Mythic Ocean begins where everything ends. It answers the biggest question humanity has and then immediately asks the next gargantuan quandary. When the universe ends, it simply starts over again. But…how?
The breadth that this could cover is mind-rendingly unimaginable, but developer Paralune condenses it nicely into an appreciably quirky setup. You awaken with no memory of what is happening or has happened, but what you do know is that you are swimming in a seemingly boundless ocean and that a friendly eel is right there waiting to help you. And that eel will introduce you to the rest of the game.
You see, to build the new world, you must decide who does it. Amongst the oddball denizens of this watery realm are several gods, each with an intensely strong personality that will come through when you talk to them. Listen to what they have to say, answer their questions, and maybe ask a few of their own, and you’ll have all you need to figure out who gets your Bachelor rose. (Or, in this case, crown.)
This seems rather straightforward at first. Each god is an impossibly clear and ostensibly immutable archetype. An adorably wild-looking Creamsicle otter, for example, lives in a forest full of raging bon vivants while also being an unapologetic hedonist themself. Even the slightest whiff of work makes them recoil, the notion of social responsibility having never crossed their mind. It’s pretty clear they shouldn’t have all of creation in their furry hands.
But! (And this may be a bit of a spoiler as it was a surprise to me.) It turns out these weird little deities are not so unchanging. As you keep talking to them and helping them with their seemingly innocuous errands, you aren’t just listening to them and gaining favor with them, but you are changing them. You are telling them what you value in people and in a new world as much as they are telling you.
And these aren’t superficial alterations. Fundamentally, their views are shifted, which is interesting all on its own (and I won’t spoil where they might end up), but more vitally, it’s…messy. For some players, the somewhat indeterminate nature may rub you the wrong way, but it tends to come across as appropriately real—grounded. You can’t always tell what will happen when you say something, even if you think you have one of these gods’ brains pegged.
Better yet, it’s not always the nice thing to say that makes the important changes. You may think you’re gaming the system, telling the god of your favor what you think they want to hear so they end up as the Jellicle choice, but telling them what they don’t want to hear could be just as crucial. The hardest truths and all that.
It’s impenetrable at times—especially as trust and mystery come into the picture toward the end—but it feels more weighty that way. The cartoonish aesthetic betrays a surprisingly personal set of relationships. And it does so with a subtly guiding hand, so when you do arrive at a binary Telltale-style choice, it feels both natural and grave rather than being railroaded into a poor narrative conceit. One moment, in particular, froze me in my chair for whole minutes.
The framework is rather odd, though. Not necessarily in a bad way but certainly not in a good one either. All the swimming and exploration parts seem to do little more than give you something to functionally occupy your mind in the early parts of the game. You’ll find some hidden lore scattered throughout the world (and it fleshes out a grim, engaging side thread), but once you gain the ability to go directly to where you need to go, it’s hard to wonder anything but why is this traversal in here at all.
It does, however, also give you an opportunity to bop along to the delightful bangers on the game’s diverse soundtrack. There’s some choice electro chill vibes and a thorough bossa nova fiesta and plenty of whatever lies between the two. Even at the top menu, you are greeted with this saucy new age jam, so hey, maybe all the swimming is worth it.
With that and the cheerful dialogue, the game tends to give you an image of a meditative forensic narrative kind of experience. One where the atmosphere is the most important thing it wants to deliver—an Abzu of sorts. But the sucker punch of the story’s full and momentous weight is quite the achievement. Mythic Ocean is a taut little game, but it has its sights on loftier realms, and it works.
Final Score: 8 out of 10