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URU: Ages Beyond Myst Preview
game: URU: Ages Beyond Myst
posted by: Monica Hafer
date posted: 09:10 AM Wed May 14th, 2003
last revision: 07:39 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

As a devotee of the Myst series, I was thrilled last year to see the third installment make its way to multiple platforms. I wanted the console world to appreciate the scope and beauty of this title as much as the PC world did. However, as I am primarily a console gamer, I missed having a body in the third person sense of things and the ability to move within real time. But I loved the puzzle solving goodness of this series and have never been disappointed in the graphics or the immersive storyline. This year at E3, part of my wish list was fulfilled, as Uru: Ages Beyond Myst moved things to the next level.

The first two installments of the series, Myst and Riven, were both developed by Cyan Worlds. Apparently at this point, a concept for the evolution of the series was born that would take over five years in its development. Because Myst fans always need a fix (believe me!!), the third installment was farmed out to Presto, who put out a fine title and pushed the availability of the series to the masses through console gaming. But what had happened to Cyan? At E3 this year, I found out.

For those of you just joining us, the storyline is focused on the development of the D\'ni civilization, which began when they established their underground empire on Earth over 10,000 years ago. They were able to create links to other worlds (known as Ages) through what they called \"linking books.\" However, their civilization met with a catastrophe and their caverns were left uninhabited and their linking books appeared to have been lost. The single player element of Uru continues the saga of Myst as you, at the request of Atrus\' eccentric daughter Yeesha, journey through a variety of ages which are connected to your own \"island in the clouds.\" You will have to solve puzzles and open up new ages as you become more involved in the world of the D\'ni. But there\'s more.

Cyan has developed an online element for continuing your adventure. You will be able to explore the caverns of the D\'ni world, establish small living groups and interact with larger groups of people as the underground world is excavated and reconstructed. The D\'ni Reconstruction Council (DRC) will send you messages to let you know what\'s going on and will open up new areas to be explored, so that the online world is ever-expanding. One of the designers also hinted that new linking books are there to be uncovered in your own exploration and that they will give you personal access to many more ages.

You can use voice communication to talk to people who are located in close proximity to your character, and you can send text messages and picture of your character\'s environment to people who are farther away from your character (or even in another age!). You can start a \"friends\" list and attempt to make your adventure a cooperative experience. And the nice thing about the Myst gaming philosophy is that it creates a non-threatening online environment where you can\'t be killed by other players. It is truly an adventure game which allows exploration, teamwork, fantasy, and puzzle solving without the violent or aggressive edge that many find frustrating in online interaction.

You can play as a man or a woman in both the online and single player modes. Their appearance can be altered fairly radically through a wide variety of facial and clothing features. Although this is a necessity for differentiating your character in the online world, it is a great way to increase your bonding experience with your avatar in the single player mode.

The graphics do not lose anything in the move to fully rendered 3D environments. I have to say that the Myst series has been made famous by their stunning graphics, and Uru looks to be no different. The complexity of the worlds and the characters moving within them doesn\'t cut down on the visual acuity one bit. And even more amazing, the character movement is smooth and easy to navigate (even to console standards). No running around like a chicken with your head cut off or spending five hours trying to get in just the right position to activate that one button that you spent the last eighteen hours trying to get across the screen to push. I think of this series as a very sophisticated game, and I think that any level of difficulty in movement with your character would have been too silly to be bourn by the designers and their higher-concept sensibilities. I personally appreciate that so much love is given to a title and its devotees. Many thanks to the team at Cyan! In a final note on movement, the thing I appreciated the most was the speed with which the character moved. You can have a nice leisurely stroll if you like, but if you\'re trying to get from A to B, you character can get there with the speed and grace that speaks of greyhounds rather than groundhogs.

While the single player mode can be played with just your PC, if you want to join the online fun you\'ll need a broadband connection and will have to pay a small subscription fee for Uru Live. The price for the subscription has yet to be set, but the game itself will come with a free trial subscription so you can see if you\'ll like the online interaction before you commit. With all of the amazing things I saw at E3, I think the fee will be more than worth it. But even if you don\'t want to go there, the boxed product looks to be even better than any previous games in the title.

Additional Myst adventures are currently being planned, and you can get updates on them and the fees for Uru online this summer at ubi.com. At present, Uru is only planned to be available on the PC, but sources say that developers are \"exploring options to expand to other platforms.\" That means there\'s definitely hope for Mac users. But URU was the answer to all the elements on my wish list for a console port as well, so I\'m hoping that the Myst series will have pity on the console world and give us one more shot. In any event, it\'s about time I put away my Tetris and Unreal and got prepared for another installment in the stunning and immersive world of Myst. Uru: Ages Beyond Myst will be coming to an age near you in Fall 2003.