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SummaryOpens strong but wavers.
The GoodTechnically, Myst IV inherits the changes made in Myst: Exile with a few additions of its own. The panoramic look-around mode Presto Studios introduced to the Myst series first developed in their own Journeyman: Legacy of Time (a superior game in many respects) is here sans walking animations.
One interesting addition is the depth of field effect (blurring out of focus objects). Although I had to turn this off pretty soon to keep the mouse cursor from moving completely snail-pace (with mouse sensitivity all the way up).
Another addition is that you now move puzzle elements as if moving the block part of a scrollbar, the animation tracks the movement of your mouse, very neat.
You now have a camera and projector dealio with which you can screenshot the various puzzle hints scattered around the game and view them later. This is a very handy addition for the kinds of puzzles this game has.
Later in the game you recieve an amulet which allows you to play flashback videos attached to certain objects (and just about everything has one--if even just a sound clip). This reveals a great deal of backstory, can read journals for you, and helps with a few of the puzzles.
Finally, a hint-system has been added to the game to ease the pain. It is divided into three hint levels for every puzzle, includes a map of every age. I only ended up using it once thought the game.
The biggest wow-factor to this game, until you acclimate to it at least, is the sheer volume of animations. Everywhere you look something is moving for some reason or another (sometimes inexplicably). Combined with the high resolution (1024x768 max) of the graphics, it is all very impressive. The eye candy is definitely here.
By the time your first impressions start wearing off you'll be well into solving the puzzles in the first few ages you are given. There are four ages to explore--Tomahna, Spire, Haven and Serenia--each one with a very distinct style, including wonderful atmospheric music and plenty of backstory scattered among various notes and journals.
The BadSo about the puzzles... there really aren't that many of them. Of the four ages, each has maybe three or four major puzzles to solve (I am excluding things like "turn switch to open door"...there is plenty of that to slow you down).
Especially later when you have access to Haven, Spire, and Serenia its unclear what it is you're supposed to be doing and exactly when you have "beaten" an age. While you're on a mission to save the little girl, I never understood what that has to do with dinking around the prison ages. (Although in hindsight, you need puzzle solutions from the final stages of each prison age to complete Serenia.) I wish someone had told me but for the rest of you, you're not done with Haven and Spire until an elevator takes you back to the linking book. Overall the way they tied these ages together via puzzles was pretty clunky.
Completing the game in order is very important because later on you will be solving puzzles that rely entirely on previous hints. If you do it out of order (as I did) or miss something you will waste day after day trying various logical solutions while unknown to you, the real solution relies on some password you missed back in another age. These hints are often tacked on at the weirdest locations. Take photos of everything!
My one biggest complaint about the game is regarding the whole age of Serenia. While atmospherically pleasing, this is the one and only Myst age where you are made to run errands by an army of NPCs. I thought I'd stepped into an RPG when various Asian women painted and dressed in funny outfits sent me on a trip to run around the island and which eventually lands you in "Dream". With everyone speaking perfect English the great feeling of exploring someplace foreign is completely shattered making the whole place seem painfully contrived.
Whereas previous Myst games tended to avoid going over the details (because the whole linking-book idea falls apart on scrutiny) building the mystery, Revelation doesnt hesitate to lay on the crap. Particularly all the technobabble over Dream, just awful!
So now to explain a bit about Dream. Perhaps you saw the whole Peter Gabriel tie-in on the box cover, this is where it comes in. Your first trip into it is a psychodelic low-end demoscene trip to a Peter Gabriel song. Peter Gabriel himself then lends some narration laying down some more technobabble and then you get to a puzzle (see screenshots). The idea here is to set a bunch of dots to white and doesnt require so much as a neuron to fire while sucking up hours of your time (kind of like everything else related to Dream).
When you finally do muck your way through Serenia, you're treated to some more poor acting and an anticlimatic ending involving the unnecessary death of one character (for those that do get to it, note the gas masks one room away) and the unexplained death of a another.