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Review: “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet”

Mythic Quest | Photo by Apple TV + Press

“Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet,” a new television series, debuted on the AppleTV+ streaming service on Feb. 7, 2020. Created by Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Megan Ganz, who are all well-known for their work on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” the series focuses on a video game company behind the fictional MMO game “Mythic Quest.”

I binge-watched the entire series in about a week, and I believe that it’s a well-executed workplace comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously and boasts stellar comedic performances from a quirky cast of characters mostly centered around the company.

“Mythic Quest”’s main two characters are the company’s founder, an egomaniac named Ian Grimm (played to perfection by McElhenney), and the game’s lead engineer, Poppy Li (portrayed by Charlotte Nicdao), a graduate of MIT who constantly has to put up with the shenanigans that the company’s staff engage in. The chemistry between the two is palpable; they play off of each other quite nicely and often exchange witty banter along with a host of pop culture references.

Executive producer of “Mythic Quest” David Brittlesbee (David Hornsby) is not often taken seriously even though he does have high authority, while the company’s sociopathic head of monetization is Brad Bakshi (Danny Pudi). Rounding out the main cast of characters are game testers Dana and Rachel (Imani Hakim and Ashly Burch), washed-up head writer C.W. Longbottom (F. Murray Abraham) and David’s psychotic assistant Jo (Jessie Ennis).

Much of the show’s content is incredibly realistic, partially due to Apple partnering with game studio Ubisoft to create the show. Many of the show’s writers are hardcore game enthusiasts, and experts from Ubisoft and other game companies were brought in to assist in creating both the in-game and real-world environments.

I think that really works to the show’s advantage, as viewers get a glimpse into a gaming world that doesn’t feel cheap or inauthentic. I also really like how many of the small decisions that occur on the show have large consequences.

For example, one of the first game ideas that the viewer is introduced to during the pilot is a shovel created by Li that she wishes to include in the game’s upcoming expansion “Raven’s Banquet.” This shovel has the potential to change the in-game environment around “Mythic Quest” players; however, Grimm wants players to be able to employ it as a weapon (to Li’s disgust).

The working relationship between the two is handled very well as this conflict sets up a season-long storyline that I won’t reveal. Another issue that the show’s creators handle well, particularly in the latter half of the season, is the lack of diversity in the video game industry.

I am quite fond of how the show develops its characters and invests the audience in their stories. While some don’t get enough screen time to fully shine (such as the head writer), every one of the show’s characters feel authentic and receive moments of glory in the overarching narrative.

This development isn’t rushed either, as one of the crowning moments of the main storyline comes near the tail end of the season during a battle sequence. It’s astonishing to watch and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. The show’s soundtrack is also a highlight, utilizing popular tunes and lesser-known tracks to enhance the moments presented.

While the show mainly focuses on comedy, it does have its fair share of dramatic moments. Throughout the season and especially near its end, we do learn about Ian and his relationship with his family and those who help create “Mythic Quest,” and seeing some of these struggles is heartbreaking.

My personal favorite episode of the season, which features dramatic elements heavily, is “A Dark Quiet Death,” a tale featuring almost none of the members of the main cast. Instead, it focuses on a husband and wife, played by Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti, who create a successful video game company together that is based around the episode’s namesake game.

However, things take a turn for the worse, and the story featured emotionally hits hard as the duo encounter various obstacles regarding their game’s development and their differing philosophies on how it should be run. I am also a fan of the quarantine episode, which sees the characters struggle with working from home during the pandemic and delivers an emotionally satisfying epilogue to the season.

However, the show isn’t without its faults. A few of the show’s conflicts, some being a branch of the episode’s main conflict, get solved without any lasting issues or discipline. A glaring issue in the game or company might receive a solution in the blink of an eye. There are also a few instances when the drama and epicness of an event can be almost ruined by a moment attempting to be equally comedic, but for the most part, the tone of the show is kept in balance.

If you’re looking for a new series to binge-watch during the pandemic (or just in general), I would recommend taking a look at “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet.” There’s a whole new world within that must be seen to be believed.