Blizzard’s Prodigal Children Return

Posted: April 8, 2011 by ryanlecocq in Features

The mistake Flagship made with Hellgate: London was that it was 2008, those swords should all be fake guitars with buttons on them.  Instant hit.

You may remember hearing a few years back of a splinter group from Blizzard Entertainment called Flagship Studios.  They released Hellgate: London, which was a decent hit for all of a few months before they went under.  At that time they had another game in closed beta, called Mythos.  Whatever happened to those guys and those games anyway?

In 2006 Flagship hired Travis Baldree, who had previously created the hit casual RPG Fate.  Fate is a single player hack-n-slash that is similar to Diablo and identical to Torchlight (more on that later) which Baldree created mostly himself in 5 months.  Baldree immediately began work on Mythos, which was a multiplayer version of the same concept.  Unfortunately for Flagship, they must have been spoiled on the deep pockets of Blizzard, because they folded just as their games were starting to get more press.  The nearly complete Mythos and the soon to be expanded Hellgate were shut down and sold to Hanbitsoft/Frogster.  It seemed like the end for two promising games.

Those of the Flagship staff that didn’t go right back to Blizzard’s teat, decided to trust their souls to Baldree on another Fate-style game which became Torchlight.  This was a wise decision, because following his formula of short development time, small staff and low-budget, they made another huge casual hit.  Although the dream of a next generation online hack-n-slasher seemed to have been sacrificed (Torchlight is single-player only), some of gaming’s most dear independent developers stayed independent.

But who really won?  The Koreans obviously.  Hellgate’s action style was pretty solid and the next logical step from Phantasy Star.  Mythos on the other hand was still struggling to be a balanced online experience.  I have it on several good authorities that in 2008 “the melee was just plain awful.”  Fortunately they managed to iron all of that out with Torchlight, which has 3 equally fun classes.  The shrewd development team over at Hanbitsoft was just sittin’ there taking notes for two years… and waiting.

Both Hellgate and Mythos are slated to re-release worldwide this year.  Hellgate is apparently getting mainly a graphics overhaul and having it’s Tokyo expansion added, while Mythos is being completely re-balanced.  While Hellgate is still a no-show, I’ve been on the beta of Mythos for the last couple weeks and it is amazing.  They pretty much just replaced everything that didn’t work with what works in Torchlight.  Speaking of Torchlight, the sequel is due soon as well with 4-player co-op, but Mythos is coming out in 2 weeks with full online play.  Quests are instanced, but the rest of the world is persistent.  Overall it’s fantastic and the fact that it’s 100% free shames the competition.  Unless Diablo 3 suddenly releases or Torchlight 2 doubles it’s features I think we have a clear winner for this year’s best hack-n-slash.  Here comes Korea, in control.

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