It’s rare for two games from the Myst series to be
released close together in time – usually a few years go by before the next
game makes its appearance. Myst Uru: Complete Chronicles and Myst IV
Revelation were released within months of one another, providing an unusual
opportunity to closely compare their various design elements without having
to make allowances for large differences in available technology. In the
article below, I compare various aspects of Revelation and Uru with two
goals in mind: 1) I’ve described how I think each game continues the Myst
tradition or diverges from the Myst tradition, and 2) leaving aside
the Myst tradition, I’ve analyzed how the games compare simply as adventure
I wasn’t able to cover every aspect of these
games, but I hope this article serves as a conversation-starter.
Graphics – It is indisputable that the
worlds of Revelation and Uru are spectacular.
Of the two, Revelation follows more closely in the
footsteps of Riven and Myst III: Exile. Its graphics are photorealistic,
crisp, and packed with detail. The use of light and shadow is masterly.
You can walk along a hazy path in the forest, then turn to see light
streaming through the trees. Leaves are saturated with light. Clouds cast
moving shadows. Mountains blur in the distance. Rocks have realistic
shadows and unlimited variations in surface detail and texture.
Revelation also far surpasses both its
predecessors and Uru in the animation of the gameworld. Feathery seed tufts
drift along on the breeze, birds skim by, exotic creatures startle at your
approach, a dragonfly buzzes angrily right in your face…. Amazing!
Uru’s graphics, on the other hand, are similar to
the 3D graphics in realMYST. They recall the surrealistic character
of the worlds in Myst, Riven, and Exile but the effect is entirely
different. The graphics are more stylized, less naturalistic, and more
collaged. There are fewer details in the textures, and sometimes it is
possible to see where the textures are repeating.
Don’t get me wrong -- the ideas for the worlds in
Uru are extremely strong. These are gorgeous places and, due to the freedom
with which you can explore them, they have a pleasing immediacy. Sunset in
Eder Gira is breathtaking, as is the rotating roof platform in Gahreesen and
the sporadic rainstorm in Eder Kemo. Especially indoors and underground,
the 3D environments in Uru feature startlingly beautiful coloration and
atmospheric lighting. However, in intricate detail and animation, they
don’t compare with Revelation’s prerendered graphics.
Best Graphics: Revelation
Story – Revelation has a traditional story
– one with a beginning, a middle, and an end -- focused around one family.
Events transpire in a reasonably coherent order. Each gameworld visited
develops the story. You see flashbacks, read diaries, and speak to people
who tell you what is happening. Revelation’s story is probably the
strongest in the Myst series.
The story structure in Uru, as in the original
Myst, supplies the gamer with an intermittent plotline that overlays a
backstory disclosed through written histories or journals. Uru’s backstory,
though is vaster and more ambitious than Myst’s. It isn’t just the
archaeological expedition to the underground island of Ae’gura. It isn’t
just the mystery of the Bahro. It’s the entire history of D’ni. It’s a
story puzzle, with large chunks from the past and glimpses of the future,
coming together through the actions and observations of the player. The
story is frustrating and intriguing and -- even more than Revelation --
leaves the player crying out for more.
Best writing in Uru: Words by the
Best writing in Revelation: Catherine’s
Best Overall Presentation of Story Elements --
Comparing apples and oranges. However, by literary standards: Revelation.
Characters – Although you meet a handful of
characters in Uru through journals, and a multitude of characters through
historical documents, there are only two characters that actually appear
physically in the game – Yeesha and Zandi. Zandi functions mostly as an
early hint system for the player, albeit an unusual hint system dressed in a
goofy Hawaiian shirt. You also see Yeesha briefly and at certain times you
listen to her words and read letters or comments from her. You can see
glimpses of her personality through the various worlds she allows you to
see. But basically she remains a mystery. In its sparse development of the
individuals in the game, Uru is similar to the original Myst, which explores
the character of the environments far more than the character of the people.
You’ll find much, much more development of the
characters in Revelation than in Uru. A memory device in Revelation gives
you a glimpse into the lives of the people in the game. You see doubt,
anger, affection, joy and exasperation through the experiences of these
characters. You begin to understand how their minds work. Their actions
become explicable and understandable because of how well you know them.
Diaries in Revelation can be read aloud, and the expression in the diarist’s
voices provides significant character insight. Before playing Revelation,
I didn’t think that a strong emphasis on character development would “work”
in a Myst game. I was wrong. Using flashbacks to develop character is
extremely effective in Revelation.
Best Presentation of the Characters:
Acting – The voice acting in Uru is
top-notch, but there is very little of it. Uru does not expand on the
full-motion video (FMV) roots of the previous Myst games – instead the
characters are animated. Yeesha’s words are beautifully delivered and quite
brief. Zandi’s words are even briefer. I’m told that Atrus also
contributes a few words, but if this is indeed the case, I missed them
The FMV acting performances in Revelation are more
uneven in quality, but then there is so much more there to be judged!
