Review by JD99705alaska
"What a way to go..."
It's not even been a year yet since Myst IV Revelation hit the store shelves and already, Cyan Worlds and their publisher Ubisoft have released the final installment of the Myst saga. This episode was supposed to let the series go quietly, and that it does, but it leaves a lot to be desired from a developer that was once heralded as the king of their genre. Myst V leaves so many questions unanswered and in a lot of respects creates a slew of new ones. Is this really the way to end your franchise?
Myst V utilizes the same graphics engine that was used in Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Cyan's failed venture into online gaming. There have been some slight graphical improvements to the engine; things such as motion captured characters, updated water effects, higher resolution textures; but the core foundation of what made Uru so beautiful is all there. The environments you'll uncover feel alive. There are various creatures that you'll see fluttering around. In the ages you'll be seeing birds in the sky, butterflies, bats, swarms of bugs, swaying grass, lapping water, tumbling pebbles, etc. Things in the distance are handled very well, most notably in the astronomy age of Todelmer. Textures are very detailed for the most part and very well created. The exception to this are the textures used on the island of Myst, which if looked at closely, can also be seen in Sunsoft's recreation of the original Myst game, realMyst. One or two of the ages look dated in comparison to their counterparts, but considering the fact that Cyan was under heavy pressure and tight budget, some minor quirks are to be expected.
There's just not enough of it. The largest quirk you'll notice about Myst V is the lack of footsteps. There are so many different types of ground that you walk on in this game and the fact that you can't hear yourself walk over them is quite saddening. Music doesn't play very frequently, but when it does, it fits the mood quite well and empowers the scene. You'll catch a few classic Myst tunes as you progress. Voice acting is exceptional and those of you that journeyed to Myst V after completing Revelation will welcome to the voice casting in Myst V. Much better. None of the voice actors (with the exception of Rand in a couple lines) sound as though they are forcing their parts and it all sounds convincing. Overall, the audio is what you'd expect from a Myst game, just without the footsteps we've come to love.
Myst V combines all of the previous formats of gameplay from each game and gives you the choice of which one you want to use. First, there's the slightly updated Classic mode. Just like the original Myst, it's point and click. You can hold down the right mouse button to look around and find your navigation points, then release and left click to proceed to that node. Then there's Classic Plus mode which mimics the mechanics of Exile and Revelation. You're still using nodes, but you have the freedom to look just about anywhere. Then there's a mode which allows you to use the keyboard arrows to freely navigate as if you were playing an FPS game. Clicking on things works the same way, although in some puzzles, you'll find positioning difficult to achieve while in this mode. Puzzles for the most part are simple, but there are a few that mislead you into thinking their solutions are so incredibly complex that you'll spend hours fidgeting with things that most likely aren't even relative to the game (yes, there are some things in here that don't even need to be messed with that can be messed with). The slate system adds a new and interesting element to the tired formula that Myst has mastered. At certain points, you'll see symbols in an age. If you draw the symbol correctly on the slate, set it down, and walk away, one of the Bahro creatures will come and do a certain action based on what you drew. There are most likely hundreds of cool little easter eggs that can be found with this new element (if the demo is anything to go by). These actions can often times open up new ways to progress through an age.
The majority fo the story that makes up Myst V is stuff we already know, just recycled in a new format to make it easier for new players to start the series where it ends. In typical Myst style, character speeches are often times so cryptic that over time, you won't even pay attention to them. Myst V adds very little to the storyline created by the other five games in the series and in the end, you'll be asking yourself why Cyan and Ubisoft decided to take the series as far as they did. You'll see Yeesha once in the very beginning of the game and then all throughout, the story is propelled by meetings with Escher, a shady citizen of the long fallen D'ni. His speeches are often times helpful, but only that. Hints. They usually add very little to the storyline. Throughout the game, you'll find various mini-journals written by Yeesha, depicting the events of the previous 5 games, which lends to the fact that End of Ages might be post-Uru as some suspect. Overall, there's little story and the end just gives you more questions instead of answering the ones you already had.
When you sit down and think about what Cyan has done for the genre over the last 14 or so years, it's enough to make your mouth drop. Cyan sparked a revolution in gaming with the original Myst. A spark that carried through to its sequel Riven, and even into the third-party additions, Exile and Revelation. While Uru was a failure in a lot of respects, it boasted beautiful graphics and amazing additions to the storylines. But all of this, Riven, Exile, Revelation, Uru, thinking even further, might have been too much to be good. In End of Ages, Yeesha talks of Atrus; that he couldn't keep Myst simple. He continued to build and add, and in the end, it lead to the age's destruction. In a lot of ways, Cyan, by continuing to push an eldering storyline, could very well be blamed for the decline of Myst's popularity in its latter years. Had Cyan simply said enough was enough after Riven, there wouldn't have been Uru and there wouldn't have been failure and destruction. There wouldn't have been Exile and Revelation, and all of the criticism made in regards to just handing over the rights to Myst. Cyan Worlds and Myst, while two of the 'great' names of gaming, can be a lesson that maybe taking your franchise where it didn't need to go can be devastating when the final chapter is written. For a lot of fans, End of Ages will be everything they'd ever hoped for and for an even larger amount, it will be a blistering disapointment. Regardless, Myst is over.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 09/27/05
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