Think about time. More than that, think about before time. This is where Paralune’s Mythic Ocean takes place, putting you into an oceanic existence that will dictate the reality to come. It’s an ambitious story to tell for any studio, let alone a three-person indie outfit from Austin, Texas, but this team seems to be on the right watery path.
Played in the first-person perspective, you are set to explore an expansive ocean full of odd critters. Some are dead-set on staring off into the stars while others only want to chase their feelings. There are some, though, that want to know more about you. This is a game that plays out in conversation, answering and asking questions about the nature of the world and living in it.
They’ll inquire about your view on control and freedom—hedonism and responsibility. You’ll discuss power and friendship and desires. And as much as they give you vindication, they’ll also offer you differing opinions to ponder. Better than that, you are doing the same. As it turns out, you are influencing these impossible creatures because they will influence what is to come. They will be the gods of our world.
As big as this premise is, it’s based deeply in smaller, finer details. In talking with designer and composer Darren Malley, for example, he reveals that even the most minute decisions of the game are considered. The perspective, for example, isn’t just an economical choice for a small studio but something that feeds into and bolsters the narrative design. The influence you’re exerting is your own, giving them the opportunity to turn your identity into an arc within the story itself rather than defining it separately from the player’s choices.
This extends into ambitions beyond the roadmap, too. Being a year out from release, the studio has both the freedom and burden to reach further. Programmer Matt Smudz, for instance, stated their desire to implement multiple endings, but not in the way you’d expect. Most games take player choice and try to stack them up into an aggregate result by the end. Smudz’s influences are much grander.
The first being Chrono Trigger, a game lauded as much for its gameplay as its story. Rather than funnel arcs into a slim few homogenous buckets of resolution, early and late choices alike explode the plot into dozens of possibilities. Now consider that blueprint for Mythic Ocean where all there is to do is talk. Missing or enabling entire threads could have tremendous impact on the universe that gets created.
The other influence is far more recent and even more ambitious: Nier: Automata. If you haven’t played it, I won’t ruin it, but it goes from a gorgeous and mournful tale about existence to the most unique commentary on death, human morality, player choice—life, really. If knowing this game that features an adorable, hedonistic six-legged otter wants to achieve that doesn’t excite you, then probably nothing will.
Every encounter in the demo, actually, was funny and charming and even oddly sad in a beautiful way. Two skittering crabs chased each other and seemingly will chase each other all the way into the new world. Flat, static fish that could only gaze up into the ceiling muddled their dim and sparkling cave with the infinite expanse of the night sky.
But most importantly, these conversations showed how the game wants to handle your decisions. Amar, the aforementioned otter, is an easy read. It straight-up tells you it just wants to have a good time. But as this conversation went on and I realized our outlook on life diverged rather dramatically (it wasn’t into it when I said I would protect the weak), I realized a major choice I would have was built into knowing the end state of this game: I could lie. I could befriend just for the influence and use these creatures as tools or I could live and let live. It was a shocking turn.
Hopefully Malley, Smudz, and modeler/animator Robyn Haley figure out a way to keep that up. A year is a long time and a lot can change, and from talking to them, it sounds like a lot will change. But even what the have now is something unique. Look for Mythic Ocean in 2019 on PC.