First, I must say that the actors in Revelation
blend into the game world well. Merging the FMV performances with the
digital graphics has come a long way since Myst or Riven.
And for the most part, the acting in Revelation is
excellent – the only exception being the female “Protectors”, who suffer
from the alien-life-form believability problem. It’s not that they seem too
alien – it’s that they aren’t alien enough. You could plunk them down in,
say, Southern California and their mild oddities wouldn’t even excite local
gossip. Example: the scarlet-streaked Protector’s response to evidence of
sabotage: “This is SO not good!”
Best Acting: Guy Sprung as Achenar
Best Voice Acting: Rengin Altay as Yeesha (Uru)
Music – I’m comparing strength to strength
The music in both games is remarkable.
Revelation’s music features a lot of percussion, made with instruments
I’ve never even heard of. This echoes one aspect of the Myst musical
tradition, in which parts of the sound track blend seamlessly into the
environment almost as another layer of ambient sound. There are a lot of
unusual rhythms, and often a vague dissonance in Revelation’s music. Some
of the most effective music in the game is in Tomahna -- where the graphics
are showing the gamer a kind of paradise, while the music is full of
yearning, hinting that more is here than meets the eye.
Uru’s music also merges into the background in
places with a low background pulse, and unusual rhythms that are sometimes a
little disjointed, not quite on or off the beat. The instrumental music in
Uru appears to have been made almost entirely on a synthesizer. In many
instances it is more melodic than Revelations’, and in that sense, reminds
me of the music in Riven. You hear harmonies and parts more distinctly.
Sometimes the instruments function almost as a single, clear voice.
Overall, Uru’s music is eerier and the loops are longer, so there’s more to
hear before it begins repeating.
Best Music: Uru
Ambient Sounds – The Myst games are
famous for their realistic ambient sounds, and both Uru and Revelation
continue that tradition. Revelation develops the art even further in two
ways. In the places where there is a great deal of animal life, the ambient
sounds change subtly with every single step you take. Also, Revelation
allows you to “tap” many of the objects in your path to hear how they
respond when touched.
Best Ambient Sounds: Revelation
Puzzles and other Challenges – The
challenges in Revelation’s first world, Tomahna, remind me very much of the
rest of the Myst series. I found that they required thought and
observation, but I thought they were doable. In the second Age I visited,
Spire, I hit the wall as a puzzle-solver. After hours and hours of
exploration, I had only an inkling of what was going on. I missed a pixel
hunt for a certain detail (Revelation continues Myst’s tradition of
requiring the gamer to search for occasional small clues in large
surroundings), and bogged down in an unforgiving timed sequence that
involved moving tiny slider knobs.
This timed challenge was one of three in
Revelation that require precise timing and movement. In all three, you can
figure out EXACTLY what it is you are supposed to do, and still fail at it
repeatedly. I had to practice and practice until finally I happened to find
the precise movement/timing.
This is not what I expect from a Myst game.
Puzzle solutions should not be determined by how swiftly you can move little
objects, or by the movement of a wheel that is not calibrated in such a way
as to make movements replicable. After repeated attempts and repeated
failures, the gamer should not face the following confusion: did I turn the
wheels in the wrong sequence? Or did I turn the wheels in the correct
sequence, but turn them too fast? Or too slow? Or too far? Or not far
Many of Uru’s challenges are also difficult.
Three of the essential jumping challenges were quite hard and required
practice to master. Again, this is not what I expect from a Myst game.
Still, it was always obvious to me that I was supposed to be jumping, and
where. Uru also contains a few pushing challenges which, like the slider
challenge in Revelation, generated lots of frustration trying to move
objects precisely. However, the pushing challenges in Uru are not timed, so
that once I had carefully pushed an object where it belonged, I was finished
with it. There weren’t any pixel hunts in Uru. There were what (for want
of a better description) could be called “treasure hunts,” but the items
were large and some of them even emitted a beeping sound.
The most Myst-like mechanical/symbol sequencing
puzzles in Uru occurred in the beautiful age of Kadish. These were real
hair pullers. Still, I was able to find alternate solutions to two of
these, bypassing entirely the logic I was supposed to use. Most important:
when I solved the puzzles things worked. When the gamer begins to
understand a puzzle in Uru (even from up-side-down logic), and (for
instance) sets the switches in the right places -- the door opens, the light
goes on, the platform rises up out of the floor. No practice necessary.
Most Enjoyable Challenges: Uru.
