Developer: Cyan Worlds
Release Date: Fall 2005
Pre-order 'MYST V: End of Ages': PC/Mac
I've been trying to play Myst for five years, and with the final installment, Myst V: End of Ages, coming up this fall, it looks like my time has finally arrived. As a gamer who's prone to motion sickness, the fixed-point spinnycam that's used in Myst III: Exile and Myst IV: Revelations proved to be less than a warm welcome. Series creator Rand Miller is touting End of Ages as "The Myst for everyone," and it certainly looks to be shaping up that way.
First and foremost, the finale of the Myst series will feature real-time 3D instead of the pre-rendered slideshows to which aficionados have become accustomed. True to the developer's undertaking of making this iteration accessible to everyone, controls can be as simple or as complicated as the gamer desires, based on his/her level of experience and keyboard dexterity. In the game options, one can select the classic mode, in which a single click of the mouse button is all that's required to move around. More advanced gamers can choose to utilize what can best be described as an "FPS mode," in which the mouse indicates a bearing and the arrow keys are used to move left, right, front and back.
End of Ages sees the arrival of another huge change, immediately noticeable when meeting the two other main characters, Yeesha, who has been a secondary character in the two previous chapters, and Escher, who is your guide and serves as a built-in help system. The live action cut scenes are gone. Vanished. Flown the coop. Instead, Cyan Worlds has gotten up to speed with the current trends and has been utilizing motion capture techniques to portray realistic movements for Escher. They've also mapped the actor's face movements, which are difficult to model and impervious to the motion capture methods, and this certainly adds a new level of realism to further immerse the player in the game. There's also a bit of physics simulation going on with Escher's clothing, which is quite impressive to see, especially when paired with the gorgeous backdrops.
This world seems to have mysterious creatures running amok, but thanks to the introduction of the slate, their presence can be quite advantageous. You learn from Escher that the slate allows you to alter the environment and communicate with the creatures. As it turns out, you will encounter various symbols in the environment, and if a correct combination is etched onto the slate, it will allow you to control some aspects of the environment, such as summoning the creature which conjures rainstorms. Along with this nifty new toy comes different kinds of puzzles. For instance, the slate is an invaluable resource, but it's large and unwieldy … and made of stone, so it's not exactly made to be hauled up a ladder. The logical solution would be to put the slate on the ground and climb up the ladder, but if the slate is left unattended, then some pesky creatures will scurry over and take it away. What to do, what to do …
With all the changes, players will be relieved to know that the camera journal, introduced in Revelations, has remained. The feature has been slightly modified, so that when you click on a journal entry, it also acts as a save point, so you can click and go back to any point in the game. It's unclear whether this will be like the "zap points" from the original Myst, transporting you to far-away locations which you've previously visited, or if this feature will allow you to roll back the game to a previous state.
While the quantity of puzzles has been pumped up, their overall difficulty level has been decreased so that gamers will spend less time being befuddled, and more time exploring the mesmerizing environments that the developers have worked so hard to create.
In another bid to make End of Ages more approachable to a vast gaming audience, the required system specifications have been lowered, needing only a GeForce 3 graphics card for optimal performance. Overall, Myst V looks better than before, but it has been optimized to run more adequately on lower-end machines. The game will still run on machines with a GeForce and GeForce 2, albeit with less depth and fewer textures, which is to be expected.
The fixed-point perspective and live-action cut scenes are key features that have come to be synonymous with Myst, but they will be noticeably absent in End of Ages. Combined with the addition of the slate and actual NPCs, it sounds like the final chapter of the Myst series is getting quite an overhaul. There are still a few months until the fall release, but hopefully, we will get a chance for some hands-on time in order to get an idea of how the new features will handle, and how well the final chapter in the Myst franchise will provide closure for its fans.
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