URU: Path of the Shell


Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Cyan

Publisher:    UbiSoft Entertainment

Released:  2004

PC Requirements:   Windows 98SE/2000/ME/XP, Pentium III 80, 256MB RAM, 32MB DirectX 9.0 compliant video card,DirectX 9.0 compliant audio card, 4X CDROM, 2.5 GB free hard disk space, Keyboard and Mouse. Requires the full version of Uru: Ages Beyond Myst




by Becky

Uru: The Path of the Shell (PotS)

What is this place? The surroundings are sumptuous, remarkably realistic. It’s paradise for fiddlers. By “fiddlers” I mean gamers who like to putter and tweak, trying combinations of things just to see what might happen. The world of PotS is your laboratory, and you are the mad scientist, adjusting settings, observing reactions. Clues are everywhere. Sharp attention to detail is rewarded.

He Who Dies with the Most Toys…

Path of the Shell revisits a flamboyant character from Uru Prime – a D’ni leader named Kadish. Kadish has an eye for beautiful things (especially stained glass) and a flair for designing puzzles. In PotS you play with more of his fantastical stuff. The game also hints at further developments in the story of Yeesha -- Atrus and Catherine’s otherworldly daughter.

We are the Music Makers, and We are the Dreamers of Dreams

The graphics in Path of the Shell are spectacular. Three dimensions never looked so good. Into a secret room you go, down a corridor bright with reflections and rippling water. Ages appear, accompanied by the inimitable Myst groan. Music and sound effects add tremendously to the impact of the game’s environments.

If you crave out-of-this-world exploration, you must play this game.

Uru comes closer than any game I know to creating worlds you can live in. Graphical and aural intricacies abound. You can return over and over with deepening insight into the gameworld and story. Like other Myst games, PotS does not have a traditional plot, but provides a background story and visual hints that advance the Myst legend.

Plot Exposition – It has to go somewhere

PotS features a series of books called “Words” written by the Watcher, a controversial figure in D’ni history. The books were written as prophecy thousands of years ago, and the player (particularly a player steeped in the Myst games and books) can find many references to familiar characters from the past.

“Words” forms its own identification/interpretation puzzle as you match characters to possible descriptions in the book. Here you can also look for plot clues and try to wrest puzzle solutions from tantalizing references. I loved doing this. I’m still doing it. Suffice it to say, if you enjoy poring over texts laden with obscure historical mysteries, there is plenty to keep you occupied. On the other hand, if this activity leaves you cold, you can safely make it through the game without consulting every word of the Watcher’s books.

We Few, We Patient Few

As for the puzzles themselves, they feature multiple steps, all integrated into the Age, storyline and central mystery. I found them to be entertaining and ingenious. I progressed a long way into each puzzle without needing more than an observant eye, persistence, and a touch of imagination.

The final step (or two) in each of these puzzles, however, is very difficult. It’s hard for me to imagine figuring out the last steps completely on my own. Well, maybe with pots and pots of more time and patience ….

A Stitch in Time (The Watched Pot)

The Path of the Shell has a lot to do with time. Time exploration occurs throughout the game, and it is intriguing. If there is one criticism I have of the game, though, it is the time I spent twiddling my thumbs and staring at the screen. The hand of the clock inches down. The load screen progression bar creeps forward. Tick tock.

Is this fun? Waiting for the kettle to boil – is THAT fun? Okay, the waiting fits the game’s schema/theme. It fits the game’s story. Nevertheless, if I could turn back time, I would happily regain the minutes I spent waiting, and instead spend them running or leaping or tweaking or swimming.

Yes, you can swim in Path of the Shell. This is one of the best innovations in the PotS levels. There are currents to play in, watery places to explore, and different swimming strokes to try. With care, you can coax odd-looking creatures into bobbing in the water next to you. Swimming is a nice addition to the movement challenges in the game (some leaping is required in PotS, but none of the leaps are difficult).

Getting There from Here

Gamers who haven’t played a 3D game like Uru face a learning curve with its interface. You can play the game mostly with the mouse in first person perspective (this is how I played it). Or you can play the game mostly using the keyboard in third person perspective. When I first played Uru, I found the keyboard controls to be somewhat awkward. Using the mouse was easy. Switching back and forth between first and third person perspectives gives the gamer a lot of flexibility, though the switching does slow the game down a trifle.

Quick List for Uru: The Path of the Shell

  • Fantastic 3D graphics.

  • Compelling worlds.

  • Interesting background story. Somewhat amorphous game plot.

  • Can be played in either first or third person perspective, with mouse or keyboard.

  • As in Uru Prime, there is no traditional save system. Gameworld changes are saved automatically, and location progress is saved through activation of shell cloths.

  • The game installed and played without a hiccup.

  • I played The Path of the Shell as an expansion pack to Uru Prime (PotS, as well as the first expansion pack, “To D’ni” are both included with Uru Prime in “Myst Uru Complete Chronicles”.

  • Path of the Shell is aimed at those who like to explore, experiment, and puzzle their way through magnificent environments.

Final Grade: A

Reviewer’s System Specs: Windows XP, Pentium 4 1.8 GHz with 512 MB Ram, a 64MB Geforce 3 video card, Direct X 8.1, and a Sound Blaster Live sound card. Graphics settings: Overall quality and texture -- Medium; Anti-aliasing –- Low; 32 bit color depth; 1024x768 screen resolution.

design copyright © 2004 GameBoomers Group

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