By Shivy 2 Comments
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Myst fan. I've read all the books, i've played all the games, countless times, and in my younger years I even helped maintain an AOL Help forum for Myst and Riven, its sequel. I've gone to Mysterium, the annual Myst convention, when it came to Los Angeles back in 2007, and I also regularly contribute to a monthly podcast called The Cavern Today, dedicated to the Myst franchise as well as the Online Multiplayer exploration of Myst Online: Uru Live, which has recently become a free-to-play online game.
The Myst series over the years has remained my favorite franchise, created by the remarkable creative minds at Cyan Worlds. No other game spoke to me so powerfully with a deep story of betrayal and consequence, told subtly through the clues and environment, rather than through cut scenes and dialogue.
I was at CompUSA as a child, shopping for a new PC with my parents; the first real computer my family would own after the ancient 386 I had been using. With this computer (a prefabricated Compaq model that eventually proved less than sufficient. My parents weren’t the savviest computer shoppers), my parents allowed each of their children to select a software title of their choice (within reason; no $400 AutoCAD or anything like that.) My sister chose some Winnie-The-Pooh Clipart program; my older brother selected an early home-architecture program from Broderbund. My younger brother chose Jet Fighter 2, and I chose a game that captivated me with its box-art of a lonely island amongst an endless sea: MYST.
Playing the game is among the happiest childhood memories I have of playing games with my siblings. My older brother and I worked hard to solve the puzzles in the game together, drawing out notes and maps. I felt so proud of how well we had done when at last we solved the final puzzle and completed the game.
By the time Riven had been released, my siblings were already starting to move on from games, or adopt a more casual attitude towards them. He didn’t want to play Riven with me as he had done before with Myst.
This was a pattern that could continue on until today, where I still remain deeply passionate about video games, and my siblings either no longer play them, or only retain a passing interest in them (With the distinct exception of my brother Jon who is well into the clutches of World of Warcraft). Even so, playing these games with my siblings would leave me with my fondest childhood memories.
While Myst was an intriguing game unlike anything I had ever played before, it couldn't compete with the far superior Riven. The game had a much darker and almost steam-punky feel to it, thanks to the hiring of Richard Vander Wende, an artist and designer who worked for Disney on Aladdin.
Throughout the game there are some pretty dynamic moments. Chief among them are the sequences where you travel between the five various islands that compromise Riven. Most of them are connected by Mag-Lev transport (Magnetic Levitation) or through mine cart tracks.
The sensation was pretty incredible. The other aspect that really intruigued me was the design of the puzzles. Everything in that wolrd felt like it belonged. The game didn't follow the common adventure game tropes of having puzzles for the sake of having puzzles. All the puzzles in Riven felt like they belonged where they were, and had a good reason for being there.
A good example is a puzzle involving decoding a security password written in D'ni, the fictional language of the Myst series of games. Solving the puzzle involved figuring out the unusual base 5 and 25 number system, which meant finding a school-house on one of the islands that was being used by the villagers to teach their children. There is a mechanical hangman game in the classroom where one could watch the D'ni numerals come up, and count the number of clicks, extrapolating from what they've learned to pick up the remaining numbers. All of it felt natural, as though you were a detective using all your resources to solve a mystery.
To date, I own 7 copies of Riven:
1. Original 5 CD-Rom release (Cardboard art-sleeves)
2. 5 CD-Rom release (Double Jewel-case)
3. Playstation Release, 5-Discs
4. Ages Beyond MYST - Myst + Riven CD-Rom bundle
5. MYST Anniversary DVD Versions (Includes MYST, Riven, MYST III: Exile)
6. GoG (Good Ol Games Digital Copy)
7. Steam Release Digital Copy
This may seem like a lot, but I own nearly every version of *all* the MYST games. Everyone's gotta collect something, right?
Yes, there were Myst III action figures!
And finally, the MYST Board game.... It's not very good. Basically a 'Competitive Jigsaw Puzzle'