Until Uru

Genre:   Multiplayer Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Cyan Worlds

Released:  2006

updated: February 2010

PC Requirements:   Internet connection





by Looney4Labs


What is this thing called Until Uru?  I’ve spent some time lately in this astounding place where the illusory becomes real.  Now it seems the time has come to share what I’ve learned. 

A little background:

Published near the end of 2003, Uru is the fifth game release in the classic Myst series.  Uru was intended to function both as a standalone game and as the gateway to an online community, Uru Live.  Sadly, Uru Live lived only briefly and ended in Feb. 2004.  Nonetheless, fan demand continued.  Cyan, Uru’s publisher, listened to the fans and early in 2006 launched Until Uru (UU). 

Until Uru is a multiplayer online game unlike any other.  You don’t level up, learn skills or trades, buy equipment, or fight.  So, what is there?  Let’s start with a gorgeous, imaginative virtual universe where you can indulge your love of discovery. Then add in thought-provoking puzzles.  Next throw in a marvelous but decaying city where you can run, dance, play, and socialize to your heart’s content.  Sound interesting?  UU provides all this and more. You are free to explore alone or indulge your yearning for fellowship and invite your friends along. UU includes the four Ages of the original Uru game—Kadish, Gahreesen, Teledahn, and Kemo/Gira.  It also includes extensive areas of D’ni Ae’gura, the city.

2006 release only: Getting there is half the battle.

Gaining access to this fantastical world takes a bit of effort.  First, install Uru on your PC.    Next, you need an invitation.

At the moment, access is free and by invitation only.  Invitations are available to one and all by request from  Alternately, invitations are available from any member of UU.  Just ask and you shall surely receive.

Once your invitation arrives, follow the instructions and install the UU patch corresponding to your version of Uru.  This patch changes your Uru registry, so you will not be able to play the game without going online.

A character is born.

Now the fun begins!  It’s time to create and name your character.  That’s right—you determine your identity.  You customize your appearance down to the width of your face, the shape of your eyebrows, the clothes on your back, and the polish on your nails.  And, you can change the details, excepting gender, any time.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Once you’ve created your avatar, UU drops you into the desert of New Mexico.  A bit of looking around introduces Zandi.   From the silence he greets you, delivers a cryptic message, and points you toward the cleft.  Thus begins your astonishing journey. 

Eventually, after a bit of puzzle solving and some searching, you arrive at an island floating in the air and sporting a small hut containing almost empty bookshelves.  Here, the real beauty of this game hits you as you take in the scene.  This is your Relto, your home away from home.  From here, you link to the Ages or the city. 

Multiplayer does mean playing with other people, right?

You are alone in your Relto, and perhaps you are impatiently longing for companions.  Hold on, you are almost there.  Companionship is waiting in the city.  I fairly danced with delight when I finally joined the others.  However, you have one more task before coming to the city

Make your way to the Gahreesen Age and obtain you KI.  This device resembles a watch, but is worn across the hand, and allows communication with your companions and others.

KI obtained, you have a choice.  You can either investigate one of the Ages or go straight to the city.  If you choose to delve into the Ages, you can traverse them in any order that catches your whimsy.  Each features landscapes which stretch your imagination and puzzles which stretch your mind.  Reading the journals that you come across teaches you bits of D’ni history.  You can play by yourself.  Or--and this is my favorite way--you can invite friends to join you. 

Sharing the load lightens it.

Sharing the Ages is a special experience.  The thrill of encountering the unknown is heightened when you share it.  The first sights of the unexpected surroundings, the occasional call of the bahro, that tantalizing peek at the elusive creature known as Shroomie are all better when shared.  However, beyond the purely sociable, there are some pragmatic reasons for team play. 

Puzzles in UU are often multi-stepped.  Playing alone often requires the player to move a puzzle part and then change location to observe consequences.  Having extra hands lets you fan out and eliminates this back and forth tedium.  For instance, in one age I depressed a platform, a friend manipulated symbols in another area, and another friend stepped on pedals in a third area.  Sharing the load enabled us to work out this puzzle quickly and easily.  The puzzles are all solvable by one person operating alone.  But, playing in tandem eliminates a lot of the back and forth movement, and also the need to move quickly.

Trekking together enables each player to focus on her strengths.  Naturally observant adventurers may more easily locate journey cloths or puzzle clues.  Logical or mechanical ability may be another’s strength, enabling him to “see” puzzle solutions that a more intuitive gamer might miss.  One player may have better reflexes.  My partner jumped first and then used his knowledge to help me.  A directionally challenged person would certainly benefit by partnering with someone possessing a good sense of direction. 

2006 release only: And then there is the training wall in the Gahreesen age.  Two teams compete to design and conquer the other’s maze in zero G.  This is a bonus of UU as the wall is viewable, but not playable, in Uru.

Dancing on the bar and other fun things to do:

Before, during, or after the Ages, visit D’ni Ae’gura.  This was a major city of the long vanished D’ni, the mysterious race who created the linking books, then disappeared, leaving behind only magnificent ruins and mysterious machines.  It is crumbling, yet majestic.  This is where folks come to play and socialize.  D’ni denizens invent their own challenges and games.  There is a D’ni version of hide and seek.  Oft times, people meditate in the Hall of Kings quietly listening to its soothing, otherworldly music.  There is the occasional parade or party.  We even had fireworks once!

