I have a fascination with buying some mediocre-looking game just to see what it is, and what happens when a person buys it. Song of the Myrne: What Lies Beneath is something of a weird case, because from the screenshots I could tell immediately that this wasn’t going to be Game of the Year material. But my male intuition told me that this game was probably pretty cool, and after playing a fair bit of it, I think it sort of is…
Song of the Myrne is many things. Flawed, simplistic, and cheaply made to be sure, but it’s also an ambitious, seemingly sprawling RPG with many things people praised Divinity: Original Sin for reminding the world of in back in June.
One of the main things I can see being influenced by that game is at once an admirable effort, and Song of the Myrne’s downfall: a near complete lack of direction. Original Sin was lauded, rightfully, on release for this. The game allowed for a great number of solutions to its quests, the first act of the game especially able to be approached from a very impressive number of angles. There’s no quest markers to be found in that game, just hearsay and your own reserves of curiosity.
Song of the Myrne goes a similar route, with quest progress and direction being mostly enabled through actively digging around yourself. This becomes a problem however, because Song of the Myrne’s dialogue system isn’t exactly as robust as Original Sin’s, and seems to either be translated from another language or just plain awkwardly written. Much of the time it’s hard to tell what exactly is even meant by a quest objective or a character’s line of dialogue. Often I’ve done what a quest is seemingly telling me to do, only to find that the thing I’m supposed to do simply isn’t there.
This leads a lot of my time spent playing Song of the Myrne to be spent exploring its world on my own, and I have come across some very interesting stuff. I’ve intercepted orders on a pirate-filled beach, found a secret entrance to big tower full of teleporters, killed a giant spider in Spider Forest, and wandered through an undead crypt. The game’s world seems to be fairly large, and being able to do all that simply through my own volition is something that really surprises me. I was always interested in seeing what was coming next in Song of the Myrne’s world, simply because all of what I’d seen previously had been so varied.
What seems to be poor translation also hurts the game’s light-hearted nature (‘light-hearted nature’ is a euphemism for ‘this game is another indie RPG that tells jokes’). Its gags are oddly worded and don’t usually lead to any reaction beyond “Oh, that was a joke”. The player character’s quest to find his wife (who is a rabbit) isn’t exactly a grim one and while it tries to at least be a comical one, it’s held back firmly by what seems to be a writer who learned English as a second language.
The combat system is definitely not something that suggests they were taking notes while they played Original Sin… or really any other game with good combat. It functions essentially as a twin stick shooter with primarily melee combat, which has been done well in the past (often against all odds), but several factors lead Song of the Myrne’s combat to be something to dread. Player movement is painfully slow, reducing maneuverability to next to nothing and because of the short range of your melee attacks, forcing you to be right next to your enemies at all times – taking the brunt of whatever they’ve got for you. There is a parrying system, but Song of the Myrne isn’t exactly Dark Souls… its mostly motionless 2D sprites don’t have much in the way of tells or attack animations. The closest you’ll get is some enemies seem to say some kind of taunt before they attack (spiders say “*tsss*”).
There’s really no one great thing about Song of the Myrne besides the fact that it clearly aims to be something better. It’s an admirable effort that, for the most part, functions – it’s just not a polished experience in the slightest. If you’re looking for something a bit lighter and something a bit different, then Song of the Myrne is something I would recommend. It requires tempered expectations and quite a lot of patience, but the game is something I expect to revisit and at least attempt to finish, which is more than I can say for most like it.