STAFF REVIEW of Mythic Ocean (Xbox One)

Monday, July 19, 2021.
by Peggy Doyle

Mythic Ocean Box art Mythic Ocean is a narrative-led underwater exploration game created by a team of just three developers under the name Paralune LLC. The premise has you, an unknown being, becoming friends with a group of ‘gods’ while exploring an underwater habitat. Addressing such grand notions like the creation of the entire universe, you traverse several different areas of the ocean depths, talking to various fish and collecting lore pages.

Mythic Ocean promises that your choices will help determine the outcome of the game. As someone who has played many games with that promise, I was skeptical as to whether this would be true. Many games allow you to make choices, but ultimately the outcome is the same in the end. I was incredibly pleased to see that in Mythic Ocean, your choices and decisions do matter and can drastically alter the outcome.

Mythic Ocean is also a perfect game to showcase how gaming can be relaxing. More often than not, gaming tends to lend itself to the opposite. Easily dismissed upon first glance as a walking (swimming) simulator, the game amounted to so much more than the cute, simple swim and explore game I thought I would be.

At the start of Mythic Ocean you are launched into space and wake up in the ocean. This was the first indication that I had to leave any preconceived notions of what this story would be behind me. You talk to an eel who informs you that you are to decide which god will be the creator of the new universe. Okay... is this going to be a religious game? No, it’s not. Let’s get that out of the way. You head out into the ocean to meet the gods, where you will have conversations with and complete tasks for them. No exploration game would be complete without quests, but these quests take a vastly different form than I was used to. Although they ultimately break down to typical fetch quests, they are also tests of friendship, loyalty and truth.

The 6 gods are all intertwined in their stories and it’s up to you to find solutions to each of their concerns, questions and insecurities. Each god is unique in their appearance and personalities, from an otter, a set of twins to a larva, there is a range of gods and animals you’ll meet under the sea. Since you ultimately need to determine which of them you will choose to create the new universe, I found myself paying close attention to their stories, personalities, quirks and mannerisms.

Mythic Ocean is lovely, silly, interesting, deep and complex. There is no combat or death to worry about, just exploration, choices and consequences. It was a tranquil and relaxing way to spend some time unwinding as I swam around in the ocean. The game is also full of ethical dilemmas and questions of morality.

What the Gods talk about is probably the best part of Mythic Ocean, and it revolves heavily around friendship. This isn’t the overly sweet friendship like you’ll find in children’s stories but is about how friends can come from different backgrounds, have different opinions and ways of doing things, and can sometimes rub each other the wrong way. Friendship is something that isn’t always easy and sometimes has to be worked on.

I found the game to be surprisingly deep in the stories and characters of the gods. Your responses and decisions have real effects on the Gods and the world around you. I hesitate to give specific examples of questions, stories and outcomes as they are the bulk of the surprises in the game, but I did play through twice just to see if my choices actually made a difference. In my case, there was a such a different outcome in my second playthrough that I will likely go back and play at least one more time to see other possibilities. It was surprising to see that not only the conversations you have with the Gods matter, but the order in which you meet them does as well. I assume this is because you have different information depending on who you meet first and what you find out from them in a different order. Entire conversations I had with characters in the first playthrough didn’t even appear in the second one, for example.

One of the stories that did stick out to me, and that I’ll mention here, revolves around questions of scientific research and the importance of consent when involving test subjects. This entire story line really stuck with me after the game. This part of the game created opportunities to make some very tough choices, all with pros and cons, and ultimately had a large impact on the outcome of the story.

As you explore, you are asked to interact with (discover) a variety of species in the ocean and collect a set amount of lore pages in each area. These pages give you a lot of info about the Gods, and the more of them you collect and invest, the more influence you have in the choice of the new Creator. However, be careful as to how many and when you submit them. I am glad I waited until the end to submit them on my first run, as on my second playthrough I invested them as I found them and realized that some of them end story lines and close off parts of the game.

During my initial playthrough I created strong bonds with each of the potential creators. I helped them out with each task and found that most of the time they were happy with my work. They appeared to like me and my choices I made for them. They glow green when you make a decision that makes them happy and seem to be affected by electricity when they are ill at ease. When you make a divergent choice that affects the outcome of the story, you get a beautiful watercolour in the game that gives you additional information in pictures and narrative. I was sure I was going to have a great ending to the game. This was sadly not the case. I won’t spoil anything, but my ending was dark and it surprised me in the turn that it took if I’m being honest. Because of this, and the short time to playthrough, I was eager to jump back in at a second chance of a happier ending. I got a better outcome, although not necessarily a happy one for all involved.

Each time you meet a God, you create a fast travel point. While this makes movement between them easy when following up with each, I think this was a bit of a downfall. It made it too easy to move around quickly. It took away the calm, serenity, charm and beauty of swimming in this underwater world. It did, however, turn out to be a benefit on a second playthrough to shorten it down to around 2 hours (my initial play though clocked in around 4 hours).

The game is packed with some very funny characters and some delightfully witty dialogue. A breakdancing crab, a head banging blowfish and a very snarky swordfish (with a strong dislike for dolphins) are just some of the species you will meet as you traverse the biomes.

Since this was primarily a narrative driven exploration game, I expected the soundtrack to also be mellow, and it was. Beautiful music intertwined with underwater sounds, including bubbles, whales and sonar, were soothing for the most part. Each God also had their own ‘voice’ when talking, although it was just sounds surrounding them as the game is entirely subtitled. Mythic Ocean does have a significant amount of reading though. One very large exception to the soothing sounds was the death metal blowfish and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. It was such a surprising change in tone and direction, and he brought a huge smile to my face.

Ultimately the story doesn’t make the most sense, especially with the substantial shift I had at the end, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game overall. It was beautiful and complex. Silly characters and a surprisingly deep and thought-provoking story kept me wanting to see how it would play out. With this being Paralune’s first game, I was completely blown out of the water with their work. They found a way to balance a mechanically simple game and an emotional story very well. I look forward to my next adventure with them.

**Mythic Ocean was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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