Gamers from all over the world gather here, which makes it a great place to form new friendships.  D’ni Ae’gura is a welcoming spot.  Ae’gura citizens are usually happy to answer questions, and sometimes even provide a tour or play alongside you.

Welcome to the Neighborhood.

Neighborhoods are alternatives to the city and the Ages.  Many groups have established their own neighborhoods, special gathering areas for those sharing a common interest. 

The ‘hood is a place to play. For example, two or more can play Ahyoheek, an electronic D’ni version of Rock, Paper, Scissors.  The ‘hood is a source of information, a spot for mingling, and sometimes, just the place for a conga line.  Soak in the ambience.  Relax in the Egg room.  Or take in the surreal scenes far below you from the heady heights of the balconies.  The ‘hood contains one of my favorite areas, the water garden—colorful, peaceful, quiet—just the place to pause and reflect. 

Marker what?

Sometimes in the city or ‘hoods, you’ll notice folks running around determinedly and occasionally flinging themselves off bridges.  Never fear!  ‘Tis not a strange D’ni disease.  Rather, you’re witnessing folks pursuing Marker Quests. 

Marker quests remind me of electronic hide and seek.  The game hides them, and you seek them using your KI.  The markers are sometimes out in the open, but are often hidden away on ledges, balconies, hidden rooms, and inside clefts.  Hunting markers takes you into every nook and cranny of UU.  Sharing marker quests enables you to cover more territory in less time. 

Is the interface complicated?

This all sounds terribly complicated, and at first, I was overwhelmed.  But the more time that I spend in the world of the D’ni, the easier and more natural it becomes.  You can play in either first or third person views.  I frequently switch between the two.  You can navigate using the keyboard or the mouse.  But, you must use the space bar to jump, and jump you will.

You cannot save manually.  Instead, UU saves for you and stores the files on their server.  This universe is Alt+Tab friendly.

A fall results in immediate return to your Relto.  Sometimes, the view as you fall is worth it.  There is a very interesting view of the bottom of the world if you jump over the balcony in the library.  At times, it is almost too real, resulting in a slightly queasy feeling. 

Sounds and so forth:

There is little voice acting in UU, but it is excellent.  Zandi’s laconic and enigmatic offerings are inflected perfectly.  Yeesha’s voice is filled with regret for what the D’ni have lost, and hope for what the future may bring. 

The ambient sounds are encompassing—you hear yourself run, doors slam, wheels creak, machines thump, animals call faintly, the wind whistles, and waterfalls thunder.  You are there!

UU has background music in only select areas.  When present, it is usually serene and calming.  I revisit some Ages and some city areas from time to time merely to listen.  The absence of omnipresent background music enhances my immersion into another reality.  Its general absence lends greater impact to its presence.

Did you see that?

The graphics are gorgeous and imaginative.  You are simply surrounded by wonder.  However, sometimes I “wonder” what I am missing.  The graphics on my screen are a bit dark.  In some places, they are a lot dark.  Even after tinkering with settings, etc., there are many distractingly dark screens.

Pause, but not for effect:

Then there is the dreaded lag.  If you’ve not experienced it, lag is the bane of online gaming and describes a wide range of problems, including slowdowns and mini-freezes.  It is caused by more data attempting to use the server than the server can handle at one time.  Waiting for a short time usually results in the game resuming.  Repeated often enough, it becomes aggravating.

Lag seems worse in the city than in the Ages, and of course, it varies according to the population at any given time.  I have crashed to the desktop on occasion, and from time to time turned into a “ghost.”  I see my avatar, but can’t control it.  When this happens, I remind myself the D’mala shard is a free server and that the comradeship and the experiences of the game are worth the sporadic annoyances. 

So what I’m saying is?

UU is a game that caters to your whims.  You prefer to play alone?  You can.  In the mood for company?  You’ll find it.  Itching to test your brain?  Tackle the puzzles.  Wanting to relax with friends?  D’ni Ae’gura is just the spot.  Dance on the pub bar or levitate in the library.  Prefer first person viewpoint?  You’ve got it.  Can’t stand first person?  Play in third.  UU is a very customizable game that lets you play with the viewpoint and control scheme you are most comfortable with. 

UU is truly an alternate reality, another world that lets you decide how and with whom to spend your time.  The cast of characters is ever-changing.  It quickly immerses you with its mystery and its sense of unity.  It is a community of people who gather for diverse purposes.  Some come to learn the secrets of the D’ni, some for the cross-cultural friendships, and some to simply sit and watch for Shroomie. 

Shorah!  I hope to see you there soon!

I played on:

Win XP Professional SP1

3.2 GHz Intel Pentium 4

1 GB Dual Channel DDR400 SDRAM

DirectX Version 9

128 DDR NVIDIA Geforce FX5200 Ultra Video Card

DSL internet connection



updated: February 2010

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