9.4

Riven: The Sequel to Myst review
The Most Impressive Feat of the Myst Series

The good:

~The scenery is one-of-a-kind, and envelops you in a world never even imagined before.
~The mystery and the goal of the whole game keep you working throughout the entire thing, no matter how frustrated you get.
~Real-life actors, instead of CGI characters, add realism to the experience.
~Sound and voice acting are crystal-clear, and are an important part of the overall game.
~There are several endings to the game (and all but one are bad), so there is a great amount of interactivity. It might even add replay value.

The bad:

~The puzzles are even more complex than ever, and require very long sequences of specific actions.
~Whenever a person appears, they are accompanied by a grainy haze. This degrades the overall graphic quality.

Summary:

The year was 1998, and Cyan Inc. was looking for a sequel to their highly successful game, Myst. It had been four years since Myst had changed computer game history, and the fandom was just too much to give up. Say hello to Riven, their answer to all those adoring fans. Not only is it an improvement over its predecessor in many ways (including graphics and audio), it is arguably unrivaled by any of the three games that would later come.

Riven picks up about where the last game left off, only this time, you're on a bit of a rescue mission. Catherine, the wife of Atrus (featured in Myst), has been taken prisoner by Atrus' evil father, Gehn. Gehn has been slowly destroying the Age of Riven, and its inhabitants are in danger of being destroyed along with it. Your mission as the Stranger (your true identity is up to you) is to free Catherine, trap Gehn in a Trap Book (therefore keeping him from doing any more harm) and save the people from being destroyed by the end of the dying Age.

The game, like Myst, is a point-and-click. You feel as though you truly are carrying out the actions you are pretending to do, like turning wheels and pushing buttons. Your icon is even a little hand, to aid in the realism. As you travel around the five islands of the Age, you collect clues that will become important later (using both sight and sound). However, you must write these clues down yourself.

If the puzzles in Myst made you want to tear your hair out, however, this game is most definitely not for you. This time around, the puzzles are even more complex, sometimes even requiring that you travel very far away and then come back after completing a series of specific actions. And if you're using the original set of the game (not the DVD-ROM), that also means that you need to change CDs constantly.

Although Riven is now about ten years old, its graphics stand up wonderfully to today's standards. Sure, they're mostly still pictures, but what does it matter? There's rarely anything that needs to move. The environment is highly detailed, immersive, and inspiring, as it creates methods of architecture and buildings never before seen in any Earthly place. One example is right on the cover of the game, in the building that you are temporarily imprisoned in for part of the game.

But alas, not all in terms of graphics is good news. The few people in the game are played by actual, real-life actors, which is a huge asset to the game. However, these people are often accompanied by a sort of "haze", which surrounds them and generally distorts the image. You'll get annoyed with this, as it ruins the almost-perfect seamlessness of the image.

"Are there Easter Eggs in this game?" some gamers will ask. Yes, indeed there are. Although Myst had none, this one has quite a few. All are funny, and although none help you at all in the game, they sure are fun to seek out. Have you ever seen a temple decked out for Christmastime, or heard Gehn sing? Try finding them!

Audio is an amazing feat in this game, as sounds and voices blend together for an awe-inspiring effect. There are times you'll need to use sound to get further in the game, but some of the time it's just there for effect. Depth is enhanced by this, and makes the game almost movie-like in scope. You'll forget you're just playing the game, and start watching the game as you progress from area to area.

Although the actions themselves aren't too repetitive, the game makes it so that you must visit some locations upwards of three times. Locations get dull quickly, and sometimes you overlook things you shouldn't since you feel that you are "used" to the area. This can be bad, especially if you miss an important clue and leave the island without seeing it.

Unlike Myst, in which there were only three bad endings and none of them involved death (although they DID involve imprisonment for all eternity), Riven has a grand total of seven bad endings. Of these seven, two involve your death, three more involve being imprisoned, one involves betraying your relationship with Atrus forever, and the last involves the death of of you, Atrus, and everyone else in Riven (besides Gehn, of course). These endings, while not desirable if you want to win the game, are interesting to find after you HAVE won, to see how things might have gone.

Although some gaming sites have dumped on Riven for being too much like Myst, I think the game improves, rather than copies, the concepts of what makes the game special. The graphics are improved, there's a lot more area to explore, and the plot is more intricate, twisted, and interactive. The real-life actors make more appearances, and you see more of them (full-body shots as opposed to headshots and, in the case of Atrus, shots to the shoulders). And lastly, the audio is clearer and there's more of it.

Riven is more than just another puzzle game. It's an experience, one that draws you in at the title screen and doesn't let you leave until the credits appear. It's a beautiful game, full of top-notch imagery, scenery, and acting. Most of all, it's the sequel to a legacy, and lives up to it well. Sure, it's got its quirks, but then again, so did Myst. I would recommend it to just about any computer gamer, puzzle enthusiast, or person who just wants an enduring, enjoyable game. Here we are, at the height of what all computer games should try to become. I thank you for reading.

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