In one of the more interesting ways to test out a company's resources, Hellgate: London developer Flagship Studios has funded the creation of a new action/RPG title called Mythos. It's being created by a small team called Flagship Seattle, led by Travis Baldree, the guy who created FATE at WildTangent. FATE was a fun, independently-made single player action game in the style of Diablo, but the lack of online play kept it mostly in underground status. Now, Flagship is using their online infrastructure to give Mythos 100% internet-based action. I got the chance to jump into the beta and so far am really enjoying the light-hearted gameplay that's offered.
Mythos has you playing as one of three classes, all of which are there to kill stuff in various ways (so there are no real healer-type characters to make, at least not yet - that's what potions are for!). There's the frail but fire-slinging Pyromancer, the musket- and flintlock-toting Gadgeteer, and the melee-fighting Bloodletter. You've also got three races to choose from as well as two genders of each, all of which can do the 3 classes. There's a human, a demon-like Satyr, and a short little Gremlin. None of the characters are super-detailed, and the game does have a sort of almost-cartoon style similar to World of Warcraft. But this is no MMORPG, and while you can meet up with people inside of the game's major towns and set up groups, if you go alone out into the wilderness then you're getting an instanced "copy" of that area solely for you. There is a global chat channel, though, which you can talk in at all times. The creators of Mythos seem to be really trying to get together the more handy features of Diablo and Guild Wars with an art style of WoW, which I can't say is a bad idea at all.
Mythos has some original ideas of its own, as well. The biggest of these is the map system, where you can buy a map that leads you to a new area in the world. In this way you're using in-game money to pay your way into new adventures. You can even buy new copies of maps for areas you've already been to in order to get a new randomly-generated level. "Epic" maps can be bought as well, which give you and some friends a place to fight in together that challenges everyone. The system is pretty interesting as it can lead to very unique locales that otherwise aren't as easily put together in other games of this type.
Of course, the many hallmarks of a good action/RPG title are here. There's a huge amount of loot with plenty of interesting properties to choose from, including dual-wield options as well as items with gem sockets for customization. The monsters are randomly placed throughout levels and include mini-bosses and larger ones, and there's a pretty deep skill system (it's a hybrid between the systems seen in Diablo II and Titan Quest) that has a bunch of upgradeable passive and active choices to increase your damage-dealing abilities. All three classes so far can summon up minions to help them in battle and power them up by spending skill points. I didn't get too far into any of the trees, but the skills I got to use were a lot of fun. The tooltips I checked out for the rest of the skills make them sound pretty interesting as well.
One of the unique things about Mythos is that the developers got the game going and stable long before they've finished adding enough content to fully release the game. While there are only three classes and three races for now, there are many more planned by the team, along a bigger number of environments to fight in (which currently is pretty low - there are forests, caves, church catacombs which look eerily similar to caves, and a couple more areas). There are already a few towns going with a good selection of quests for the player to do, but the plan is to add lots more. So far it seems that most of the game will be doable alone (which might be a relief for Guild Wars players who hate how weak the AI henchmen are but also can't stand the unpredictability of grouping with random people just to get through the game) with grouping mostly dedicated to helping players get better gear.
So far, Mythos has a lot going for it. While it's intended to be a free game for now, later on there might be some sort of option to pay real dollars for loot in the game. The current beta is a little light on character classes and things to do, but as development continues new content will be added for testers to try out. There are some performance issues with the game, especially considering that the graphics aren't really competitive with the latest and hottest RPGs out there, but hopefully this will all be worked out by the time Flagship Studios releases the game. Mythos may not be AAA-quality, but compared to other free games this one is already exceeding my expectations.