Revelation versus Uru

by Becky


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 games.

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 Watcher.

Best writing in Revelation: Catherine’s Journal.

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:  Revelation.


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 entirely.

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 (Revelation)

Best Voice Acting:   Rengin Altay as Yeesha (Uru)


Music – I’m comparing strength to strength here.

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 enough? 

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 challenging. 

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 the gameworld.   

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:

Windows XP

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

Animations on


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