Twenty-two minutes. That’s how long I survived the first time I played Mythos: The Beginning. My weedy little journalist bit the demonic bullet before even entering the infamous Harborough Asylum, which for a paranormal investigator, is a shame on par with dropping your phone in the toilet.So I started over, lowered the difficulty and picked the combat-focused detective instead. And you know what? I still became a demon’s chew toy. Make no mistake, this game does not know mercy.
You begin this gloomy survival horror RPG by setting up your character’s name, sex and starting class. The detective gets bonuses to attack and defence, the journalist focuses more on lockpicking and investigation, and the priest specialises in healing and mental attacks. Each class has inherent weaknesses, however, so fortunately you aren’t bound to these archetypes, and are free to pursue whichever skills you desire.
Gameplay is divided between turn-based combat and puzzles, leaning more toward one or the other depending on your preferences. Combat is the most direct and bountiful way to gain EXP, but also the riskiest. The mechanics are simple yet solid, with the majority of fights resulting in a careful balance between attack and healing to not only survive the battle, but also enter the next one with a fighting chance. While the turn-based combat is a surprising choice for a survival horror game – a genre normally associated with quick reflexes, ammo conservation and stealth – it actually fits in quite well. Even as a bulked-up detective, you can’t just wade into battle and expect to come out in one piece. You may find yourself skirting around monsters to avoid battles where possible, and where combat cannot be avoided, you’ll have to pull out just about every trick just to stay alive.
Combined with the asylum’s creepy atmosphere, this creates a powerful sense of vulnerability, as with limited supplies and no autosave, every fight is a gamble.
Puzzles work fairly well, though there are some confusing moments. I thought it made sense that the padlock key I picked up would open the padlocked door, but it turned out I had to find something to melt the padlock instead. Nonetheless, there is a lot of enjoyment in trying to figure out what purpose a length of electric wiring would serve, and combing through diaries for passcode clues. With the right skills you can simplify some puzzles, such as investigating a keypad to spot which numbers are the most worn away, or just picking a lockbox instead of hunting around for a key.
Unfortunately, the ability to choose the way you play falls apart once you reach boss battles, which are seemingly both unavoidable and, without having invested in the exact right skills and stats, impossible to win. I became stuck on one that even with my three full-health party members laying into him with an onslaught of various skills, still tore me to shreds in only a few moves. The lack of autosave – while understandable for the genre – made retrying from the distant save room a frustrating slog through previously completed sections.
The narrative also begins to grate after only an hour, with everything from the setting to the story and characters feeling extremely formulaic. While Mythos is a homage of sorts to 1930s horror movies and this could be excused as intentional, it still results in a plot with very few surprises, even for someone who doesn’t watch or play much horror at all. The voice acting is also more voice than acting, as if the actors were told “do a voice” rather than “play a character”. Again, this may be a reference to classic horror movies’ extremely unsubtle characterisation, but that didn’t make me any less inclined to skip through dialogue as fast as I could read it.
The intense difficulty coupled with the basic narrative really sours the experience of Mythos. Make no mistake, it is definitely worth trying out, and at only six US dollars on Steam there’s little reason not to. Fans of classic horror will probably get a kick out of the story, setting and characters, while hardcore Dark Souls players won’t mind the difficulty. But unfortunately, gamers looking for something a little more unique or forgiving may not enjoy it so much.