Reviewed: August 28, 2004
Released: July 13, 2004
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. Myst has become synonymous with beautiful graphics, brain-teasing puzzles, interesting locations, and intriguing stories, all the ingredients for a perfect adventure game.
For the two or three of you reading this who have never played any of the Myst 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 Cyan have.
Last year Cyan Worlds put a new spin on the Myst franchise with Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, a bold new concept that not only shifted the game to a third-person perspective (although you could still toggle first-person if you wanted), but actually allows you to become the main character.
It was also going to be the first online edition of the Myst franchise, offering monthly installments (like a book of the month club), and exciting puzzles designed to be solved my multiple players working together. Unfortunately, about two months after its release the online edition of Uru, known as Uru Live was canceled, or in the words of Cyan, “postponed indefinitely” due to a general lack of interest and online subscribers.
As a sort of “peace offering” Cyan offered the first major expansion, Uru: To D’ni as a free download from the net, and several months later the second (and final) installment Uru: The Path of the Shell shipped as a $20 retail expansion.
Myst Uru: Complete Chronicles is the compilation of the original game and both of the expansions along with a closet of new clothes and accessories you can use to dress-up your virtual personae.
The first order of business before venturing forth into the world of Uru is to create your character using a character generator much like any online game. You pick your sex and choose from an expanded selection of clothing then you fine-tune your facial features, hair, etc. and you are ready to go. Even though many of the options were limited I was amazed at the flexibility of this software in that I was able to recreate a stunning likeness of myself with little effort.
Uru follows the story of D’Ni and your guide on this adventure is Yeesha, daughter of Atrus. For those of you who played Myst III: Exile, Yeesha was the baby Catherine, Atrus’ wife, was holding in the opening scene of that game. She’s all grown up now and has experience much in her life, which she is now ready to pass along to you.
During your adventures you will uncover previously unknown facts about D’Ni, its inhabitants and the various ages. It’s a compelling story that builds up to an exciting finale then leaves you hanging. Fortunately, the new expansion, “To D’Ni”, picks up where that story ends, offering all new ages and even more challenging puzzles.
In “To D’Ni” you will learn a massive amount of historical and cultural information as you explore the D’ni cavern. You’ll solve some of your toughest puzzles yet as you search for the island of Ae’gura and explore the wonderful library and museum. With the information learned here and in two other breathtaking locations you are ready to power up the Great Zero and complete the work of the Restoration.
“The Path of the Shell” completes the trilogy and takes you one a journey to the future where you will discover Yeesha’s destiny and the fate of the lost civilization. Where the original game and the first expansion dealt mainly with the past and present, this final installment completes the story. I’ll admit the ending wasn’t quite what I expected, but keep in mind that Uru was going to be an ongoing story, spread out for several years as an online adventure. Having to wrap up an epic tale like this in three parts is a major undertaking, and Cyan World did a respectable job.
Despite the third-person perspective Uru plays much like previous Myst games. There are numerous Ages to explore that are rendered in breathtaking detail, only this time they are in glorious 3D rather than the traditional slideshow sequence of static images or 3D QuickTime panning nodes.
After a quick test at a desert dig site you are transported to Relto, which is your own private Age, or home base. Here you will find a house surrounding by some gorgeous scenery. Inside the house is your personal library that consists of individual books for each of the Ages you have visited plus books for each of the Ages in the two expansion packs. You can use these linking books to access the new Ages and explore them at your leisure. One of the coolest aspects of Relto is the ability to customize this Age by finding pages of the Relto book scattered about the game. As you add these pages to the Relto book specific new details will appear in the world around you.
The core of any Myst game is exploration and puzzle solving and Uru doesn’t stray from that successful formula. There are numerous puzzles in each Age ranging from fairly obvious to insanely difficult. The difficulty of the puzzles in both the expansions continues to grow in complexity and sheer awe of construction and integration into the environments. Observant gamers will likely notice that all the clues necessary to solving even the most difficult puzzles are all hidden within the game.
Kudos to a wonderful control interface that is totally configurable although I found no reason to deviate from the default controls. Using a simple combination of mouse buttons and a few keyboard commands you can walk, run, pan the camera, and interact with the environments in a very intuitive fashion.
Myst has always been known for photo-realistic graphics and Uru continues that fine tradition. With the required system you can enjoy beautiful scenery, but if you put some serious CPU cycles and a next-gen 3D card behind this game you can crank out visual masterpieces where every screen is worthy of becoming framed artwork. Uru at 1600x1200 is something that words or screenshots can’t begin to describe.
The game defaults to a third-person camera but you can press F1 to toggle to the first-person view. This makes the game look and feel more like traditional Myst, and at times makes it easier to view clues and access the environment. But there are also several instances within the game that demand an exterior view. While the chase camera works for the most part there are a few times where it suddenly shifts to some quirky angle that can cause some minor problems.
The interface is totally transparent and only rises to the surface when you move the mouse to the lower corners of the screen. This leaves the screen free to display the breathtaking vistas of the various Ages. There are so many “wow” moments in this game that I lost count. Uru is easily the most beautiful and breathtaking adventure game ever created for the PC.
The soundtrack in Uru is every bit as stunning as the visuals. Myst III: Exile spawned an amazing soundtrack and Uru is just as deserving with wonderful atmospheric tunes, light jazz, and beautifully composed new age orchestrations that totally enhance the visuals and gameplay. There is even a cool track courtesy of Peter Gabriel, that kept me hanging around the dig site trailer longer than I normally would.
Often, the music will slip away leaving you to enjoy the wonderful environmental sounds then ramp up with some majestic melody when you enter a new area or solve a difficult puzzle.
Sound effects are realistic and bring these Ages to life with environmental sounds and creative sound effects for all sorts of inventions and devices. The voice acting is right on par with the rest of the audio package. The script is well written and every spoken line is delivered with flawless perfection. There is full support for EAX surround sound that creates a totally immersive environment.
Uru is a substantial adventure and thoroughly exploring all of the Ages in the original and both expansions should easily take you 60+ hours. Many of the quests and even some areas are optional and it’s possible to complete the story without doing everything, but seasoned adventurers will want to explore every last nook and cranny. There is so much to see and do and you will be lucky to find it all on your first pass. Just finding all the Relto pages to customize your personal Age will take you hours.
And at $40, the Complete Chronicles is a huge bargain considering you are getting the $30 original, a $20 expansion, and the convenience of not having to download and store a 180mb file for the “To D’Ni” expansion.
Myst Uru: Complete Chronicles is a spectacular adventure, and while I was sad to see the online component fail before I even got to login I am glad to see that Cyan came through and delivered some substantial content that not only enhances the original adventure, but completes the saga.
If you are a Myst fan or just looking for an amazing adventure then purchasing and playing Uru is a no-brainer. Uru fleshes out the history of Myst and provides volumes of interesting details about the world of D’Ni while testing your powers of observation and logic. You’ll be captivated from beginning to end.