The Mysts of Island

I am a fan of the Myst franchise. I own the first four games and Uru: Complete Chronicles (legit), and once I get money I plan on buying the fifth and final game, End of Ages, and on the same note I will also get the three companion novels in the Myst Reader when I get the chance.

Some may ask why I am such a fan. If you are, you obviously have never played the games before. It’s hard to describe why or figure out exactly what the number one reason is. The puzzles, the visuals and the story all work together quite seamlessly. Anyone who likes mysteries or exploration or mindless puzzles will find something to like in Myst or the sequels. Plus the whole concept of writing in books to connect to other worlds creates an entire multiverse of possibilities that you can easily visit. Like Stargate only more…out there. In Riven there is a bacteria in the water that causes the water to, I am not kidding here, move away from heat. If you throw a match in a puddle, the match will stay lit and the water will move away from it. That is weird.

One of my biggest regrets regarding the Myst series was looking up walkthroughs and hints. I really think I missed the best part of the game. I guess this is why it is not as popular now as it once was. In the 90’s Myst was the best selling video game of all time, until it was displaced by the Sims which I really don’t think can be classified as a game anyway, but I digress. Now with the increased prevelence and popularity of first person shooters and other action oriented games, gamers are used to games that allow for instant gratification. Myst doesn’t offer that. Myst is meant to be played slowly, you are meant to think each puzzle through and might end up spending hours or even days stuck on one puzzle because of one thing you simply didn’t think of. That’s the appeal of Myst, it’s a slow and cerebral game, and while you can speed things up by using a walkthrough or a hint system, you are cheating and basically depriving yourself of the full game. Of course even now I used a hint system when I played Myst IV today so I guess that makes me an hypocritical pillock.

I just finished Myst IV and my only complaint is the bad acting from Juliette Gosselin (playing Yeesha) and Guy Sprung (playing Achenar).

Yeesha’s voice I found to be quite abrasive and the performance felt forced but I’m not going to crucify the actor for it, I mean she’s just a kid. I am going to crucify whomever was in charge of casting, possibly the director, Michel Poulette, because he should have caught this atrocity. There is a feature in the game that allows the journals to be read to you instead of you reading them yourself in case you’re illiterate. However, I used this feature to get a better idea of the emotion of the characters as they were writing, it added more depth. However when I found Yeesha’s journal I just couldn’t stand having her read half a page, much less the whole journal. It was just horrible, which I found odd because just before I got the game I looked up a review for it and it praised Gosselin’s acting which makes me think they were either playing a different game, or recently suffered a cranial injury.

As for Guy Sprung, his performance as a Achenar, who is a primal and aggressive character who has spent twenty years isolated on Haven, with no company except the animals which dominate the age, feels unnatural. I can’t quite put my finger on it exactly. He’s not annoying, his performance, unlike Gosselin’s, is watchable, but it just feels like something is off, especially in the game’s final scenes.

There is one other small issue in the game that I have, in one of the final scenes you encounter Sirrus in person, and there is nothing physical stopping The Stranger (the player character) from attacking Sirrus. In Myst and Riven there was something physical stopping The Stranger from attacking whatever antagonist the game had, either a gate, like in prison, or they weren’t in the same room but in another age and you could only see them through a linking panel.

I believe Rand Miller (the father of the Myst franchise) once said he refused to have any violence in his games, which makes sense and I respect that. However even if The Stranger is a pacifist, why wouldn’t he try to stop Sirrus from…doing the thing he’s doing…I refuse to spoil. I’m reminded of one of the opening scenes of Myst III, where Saavedro (the antagonist) steals Releeshahn (an age written by Atrus to house the displaced D’ni) and The Stranger stands there and does nothing to try to stop the theft. Which tells me The Stranger either doesn’t care, or is an idiot. I understand the game wouldn’t go far if The Stranger did manage to stop him that early, however they could have been more creative and had a physical barrier stop The Stranger, or have Saavedro release a smoke bomb, or have The Stranger actually try to stop Saavedro however Saavedro ends up linking away too quickly. Any one of those ideas would have worked fine, however they didn’t try anything of the sort. It’s one of the reasons I think Myst III is the lowest point in the series.

While I focused on the negatives of Myst IV, there are a lot of positives that make Myst IV better, in my mind, to Myst III. A more compelling storyline rooted deeply in canon resolving many loose ends, and more interesting puzzles, however that could be because I ended up cheating on Myst III. The new interface in Myst IV is a bit cumbersome at times, but I like it, primarily because it adds to the immersion. However I still think Riven was the best in the series with Myst (and realMyst) coming in at a close second. However that could simply be nostalgia talking.

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