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.
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.
those of you just joining us, the storyline is focused on the
development of the Dni 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 Dni. But theres more.
has developed an online element for continuing your adventure. You will
be able to explore the caverns of the Dni world, establish small living
groups and interact with larger groups of people as the underground
world is excavated and reconstructed. The Dni Reconstruction Council (DRC)
will send you messages to let you know whats 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.
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 characters 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 cant 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.
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
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 doesnt
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 youre 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 youll 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 youll 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 dont
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 theres 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 Im
hoping that the Myst series will have pity on the console world and give
us one more shot. In any event, its 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.