Myst III: Exile


Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Presto Studios

Publisher:    Learning Channel, UBI Soft Entertainment

Released:   2001

PC Requirements:   Pentium II 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 200MB hard disk space, 4x CD ROM, 640 x 480 display, 16 bit color, DirectX 7

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by Becky

Exile, the third game in the “Myst” series, returns the player once again to the D’ni universe and the house of Atrus. Atrus has perfected the D’ni art of creating “linking books” – documents in which potent words create doorways to alien worlds. This game, like the original “Myst”, foregoes extensive character interaction and instead sweeps the player into brilliantly detailed environments that challenge the mind and engulf the senses.

Exile focuses on the plight of Saavedro, who is plotting revenge against Atrus and his family. Saavedro has been forced to live alone in a series of “Ages” or worlds created years before by Atrus to teach conceptual and moral lessons to his sons. Each world has been subtly altered, and now contains messages from Saavedro. These video messages are terse but unexpectedly moving. Each one attempts to make you understand, not just the story of what has transpired, but the emotions that events have engendered. The messages gradually reveal Saavedro’s motivation and hint at a long-awaited game-ending confrontation.

The first gameworld, J’nanin, is a hub world introducing the player to the game while also providing transport to other places. J’nanin is a traditional "Myst" Age with cliffs and rippling waterscapes and close-ups of interesting rock surfaces. The sun glares as you look at it -- quite a realistic effect. The water effects are more realistic in the foreground than they are near the horizon.

The puzzles in this Age hint at the variety of puzzles and environments that you will later encounter in the Voltaic, Edanna and Amateria Ages. I thought this was a clever way to whet the appetite for what is soon to follow.

The background music is clearly inspired by the music in “Riven”. J'nanin is not only a lesson Age and a portal Age, it is also a place of transition. It recalls the worlds of “Myst” and “Riven,”, but prepares the player to be pulled away in new and unexpected directions.

Here, in a surprisingly obvious spot, you discover Saavedro's' journal. Why is he so kind as to leave his enemy such helpful information? Is he trying to lure you into a trap?

My favorite world in Exile is definitely NOT a traditional “Myst” Age. Edanna is confounding and confusing. Down you twist through a tangle of branches, leafy tendrils and thorny vines. The sense of otherworldly mystery deepens as you descend. It's like being in the middle of a demented Rodin sculpture with sinewy interlocking limbs everywhere. Sunlight filters through the dense foliage in places, and other, stranger sources provide pinpoints of colored light.

Deeper and deeper, layer after layer of visual detail, so much that the eye almost rebels and refuses to take it all in. There are no mazes in this game, but Edanna comes very close to feeling like a maze. You look for something to mark the path to find your way back, but the profusion of forms makes that almost impossible. In the heart of the tree the layers of leaves in the dusky light have a rich tapestry texture, and the striations and strokes of color in the wooded and flowering forms have run riot.

Exile’s puzzles are challenging, but they are fair. There are no sliding tile puzzles. You’ll encounter mechanical puzzles, interpretive enigmas and sequencing challenges. I think that the puzzles in Edanna are especially logical, assuming you can orient yourself sufficiently in order to be able to think. The ice ball puzzles in the Amateria Age are particularly fun – and the ride at the end of Amateria is the most unexpected yet logically satisfying puzzle reward in the “Myst” series.

There are many endings to Exile. These depend on your choices in the final world of Narayan. It's great fun exploring these endings, observing how the characters of Saavedro and Atrus are revealed, and seeing how various ends are tied up -- or not.

The acting in Exile is, for the most part, pretty good. However, there is one scene in Narayan that clearly goes over the top – though you could easily fault the writing as well as the acting for this excess. The game contains a few other minor disappointments….

It takes some time to get used to the cursor. You don't hold down the left mouse button for panning. This means picking up the mouse up to reorient the cursor. You can hold down the right mouse button and pan that way, then click with the left to move forward. This takes some practice, but does give the player more control.

The music in Exile is lovely, and effort was clearly made to create a sound track of extraordinary quality. Still, in certain places I missed the eerie, spooky, occasionally odd music that mixed so well with the visual wonders of “Myst” and “Riven”.

The game played perfectly until the ending credits, where it crashed to the desktop.

My final complaint -- the Saavedro story should have been expanded. There are more details about the relationship between Saavedro and Atrus in the official strategy guide – these should have been included in the game.

On the whole, Exile has lived up to my expectations. Since my expectations for a “Myst” game are astronomically high, meeting them is quite an accomplishment.

Final Grade:

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