Interface – Uru’s interface is flexible,
but features a fairly stiff learning curve; it is a tremendous departure
from the traditional Myst interface. You can play the game in first person
with the mouse (which feels much more Myst-like) or in third person with the
arrow keys. Movement with either keyboard or mouse is extremely
responsive; no lag, no hesitation. Using the mouse is easy. However, there
are times during the game, especially during jumps, when you may find that
accuracy of movement requires you to use the keyboard and third person
perspective. It can be frustrating to find that you have to learn the
keyboard interface just where the precision of movement is the most
Still, if you can somehow manage the jumps, Uru’s
interface has benefits -- you can move at will through Uru’s three
dimensional worlds, getting as close to things as you’d like. You can go
over, under, and (sometimes) through. You can walk, run, leap, and
(sometimes) swim. The 3D interface brings a palpable freedom as you explore
Revelation’s interface has no learning curve
initially, as you simply click with the mouse to move around the game.
Unfortunately, (at least on my computer) there was a significant lag between
clicking and moving. Close-ups feature a magnifying glass icon, which you
then click on; and right-clicking backs you out of the close-up. The lag
after right-clicking is also a few seconds long.
The interface in Revelation is most frustrating
when you are moving items during timed sequences. The cursor becomes an
open hand when it is over the hotspot for moving items, but these hotspots
are sometimes tricky to locate. Quick, precise movements with the open hand
are difficult, yet they are essential for finishing a few of the challenges.
Movement through Revelation’s worlds is node-based
– you move forward, then you can pan 360 degrees to look at your
surroundings, move forward, pan, etc. Movement (except for the “rides” in
each world) is at the same speed from the same perspective throughout the
game. Exploration is on a set path from which you cannot deviate.
In Uru, you can customize your avatar in a very
detailed fashion. Hair color, skin color, clothing, body shape – all can be
changed at a whisk of the mouse. In Revelation, you can customize your
cursor in a fairly detailed fashion. Skin color, transparency, and speed.
No choice of fingernail polish.
Best Interface: A draw. No, Revelation by a
finger tip. No, maybe not.
Save Schemes -- Uru has an odd save
scheme. You reach a save point, mark that point by touching something, and
then go your merry way until the next save point. The game notes where you
have been whenever you leave the game, and thereby saves your progress. But
you can’t save whenever you want. Upon returning to the game, you return to
the save game marker and not where you happened to be when you quit, though
all actions up to the point when you quit are saved. In certain worlds,
there are ways to get back to an area without returning to a save marker,
but these are relatively rare.
Revelation has a more traditional save scheme,
where you can save whenever you like and name your game. This gives the
player far more control.
Best Save Scheme: Revelation
Stability and Glitches – Both games were
stable. As for glitches -- a few times in Uru my avatar sank though a
supposedly solid surface. Load times between worlds in Uru are a few
seconds long, which can be annoying. In Revelation -- in addition to the
lag after clicking the mouse while moving around in the gameworld -- there
was a problem with the Main Menu, which became painfully slow to access and
work with as the game progressed.
Stability: Both games were stable with minor
glitches and/or slowdowns.
Length – The gamer will experiences hours
and hours of exploration and gameplay in either game. However, there is
more to see and do in Uru. I’ve played Uru three times, and have been
surprised at how much there is to see, even on a third run-through. I’m not
sure how much replayability there will be in Revelation, as the game is
still so new.
Most Hours Glued to the Screen: Uru
Final Analysis -- Revelation diverges from
the Myst tradition in its extensive focus on character development and
story. It reveals one-of-a-kind breakthroughs in its animation and in the
intricacies of its ambient sound. It also introduces a few difficult timed
puzzles and challenges based upon precision of movement that don’t fit the
Myst tradition well.
Despite these differences, though, Revelation is
at heart a true sequel to Myst. Most of its challenges are still
reminiscent of traditional Myst-like mechanical and sequencing puzzles. The
environments, the music, the characters, the full-motion video sequences and
the story function beautifully in continuing the Myst saga and the Myst
emphasis on exploration and discovery.
Revelation = Myst: A Sequel with Modifications
+ Serious Enhancements.
Uru closely follows the Myst tradition in terms of
the way it tells and extends the Myst story, in its emphasis on fantastical
environments rather than character development, in its music, ambient
sounds, and in many of its puzzles. Uru breaks away from the Myst tradition
by changing the way the gamer explores and interacts with the environment --
with greater freedom and variety of movement, with the option to use an
avatar, and with real-time weather and passage-of-time effects. To some
extent the environments themselves are also different, with less of an
emphasis on intricate detail and the effects of natural light and shadow.
Uru = Myst: The Story Begins and Ends in a
Brave New 3D World.
Although both games extend and develop the Myst
saga, overall Revelation is more in keeping with the Myst tradition.
My System Specs:
Pentium 4 1.8 GHz
512 MB Ram
64MB Geforce 3 video card
Direct X 9.0c
Sound Blaster Live sound card
Graphics settings for Uru:
Overall quality and texture – High
Anti-aliasing – Medium
32 bit color depth
1024x768 screen resolution
Graphics settings for Revelation:
1024x768 screen resolution
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