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ALWAYS save your game! — Revisiting Myst and Riven

I recently picked up the entire Myst franchise off GOG, as I’d been wanting to revisit Myst and Riven for a few years now. I vividly remember loving Myst and Riven, and even now, some 27 years later in 2020, these games still stand apart from everything mainstream. I sank days of my life into Riven on the Playstation back in 1997, and had an extensive spiral notebook with all of my clues written in it. The graphics blew me away with their realism, and the super cool steampunk-ish world with fantastic music has stuck with me for decades.

The iconic clock from Myst, and crisp, clear graphics.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 27 years and never played Myst, the TL;DR of the franchise is based around a family that can travel to different worlds (or Ages) via magical books that an ancient race called the D’Ni developed. Of course there is betrayal, theft, and even kidnapping involved. The story isn’t all too exciting, rather the excitement comes from visiting the worlds and solving the puzzles within them. The creators of the franchise even came out with novels back in the 90s; I recently found my copies while unboxing stuff from our move. I remember enjoying the novels and might read them again since things are fresh in my mind from the video games.

This time around I played the remastered version of Myst. The point and click that was in the original version is still there, but you can also move around via mouse and keyboard, which makes for a much more modern gaming experience. The graphics were crisp and beautiful, and though it wasn’t the exact experience from back in the day it was still a lot of fun. I fully admit to having to resort to using a walkthrough, as I just don’t have the amount of free time I used to with a six-year-old running around. I didn’t struggle too much with Myst, but when I got to Riven I had to use the walkthrough a LOT.

The clay houses in Riven.

When I first launched Riven the resolution was horrible to the extent the game was unplayable, and I couldn’t figure out a way to get it to look decent. You’d think they would have something within the settings, but after searching online for an answer and almost giving up, I went to the GOG support database and finally found an answer. If you want to play Riven, here are the steps for getting it to look good: With Riven launched hit CTRL+F5 to bring up the ScummVR menu, select Return to Launcher, pick your language, click Options, on the Graphics tab enable “Filter Graphics” and then from here you can pick the “Graphics Mode” you want to use.

It took me HOURS to get this resolved, but once I finally did, the graphics and resolution were tolerable to play. I’d fumbled my way through the first two hours of the game with gigantic pixels and terrible graphics, but below you can see everything once I got it fixed. It’s a long video but you can skip through for some great nostalgia.

Honestly, I was smiling almost the whole time I was playing. I loved the world of Riven, and it was everything I remembered. The bright blue waters, the funky music that keeps you on edge the whole time, the city made of clay domes, and of course the rollercoaster…err I mean Maglev. I LOVED the Maglev back in ‘97, and I still love it now. The steampunk-ish world combined with the more earthy feel of the islands was comforting and it transported me back to a time in my life with a lot less stress and responsibility.

Loch Ness monsters playing on the beach? Who knows, anything is possible in Riven!

While I did use a walkthrough, it honestly didn’t ruin the experience for me. I just don’t have the time to sit and solve puzzles, some of which are very complicated with absolutely zero clues. Some puzzles have hints, but some are trial and error…something I appreciated when I had all the time in the world back in ‘97, but my life is a lot different now, so I’d love to give a huge shoutout to all the people who took the time to write those super awesome walkthroughs. But, while I didn’t have the time to solve every single puzzle, something I did appreciate about Riven is I still needed to keep notes. While the numbers you can look up in a walkthrough stay the same, the code you have to enter to open one of the islands changes in every game. So make sure when you see symbols or letters that you write them down. It’s that uniqueness that really set this franchise apart.

Something else that has always impressed me was the addition of live actors within the games. Cyan did a great job at the time incorporating this, it still looks cool and adds to the immersion that you’re really traveling to another world. You feel like you really know Atrus and Catherine, and even the asshole Gehn because of this. There isn’t anything else like the Myst franchise out on the market, and it’s a unique and rewarding experience.

Live actors within the games make them feel more realistic.

Before I leave you with my final thoughts, I’d like to take this time to remind you to ALWAYS SAVE YOUR GAME! Save it a lot, get OCD about it. I made the ultimate gaming goof while playing Riven, a game with multiple endings. I think you know where I am going with this. Yes, that’s right…after spending over three and a half hours exploring the lush beautiful islands of Riven, I came to an abrupt alternate ending, one I absolutely did not desire, and then realized I hadn’t saved. I trapped myself in the prison book, because I was speeding through reading the walkthrough and figured the green book was the jungle book I was supposed to click. Nope, it was the prison book. I sat in confusion looking at the credits roll by, before I finally realized what happened, then I wasn’t sure if I wanted to yell or cry. I intended to go back and retrace all my steps to finish the game properly (by saving Catherine) but it’ll have to wait a few weeks.

I’m also quite excited to see how the Myst VR stuff will pan out, as I think this type of game could be extraordinary in VR. Definitely keeping an eye on how that develops.

I’ve started playing through Myst III, which I honestly don’t remember as much as Myst and Riven. I don’t think anything can top Riven for me though. This experience was really fulfilling, even with the undesired alternate ending. I’d highly recommend anyone who enjoyed the Myst games in the past to take a weekend and replay them. Just don’t forget to save.

You can pick up the entire Myst franchise on GOG for about 15 bucks, just click here.

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