Myst III: Exile
Ah, Myst. The series graphics whores live for and hardcore gamers love to hate. But be honest youve played at least one of the previous two and maybe even liked it.
For the uninitiated, Myst is an adventure game where progression is based solely on solving extremely abstract puzzles and warping to different worlds through books. These worlds are normally very surreal and generally made up of still photos, not 3D graphics you can walk around in.
Myst III: Exile is more of the same, except now you can pan the camera 360 and also have some limited vertical movement.
Its no huge innovation, but it does make the game feel a little more interactive and immersive. Nonetheless, we say the puzzles are still too freakin hard.
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The story of Myst is a long and detailed one. In the original Myst, your character helped Atrus, the last practitioner of the secret Art of Writing Ages, escape from the prison erected for him by his sons Sirrus and Achenar. Drunk on power and arrogance, the brothers were finally defeated and sealed them away forever. Later adventures followed in the game Riven, as you helped free Atrus’ wife Catherine and rescued an entire civilization from destruction in a dying land.
If you’ve played any games from the Myst series before, you’ll know the intricate and detailed backstory that these games form. Published alongside these games are a series of three books that delve into the history of the Myst universe and shed some light on old questions. Here’s the basic idea behind Myst, for those of you who haven’t played it before.
An ancient race, called the D’Ni, created the Art of Writing Ages. With special inks, books, and language, a D’Ni Writer could create a whole world, complete with inhabitants, creatures, and technology, using the written word alone. After it was created, these books could transport the user to this New World, allowing them to walk among their creation. These books were fragile though and losing one might mean losing access to a wondrous world, forever. The D’Ni civilization was built on this Art and explored many ages over their long and fruitful history. A rebel eventually destroyed that civilization and the Art of Writing Ages was almost lost.
Years later, the story of Myst details the trials and tribulations of Atrus, one of the last Writers, and your quest to aid him. In Myst, you helped him imprison his own sons, lest they run rampant and destroy whole Ages. The story of Riven showed you the depths to which Atrus’s father, Gehn, could sink, as you imprisoned him for the sake of an entire race. Finally, and only after much struggle, Atrus finds peace and can begin to rebuild.
As Myst 3: Exile opens, you greet Atrus and his family on their home age of Tomahna. Atrus waits to show you his new age, Releeshahn, and how he’s helped the D’Ni people rebuild there. But before he can begin his story, the villain attacks! A strange man steals the book of Releeshahn and sets fire to Atrus’s library. Thinking only of the lives at stake, you hurriedly follow the thief to another age and set off for adventure!
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Myst has perhaps the best known interface of any computer game ever created. Simple and easy to use, Myst 3 is a series of detailed pre-rendered environments. You look around by moving your cursor, movement merely requires a click and the point of view transitions to a new place. This gives you the ability to move through each Age (there are five total) and interact with its environment. Unlike the previous titles in this series, which only let you view preset angles, the fact that Myst 3: Exile allows you to move your view in a full sphere enhances the gameplay greatly from what was pioneered with Myst and Riven.
The meat of the game isn’t revealed until you get to the puzzles. Always the backbone of the Myst series, a set of unusual puzzles awaits to confound and obstruct you. Sometimes very difficult, often fairly simple, these puzzles, which usually require manipulation of the local environment, switch throwing, or other simple tasks, provide steady, if somewhat weak, gameplay. Overall, a skilled player could finish this game in a few hours and a less proficient gamer might take a few days.
If you solve all of the puzzles and navigate from land to land, you’re rewarded with a small glimpse into the storyline behind Myst. By far the best part of the game, aside from the excellent design that went into the creation of the graphics themselves, Myst 3 has an intriguing storyline. Although sparse in the game itself, it does open the path to learn more about the Myst universe, by playing the other Myst games or reading the Myst books.
Relation To Previous Installments
Unfortunately, this is one of the greatest weaknesses of Myst 3. With the exception of a single feature and better technology, Myst 3 is the same as Riven and Myst before it. Without a significant improvement in depth of storyline, breadth of gameplay, or new control features, Myst 3: Exile fails to capitalize on its previous success.
Like its brethren, Myst 3 provides sweeping, panoramic views with previously unknown levels of graphical detail. Each scene is pre-rendered in 640x480 resolution, with 16-bit color. Myst 3 takes good advantage of this relatively low resolution, packing as much detail and color into this display as possible. Complementing this scenery are dynamic effects like animals, sunlight, and rippling water. In some areas of the game, you’ll be presented with live action video, allowing actors to portray the characters in the game, moving the storyline.
Myst 3’s graphics are far from perfect though. The live action video is recorded at a lower quality than one would expect from a game made this recently and as a result often tends to look pixelated. While transitioning from scene to scene, many scenes also suffer pixelated graphics and occasionally show tearing in the video. In many ways, one could say that the design of the graphics, rather than the graphics themselves are what you’re waiting to see. Each of the five ages has a unique and vivid look to them, from the cold metal and rock of the Voltaic Age, to the scholarly dignity of the Narayan Age.
As a side note, veteran actor Brad Dourif plays the villain of Myst 3, Saavedro. Best known for his roles as Piter De Vries in "Dune," and the voice of Chucky in the horror movie series "Child’s Play," his unusual (to say the least) acting style brings a certain charm to this character. Dourif’s portrayal of Saavedro manages to emphasize the character’s worst traits, while keeping the Saavedro’s great love of his people and family alive.
With a small variety of sound effects, the only item worth note is the background soundtrack. Orchestrated by the Northwest Sinfonia Orchestra and conducted by Jack Wall, it is a mild, unobtrusive soundtrack that adds where it should and stays quiet when it is not needed. Building well throughout the game, the pacing of this soundtrack perfectly matches the progress of the story.
P2 233mhz+, Windows 95/98/ME, 64 MB RAM, 200MB HD Space, 4X CD-ROM, and a 640x480 display. Supports optional 3D hardware acceleration
Macintosh: 233 MHzG3, MacOS 8.1 or higher (incl OSX), 64 MB RAM, 200MB HD Space, 4X CD-ROM, and a 640x480 display. Supports optional 3D hardware acceleration
Reviewed on: AMD Athlon 1000mhz, 512MB RAM, 44X CD-ROM, ASUS V7100 Geforce 2 MX 32MB Video, and a Soundblaster Live! Sound Card.
From a technical and graphical standpoint, Myst 3: Exile breaks no boundaries and fails to be truly impressive. With timid gameplay and puzzles that are either too simple or very difficult, it isn’t an easy game to sit patiently and play. If you can wade through that, you’ll find a rather captivating storyline awaiting you. Although Myst 3: Exile won’t appeal to every game fan, it is a definite must for fans of the series and a worthwhile consideration for others.