“God dammit!” I scream. Disconnected again. “Are you guys using the phone?”
“No,” I hear, from the top of the basement stairs.
But one of my sisters has picked up the phone, instantly severing my internet connection at a crucial moment. On screen my soulless spear-throwers, frozen, are moving in on the enemy’s flank, a perfectly-laid plan vanished into the ether of sh*tty dial-up.
“You’ve been using the phone all night anyway,” she yells, and slams the door.
And it’s true: I’ve been on bungie.net for hours, playing Myth II: Soulblighter. But my selfish monopoly on the household’s single phone line has a purpose. I’m after Bogivon, my new arch-nemesis, trying to salvage a win from the myriad losses I’ve suffered at the hands of his flamboyant forces this day.
Neon pink. Bogivon’s armies are always neon pink, which looks ridiculous and makes defeat just that much worse. At first I thought he was a girl, until he typed “FUK U hahaha” after a particularly nasty beat-down. No online lady would be this much of a dick. I am furious at this character, at his tactical expertise and freakish military prowess. I must destroy him before bedtime.
Territories. Flag Rally. Steal the Bacon. Bogivon wins every game. His dwarves waddle out of the fog of war to kill dozens. His underwater wights explode at the perfect time. His ghols harass and murder my archers while my attention is elsewhere. I hate Bogivon.
But I love Myth II. Oh, the wonder of a real-time strategy game that focuses on the fight! No bases to build, no resources to acquire, no need to upgrade or expand. Where the frantic pace of Red Alert and Starcraft makes my head spin, the Myth series represents sensible short-term battles. Clever feints, decisive rushes and pure micro-management win the day, the requirement of which becomes ever more urgent as individual units fall and are not replaced. Bungie has truly charted their future with this novel franchise.
And sometimes I can win games! I swear it. But Bogivon the Thrice-Accursed Filthmonger, Bogivon of the Sweet Moon Ranking, stands in my way this eve, his armies a fluorescent roadblock along my path to self-satisfaction.
Surely my errant sibling is finished with the phone by now, done talking about homework or three-legged ponies or whatever. It’s time to get back to business. I reconnect to the internet and the modem yowls: SCREEE MAWW BEE-ONG BEE-ONG BEE-ONG. The hideous cacophony of connectivity heralds my reentry into the fray.
I find a game and--wouldn’t you know it?--Bogivon lurks within. His fingers are silent, probably stuffing his face full of cheese curds or something while his lobby fills up with an assortment of pretenders.
Last Man on the Hill. The strategy here is to hang back, hold your forces in reserve for a final, desperate push to control the flag. Trouble is, everyone hangs back, and everyone rushes the hill. The final seconds of the match will be a chaotic massacre. I aim to be the last one to the party.
Choosing forces, I take archers, footmen, ghols, and, of course, two dwarves. Dwarves are the wildcards of the Myth world, their explosives blowing swaths of enemy infantry to bits or, in some unfortunate cases, destroying the dwarf’s own side or even the diminutive tossers themselves. Dwarves have suicidal tendencies, but, for this fight, their raw firepower seems necessary.
The final countdown is on. “Leave that phone alone!” I shriek at the low ceiling.
When the match starts, my army stands uncertain for that single instant of perfect parity: that opening moment where all armies are equal and the potential for victory rests on every keyboard and every mouse.
I run a ghol up to the hill and two full armies quickly converge from opposite sides. Opportunists both, looking to capture and hold an early advantage. My ghol retreats as the fools begin their futile struggle.
My other ghols are flanking left and right round the hill, looking for lateral flank attacks. They each fall beneath a hail of arrows, but their scouting is invaluable. In a few seconds my army will be in a pincer, caught from both sides and dashed against the rocks. I retreat backwards, far back, to the edges of the map. I hope nobody finds me here in this low place. If archers set up on the rise they will use their height advantage to rip me apart.
And this is exactly what happens. Luckily, my ghol returning from the hill manages to catch the enemy archers unawares from behind, and slices them to ribbons while a gaggle of friendly footmen, weaving and zagging, push towards their position from the front.
Two players eliminated. Three remain.
I have yet to encounter Bogivon but as I mass, ready for the rush, I find the third player suddenly in my midst. One of my dwarves--let’s call him Derpy--instinctively hurls an explosive and it fizzles in the river. Then Derpy hurls a second explosive and it hits the side of the hill, rolls back, and explodes directly in the middle of my army.
Derpy is obliterated, along with most of my forces and those of my aggressor, in a thud and thick splash of gore.
Two archers and one dwarf survive the treason and manage to slink away, pursued by a train of slow-moving zombies. I pick away at the column of thrall until only two players remain: me and Bogivon.
Bogivon has certainly taken the hill by now, but I glumly approach with my ragtag crew of survivors. He is there, his sizable army perched triumphantly atop a mound of corpses. My second dwarf--this one named Herpy--tosses an errant explosive, which rolls back down the hill and destroys one of my remaining archers.
“LOL,” types Bogivon, savoring his advantage. He moves to pursue.
And then I see victory. The bodies of slaughtered dwarves litter the hilltop, but they were clearly cut down by swords or arrows. Their satchel charges have fallen to the mud, intact. And, alone, Herpy rushes the hill.
He is intercepted and slaughtered by pink ghols, but in that moment my final archer nocks a fire arrow and sends it flying into Herpy’s corpse. His satchel charges erupt, setting off the satchels behind them, and Bogivon’s entire army is obliterated in a huge chain of explosions.
I have won.
I send the archer to nonchalantly capture the hill. Then: “Disconnected,” says my screen.
“Sorry,” someone yells down the stairs.
But this time I don’t even care. The job is done: the pink soulblighter downed, his tyranny of the evening shattered. My only regret is not saving a replay to watch tomorrow.
And, of course, finding out that high speed internet isn't arriving in my neighborhood until next year. Stupid, backwards Canada! I'll probably still be playing on 56k when Myth 5 is released.