With its bright, cel-shaded models and notably more tame environments, MythForce targets nostalgia for Saturday Morning cartoons from the 1980s like He-Man and Thundercats. A lot of people don't remember just how poorly a lot of those cartoons hold up, though. They have their die-hard fans, and they're fun to look back at with your tongue in your cheek and a drink in your hand as you muse about how easily entertained you were as a kid, but for most they're not much worth revisiting outside of a good laugh about reused animation and some occasionally fun character designs. Similarly, even beyond its horrendous performance on Switch, MythForce proves to be an uncompelling experience that hardly holds up.
MythForce is a first-person roguelite dungeon crawler intended (though perhaps not designed) to be played in online co-op. For all intents and purposes, it's a pretty standard multiplayer roguelite; the entire game resets itself after you lose a run, and aside from incremental upgrades, nothing you pick up will stay with you in between runs. You can choose from one of MythForce's four members, each with their own special abilities, for each run.
Each character represents a different broad archetype you'd expect from any fantasy work in the same vein as He-Man; there's Victoria the knight, Hawkins the ranger, Rico the rogue, and Maggie the wizard. Each character has four distinct special attacks, some have their own weapons, and they all seem to have their own movement abilities, though MythForce's performance was so consistently bad in our time with it that it was often difficult to get a good feel for each member's movement abilities.
They all have well-acted, personalized voice lines, but unless you're playing in multiplayer, they lose some context. Even in single-player, they'll shout lines like, "This isn't just a flesh wound! I need healing!" or talk about their relationship with the level's boss or their fellow members of Mythforce as if they were on the battlefield with them. It's a cool dialogue system in multiplayer, but doesn't hold up as well if you're trolling MythForce's dungeons alone.
Playing with other people works well enough; we're still in the launch period, so we had no issues hopping into quickplay matches or letting others join our own games. Like with a lot of MythForce, it's hard to tell where baked-in performance issues began and online play issues ended, but things seemed lag-free, at least. But again, MythForce's performance issues permeate almost everything about it.
We have played and reviewed hundreds of Switch games. From notoriously stumbling ports of last-gen AAA games to poorly optimized indies, very few games have performed as poorly as MythForce. Between pervasive pop-in, resolution, load times, frame rate drops and freezing, full-on crashes, and input lag, it's playable only by the skin of its teeth.
Developer Beamdog and publisher Aspyr have promised a patch, but we're not optimistic. This embarrassment of bugs seeps into every aspect of gameplay and often left us wondering what was a bug and what wasn't. Other times, they outright prevent you from playing the game. One of MythForce's key attacks is a charged attack that requires you to be running, jumping, or both. It takes precise aiming and timing to land, but it also requires you to be moving so quickly that the game can't keep up. Most of the time any of us tried to execute this attack, things slowed down to slideshow-like frame rates, causing us to miss completely.
Missing an attack because of lag might as well be a feature in this version of the game, but that's just one minor example of how performance issues completely muddy the MythForce experience. Plenty of attacks lack proper visual/audio cues. In fact, many of the times that we lost a round were at the hands of enemies outside of our field of view or enemies who essentially teleported into us thanks to severe dips in frame rate.
MythForce isn't Beamdog's first game on Switch, nor is it Aspyr's. Known for its ports of classic Star Wars like Republic Commando, Knights of the Old Republic, and The Force Unleashed, it's disappointing to see the Austin, TX-based publisher not exert more quality control over releasing a game that performs so much worse than its other titles on Switch. Sure, the Switch is old hardware at this point, but performance this bad is unforgivable.
Its poor optimization stretches beyond just the likes of bugs and performance issues, though. Menus are clearly designed to be navigated using a mouse and keyboard, tutorials are giant, overwhelming walls of text presented as if they were ripped straight from a PC game. There's nothing wrong with these things in the right setting; a keyboard and mouse are absolutely the ideal way to navigate a user interface, and text-based tutorials can be efficient when playing at a desk with a monitor, but the Switch is not a PC in the ways that matter. It's an example of a careless Switch port.
Even its multiplayer features feel half-baked on Switch. Unlike PC, native microphone and voice chat features in-game are extremely limited on Switch, and MythForce requires some degree of communication beyond its simplistic ping system that boils down to, "Hey, this thing is here." Chests, shops, potions, and other pickups are single-use only. That means playing with a co-op partner who isn't interested in playing ball can all but ruin the experience and keep you from picking up stuff you need to get stronger and complete the run, like upgrades for your abilities or accessories to level up certain attributes or stats.
When it isn't bogged down by frustrating decisions and bumbling performance, there's a decent roguelite experience to be had here. The first-person combat feels good; there are rewards for precision aiming with ranged weapons, dodges are responsive, and each character has an interesting enough set of abilities. The problem is that there aren't many layers to its rogue elements.
You'll come across a handful of powerups as you progress throughout each run, but you rarely get to see a power's full potential realized. Instead of moving from section to section, leveling up as you go, and carrying on your powers and upgrades, defeating a boss at the end of a level results in the end of a run. Starting the next level means starting from zero, so you rarely get that snowball-like feeling that comes from a good run in a great roguelike. Even allowing players the choice to start on the next level with their previous successful run's build would be a massive step in the right direction.
Even when everything's working, MythForce isn't much more than a bad port of a fun but uninteresting game. That being said, we can't possibly recommend it in its launch state. We don't take half-baked efforts lightly, and this feels even less than that. With some patches and updates, MythForce could potentially turn things around, although we're very far from optimistic. As things stand, avoid the Switch version of MythForce.