main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Video Game: Riven
Fully titled Riven: The Sequel to Myst, a 1997 PC-Mac game that is the sequel to the world-famous PC-Mac game Myst. The story of Riven continues exactly where Myst left off.

In the previous game, a man named Atrus is part of a splintered civilization called the "D'ni" (pronounced "Duh-NEE"), who have the ability to create portals to alternate realities within special books, simply by writing the description of the reality in the book. Atrus was trapped in a stone hall prison by his two twisted and evil sons, who in turn trapped themselves in separate Ages by accident. However, an unknown character only known later as "The Stranger" appeared on Atrus' home age of Myst. The Stranger pieced together the clues of what happened on the island of Myst, and rescued Atrus by freeing him from his stone prison.

But now Atrus's wife Catherine has been trapped on the Age of Riven by their sons. What's worse is that the Age was created and is ruled over by Atrus' twisted and deluded father Gehn, who sees himself as a god, and who has now imprisoned Catherine.

At the beginning of the game, you meet Atrus again who sends you to the age of Riven with the goal to capture Gehn in a book that was specifically designed for this task, and to rescue Catherine.

This game provides examples of:

  • A God Am I - Most people who write linking books believe the Ages to which they link already exist, and they are simply providing a way to access them. Gehn, however, believes that the act of writing a linking book actually creates that Age out of whole cloth. Therefore, since he wrote Riven, he believes himself to be its god. The stained glass spyholes in the pentagonal room make this painfully clear.
  • Alien Geometries: The Star Fissure. Gehn mentions in one of his journals that he doesn't understand how a cleft in a rock leads to a field of stars. When the player enters the Fissure in the finale of the game (or for one of the bad endings) it is revealed from the other side as a crack in a swirling black cloud, floating in the middle of a starry expanse.
  • All There in the Manual - A lot of the backstory and character motivation is explained in the prequel novel The Book of Atrus, which is never fully explained in the game. The novel also acts a prequel to Myst, in that it ends with Atrus jumping into the Star Fissure with the Myst book and linking himself to safety, reciting the very same monologue that opens Myst.
  • And I Must Scream: Gehn suffers this fate if you do things right.
  • Arc Number: 5. Too many examples to list, but most notably the title (Riven has five letters, the full title has five words, the game in its original format came on 5 discs, and the V is made prominent.) Its use is prominent because Gehn believed 5 was the important number in D'ni civilization. It wasn't. (See Ignored Epiphany below.)
  • Artistic License - Physics: After smashing the plate of glass in the iron plating covering the Star Fissure, the vacuum pressure of space manages to bend and suck in all of the metal surrounding it…but leaves the player and all other characters around the Fissure standing upright with only some wind blowing their clothes around.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Gehn is trapped and the people of the Age freed in Tay, the Stranger goes home, and Atrus and Catherine are reunited. But the Age of Riven itself dies, along with all of its animals, and it seems unlikely at that point that the Stranger and Atrus' family will meet again.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The telescope is one of the very first things you encounter. Near the end of the game, you figure out how to open the latch underneath it and remove the safeties to break the glass between Riven and the Star Fissure, allowing you to escape from Riven and beat the game.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: When you get a special hatch combination, access to a steam-powered activation lever, and the ability to lower a telescope too much, you can trigger this. However, there is only one correct time when you're supposed to do it.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The backstory in Myst: The Book of Atrus has Gehn truly grieving the loss of his wife.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: The pentagonal rotating room.
    • Gehn's fire marble domes spin as an external security measure, unlocked by timing its color symbol with a viewer.
  • Fission Mailed: If you enter the trap book when Gehn asks you to, the screen goes black. And stays black for the better part of a minute before something happens. The development team apparently wanted to make it longer, but the testers thought their computers had crashed.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Gehn.
  • I Have No Son: In the bad ending where you signal Atrus before trapping Gehn.
    Atrus: Father.
    Gehn: I am no longer your father because you are no longer my son! *shoots Atrus*
  • Ignored Epiphany: Gehn is obsessed with thinking the number 5 is the key to making linking books... even though all the physical evidence and Gehn's own research points to six as the true number. And if that isn't enough, the D'ni numbering system is base 25, but Gehn didn't know that much about the D'ni.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure / Multiple Endings: Many. Some involve NonStandardGameOvers.
