If you have played PC games in the past 10 years then you have probably heard of the Myst series, and if you own a Mac then you definitely have heard of Myst, as it has always been available for both formats. In 1995 Myst hit the shelves and created a ground breaking gaming experience with its beautifully rendered game worlds, immersive storyline, and mind-boggling puzzles. Adventure gaming had the promise of a great future when this title launched.
Myst V brings the developer Cyan back into the picture. Myst V is touted as being a conclusion to a great journey versus an ending. Over the years the Myst series has developed quite a following of devoted fans and continues to grab new ones along the way. Don’t worry if you have never played any of the past titles, as it will not prevent you from playing, enjoying, or finishing the game. In fact, many tidbits from the past are included in the storyline. Lets see if Myst V holds up to its lineage.
Myst V is rendered in real time, unlike the Mysts of the past. Cut scenes and Quick Time movies have been replaced with amazing 3D graphics. Myst V holds true to its past by taking you through breathtaking ages (synonymous with worlds, more on that later). One of the ages, Todelmer, looks like scenes from Isaac Asimov novels. You get a sense of simplistic beauty as you roam through Myst V. This is the type of game where you stop playing for a moment just so you can look around at the awe-inspiring world.
The character animations are not almost life-like they are life-like. One of the main characters, Esher, walks in small circles as if delivering a presentation in a board meeting. His hand gestures show his different emotions, and his clothing sways, matching the subtleness of his movements.
Whether it be a sunny day, during a rain storm, or in the midst of gale force winds you get a true feeling of mother nature while solving intricate puzzles and during your explorations.
The game falls short on some of the detail that could have been shown in the objects in the game. The hallways are rather drab, and close examination of pottery, puzzle switches, and levers reminds me of the original Tomb Raider or Half-Life games, or for that matter the original Myst.
Myst V accompanies some pretty good graphics with pretty decent sound. Those sunny days and rainstorms I mentioned earlier are matched up with great true to life sound effects that complete the environmental experience. Right from the start you can hear the rumble of volcanic activity on the island. You can hear the ambient noises of birds calling on the seashore as the waves gently crash onto the beach in the distance. Even the loneliness of silence can be heard throughout the game.
What really impressed me about Myst V was the voice acting. Quite often, voice acting in video games is no better than what you might hear in a 3 AM Saturday morning “B” movie. In Myst V, you are treated to the quality of what you might expect from a Tom Hanks or Ron Howard film. You get a sense of Esher’s arrogance and salesmanship as he tries to assist you through the game. Yeesha’s true sense of madness is heard when speaking to her directly or in the recordings she has left on the imagers. The voice matches up perfectly when reading her journals as well. The game includes the ability to use subtitles, but not once did I feel the need. All speech was clear and precise.
The one disappointment I had was the sound effects that you would normally hear when walking over different surfaces. For instance transitioning from sand to wooden steps. Once I had to leap down from a cliff edge and not a sound was heard. No “thud” from the landing, or a “wince” or “moan” from the subtle pain of dropping down a few feet. It gave me the feeling like I was floating above the world instead of in it.
Myst V maintains its classic mouse-click mode where no keyboard is necessary. This keeps it simple for players that do not often play PC Games. I have always had distaste for that method as it felt like I was on a kiddie ride from the amusement parks or petting zoos. Surely you remember sitting in the little race car bouncing off a rail inches to the left and to the right as you whizzed around the pseudo race track at 2 miles an hour. Well if you don’t remember I am sure you get the picture. Thank God they included different modes to use, and for that I rate their score high!
Since the game is rendered in real time they have included a Free-move advanced mode that allows you to play without a safety net. (Insert large heaping of laughter here) While I wouldn’t call it advanced, adding a WASD movement choice is a huge plus to Myst V. This mode also allows you to run by holding down shift. Using the right mouse button allows you to “jump out” so that you can interact with the world.
They also include a combination mode which employs a little of both of the above modes, but I found myself using the preset hotkeys to toggle between free mode for walking around and general exploration, and classic-mode when I need to interact with the world, solve a puzzle, or write on the slate. (Writing on a slate? More on that later.)
As always the “hand icon” cursor lets you know what objects you can interact with in the world, and in some case how.
If you plan on playing Myst V make sure you have plenty of scrap paper and a writing implement because you are going to need it. The main theme to all Myst games is exploration through puzzle solving with an immersive storyline. You can’t get to the next area without solving “X” brain buster first. Many times you have to figure out the premise before even beginning to understand that a puzzle exists in the first place. Here is where that writing tablet or slate that I alluded to earlier comes into play.
The main premise to Myst V is to unlock 4 clamps to the “Golden Tablet”. I won’t say anything more for fear of being a spoiler. In order to do so you must work from a central link area to the four different ages. Myst V calls the different worlds, ages. It gives me the impression that we are working along a timeline rather than the here and now. You use a writing tablet so that you can control the Bahro to perform certain actions for you so that you may leap from one section to the next.
The puzzles are centered on trying to get you and the slate to the next pedestal. Here’s the trick. If you drop the tablet to climb a ladder then the Bahro, acting as keepers of the tablets, will pick them up and return them to their original pedestal. More puzzles are used just to allow you access to an area.
Writing on tablets can be somewhat frustrating sometimes as the game is not very forgiving for incorrectly writing the symbols on the tablets. You will feel the pain of the ancient cave men as you try to reproduce the symbols on the slate. The Bahro will definitely show you whether you are right or wrong by their animations, which if you pick up on it will allow you to run back over and quickly grab the tablet before they return it.
The puzzles are fairly difficult to solve and require a great amount of patience. Solving puzzles often requires you to run back and forth several times. It is also beneficial to write things down as you go. There is a “save anytime anywhere” feature in the game, which you will want to use often. It saves the games as screenshots in one of your journals. Speaking of screenshots, the one thing that was slightly upsetting was the inability to take screenshots of the game. This is the type of game you want to take screenshots of, and you couldn’t without using some third party software.
Although you can walk around anywhere, the ages are not that vast and the game still feels somewhat linear. You can choose a different order of the way you complete the actual ages, but the lack of actual space in each of the sections is very limiting.
The overall value of the game is going to be relevant to how quickly you can solve the puzzles. The experienced Myst player may solve them quicker than a novice to the game. Analytical folks and people with a sharp eye may fair better as well. That doesn’t mean that if you do not fit into one of these categories that it will be impossible. It just means it may take longer. Typically there is always help on the Internet or from friends if you need it.
There are three different endings, which are all enjoyable. I suggest saving your game before you click on the final tablet at the keep so that you may go back and choose the alternates. Other than the different endings however, there is no real need to play the game again. There are no more puzzles to solve or difficulty levels to beat. Once it’s done, it’s done.