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Archived Review

Myth 2 for Linux

We admit it -- Linux gaming is for real. There are a few good commercial game titles out for Linux, although most of them have been first-person shooters, namely Quake, Quake II and Q3Test, and ports of the Kingpin client and the original Heretic. We’ve also seen a solid turn-based strategy title, Civilization: Call To Power, which was released almost concurrently with the Windows version by Loki Entertainment Software. At LinuxWorld Expo in Mid-August in San Jose, Loki released the very first real-time strategy game for Linux, Myth 2: Soulblighter. And oh what a release it is!

Fun With 3dfx and glibc 2.1

First, before we tell you how great a Linux port Myth 2 is, let us get the negatives out of the way. Myth 2 is Loki’s first title that takes advantage of 3D, and thus is at the mercy of the current state of 3D acceleration for Linux. It only supports 3dfx-based accelerators (surprise surprise) and getting 3D acceleration working has a lot to do with the combination of which -exact- Voodoo card you have, and what version of Linux you are running on. Originally, we installed the game on Redhat Linux 6.0 using a dual Voodoo2 SLI setup - far from the latest and greatest in 3dfx cards, but certainly not chopped liver or a dinosaur as far as 3D card setups go. After we installed Myth 2, we found out that the game would not run.

After contacting Loki tech support (which is perhaps the most responsive tech support department we have EVER seen at a gaming company) we found out that the Voodoo2 version of the GLIDE drivers were compiled for glibc 2.0 (a set of C language libraries that serves as Linux’s base programming API) and not glibc 2.1 that Red Hat Linux 6.0 is based on. Apparently, 3dfx never compiled the GLIDE libraries for Voodoo2 on newer versions of Linux. Therefore, I needed to have a Voodoo Banshee or a Voodoo 3, or run the game on an older version of Linux. Since I wasn’t going back to Redhat 5.2 with a 2.0 Linux kernel, my only recourse was to switch to a new video card. Myth 2 also supports software-based rendering, and while we admit it looks pretty nice, it’s nowhere near as nice as the 3D version of the game.

Fortunately, 3dfx Interactive was mega-cool enough to send us a new Voodoo 3 3000 AGP board. After pulling out our beloved hybrid TNT2/Voodoo2 setup and replacing it with the Voodoo 3, we downloaded the experimental GLIDE 2.6 drivers from the 3dfx web site and copied over the glibc 2.1/GLIDE version of the Myth2 executable over from the Myth 2 CD. Reconfigure my X Windows system to support 16-bit color, yadda yadda yadda, Presto! Everything worked. Of course, we know our Linux readers don’t want to replace their video cards just to run one game. Hello? Earth to 3dfx? Recompile glide for Voodoo2 for Redhat 6?

Its You Versus the Zombies

Now that we’re done bitching about Linux’s compatibility problems, lets get to the fun stuff. Myth 2:Soulblighter, like its predecessor, is a real-time strategy game based in a medieval fantasy world with an emphasis on tactical combat rather than resource management. No mining for Tiberium here and building up resources, the name of the game is marshalling your troops into battle and coming up with solid attack plans. If your troops get killed in combat, chances are there won’t be any reinforcements.

The premise of the game is built around an unnamed fantasy world - its been 60 years since this major evil dude, Balor and his Army of Darkness(tm) were defeated in this big ‘ol nasty war. His generals, The Fallen Lords, were quickly dispatched and everyone went back to their regular programming of crop raising and animal husbandry.

Soulblighter, the only surviving Fallen Lord, has returned to wreak havoc on this now peaceful land, to pillage the animals and rape the crops, and unleash his army of the undead upon the land. Its up to you to get rid of Soulblighter and his army of brain-eatin’, nasty-smelling, night of the living dead zombies once and for all.

Bells and Whistles

One of the things we like about Myth 2:Soulblighter for Linux is that it has a graphical based setup program - finally, a Linux developer figured out that GUI installation programs are a good thing. No shell scripts, no weird commands - just pop the CD into the drive, mount the CDROM, and run the 'setup' program on the root of the CD. The program automatically detects whether you have a Pentium or PowerPC (for those people running Linux on a Mac system).

Once you get it up and running, Myth 2’s graphics are a real treat - the 3D graphics are extremely crisp and detailed, and we were able to play up to 1024 x 768 resolution using a Voodoo 3 card. Minor objects such a pumpkins growing in the farmer’s fields can be made out quite clearly, and you can even see the leaves falling off the trees. Hills and natural formations are contoured and look highly realistic, and everything on the screen can be rotated 360 degrees. Rotating the screen and manipulating the view is actually part of mastering the game - you’ll want to go through the tutorial level first, as it can be kind of disorientating.

Sound in Myth 2 is highly top notch; there’s plenty of ambient sound effects and music, and it feels like it comes at you from all directions - for example, If you walk your troops past a waterfall, you’ll hear the water rush from one side to another, and you can hear the wind rushing past you. The voice-over narrative during the cut-scenes is also clear and well-acted.

In the single-player version of the game, there are 24 scenarios in which you command your troops to defeat continual waves of undead monsters - such as zombies, evil soldiers, bone-hurling Bre’unor, lightning-shooting Fetch, mindless Thralls, and other nasty creatures. As commander of the Armies of Light, there are three basic units you have at your disposal: Warriors, Bowmen and Dwarves.

Warriors are medieval soldiers armed with swords, shields and chain-mail armor. You send them toward a bunch of monsters, and they hack and slash.

Bowmen are skilled archers that can attack monsters from a distance with their bows and arrows. They can also shoot flame arrows, which start fires when they hit the ground and can burn the enemy if they walk through it. However, Bowmen are only equipped with leather armor and daggers to fight at close range, so you’ll want to keep them out of harm’s way if at all possible.

Dwarves are the most fun units to command - they serve as your heavy artillery, and for little guys, they pack quite a punch. Dwarves throw Molotov cocktails as their primary weapon, and can blow an entire group of baddies to smithereens with one bomb. They can also blow up laid satchel charges as well as use incredibly powerful Dwarven mortars, although this latter kind of dwarf is hard to come by. Unfortunately, while the Dwarves are your most powerful weapon, they also have a sick sense of humor, and will throw their bombs into an entire fray mixed with your own troops and baddies - so direct them carefully, or you’ll blow up your own troops with them.

There are also other units to control, such as Berserkers (big Scottish barbarian-types wielding Claymores) and Journeymen, who are used to heal your troops.

The key to winning each scenario is forming an attack plan, as well as proper staging of your troops into the correct formation for each battle. Doing this takes a lot of practice, and you’ll likely have to play each scenario a few times before you get the hang of it.

In the multiplayer version of the game, not only do you get to get to control the good guys, but you get to play the baddies as well. There are literally dozens and dozens of scenarios and maps you can play, and if you get tired of those, you can create new scenarios with the supplied editors, Fear and Loathing. There’s also several variations on the basic battle that you can play, including Assassin, Capture the Balls, Hunt the Animals, King of the Hill, and Stampede.

Internet play can be hosted one on one, or you can play on Bungie’s free online death match service, Bungie.Net. Registration requires visiting the Bungie.net web site and filling out a form to get access. Once you’ve played out the single player game, you’ll find endless hours of fun battling good and evil online.

All in all, Myth 2:Soulblighter for Linux isn’t just a good Linux port - it’s a damn good game, period, once you get past Linux’s 3D hardware quirks. We recommend it heartily to any Linux user looking for a solid RTS game.



 



 



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