    • Opening the Star Fissure before going to Tay: falling into the fissure with an immediate Non-Standard Game Over.
    • Opening the Star Fissure after going to Tay but before trapping Gehn: Atrus shows up but is shot (along with the player) by Gehn.
    • Opening the Star Fissure after trapping Gehn but before rescuing Catherine: Atrus shows up but is dismayed to be without Catherine. His closing monologue mourns her loss.
    • Refusing to use the prison book when offered by Gehn three times: Gehn shoots the player out of distrust.
    • Using the prison book on Riven: Gehn uses one of his minions to free the player from the book, then shoots them, monologuing while the player bleeds to death.
    • Using the prison book on Riven or Age 233 after Gehn is trapped in it: Gehn is released, thanking the player before closing the book for good.
    • Using the prison book on Tay after Gehn is trapped in it: The same speech, but Gehn is now holding his rifle, intent on killing off the rebels in their home age.
  • La Résistance: The Moiety.
  • Leitmotif: Gehn's appears primarily as a figure on the oboe and is teased throughout the entirety of the game (starting, believe it or not, with Cyan's Vanity Plate at the very beginning). The full song isn't heard until the player meets Gehn.
    • In fact, it's implied that the motif originates with Gehn himself — there's an oboe-like wind instrument in his private quarters, and a music player in his lab with a recording of him playing it.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: A given, considering the original came on multiple CDs, which the player had to swap mid-game whenever travelling to a different island. Or, in one case, the other half of the same island. This is obviously averted in the DVD-ROM, Steam and releases.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle:
    • The fire marble press requires you to place up to six colored marbles into a 25x25 grid. The number of combinations sits in the range of quadrillions. Technically, any entry with a specific marble and any other marble in their correct positions will grant access to the final stretch of the game, but that hardly makes a brute-force approach any more practical.
    • There are 3125 possible codes to unlock the hatch beneath the fissure periscope. The combination is randomized when you begin a new game.
    • There are 53,130 possible codes to unlock the book domes. This combination is also randomized.
    • There are 243 possible codes to unlock Catherine's prison. This combination is also randomized.
  • Nintendo Hard: It's generally regarded to be the hardest in the series, with many clues to the few puzzles scattered across the game world, and integrated into it, rather than signposted as clues.
  • Press X to Die: Using the Trap Book from your inventory at any point in Riven nets you a bad ending. There is one point where you do have to use it, but then it's being offered to you by Gehn and it isn't in your possession.
  • Quicksand Box: The other games are divided into discrete, self-contained ages which can be completed independently of each other. Riven is almost completely comprised of a single, gigantic age, and it can be frustratingly easy to lose track of everything you have or haven't done yet.
  • Saving The World With Art: Or rather the Art. The world of Riven is unstable and Atrus staves off its collapse by frantically writing small changes into its book in hope of stabilizing it. Subverted when Riven falls apart anyway, but he keeps it intact long enough for its people to escape.
  • Scenery Porn: Duh. But compared to the original Myst this game was gorgeous.
  • Schmuck Bait: Riven presents some interesting twists on the trope. There are at least two major pieces of Schmuck Bait in the game, and by the time you've found them, you should have figured out why they're dangerous. And yet, in order to win the game, you must use them anyway.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Some of the details in the game can really go unnoticed. For example, on Village Island, knocking on the one accessible village door five times will rouse a response (albeit a frightened one) from the house's occupant.
  • Tree Top Town: The village in the Moiety Age, situated in the middle of a giant tree, as seen on the cover art.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: There's a bit of dysfunction between Atrus and his father...
  • Words Do Not Make The Magic: Gehn tries to use the D'ni art of writing linking books without really understanding the full effects of the phrases that he uses to write them, resulting in links to unstable worlds. This causes the ever-looming threat of Riven falling apart during the player's attempt to rescue Catherine, as well as the conflict in the novel Myst: The Book of Atrus.
  • World Tree: The Riven Age was once dominated by a great tree, which the people worshipped, but Gehn's faulty writing caused it to die and he cut it down. When Catherine wrote a new Age for the Moiety, it was dominated by a similar tree.

RevenantFantasy Video GamesRisen
Risk Of RainWebsite/GOG.comRobin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood
The Last ExpressAdventure GameThe Space Bar

alternative title(s): Riven
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy