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Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, iOS
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Release Date: Aug. 26, 2021


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PC Review - 'Myst'

by Cody Medellin on Feb. 22, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Built from the ground up to play in either VR or flatscreen PC, Cyan has reimagined Myst and created the version fans have been asking for.

Myst is a well-loved classic that's important in the history of video games and technology. For many, it was a world where combat was pushed away in favor of clever puzzles and loads of lore. The experience kept you guessing until you encounter one of several endings. It was also a killer app for the CD-ROM, as it convinced players that the CD was the way of the future for games. Over the years, the PC/Mac game received several ports to the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, and it was even ported to the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS more than a decade later. In 2014, it was remade as realMyst and now, several years later, it is remade again as simply Myst.

For those unfamiliar with the original game, there's a story, but so little of it is presented upfront. The experience begins with a figure falling from a fissure in space, and the figure transforms into a book that falls on the sandy ground. When you pick up the book, you are transported to a mysterious island known as Myst. The island holds several secrets, and you must discover the ones to help you escape.

The core of the game is a point-and-click adventure told from a first-person perspective. In classic mode, you click various parts of the screen to move forward, turn around, or interact with a switch or object. Most objects work with clicks, but others require you to drag the cursor. There's no visible inventory, and you won't have to experiment with every object to find the one needed to solve a puzzle; the correct item is automatically used when you interact with the scenery.

The main objective is to find out more of the story by discovering various books that contain text and embedded video clips of the characters speaking to you. You learn that there's a conflict between the father and his two sons, and all of the parties are trying to convince you that they're in the right and need to be freed from their paper prisons. To accomplish that, your goal is to find different colored torn pages and insert them into the appropriate books to free the people.

Looking at the game from a narrative perspective, there are some obvious tells about which people are trustworthy. There is a good ending out of the multiple that you can uncover, but even that is only considered good, albeit a bit anticlimactic, when you consider that the other endings are more explicit about how bad they are. There's enough here for first-time players that it's enjoyable to go through multiple endings.

From a gameplay perspective, the worlds you traverse let you get lost inside of them due to how varied and imaginative they can be. You have seen swamps and rocky outcrops in the past, but having loads of treehouses and abandoned rocket ships makes them feel like they're worth exploring. The simplified inventory system makes it inviting to those who aren't big on adventure titles, but the puzzles cater to those who like thinking outside the box. A few puzzles will make you want to seek out a guide, but longtime players will be delighted to know that all of the classic solutions remain unchanged, so it's easy for fans of the original to speed to their favorite segments, and players who get stumped easily won't remain stuck for too long.

Compared to the original game, the biggest change you'll find is real movement. The classic method of clicking on a specific spot to turn or move forward or backward in a level still remains, and those who are versed in Myst will likely stick to that method out of habit and muscle memory. For everyone else, the free movement falls in line with more modern adventure games and walking simulators, since it feels natural and gives you more precise control over which switch you want to press or lever to pull. One flaw is that the movement isn't truly free, as you're still restricted to moving on the designated roads and paths dictated by the game. Combined with the lack of a jump ability, any potential shortcuts to locations are out of the question, making the movement feel strangely restrictive.

If you're coming from realMyst, then this iteration sports several more noticeable changes. There's an in-game photo mode that works fine if you don't want to rely on strategy guides; you'll be able to quickly take snapshots of important areas for puzzle-solving later. There's also the ability to remix the puzzles, which is great for veterans who want to challenge themselves in a familiar environment. The changes don't alter the game, but they are nice things to have.

There are two big additions to this iteration of Myst. The first is the ability to play using a gamepad. While there have been console iterations of the original Myst and a few of their sequels, no PC iteration has had native gamepad support before. As one may expect, the movement from area to area on a gamepad feels natural, but the reliance on a cursor that's controlled by an analog stick feels off due to the variable hitboxes and the awkward controls within certain puzzles. It works fine for those playing on a TV and those who feel more at home with gamepads than the keyboard/mouse combo, but for most players, the classic control method offers more precision.

The second big addition is VR support. The environments and slow pace of Myst lend themselves well to the platform, as you spend more time immersed in the gorgeous environments. The point-and-click method of movement is replaced with something more in line with other VR games. Due to similarities with the mouse, clicking and solving puzzles feels more intuitive since you don't fight with the sensitivity of analog sticks. The only drawback shows up in the fireplace puzzle, as the VR control method becomes less precise and causes you to unintentionally hit multiple buttons at a time; it makes that particular puzzle more frustrating since you'll spend time correcting mistakes while you inadvertently create new ones.

With all of the positive changes the development team has made from realMyst, there are a few baffling omissions. A minor one is the removal of the day and night cycle from some of the game's worlds, robbing the lifelike feeling that this iteration is trying to go for. The other change that may have fans crying foul is the removal of the Rime Age. Originally introduced in realMyst, the level appeared after achieving the "good" ending and served as a reward for fans since it was a new place to explore while also serving as a bridge to later Myst titles. It's curious that this is missing, especially since this was done in 3D before, and it prevents this from being the definitive version of the game.

The presentation also has some hit-and-miss changes. The environments look quite nice on a monitor or TV, and they look stunning in VR, but some of the effects, like the water splashing as bridges rise from the ground, look flat as if this were a poor conversion from 2D to 3D as opposed to being built specifically with VR in mind. The character models that have replaced the full-motion video from the classic game clash with the environments, as they look like PS2-era models instead of being more modern. The game has since been patched to include the classic FMVs for certain scenes, so it feels like a halfway measure versus a full reversal due to fan outcry. It doesn't take much to run the game at high frame rates, which is essential for VR even though this isn't a high-action game. The inclusion of ray tracing gives the game more polish despite the removal of a day and night cycle. At least the sound comes away unscathed, with the classic soundtrack being just as effective, while the vocal tracks and various sound effects have been cleaned up to remove some of the technical oddities.

Myst still holds up after all this time, despite not being the definitive edition of the game. The puzzles are still smartly done, even if they can be quite obtuse, and the tranquil vibe of the environment and presentation remains effective in both regular and VR modes. The inclusion of both movement styles and different control methods is great for accessibility, even if most people will default to the old methods, but the lack of improvements to a few areas and removal of certain things from realMyst is a letdown. This is still a fine title that is worthy of being in an adventure gamer's library, especially if they've never played it before, but realMyst remains the better buy if you intend on playing with a keyboard and mouse. That said, we're all secretly hoping that this causes Cyan to revisit and remaster the other titles instead of visiting the original title yet again in the future.

Score: 7.5/10

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