Myst V: Defending 3D

I’m well into the fourth subworld now. (The “ages” all have names, but I don’t know them. Esher only mentions them once.) This bit must be more graphically complex than the ones preceding it, because the framerate is getting choppy again. It’s nowhere near as bad as it was when I was using faulty hardware, but it’s bothersome enough that I’ve searched online for help again. In the process, I found reviews like this one and these. I had been avoiding reviews up to now, for fear of spoilers, but now that I’m almost done, there seemed less harm in reading them.

Having done so, I feel like I’m losing some cred by not hating Myst V. Sure, I’ve complained about the drawing interface, but that’s a fairly superficial matter. And yeah, it’s not Riven, but neither were Mysts 3 and 4.

Rasmussen, in contrast, objects at length and in detail to the fact that it’s done in a 3D engine at all. I have to disagree. The ability to move freely is a very big deal. It ends the frustration of limited views: countless times in Myst and Myst-likes, I’ve wanted to get a closer view of something, or look at it from a different angle, but been denied. More importantly, the traditional Myst-like interface makes navigation depend on noticing hotspots. Every time you enter a new area in such a game, you pretty much have to wave your mouse around to find all the places you’re allowed to step. Missing even one can effectively lock you out of crucial areas of the game (as happened to me in a couple of spots in Myst IV). This is not realistic and it is not good gameplay. There’s still a certain amount of hotspot-hunting in a 3D game — there are still things you have to click on to operate, after all. But the buttons on a machine tend to be more obvious than the exitable portions of a grassy wilderness.

I understand that a lot of Myst fans were apprehensive about the shift to 3D. It makes sense to be apprehensive when you think about other series that also decided to shift to 3D for their final episodes, such as Ultima and King’s Quest. But those games are mainly the result of the developers devoting so much effort to figuring out the new technology that they couldn’t devote adequate attention to the content. Thanks to RealMyst and Uru, Cyan already had their first experimental fumblings behind them.

3 Comments so far

  1. Jason Dyer on 22 Nov 2007

    The two things I recall from reviews are a.) oh no, 3D and b.) puzzles not good at all. I always dismissed a.) as adventure purist stuff, but why do you think there have been so many negative reactions to the puzzles?

    (I can’t comment much — I haven’t even finished Riven because I’ve been refusing to use hints.)

  2. malkav11 on 22 Nov 2007

    I’ve never reacted particularly well to any of the Myst series’ puzzles – Riven in particular being bewildering and unfriendly in the extreme. Well, okay, I really liked a fair number of puzzles in Myst III. Coincidentally the only Myst game *not* made by Cyan, but instead by Journeyman series creators Presto.

    But the worlds are gorgeous and the stories interesting, so I plug along and use hints and/or walkthroughs liberally.

  3. Carl Muckenhoupt on 22 Nov 2007

    The puzzles aren’t anything special. That’s why I haven’t talked about them much. I guess there isn’t a lot of the “Aha, I suddenly understand how it all fits together!” and a few too many bits where you find the solution to a puzzle written down explicitly. The need to take advantage of the drawing interface in particular skews it towards spotting things rather than figuring things out. But I didn’t think it was notably bad, just that it wasn’t notably good.

    Mainly I’m just relieved, after Myst IV, that all the puzzles were ones I could solve.

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