Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet was one of the surprises of last year, although it feels like a million years since the first season originally launched. Save for its mid-season retrospective, which was one of the best TV episodes of last year, Mythic Quest was a little inconsistent, jumping from one gag to the next as the series, actors and story found its footing. The second season has gotten off to a much stronger start, and it’s got something the first season never had: a much bigger production budget.
The second season didn’t technically launch until last week, although a bridging episode — Everlight — aired a week beforehand. Everlight marked the studio’s return to the office, although for practical COVID reasons not everyone was included: F. Murray Abraham, who plays sci-fi writer C.W. Longbottom on the show, appears via the company’s in-house MythiCom/Zoom software.
“We can’t risk the life of a national treasure now, can we … his ego is a lot stronger than his immune system,” programmer Poppy (played by Australian actress Charlotte Nicdao, who retains her Australian accent throughout without it ever becoming A Big Deal) says.
Everlight immediately shows just how much the budget has been ramped up for Mythic Quest‘s second season. It opens with a full-length animation, outlining the backstory of the studio’s “Everlight” day, a yearly LARP tournament that doubles as the company’s return to the office after the pandemic. But towards the end of the episode, the LARPing itself gets a complete set redesign, full visual effects, some pretty impressive lighting and a neat little fight scene.
Even when the action transitions back to Mythic Quest‘s bread and butter — a dysfunctional family comedy set within the confines of a video game developer — the amount of background detail has ramped up substantially.
The transparent walls are now full of flowcharts with text you’d expect from a game studio, as if someone was outlining the pathway players would take through an actual MMO. Monitors are filled with shots of Blender or Unreal Engine blueprints. The motion capture software itself becomes part of one gag. There’s even a deeply uncomfortable product placement that’s on point for a game studio — bright green Razer logos that remain on screen for a minute flat, setting up a romance foreshadowed from the first season (and subsequent trailers).
Having properly found its footing towards the back end of the first season, Mythic Quest‘s first couple of episodes have the structure downpat. The consistent arc of season two is the release of Mythic Quest’s latest expansion, which is eventually called Titan’s Rift. But the episodes themselves are more like a series of connected skits, usually with two, maybe three people maximum.
It works well: it gives all the characters, even ones like Carol (head of HR) who were largely sidelined in the first season, the space to properly own the scenes they’re in. And it also lets rising stars from the first season shine. Jo (Jessie Ennis), the grumpy assistant, is given more prominence after abandoning timid studio producer David to learn from the head of monetisation and all things unethical, Brad (Danny Pudi).
It neatly sets up the conservative Jo to butt heads with the more progressive QA testers Rachel and Dana (Ashly Burch, Imani Hakim), as Brad co-opts the three into making a mobile game for the studio. The B-plot that spawns out of it is a fun diversion: Dana just wants to hit the brief and make a simple mobile title, while Rachel pushes for something with more social impact. It’s a neat look at the prototyping process that undoubtedly happens hundreds of times a week at studios across the world, while also letting Jo’s chaotic evil shine through.
Episodes of Mythic Quest are rolling out on a weekly basis, and as before it’s only available on Apple TV+. You can sign up for a free 7 day trial, although anyone who’s bought an Apple device (iPhones, Macs, tablets included) recently will have a year’s access for free, provided it’s within three months of the device’s purchase. You could easily binge the first season within those 7 days though, and it’s worth it. Mythic Quest was one of the surprise hits of last year, and out of all the coronavirus-induced special episodes, Mythic Quest‘s was the most fitting — not just for the times, but the show, and the game development process itself.