Real Myst (Windows)

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Written by  :  Tal Cohen (33)
Written on  :  Dec 06, 2008
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.8 Stars4.8 Stars4.8 Stars4.8 Stars4.8 Stars

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A masterpiece of sight, sound and of the brain

The Good

I have to admit, I wasn't always that enthusiastic with Myst. I used to belong to a school of thought that shunned the idea of an adventure game having no inventory - hence very little to no inventory puzzles, barely any NPCs and thus scant to zero dialogues, with minimal scenery interaction and feedback from the protagonist. Add to that an ostensibly absent story and plot, and you get a prejudice.

I'm not saying I hated Myst, oh no. I tried my best to eschew the Myst hate bandwagon, it seemed unfair for me to dislike a game before I even gave it a try. It's just that it was at the bottom of my priority list, and so I never got to playing it. Up until recently.

I'm going to present a few points detractors of the game constantly raise as arguments against it, and bring my own counter-points:

"The game is lifeless and bland. There's no one to talk to." This is far from the truth. Let's start with the fact that you do get to meet at least a couple of characters in the game directly. True, interaction with them is very limited, and I'm talking about very few characters indeed. But people who raise this criticism fail to understand that this game doesn't need a plethora of characters to accomplish its goal of total immersion. The game is filled with such vivid, lively scenery, presented in real time 3D renders, that sometimes you just want to reach your hand to the monitor and touch it. It's full of impressive weather effects, beautiful landscapes and plenty of detailed flora and fauna. The movement is free roaming and smooth. How's that bland and lifeless? Oh, and don't let me get going on the sounds and music. Besides, you get to know some of the characters and events vicariously through the various books and locations. That's more than enough for a game like Myst. You can say that the game itself is the characters (i.e. The Isle of Myst and the Ages you get to visit), the engaging atmosphere its plot.

"The puzzles are boring and unimaginative." That's light years from the truth. Who said there has to be an inventory in an AG? If anything, it makes the game much more realistic. In truth, the puzzles in Myst are fascinating, organic and integral of the environment and architecture. I can't think of many games prior to Myst whose puzzles can be described as atmospheric and organic. You've got to admire its originality, and the Millers' unabashed courage in creating a game that dared to be different. You don't need any previous knowledge or skill to solve the puzzles. They're all logical to the game's world, and your challenge is simply to apply that logic. Just be observant of your surroundings. Some of these structures and mechanisms are surreal and out there, so it takes some cerebral activity to figure them out, but none too difficult. In fact, I found the puzzles in Myst slightly too easy, if I do say so myself. That could be because I'm very experienced with AGs, so I guess they're just right for the novice/average player. Because they're so well ingrained in the game's surroundings, a smart approach is to think realistically and logically, consistently with the game's design.

"This game has no plot, what kind of an AG is this?" True, the plot isn't exactly the strongest point of the game. But as mentioned in this review, there are books and letters from which you can extract some of the mysterious story. To me, the Millers wanted the plot to be very subtle and delicate in order to emphasise the mystery. It's not called Myst for nothing, y'know. And indeed, the game's grandeur lies in its humility and lack of pretense. Anyone who's got an iota of curiosity in them would be excited at the prospect of investigating the secrets of every nook and cranny in the game's worlds. In this case, the minimal nature of the story is its strength. And need I say a picture speaks a thousand words? :P Myst makes you feel as if what you see on your computer monitor truly exists. You soak in the gorgeous visuals and sounds, and you got your story. More ever, there's a nice little twist towards the very end of the game. Not entirely unexpected, but nevertheless enjoyable. As a side note, in addition to the documents found in the game, the Millers authored at least three books taking place in the Myst universe, incorporating all the characters and events of the games, and then some. You might want to check those out, though it's not required in order to enjoy the game.

The Bad

Not really 'bad', but sometimes it was easy to miss a few hotspots and get lost. The cursor didn't always indicate interactivity, which was a bit confusing.

There's one puzzle involving musical keys with sliders that are very sensitive, and so you have to be extremely precise.

The game lacks captions. I find the inability to activate subtitles a fault in any game, but since Myst has very little spoken dialogue anyway, it wasn't a big deal.

The Bottom Line

Approach Myst with an open mind. Don't be dismayed by the empty, baseless criticisms, which are really prejudices.

Don't be afraid of its solitary design - the solitude just enhances its appeal, as it grants a sense of tranquility and clarity of mind, which are needed to solve the ambient puzzles. Enjoy the clear, clean and minimal interface, which allows you to seamlessly plunge into the game.

Just "be there" and relish the logically realistic structures, savour the beauty of nature and technology. Submit, and let the game draw you in.