect the Myrkridia and visit horrors on the world without equal in history or myth" had been foretold in an ancient tome called the Total Codex. All that we know of the Myrkridia comes from old songs and half-forgotten legends. They are full of horrifying tales of whole armies being devoured and entire cities being erased from the world. They were eventually defeated by the hero Connacht, who imprisoned them in a powerful artifact called the Tain. 
  38. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Gate of Storms. Narrator: Friday, October 10, Madrigal. Soulblighter cannot be stopped. His armies foul the land south of us for half a thousand miles, and his search for The Summoner has left none alive within his reach. The cities of Scales, Covenant and Tyr have all fallen to him in the last three weeks. It seems that too many years of peace have softened the once legendary armies of the west. Rabican, Murgen and Maeldun have been dead sixty years, and today only Alric remains of the great leaders who defeated the Fallen Lords. Survivors reached us from the garrison at Tyr today, confirming the city's destruction. One among them told us of being captured and dragged before a woman so disfigured by injury and age that he turned from her, repulsed. In a rage, she gouged out his eyes and shrieked "Tell Alric his nightmare has just begun!" and released him to stumble out of the conquered city. 
  39. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Landing At White Falls. Narrator: Sunday, November 16, Near White Falls. Our deepest fears have been realized. Soulblighter has found The Summoner and through him has unleashed the Myrkridia on the world. They are nightmare made flesh. Even men hardened by combat cowered in miserable terror at first sight of them. We suffered appalling losses getting his majesty safely onboard the Vigilance. Not a single man from the outer guard made it to the ship. By the time we were safely away, the dock was so thick with Soulless you could hardly discern where one ended and the next began. We fell silent as their ranks parted to make room for a grotesque crone who hurled obscenities more vicious than any poisoned barb. 
  40. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Landing At White Falls. Narrator: Sunday, November 16, Near White Falls. We made haste toward Tandem, our rallying point. Tandem is the cornerstone of the free cities of the north, and the key to Tandem is White Falls. So we will sail up the Meander and secure the fortress there. We cannot allow Shiver to cross the Meander. Doing so would mean the destruction of Tandem, and no one will remain to stand against the Dark. 
  41. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Through The Ermine. Narrator: Sunday, November 30, The Ermine. The King has decided to fight fire with fire. He seeks Myrdred, an Avatara of the Wolf Age whom Balor renamed "The Deceiver" after bending him to his will. Although The Deceiver fought alongside Balor during the last war, he held no great love for the rest of the Fallen, nearly being killed by The Watcher in a legendary battle at Seven Gates. King Alric believes The Deceiver still lives and is counting on this old rivalry to lure him into joining our efforts to destroy Soulblighter and the Myrkridia. 
  42. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: The Stair Of Grief. Narrator: Monday, December 22, Thyrmir's Gorge, The Stair of Grief. Today the Dramus River is frozen solid, but back then it was a muddy torrent of melted snow and ice brought on by the eruption of Tharsis. The Deceiver was plunged into the river and swept far downstream, his sceptre sinking to the bottom. I asked Twelve Motion why King Alric believes The Deceiver will throw in with our lot. He explained how The Deceiver has been frozen in a half-death beneath the river, clinging to life through sorcery alone, with no power left to free himself. The King believes that if we were to revive him and return the sceptre, the focus of his power, he would no doubt join our cause. 
  43. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: With Friends Like These. Narrator: Sunday, February 1, The Twelve Duns, south of Rhi'ornin. The Deceiver is deranged, of this I am absolutely convinced. He has brought us here, to The Twelve Duns, closer to the Trow demesne than any sane man has dared in two generations. We are a mere four hours march from the lost city of Rhi'ornin. The Deceiver claims to be held in high regard by the Trow as a being of "furor poeticus". He has told us of their battles against the Myrkridia and believes he can win the Trow to our cause. Apparently the Trow are not convinced that our race is worth fighting for, but they have agreed to do battle with Soulblighter for one year. 
  44. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Walls of Muirthemne. Narrator: Thursday, February 26, Outer Walls of Muirthemne. Today, after more than two months of separation, we have finally rejoined the rest of The Legion. I will not even hazard to guess the thoughts of those who first sighted the mighty Trow accompanying our force. After we settled in, Garrick told us of events in the west [...] we were pushed across the Meander and now Tandem's fall is inevitable. So the King has decided on a new course of action. The Legion must capture Muirthemne. 
  45. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: The Ibis Crown. Narrator: Friday, February 27, Muirthemne. "Once we have recovered the Ibis Crown," [Alric] declared, "Llancarfan will once more be the seat of the Cath Bruig Empire with myself as Emperor. The people will draw strength from me and we will go forth and strike down our enemies. Once they have been defeated we will rebuild the Empire to its former glory." Legend states that whoever wears the Ibis Crown has at his disposal truly staggering power. Such was the artifact's power that Ceiscoran, at fantastic expense, commissioned eleven ordinary copies of the thing to be made in order to make theft of the true crown more difficult. When Muirthemne fell to the Fallen Lords, the crown was nowhere to be found. King Alric believes it was secreted away in the catacombs below the Mausoleum of the Cath Bruig. Knowing that entering the haunted crypt is tantamount to a death sentence, the King has called for volunteers. 
