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Mytran Wars (PSP) artwork

Mytran Wars (PSP) review

"Iím not against the concept of a tactical mech game. In fact, Iím a big fan of the concept. Mixing the joys of customizable characters with the fun and elongated strategy of a table-top tactical setting... whatís there not to love? But Mytran Wars is such a game in appearance only. The tactics of the war zone are boiled down to the guiding principles of a gang rape and the high cost of mech customization makes you have to repeat the same missions over and over again to collect EXP."

(Female officer with pink hair) ďAt ease, rookies! My name is Loki! Step out of line, and Iíll bust you hard! I have the authority to do inexpressible things to you!Ē

(Soldier woman with ugly face) ďYeah, right, you little twerp! You gonna tell me how to do my job?Ē

(Awkward male lead) ďRachel, I donít think itís wise to insult an officer!Ē

Ah, dialogue. Itís such a fragile thing. Sometimes it can be saved by a talented set of voice actors. Other times, as in the case of Mytran Wars, voice acting only makes it worse, transforming it into unintentional comedic sulfur, destroying all semblance of plot and seriousness with the slow but steady surety of a lava flow. It must be said that Mytran Wars starts off on the right foot, with comic-book style cutscenes that show promising flair and are fun to watch for their vibrant flash animations. It brings to mind the good old days of Newgrounds, when flash first hit the scene and people weren't afraid to use it. It's a nice break, overall, from the more active and busy cutscenes we tend to see in most games today. Then the actors start talking and you canít help but cringe. I actually had to mute my PSP to make it through some of the longer scenes. Which is too bad because the story, while somewhat clichť, is entertaining in a classic science fiction pulp way.

The game begins with the discovery of an alien race, the Mytra, by a decidedly trigger happy militaristic mining company called Kondor. When I say trigger happy, imagine a spasming tarantula with all eight legs taped to the trigger of an uzi. These guys take one look at the aliens and blast them six ways to Sunday with their high-powered payload-carrying mechs. Granted, the Mytra look like Protoss sitting on octopi, but canít we put aside aesthetics and give peace a chance? In any case, the Mytra are pissed off somewhat about being turned into swiss cheese and reveal their innate ability to form battle armour out of the very earth. Hilarity ensues. Oh, and a massive war which is the gameís namesake.

Did I say massive war? I meant tedious war. Though it's a pretty long game, so massive works, too. Put massive and tedious together and you have a one-two punch guaranteed to put to sleep the most stalwart gamer. Mytran Wars may seem a quirky and fun jaunt at first with its spunky cut-scenes and story, but things quickly fall apart when you hit the actual battlefield.

Picture this scenario. Youíre the commander of an elite group of mech pilots. Youíve landed your team on the distant planet of Pythar in response to a distress call from some colonists. Lo and behold, when you arrive on the scene, you spot said colonists being assaulted by giant alien golems. You order your team into formation and command your lead destroyer mech to march forward and engage the enemy.

But first he needs to know where exactly you want him to go. And then he needs you to draw the specific path there because he's got a lousy sense of direction. But be careful. There are obstacles like trees and swamps that get in the way and can slow down the mech, thus forcing you to back track and completely redraw the path. Graphically it can be difficult to tell what's an obstacle, so the whole process becomes a chaotic mess, equivalent to directing rush hour traffic with a pair of live ducks. God forbid the navigational computer could figure things out for you.

Eventually, you get the pilot to understand what it is you want him to do and he salutes and starts on his way. Now you probably want to go get a sandwich or something because movement in Mytran Wars takes a long time. Youíll be treated to every slow step, every agonizing rotation, every grinding halt. You can speed things up in the options menu, even skipping animations altogether, but this seems to cause the game to tweak out and youíll miss other minor details, like where enemies are or how much damage they are doing to you.

By this point in a turn, itís time to wipe that mayo off your chin and select your attack. This, youíll find, isnít too difficult. Your computer, while it sucks at navigation, is fairly proficient at calculating damage and hit percentages, so you can choose your targets with ease. And never you mind about enemy formations, as your attacks can miraculously shoot around units to hit the ones behind them. So, no need for strategy, just pick a target and fire.

Or at least, give the command to fire. It takes several seconds for the weapons to charge up and several more for them to actually launch their plasma, rockets, or machine gun bursts. Once that is done, congratulations is in order. At long last, you have dealt damage to the enemy. But wait! Youíre not done yet! Now the enemy gets a chance to counter attack! Make sure you pay close attention as their weapons charge up, fire, and then slowly charge down again. And if you like that, you'll love watching them select their healing ability and erasing any memory of all that damage it took you so long to do.

There you go. You now know what it is like to move a single unit in Mytran Wars. I hope you liked this scenario, because youíre going to be repeating it a lot. The mechs are not fast and the maps are not small yet the game forces you to trudge across every corner of them to complete the objectives. You might think you could be tactical and split your units to take on different objectives, but this is a bad idea. The computer has a fondness for ganging up on small groups and, believe me, you don't want to risk losing your units.

If a unit does die, it's gonna cost you a lot of time. You see, experience is everything in Mytran Wars. It's how you buy new units, buy new equipment, and change out equipment. That's a lot of double dipping in the ol' EXP pool. Especially when youíll be doing a lot of changing out of equipment, as every mission is designed to be played with different types of weapons and special abilities. For those of you who donít see where this is going, Iíll spell it out in two simple words: Power Grinding. And if power grinding on the above described system entices you, then you just may be a boring person.

Iím not against the concept of a tactical mech game. In fact, Iím a big fan of the concept. Mixing the joys of customizable characters with the fun and elongated strategy of a table-top tactical setting... whatís there not to love? But Mytran Wars is such a game in appearance only. The tactics of the war zone are boiled down to the guiding principles of a gang rape and the high cost of mech customization makes you have to repeat the same missions over and over again to collect EXP.

Even this might not have mattered had the game been faster paced. After all, no matter how broken your system, itís always fun to order mechs to beat the crap out of each other with explosives. Except when it's an exercise in tedium, which the game's prodigious lag ensures. It takes several seconds for the game to register that youíve hit the pause button, let alone just told your mech to unleash a barrage of missiles at a foe. Thatís not good game design. When the battle system isnít needlessly slow, itís sloppy. Some things just shouldnít happen in a tactical game. The enemy shouldnít be able, for instance, to sneak into my ranks because I canít tell them apart from my own units. Thatís a problem of poor graphics affecting the gameplay.

Just as the voice acting destroys any semblance of plot, the lack of polish on the battleifeld ruins any chance Mytran Wars has of setting off a spark to light up the genre. Instead, it ends up being a quirky mess. It's the kind of overly elongated experience that may serve you well on a cross-country trip across America or a Pan-Atlantic flight but it's just too slow for the average gaming day.


zippdementia's avatar
Freelance review by Jonathan Stark (September 10, 2009)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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