Reviewed: May 31, 2001
Released: May 8, 2001
Mac System Requirements
Myst is probably one of the best-known computer games in the history of computer games. Since its release on September 23, 1993, over 6 million copies have been sold worldwide and the sequel, Riven has sold over 4 million since its release just four years later.
Cyan, the makers of the first two games have turned over the reigns to Presto Studios for the daunting task of creating the third game in the popular series. With an estimated following of over 30 million anxious gamers, such a task could easily be compared to having George Lucas ask you to make the next Star Wars movie.
Myst has become synonymous with beautiful graphics, brain-teasing puzzles, interesting locations, and intriguing stories; all the ingredients for a perfect adventure game. With another four-year gap between the second and third installments everyone is expecting something really special and Presto has delivered.
For the two or three of you reading this who have never played either of the first two games, the world of Myst is based on the premise that certain people have the magical ability to write books. The worlds described in these books, known as Ages, become real, and the books themselves can be used to "link" to these worlds.
It's obvious to see the possibilities are endless and limited only by one's imagination, and what an imagination those wizards at Presto have. Myst III: Exile features no less than five amazing and unique worlds to explore and over a dozen challenging puzzles.
While Exile is a sequel and expands on the stories and characters of the first two games, you are not required to have played those games in order to understand or enjoy this title. Exile contains all the necessary background information you need to thoroughly enjoy the self-contained story told in this third installment. You will meet new and exciting characters that will draw you into the story and lead you deeper into the game. Your main adversary, Saavedro, is the classic villain who is always just one step ahead of you sabotaging various devices and causing you all sorts of extra work.
While Myst has always been classified as an adventure game the series has always relied more on puzzles to keep the player occupied. Exile is no different. While there is a great story to be told, the majority of your gameplay is simply wandering around the various worlds and solving clever puzzles that are integrated right into the levels.
Unlike the first two games where the puzzles could be insanely difficult, Exile offers almost everything you need to know to solve every puzzle within the game itself. These clues are usually found in the Journals and scattered pages of notes you will find as you explore the island, but there are also several visual clues you must locate and study. Clues can often be located very far from the actual puzzle they relate to. For instance, the workshop on J'nanin hold clues to several puzzles you won't even find until many hours later in the game in two different worlds. But the way the clues are designed, something will trigger in the back of your mind giving you that extra nudge in the right direction. And if you get totally stuck you can always consult the complete and fully illustrated strategy guide right here at Sinjin Solves.
Myst III: Exile features several worlds to explore, each dealing with a specific theme such as Nature, Physics, Energy, etc. These worlds are all joined by a hub world known as J'nanin that you must explore to find the linking books to all the other worlds. The beauty of this design is that it allows you to explore these worlds in any order you choose. This makes the game fairly non-linear but unfortunately doesn't add anything to the replay value, as the game and puzzles are identical each time you play.
Definite improvements have been made in the visual department. Graphics have never looked better and feature full support for 3D acceleration. The programmers have even developed a new system that allows for FMV (full motion video) playback that is overlaid on pre-rendered screens that you can pan around in real time.
Speaking of panning, you now have the ability to fully rotate your view at any location within the game. The game still consists of the various "nodes" where you click to advance to the next node then make a decision on where to go next, but the ability to look all around and even up and down eliminates the slideshow feel of the first two games and totally immerses you into the fairytale worlds of Exile.
The pre-rendered worlds are full of life and detail. To put it in perspective, each frame of animation took on the average of 30 minutes to render. This is comparable to rendering times you might find for animated movies like Toy Story. Landscapes and structures are all modeled to precise detail with some truly innovative designs. The island exterior of J'nanin is composed of over 3.2 million polygons so you can begin to see the attention to detail the designers at Presto have put into this masterpiece.
All sorts of special effects are present including rippling water, lens flares, reflections, and just about anything else you can think of. The game supports both hardware and software rendering and while there were a few problems with some video cards when the game released, these have been addressed in the subsequent patches released since the game shipped.
The levels are some of the most original and unearthly places you will ever visit. The teams of artists have used digital photography combined with terrain editors and 3D modeling software to create some inspired levels. Many of the islands end with climactic animation sequences that are some of the most rewarding in recent adventure game history. One Age in particular has you wandering the island fixing various devices to ultimately fix a huge roller coaster. The ending ride lasts almost two minutes and will leave you speechless.
Sound effects are amazing. The sound designers have really come up with some original sounds. Mechanical effects are realistic while the nature sounds will have you thinking you are exploring a botanical garden. Subtle environmental effects like the wind blowing or water lapping against the rocks all enhance the experience and add to some tremendous realism. There are some very original effects that have been created for the unique life forms you will encounter including some intelligent plant-life in the Nature Age.
The music in Exile is just as good as any movie score, which is perhaps why you can get the original soundtrack on a separate audio CD. The music in the game blends perfectly into the background, changing with the situation to add to the emotional impact of the events taking place. Jack Wall composed the score and conducted a full orchestra, giving this game one of the best and most professional game soundtracks this year. It has already been nominated for the 2001 Best Music Award here at Sinjin Solves as well as Best Graphics and Best Game.
Myst III: Exile is definitely easier than either Myst or Riven, mainly because the puzzles make more sense and are ultimately easier to figure out. If you are good at puzzle games then Exile should give you 12-15 hours of enjoyment. The puzzles are all logical and clues are plentiful if you know were to find them. If you dive into the game and ignore the journals and visual aids you could wander the various Ages for 30-40 hours and still not complete the game.
So basically the game length is directly proportional to your skills in observation, deductive reasoning, and memory. Once you have finished Exile there is little reason to play it again anytime soon. Nothing changes, and while there are a few different endings, the branching point for all of them is very near the end of the game. You can explore all your options with a single saved game at the right time. Reliving some of the more memorable moments such as the thrilling roller coaster ride on Amateria can also be done by saving your game at the right time.
Aside from a few crucial decisions at the very end of the game, it is impossible to die in Exile. It is also impossible to get hopelessly stuck, as you can always link back to the hub world and get more clues or simply restart a world.
No matter what I say about Exile, be it good or bad, the simple fact is that this game is part of the Myst saga and there are millions of dedicated followers that will get this game. Fortunately for all of us, Exile is a great adventure game. While it is short, it is still a great ride while it lasts and one of the few games that a family (of all ages) can actually sit around the computer and play together. Adults will like the challenging puzzles and kids will love the bright and colorful worlds with exciting creatures and intriguing devices.
Myst III: Exile will definitely spark your adventurous spirit and get those gears turning inside your head with each new encounter and challenging puzzle. And when the ride is over you will hopefully have had as much fun playing Exile as the wizards at Presto had making it for you.