  46. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Redemption. Narrator: Monday, March 2, Muirthemne. After the Ibis Crown was recovered from the ancient tomb below Muirthemne, a ceremony was held to coronate Alric as the new Emperor of the Cath Bruig Empire. The journeymen, after a hundred years of self-imposed penance for being absent during the fall of the city, threw down the gold tiles that hung around their necks and swore fealty to the new Emperor. The journeymen were no more; the Heron Guard were reborn. 
  47. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Relic. Narrator: Sunday, April 19, Forest Heart. During the Great War, Soulblighter trapped The Legion inside an artifact called the Tain. After two days of searching, the avatara Murgen discovered a secret exit. At the cost of his own life, he was able to free The Legion by shattering the Tain from within. When Soulblighter fled after the Tain was destroyed, he must have taken some part of it with him, knowing that even a tiny fraction of the artifact would be useful in the future [...] King Alric has sent us with The Deceiver to find a piece of the shattered Tain. Once found, The Deceiver will lead us through its broken passages to find The Summoner and cut off Soulblighter's access to the Myrkridia. 
  48. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: The Summoner. Narrator: Monday, April 20, Inside the Tain. The Tain was supposed to be the final resting place of the Myrkridia, but The Summoner has been inside the shattered artifact for five months now, slowly resurrecting their entire race [...] The Deceiver has brought us here to kill The Summoner. The ruin he will bring about if allowed to remain alive is unconscionable. This alone dictates that he must die. 
  49. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: A Murder Of Crows. Narrator: Tuesday, April 21, Soulblighter's camp, West of the Cloudspine. Deranged, arrogant, self-serving; none of these words can fully describe The Deceiver. No wonder his army has always been made up of bewitched men and the walking dead - no thinking being would willingly follow him. The Deceiver dropped us in the middle of Soulblighter's camp, hoping to attack him by surprise. King Alric said nothing of a sneak attack before we left Muirthemne - it is obvious The Deceiver was acting on his own. We were captured instantly and thrown into rude cells with other prisoners from some unsung battle in the west. 
  50. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: The Wall. Narrator: Thursday, April 23, Lesotho Dam. This morning we met up with a scouting party from The Legion about half a day's march south of Silvermines. The Deceiver boasted of his victory over Soulblighter, clutching a mangled crow and claiming to have captured "a part of the murder," crippling his former ally. The scouts told us that Alric and nearly three thousand men from The Legion have come from Muirthemne to face Soulblighter. Unfortunately, they were met by Shiver and her army in the valley about two hours downstream from the dam. 
  51. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Shiver. Narrator: Saturday, April 25, South of Silvermines. The Deceiver has been screaming for Shiver's blood all day. Alric has chosen five men of unwavering courage to accompany The Deceiver into the labyrinth of ravines where she hides. There they will hunt her down and destroy her. 
  52. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Twice Born. Narrator: Saturday, April 25, the Foot of Tharsis. The whole of The Legion has been steeling itself for this; the final confrontation with Soulblighter. He is cornered and desperate, making the fight that much more terrible. We engaged his main force two days ago and have been pushing it back toward the Cloudspine ever since. Our casualties number nearly half of our force, but it is certain that we have inflicted far greater damage than we received. We have Soulblighter's army caught between the Cloudspine, the Ire River, and Tharsis - the legendary forge of the Trow. 
  53. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: The Forge. Narrator: Monday, April 27, Tharsis. Soulblighter has done the unthinkable. With his army scattered in disarray, he fled up through the Eye of Tharsis and into the very bowels of the earth [...] If it were anyone other than Soulblighter, I am sure we would just wait outside the volcano until they had been roasted alive or had succumbed to the poisonous vapors. Unfortunately, he has survived worse, and we must follow him. None of us are foolish enough to believe that Soulblighter fled because he fears us. If he plans on dying it will not be quietly or alone. Alric believes he has deliberately chosen this place for his final stand. Whether or not he will be able to escape the cataclysm he plans to unleash by destroying Tharsis and shattering the Cloudspine must not matter to him anymore. Soulblighter, like Balor before him, seeks not to conquer but to destroy; to be master of the unthinking dead and their blasted lands. So Alric is gathering all who are fit to enter Tharsis. 
