When actor Rob McElhenney got on stage during the Ubisoft E3 2019 Press Conference to announce that he and his fellow It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia alumni Charlie Day & Megan Ganz were teaming up with the publisher to create a television series about the games industry, it was met with what I would describe as a fair amount of trepidation. Representations of the industry on television have ranged anywhere from cringe-worthy to downright offensive, so what were the odds that this time would be any different?
Well it’s 8 months later and the show has premiered on the Apple TV+ subscription service, and with my expectations in check and a 7 day free trial to the service, I binge-watched all 9 episodes of season 1 (and when I say binge watch, I mean it took me almost my entire free trial to watch it. Which is actually pretty good for me). I’m happy to report that not only does Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet give viewers a fairly authentic look at the workings of a game studio, but it also happens to be one of the best new television comedies I’ve seen in quite a while.
The series begins as the creators of the most popular MMORPG of all time, Mythic Quest are preparing to release the next expansion for the game, Raven’s Banquet, and this first season follows the team through the trials and tribulations of game development including game-breaking bugs, dealing with obnoxious influencers, and massive out of control egos. It comes across as a sort of amalgamation of Silicon Valley and The Office, but with an identity that is still unique and rooted firmly in the world of gaming.
Like any good comedy, it begins with a great ensemble cast. Rob McElhenney (Always Sunny) stars as Creative Director Ian Grimm, a self-centered and self-proclaimed genius who is the visionary behind Mythic Quest. The yin to Ian’s yang is his Head of Engineering, Poppy Li played by Charlotte Nicdao (Camp), she is tasked with carrying out Ian’s creative vision, no matter how insane or chaotic it may sometimes be. The rest of the team is made up of a great group of characters including Executive Producer, David Brittlesbee (David Hornsby), Head of Monetization, Brad Bakshi (Danny Pudi), Head Writer, C.W. Longbottom (F. Murray Abraham), and Game Tester, Rachel (Ashley Burch). The characters are all unique, funny, and most importantly likable.
The cast is complemented by some really good writing. It would be easy to create a group of characters with all the stereotypical gamer tropes to laugh at, but the team at Mythic Quest is multidimensional and interesting. There’s a heart behind the show that helps it avoid being just another cynical look at the dysfunctional tech industry and instead makes it about a group of co-workers who spend so much time together that they’re more like family, even though they’re usually driving each other nuts (maybe that makes them even more like a family).
I was also surprised that for a show that is co-produced by Ubisoft, one of the biggest game publishers in the world, it really doesn’t shy away from issues that some may think paint the industry in an unflattering light. Subjects like toxic fan communities, sexism in the games industry, crunch, and unionization are all dealt with. And while they’re approached in a comedic (and imperfect) manner, it would have been easy and perhaps expected for them to want to gloss over such things. Kudos to them for letting the creators tell the story they wanted to.
Without question, the standout episode of Mythic Quest is its 5th episode titled ‘A Dark, Quiet Death’. This self-contained episode stars Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti as a husband and wife who meet at the local game shop and end up creating an indie horror game together. The episode shows the struggle on their relationship as the game experiences unexpected success and grows into something beyond their control. It’s charming, funny, heartwarming, and tragic. It was completely unexpected and I hope that we get similar episodes in future seasons.
After finishing the first season I was left surprised that what started as a weird and confusing announcement at E3 ended up being one of the best new shows I’ve seen recently. It’s not as laugh out loud hilarious as some other comedies, but it is funny and it has a good heart. I’m no industry insider, but it also feels like the most authentic look inside a game studio that I’ve ever seen on film, and that really does go a long when it comes to buying into this story. Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is a fantastic surprise. I’m invested in the characters and their stories, and I’ll definitely be re-subscribing to see what happens when season two comes around.