Reviews: Myst

It's a love it or hate it kind of game.

Myst is a love it or hate it type of game. I mean several things when I say this, and I'll start with some of the things I liked about the game.

First, this game is of an extremely high quality in story and detail. You can tell significant effort was put into designing each world, and small details throughout the game tell the story in a striking, memorable way.

Second, without secondary sources, Myst is very challenging and open ended. You are thrust into the story in medias res, with only a short intro to clue you in to whats going on, in which you are then thrust into a rather open ended area, with almost no hints on what to do next. The game makes no bones with demanding you explore and learn the story on your own, and without photographic memory taking notes is almost a necessity to complete the game. This difficulty, though, I found to be pleasantly challenging, with everything being solvable with clues provided in game.

Third, The game varies from other adventure games by having a focus on puzzle solving and logic. You have no inventory, and you won't miss it. All puzzles can be solved with nothing more than attention to details, investigation, or logic. I found this a positive turn from games which require you to rub items together until something occurs.

However, the game does have some major problems that can't be overlooked.

First, the game looks dated now. What in the 1990s was cutting edge 3D now looks rough and jagged, and the old quicktime videos have not aged well. There was a 2003 remake called realMyst that did improve upon the graphics, however, if you find this to be a legitimate issue.

Second, the game does require backtracking in order to complete the game, which you should be, if you took notes, able to do in only a few minutes.

Third, there is a deal breaker area, which, not to spoil anything, involves a mineshaft and much self loathing. It qualifies as an extreme example of that one level, and has caused most players who actually reach the area to quit out of rage. However, if you find a challenge to be irresistable, then this is no issue.

In short, the game is very fun, but also very challenging. If you're a hardcore adventure buff, this is THE game to play, even with its old age. If you're not, then this game may be too difficult or dated, and that's fine as well.

A dying breed of adventure

When I was very young, my parents both played the second game in the series - Riven. I grew up on Riven, and I enjoyed games 3 and 4 when they arrived. I also enjoyed playing the original Myst on the DS (found a game-breaking bug) and all was happy. And then I heard about Uru and 5. Both were major deviations from the series, with most of the old characters gone. One was set in the present time, and the graphics, so I've heard, were terrible. The series as a whole had a brilliant premise, one that drew in fans of all ages (pun intended) and challenged us to think. Most games now are first person shooters - there is little to no strategy, and most are bleak and depressing.

The first Myst was, since I played it as an adult, less than stellar for me. I had become used to solving puzzles, and I am ashamed to admit that I used a walkthrough for most of the game. It didn't draw me in the same way that it did most fans of the series.

Riven: The Sequal to Myst was the game I have the fondest memories of. My family owns the strategy guide, which also had a unique premise. Half of it was the Stranger's log, and the other half was a more typical guide. I am not ashamed to admit that I read this guide over and over again. I didn't really care about the help, and my parents both had notebooks filled with details and drawings to help them out.I would wander the Islands over and over again, meeting the people (those that I could) and typically enjoying myself. As an adult who has studied geology, I realize now just how flawed Gehn's work was. He must have completely forgotten to take plate tectonics into consideration.

Myst 3 was also one of my favorites. I never did collect all of Saavedro's pages, but Exile was one game where I seldom used a walkthrough. Since the game was designed as a test, it was easier to navigate than Riven. Fun fact - Wormtongue from the Lord of the Rings is the one who played Saavedro.

Myst 4 was my final game, played well into my teens. Spire gave me great difficulty, and I loved the mangrees and Serenia. Playing this game before the original, I have a deeper appreciation for Achenar, and a greater loathing of Sirrus.

Over all, I suggest this game series for anyone searching for a challenge. I promise that you won't regret it.