Once again my dear old friend Atrus
has urgently requested my help. His wife Catherine has been
imprisoned in the Fifth Age of Riven by a man named Gehn. Atrus
hands me a diary that will help explain things more clearly. He
also gives me what appears to be a linking book back to Díni, but is
in reality a Prison Book to trap Gehn.
Upon my arrival in
Riven the Prison Book is immediately stolen, and I myself am taken
captive. Before I can figure out a way to free myself, a stranger
comes to my rescue. As I step out into the sunshine, I search for
this unknown stranger, only to find that he is nowhere in sight and
I am alone. I look around at my surroundings, taking in the beauty
of this rocky plateau. A strange metal machine lies in front of me
-- and there is what appears to be an oversized dagger protruding
from the cliff that towers above me.
I open Atrusí diary
and begin reading. Time is critical! The age of Riven has become
unstable and Atrus has been working desperately to try to delay its
inevitable demise. I must rescue Catherine and I must also deal
with Gehn. I climb stone steps to an iron bridge and pause,
reflecting on the vastness of the sea all around me. The glint of
sunlight upon metal catches my attention. Looking back around, I
see it! Up high, much like a huge crown topping the island, a giant
golden dome glistens splendidly against the brilliant blue sky.
Riven is played entirely from a first person perspective.
Unlike Myst, the world of Riven does have many characters, although
you will only meet a few. Interaction with them is one-sided, as
your character never speaks. All character interaction will be done
in Full Motion Video (FMV). Atrus, Catherine, and Gehn are very
believable characters, but Gehnís performance is particularly
convincing. He is an intelligent, suave, cunning and determined
of the five islands of Riven will reveal many delightful and
mysterious aspects. The story unfolds slowly through other journals
that you will find and through numerous clues that you will need to
carefully piece together. Every sight, every sound and (in one
instance) even a non-sound will give you new ideas to ponder. There
are wonderfully enchanting creatures that will appeal to the child
in you. You will enmesh yourself in the Díni culture and even learn
their numbering system. You will also learn of the Moiety
society, and of their rebellion.
Other than a few
journals, there is no inventory. These journals offer insight into
each of the central characters, give vital clues, and provide a
deeper understanding of the history of Riven and its inhabitants.
Catherineís journal was like reading an intriguing short story, and
I felt a sense of disappointment when I reached the end of it. One
journal contained information that proved difficult to understand
until after I had explored more of the islands. Farther into the
game, I found upon rereading it that the information was much
There are plenty of
manipulation-type challenges -- from flipping switches to navigating
a sub, and even a colored marble puzzle. However, many times you
will not immediately notice the results of your actions. Sometimes
after pushing a button or changing a lever, you will have to explore
to find what change has occurred. The challenges range from simple
to very complex. There are no sliders, action or timed puzzles. All
puzzles throughout the game are integrated into the storyline
remarkably well. The puzzles as well as the clues will assist you in
understanding the Díni culture, the Moiety rebellion and Gehnís
obsessive need to manipulate and control his world. Some would say
that the entire game is one large maze and they would be correct.
Finding and mapping your way through the different islands is one of
the challenges. Careful observation and note-taking (unless you
have a photographic memory) are essential while playing Riven.
Riven was released in
1997; some would say that the graphics are somewhat dated.
Comparing the graphics to those of recent games that take advantage
of the technical advancements since 1997 is, in my opinion,
comparing apples and oranges. Rivenís graphics stunned players when
it was originally released. Having just replayed it, I feel that
the graphics have held up extremely well. Each new screen filled me
with a sense of amazement. Like a child, I was thrilled to ride the
tram over and over again. The scenes are photorealistic and create
the sense that you really are in another world.
Sounds play an
integral part in Riven and are a strong point in the game.
Background music is pleasing and never intrusive. Many sounds are
relevant clues in conjunction with the immediate vicinity -- these
you will need to remember later in the game. But other sounds are
merely for ambience. The wind faintly blowing, the clacking of
levers and switches made me feel more deeply immersed in the
environment. The only thing missing was the smell of the trees and
the spray of the sea upon my face.
The game is a
completely mouse driven slide show with FMV in certain parts.
Sometimes the FMV sequences will show someone speaking to you Ė
other times they show the results of what happens when you flip a
switch. The cursor is a hand pointer that indicates where you can
go, and it becomes an open hand when you can interact with
something. By default, the game plays in a screen resolution of
640x480. You access the gameís menu by moving your cursor above the
game screen and left mouse clicking. The game menu consists of very
few options; most notable is the zip mode. When enabled the zip
mode will allow you to quickly move from one spot to another once
you have already visited that area. You will also find the save,
load and quit options in the game menu. The game does allow for
unlimited saves. I found that usually I could Alt+Tab out of the
game, but not always.
I played the 5 CD
version of Riven on Win95 and again on Win 98SE. I played the
original DVD version on Win98SE. Just recently I played the new DVD
version (10th Anniversary Edition) on WinXP Pro SP2. I
never experienced any bugs or glitches.
Riven is the most
complex game I have encountered. Certainly there are other games
that have better graphics, better acting, maybe even a better
storyline. I personally enjoy games that are packed full of
puzzles and will play those that have an abundance of them
repeatedly. Riven has its share of puzzles, but they rarely made me
feel like I was just solving a puzzle. I truly felt as though I was
discovering an unknown world and the inhabitants of a unique
Riven is aimed at
gamers who enjoy a story that reveals itself as you explore at a
leisurely pace. You will need plenty of time to savor all the
intricate details and to decipher the multifaceted clues. Riven is
an epic tale -- one of the greatest journeys that adventure gaming
has to offer.
Final Grade: A+