When it was announced that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia co-creator Rob McElhenney was teaming with Sunny executive producers Charlie Day and Megan Ganz to create a comedy about video game developers for Apple TV+, it was easy to expect a show rife with Sunny’s humor but set in a Silicon Valley-esque development studio. Instead, Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet strays far from Sunny’s signature brand of raunchy humor.
The series follows the developers of the fictional massively multiplayer online roleplaying game Mythic Quest, as the new expansion pack–Raven’s Banquet–is set to release. As the story plays out, you get to know the obnoxious creative director Ian Grimm (McElhenney) and his staff as they attempt to grow their game, while navigating the gaming world and tackling a variety of different aspects of the industry, from deals made with streamers, to their game being hacked.
The result is a half-hour comedy that pokes fun at the tech and game development industries in a playful way while managing to avoid being overly mean. The characters often butt heads, usually over issues that gamers will find familiar, such as gender representation or artistry vs. commerce. For example, when the company’s monetization expert (Danny Pudi’s Brad) feels insulted, he flips a switch and turns all of the game’s premium items free, essentially taking the game hostage and losing the company an untold amount of money.
These instances, silly as they may seem, go a long way to address the show’s overall themes. Throughout the first season of Mythic Quest, the creative team strives to find new ways for their massively multiplayer online roleplaying game to reach a broader customer base to make more money. Along the way, the artistry sometimes has to become the second priority, like during fraught online exchanges with a popular streamer, a satirical 14-year-old “piece of s***” who goes by “Pootie Shoe” (Elisha Henig).
A perfect example of this is in the pilot, when the game’s lead engineer Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao) designs a shovel for players in the game to use to change the landscape. It’s a tiny addition to the game, but one she is proud of. Unfortunately, Grimm becomes obsessed with the tool not being “cool” enough, while the head of monetization schemes to make as much money selling the item as possible. When the fickle but hugely influential Pootie Shoe (Elisha Henig) gets his hands on a leaked build that features the shovel, the developers face some tough choices.
The struggles between the two sides of this company feel like they’d be familiar in nearly any creative commercial endeavor. No matter what exactly is being debated, chances are, at some point, someone will ask the question, “What are you willing to sacrifice for the bottom line?” Of course, that’s not the only theme explored in during the first season of the show. Mythic Quest also touches on the sorts of issues that could be seen as common workplace occurrences, from working your way up the corporate ladder to professional jealousy.
Even when tacking all of those issues and exploring the bigger question of art vs. commerce, Mythic Quest doesn’t lose sight of the fact that first and foremost it’s a workplace comedy. While the depravity of the jokes hasn’t carried over from Always Sunny, it’s still packed with laughs. And thankfully, it features a cast that knows exactly how to deliver them.
At the head of the company is McElhenney’s Ian Grimm, an oblivious and conceited figurehead who sees himself as a genius creator. While there are moments where his instincts work out, there are many others where, without his support staff holding everything together, his company would plunge into chaos.
Rounding out the cast are David Hornsby (who Sunny fans will recognize as Rickety Cricket) as executive producer David Brittlesbee, F. Murray Abraham as lead writer C.W. Longbottom, Imani Hakim and Ashley Burch as a pair of low-ranking game testers (with a potential romance brewing between them), Caitlin McGee as Sue the Human Resources manager, and Jessie Ennis, who is especially entertaining as David’s new assistant, who happens to be very intense and territorial when it comes to Ian. There’s not a weak link among this cast.
The only real fault in the series is that some of the situations are simply a bit too outlandish. While Brad making everything free to prove a point is funny, it’s hard to believe this would happen in reality. That person would be immediately fired and sued for costing the developer millions of dollars in microtransaction revenue over a tiff with a co-worker. When it comes to TV’s best workplace comedies, from The Office to Silicon Valley, an important component is including situations that could seemingly happen. That relatability is crucial to viewers’ enjoyment, and in Mythic Quest, audiences who are intimately familiar with the game industry might find some storylines too hard to believe, despite the fact that the show’s creators collaborate with real-life game studio Ubisoft to make sure they got gaming culture right.
That said, Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is a success. McElhenney and the show’s creative team have come up with an interesting and entertaining look at the video game development industry. What’s more, they use that setting to explore issues that arise when art and commerce go head-to-head in interesting ways. The cast they’ve assembled is well-suited to tackle the material and even strengthen it as they flesh out their characters and the dynamics they have with each other. If you’re going into this expecting it to be like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you may not be pleased. Instead, it’s a very funny show that stands on its own.
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet premieres on Apple TV+ on February 7.
Source: Game Spot Mashup