Review by vidkid7
"Link to the Worlds of Uru"
If you've finished every Myst game and novel, Uru will complement and add to the story you know and love.
If you know nothing of Myst or it's world, then Uru is great place to start your journey into the universe where books are portals to other worlds.
If you've played Myst and quickly uninstalled the game because you couldn't find the ''fire'' key, click your back button immediately.
Uru takes place in the present day, focusing on the here and now, instead of events that happened years past. The DRC (D'ni Restoration Council) is in the process of restoring the city and making it inhabitable once more, and people who felt a call to D'ni after playing the game series based on the events surrounding this culture are now following clues that lead them to a cleft in the middle of New Mexico.
Everything in this review is based on the offline game ''Uru: Ages Beyond Myst'' or ''Uru Prime'', as I have no experience with the online world of ''Uru Live''. If anyone wants to run a cable or dsl line to my house in the middle of nowhere so that I can play and review Uru Live, you're quite welcome to do so.
Story - 8/10
Story is a difficult thing to describe for Uru. Like all Myst games,
the story usually doesn't come up and ask you to wake up and pay attention via cutscenes, but depends on the player's ability to piece it together himself. Journals, scraps of paper, a drawing on a cave wall, a pile of bones, these are the types of things you'll find to help you understand the story of Uru.
Of course it'll help you even more if you have some experience with previous games and novels in the series, since the game is primarily based around the restoration of the city of D'ni. The in-character website for the game (www.drcsite.org) that launched in April 2002 was designed with Uru's story in mind, and you'll find snippets of information in the game relating to dates and people mentioned through the game website. If you have any interest in Uru, I recommend examining this website, as it's completely in-character with the game, and will enhance your experience.
On the other hand, the game is completely playable if you have no previous knowledge of the Myst canon, the only difference being that you won't have that ''Oooooh!'' feeling when you notice things relating to the story so far.
This game is beautiful. Plain and simple. From the rain smattering all around you in Eder Kemo, to the slimy fungi that make up the majority of Teledahn, to the stone walls that make up the majority of the explorable area of Gahreesen... the views in Uru are STUNNING. I run the game at it's ''high'' graphical settings on a Radeon 9000 Pro card, with 512MB of RAM, and almost every flower and leaf rustling in the wind was rendered smoothly. The only place in the game where I experienced any serious drop in framerate was an outer are of Gahreesen, where it seems like you can see for miles.
The people at Cyan are masters of sound. As in Myst and Riven, the game is teeming with tunes that will reach out to greet your ears and occasionally chill your soul, Tim Larkin has more than proved himself as a worthy successor to Robyn Miller, the musical composer of Myst and Riven, and I'm much looking forward to the release of the Uru: Ages Beyond Myst soundtrack.
The sound effects department has created an aural world that seems unsurpassable. Every lever has a clank or creak of it's own, gratings clatter beneath your feet, ground crushes and squishes as you pass over it, and the sound changes realistically with the environment, echoing off walls, shifting as your head turns and as things move around you. Without exagerating, a good pair of headphones, some fans for wind, and a blindfold, and you could probably fool someone into believing they were in a different place altogether.
As aesthetically pleasing as this game is, the difficulty level may put some players off about playing Uru. From my experience, someone could spend anywhere between five minutes and five hours trying to figure out how to progress. Puzzles will give your brain cells a serious workout, environments will give you plenty of things to explore, knowing that any crack and cranny could lead to your next big clue. No matter how long it takes though, when you solve the puzzle, you'll either smile to yourself for solving it, or slap yourself in the forehead for missing something so obvious. One puzzle in this game lowers the game from earning a 9/10 rating, simply because of it's set up was difficult to work with, which caused me hours of frustration from what should have been a fairly simple puzzle.
This is the area where Uru finally faltered for me. This would be the first time Cyan created a game (barring the realtime 3D remake of Myst, realMYST) that allowed complete freedom of movement, running, jumping, climbing, and if you're so inclined, sneezing. This all sounds well and good, except they leave out one kind of movement that would have been grately appreciated in a few areas of the game, an option to pick stuff up and move it by hand. As it is, if you want to movie something, you basically have to kick it across the ground until it's where you want it to be.
If you play in first person mode (as you should, as it tends to make important items easier to see), then actual movement isn't too bad. Defaulting to the four arrow keys, and easily mappable to anything else on your keyboard, there's the standard up/down/left/right. It's also possible to strafe, but this is very slow and unwieldy, essentially useless in practice. You can also move forward by holding down the left mouse button. Looking around requires you to hold down the right mouse button, then turn the mouse to wherever you want to look. Running is probably the most useful form of movement, as it involves holding down both mouse buttons. This allows you to turn while moving, so you can just aim wherever you need to go, and you'll be taken there automatically, while moving at double your walking speed.
Third person is a different matter, as the game switches to Resident Evil style controls. Forward will make your character move forward from their point of view, and not yours, turning does the same. Running is the same as before, except since you're now in a third person view, trying to turn with the mouse can lead to you running off the side of a cliff instead of forward down the narrow stone path that you intended to.
This is a game that has two different possibilities for replay. Option one is to wait a while after completing the game, allowing the puzzles and worlds to grow cold in your mind, then moving through the game again, guided by your memories, but mostly unable to remember the solutions to the puzzles that you have to complete to progress. Option two is to load up your completed game, and aimlessly wander the ages you've unlocked, enjoying the views, listening to the wind in the trees, sitting near the waterfall, leaving the game running as a screensaver while you write or read. If you're a person who just wants another beaten game on their list, then that's good for you, but you'll be missing one of the most joyous parts of Uru or any Myst game. The ability to go back and explore again, noticing all the things that you didn't notice on your first run.
Out of the Myst series so far, Uru is tied with Riven for my favorite game, with Myst coming in second, and Exile coming in third. In difficulty, it is second to Riven, with Myst coming in third, and Exile in fourth.
It took three days, almost to the hour, for this Myst veteran to complete the game, playing almost every waking hour. A guesstimate on average playtime would be a week and a half to two weeks though, depending on your experience with adventure games of this type, and the time you can commit to playing it.
From me, Uru receives a score of 9/10, for it's superior graphics and sound, deep story, and engrossing world. Even if you've never played a Myst game before, Uru is a great place to start, if you give it a chance.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/17/03
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