Genre:   Adventure

Developer:  Cyan Worlds, Inc & Red Orb Entertainment 

Publisher:    Broderbund Software, Inc

Released:  1997

PC Requirements:   Windows 95/98/ME/XP, Pentium 166 or higher, 48MB RAM, 4X CDROM, DirectX compatible sound device and video card, Keyboard and Mouse

Mac System Requirements:   Power Mac,12MB RAM, 60MB free hard disk space, 4X CDROM





by Namma


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 man. 

Careful exploration 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 clearer.     

 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 civilization. 

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+


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