After an apocalyptic vision of the universe ending, you awake and find yourself swimming in an ocean with no memory of who you are. You meet a cryptic eel named Elil and are taught that this is all going according to plan: every time the world ends, everything resets into this place and must start again. Elil prods you into meeting the other aquatic creatures of this ocean, suggesting that they are actually gods and that one of them will have dominion over the new world. The catch is that none of them are aware of that. With your own role and fate in question, you must befriend and indirectly influence this underwater pantheon to shape the creation of the next universe.
January 9, 2020
Mythic Ocean is a visual novel with free-roaming exploration. You swim through the waters and talk with one NPC after the other to resolve their problems. Through the dialogue choices you make in these conversations, these characters may interact with each other, and you have direct influence over their lives.
For example, Amar—the unrestrained, energetic, sea-otter-like god—prods you to check out the Moss Cavern, a dark, small cave most are unfamiliar with. In the Cavern resides Lutra, a small, larvae-like god with a very mechanical but childlike thought process. Lutra expresses fears of going outside and has been having trouble in satiating its constant hunger. When you go back to Amar to discuss what you discovered, Amar offers a new plant that Lutra can feed upon, and how you deal with the events right after can develop in multiple ways. Referred to as Fables in-game, these are basically quests you can complete with varying outcomes in order to progress. You can either help these characters find themselves and create new friendships, or cause pandemonium and tense feelings amongst them. Ultimately, whoever likes you the most at the end of the game will be crowned as the god of the new world.
You swim through different locations in order to reach out to these characters, and each god has a main location they primarily reside in. With the Teleporter, a portable device your character carries, you can easily jump to the main base of each god to cut time swimming from place to place. In addition to the Teleporter, you have the ability to use Sonar, which helps detect where NPCs are as they move about.
There is no real item collecting in the game, but you will find pages across locations that are keys to your past and possibly future. These pages do not serve much mechanical purpose, but they contain excerpts of a greater mythos, referring to a Creator which may be referencing one of the gods of the previous cycle of the world or the one to be theoretically throned in the next. They are used like currency to fulfill specific quests. After you hit certain milestones, you will be alerted to subtle changes that occur in the ocean, such as unlocking more pages to find.
Mythic Ocean explores themes in mythology, creationism, and humanism. It frames its story through water’s connection to life and death, akin to the role of water in both Hyrule’s destruction and revitalization in the Legend of Zelda games. Through your engagement with its characters, the game funnels you into tender, psychological interactions with difficult choices. You have to figure out how to balance satisfying someone’s needs at the potential risk of hurting another, while none of them have foreknowledge of their eventual fates.
Returning to the earlier example between Amar and Lutra, a potential outcome from that scenario is that Lutra will amass in size and start eating up the Kelp Forest where Amar resides. At this point, you already know Lutra has been mostly functioning on innocent instinct and is basically an infant. However, it is clearly destroying a whole ecosystem in the process of wanting to feed itself. Some of your options may ride on being empathetic to Lutra at the cost of hurting Amar, or to help Amar by being harsh on Lutra and preventing further destruction. What is goodliness next to godliness?
There are streaks of darkness within joy, and the threats that fester but are deemed necessary within the underbelly of the cosmos slowly reveal themselves to you. Elil has been cast out for reasons that are not explicit at first, and there are surprising twists that add an eldritch flair to Mythic Ocean’s lore. The game invites multiple playthroughs to change the final outcome of who becomes the Creator, and the in-game explanation of this cyclical process is both encouraging and sinister.
In hindsight, Mythic Ocean can be compared to a game like Subnautica, another exploration game taking place in an ocean. Unlike Subnautica, in which your agenda in a spacious, vast open world revolves around surviving the dangers it offers, Mythic Ocean is tighter, restrained, and set in a less threatening space that encourages meditating. As said on Mythic Ocean’s own Steam storefront: “No death, no combat, no failure.”
Both games, however, convey this thin line between accuracy and etherealism, in which many elements of aquatic life draw from reality, while other aspects are intentionally alien. Although some gods in Mythic Ocean bear some semblance to real animals, others have no direct analogy. Amar appears to be a type of sea otter at first, but they have multiple limbs. With eccentricities like these, the mysteries of the pantheon, and the rigid rules of the universe make Mythic Ocean engrossing. (In fact, there is no hint as to what exactly your character looks out throughout the game. No one really comments on your appearance, and the only initial impressions you get are that you are an unfamiliar face to this ocean.)
You’d have to play Mythic Ocean multiple times to see the whole story, and this selling point is where the game’s weaknesses lie. The only means of saving is through an autosaving trigger that is benchmarked at points the game considers to be chapters. This is not at all efficient for many familiar with visual novels of a similar nature, where flexible saving is a necessary mechanic for easy replay. After multiple playthroughs, deep exploration gets less enthusing when the Teleporter is just there to use when it feels like you have seen just about everything. Recycling the same NPCs over and over again can get repetitive, and the urge to discover is less enchanting.
Overall, Mythic Ocean is a stunningly charming game that translates familiar concepts into something that is immersive and unique. The game is aesthetically simple but still lovely, with sharp dialogue that nails character motivation and psychology in wholesome, accessible ways. It has just enough to make the world feel full and encourage multiple playthroughs, but it walks the line of being too barren and repetitive. But fans of mythology and players keen on meditative games should dip their toes into Mythic Ocean’s lore—they’ll likely find the calm swim enticing.
Elvie somehow finds bliss in purposefully complicating the art of storytelling and undertaking the painful practice of animation. If you see her on Twitter at @lvmaeparian, she is doing neither of those things. She currently helps with managing the socials to ensure that the secret recipe will never be revealed.