  54. ^ Bungie. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie. Scene: Rebirth. Narrator: Monday, May 4, Seven Gates. The forces of Light and Dark hold dominion over the world successively, the land belonging in turn to men, or to monsters. Each cycle would be presaged by the appearance of a great comet, foretelling the rise of saviour or destroyer. Each golden age would give way to one of darkness, when foul things would stir beneath the earth, and evil spirits would plague the land. In turn, each dark age would fall to one of light; the evil would pass from the land just as the comet from the sky [...] Although the hero of every age of light is different, every dark age is ushered in by the same beast — a transient divinity that seeks only conflict. The Leveler. And so Tireces returned as Moagim to end the Age of Reason, and Connacht, the great hero of the Wind Age, returned as Balor to lay waste to the greatest empire the world had ever known. The Leveler was never killed. He was immobilized by sorcery, beheaded and burned at the stake in the Second Era. A thousand years later he was drawn and quartered on the plains before Ileum, the tireless horses dragging the pieces of his lifeless body to the four corners of the world. Again in the Fourth Era his body was destroyed by fire, his ashes mixed with salt and buried under the Mountains of Kor. Balor, Moagim and all those before them wore the Mantle of The Leveler. But Soulblighter was not The Leveler. He may have been if he had survived into the next millennium, but, in his attempt to force the cycle, he perished and almost certainly will suffer at the hands of those who set it in motion. It is even conceivable that because of his actions the cycle has been broken, but we cannot be sure. At least not for another nine hundred and forty years. 
  55. ^ Badlands. Myth II: Chimera. Bungie. Scene: The Healer. Four Bear Silent Oak: I see too clearly the gardens hung with bones, the silent march of skeletal armies and behind them all, a woman wielding a token of great power. You may believe that I have been scarred by too many battles and that I hear their echoes even in my dreams, but I know these visions are real and not the shadows of memory. I must act. The irony of the situation does not escape me. One lone scholar leaving a camp of warriors behind to fight alone. Perhaps it is for the best. A scholar may use weapons that a warrior may not. Fear not for my safety, old friend, for if I oppose an illusion I will be safe. I intend to seek out Fenris, a warrior of unequaled valor but heavy conscience, to ask him to aid me. 
  56. ^ Badlands. Myth II: Chimera. Bungie. Scene: The Mage. The Militia of Swan's Crossing Minutes: James read a letter he received from General Fenris yesterday. He requested a small contingent be sent to escort him to the tomb of Kyrand the Mage. Martin once again told the story of Kyrand's final tragic battle. Barrett proposed that the militia accept the mission but also send a letter to the dwarven irregulars of Brighton and ask them to meet us on the way, seconded by Lee. The motion passed. 
  57. ^ Badlands. Myth II: Chimera. Bungie. Scene: The Archer. So ne'Ric strode forth and when he beheld the evils the Banded Wasps had done upon the land he became wonderously wroth. Then ne'Ric did throw his quiver to the ground and his fellows did likewise. With this arrow, he said, ends the treason of the Hive Mother. Then the swarm brake out from the trees before, and the Queen with the Hundred Banded Stings from behind, and set on ne'Ric fiercely. With that ne'Ric turned with his archers, and smote behind and before, and ever ne'Ric was in the foremost press till his final arrow was spent. Then ne'Ric did command his fellows to the front, and they slew many Wasps, and put the remnant to flight. And ye'Boah came unto ne'Ric, and counseled him to follow them no further. But ne'Ric pursued them and drove them from Ruewood. 
  58. ^ Badlands. Myth II: Chimera. Bungie. Scene: The Messenger. Baron Geoffrey Volsung: I believe that there is a plot to assassinate me, incited by that devil Kyrilla. I fear that some of my chief advisors are involved, and I do not know who to trust. Since you have not been at court for years, I can trust you to help me repel this latest attack. 
  59. ^ Badlands. Myth II: Chimera. Bungie. Scene: The Chimera. Kyrilla: Lord of night, I summon you! Creature of the sixth abyss, I summon and invoke you! By the blood of my father, by the flames of the pit, I call you to me! I need your help, lord. My father's killers are attacking. They have joined forces with the Baron I sought to use against them. They will soon storm this very stronghold you helped me build. They are coming closer. Fenris and that foolish priest, all the jackals that gnawed my father's bones. I will have them dead! Great one, I need power! These illusions will ensnare the unwary, but Fenris will not be fooled for long. Give me power to take my vengeance! 
  60. ^ Badlands. Myth II: Chimera. Bungie. Scene: The Fiend. Kyrand: No! How could ne'Ric miss? We won't have a second shot at this! What do we do now? I can't even try to renew the spell because...oh damn, Cartucke is breaking free already. Perhaps I can contain him, buy us some time...He is too strong, he will break free and ravage the world, I cannot allow it! I cannot...I must wound him, weaken him, find some way to hurt him so he will be unable to reach the outside world. Yes, there is a way, and I am willing to sacrifice myself for this cause. The pain, it is more than I expected...Kyrilla, beloved daughter, I do this for you, so that you might grow in a world free of darkness...One final step, I am beyond returning now. Cartucke, you demon, someone else will have to destroy you, but I give you this final gift! The pain is fading, as am I. I wonder if I was successful, I must have been, Cartucke has retreated and Four Bear Silent Oak is leaning over me...asking me...I am fading...No, heal the warrior, heal Fenris. I am past saving...even by your arts, old one. I will not rob my truest friend of your healing gifts. I am comfortable, it seems to matter little now that I could not kill the Fiend...nothing seems to matter, save that I will never see Kyrilla come into her own power...perhaps she will finish the task I could not? 
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