Review – Myst (VR)

Overview

Developer Cyan
Publisher Broderbund
Genre Graphic Adventure, Puzzle
Platforms Oculus Quest, Oculus Quest 2
Release Date December 10, 2020
The island of Myst

It’s possible you may already be familiar with the legacy of Myst, even if you’ve never actually played it. Designed and written by Rand and Robyn Miller, Myst was released in 1993 to much acclaim. Players could openly explore the island of Myst and uncover its mysteries without a time limit or enemies to attack. For its time, Myst demonstrated the best technical aspects that were possible on the personal computer, with gorgeous graphics and details that entranced players for many hours.

Myst was a massive hit, and until surpassed by The Sims in 2002, was the best-selling PC game with over six million copies sold. Even today, many fans are deeply entrenched in the lore and mysteries this franchise has to offer: Four main sequels were released, in addition to books revealing characters’ backstories prior to the first game, and a massively multiplayer online game that is still available on both Steam and GOG.

There have also been recurring rumors of television and film adaptations of the franchise’s mythologies, with the most recent announcement being in 2019. It remains to be seen if these adaptations will materialize, but it’s clear that the legacy of Myst and the passion of its fans remain strong almost thirty years later. In September 2020, Cyan announced a remake of Myst for virtual reality systems, along with high-definition screens, allowing players to explore the island like never before. If you’ve been intrigued by Myst for some time and have been meaning to check it out, or are a longtime fan looking to see if this remake lives up to the original vision that is familiar to you, read on to see if this game is for you.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: Some of the characters encountered are seen as gods by the people they come across and rule over. Some of these characters take advantage of this and abuse their subjects for sadistic pleasure. One character briefly mentions a ‘Maker’ when expressing gratitude.

Violence: No overt violence is ever shown in the game proper, but there are rooms where it’s clear that murder and torture took place. Players may encounter rooms with torture machines, blood, and skulls that are shown. One box the player can open has a disembodied head inside.

Drug/Alcohol use: One character is strongly hinted to be a drug addict and alcoholic, with rooms found containing wine bottles and syringes.

Review

“Suddenly on the dock of a mysterious island, you set out to explore its beauty and mystery. The world is uncovered as you explore, revealing a family tale of intrigue and injustice, defying boundaries of space and time. Every device, drawer, book, scrap of paper, or sound may provide the vital clues that allow hidden secrets and rich background to unfold. Each discovery you make and each puzzle you solve will lead you one step closer to reversing a wrong that has gone unchecked for ages.” – The original Myst description on the Cyan website

Players begin on the dock of the island, with little-to-no explanation given to them as to how they got there or what they are supposed to do. This may seem frustrating to some players at first, but part of the beauty that Myst has to offer players is the freedom to wander and explore the island at their own leisure. This freedom and accessibility, which we take for granted in so many games now, was groundbreaking during Myst‘s original release.

The island is seemingly deserted, and there are no characters that you will physically come across for most of the game. There are several sights that the player will find as they explore, such as an observatory, a library, a rocket ship, and a cabin, among other landmarks. They will also encounter a few notes and clues as to what’s happened to the inhabitants of the island and to the true purpose of the game, most of which can be found on the island’s library.

The library on Myst

Two of the books found inside, one red and the other blue, are quite unique and are located opposite each other in the room. Trapped inside each book are two brothers, Achenar and Sirrus, but the points of communication with both are extremely spotty. It is here where players are finally given their first direct objective.

They prompt you to search the island for books containing links to different Ages, or worlds. You must solve the puzzles in each respective Age in order to acquire the corresponding color page for their books, either red or blue, and then find the Myst book in order to return to the island and deliver the pages back to them. They implore you, however, not to let the other brother out and that they are untrustworthy.

This presents a tricky situation for players as they explore each of the Ages to learn more about each brother, and come to their own conclusion if one is more trustworthy than the other. It is up to you to choose whom to free, who will remain imprisoned, and discover the truth behind the mysteries of the island of Myst. While there is no one to speak to aside from the two brothers, there are clues and lore hidden in the different Ages and library that reveal the hidden nature of both brothers and the rest of their family—for better or worse.

Although for many years Myst has been played and beloved on personal computers, I feel as though Myst was meant to be played on virtual reality. Through a first-person perspective, you actually feel as though you’re there on the island of Myst and the various Ages that you can explore. It adds a new dimension to immersion that I think Myst fans may have been dreaming about for years. That being said, Myst as a game is very much a product of its time. Elements that were groundbreaking back in 1993 have been replicated by other stories and games to the point where the game may seem underwhelming or even overrated by players.

Players can choose from several different options that change how they move through the environment, options which were also added in later releases on the PC. The difference is that VR adds an additional dimension that wasn’t present in previous releases. This allows players to experience the game in whatever level of immersion they wish when moving and interacting throughout various locations and puzzles of the game.

This isn’t simply a remaster however, but rather an all-and-out remake. That includes character models, such as the brothers trapped in the books. In the original game, creators Rand and Robyn Miller performed onscreen as both Achenar and Sirrus, respectively. This was changed to CG models in this remake, and I had mixed feelings about how they turned out, as the animation for these visuals seemed jarring compared to their live-action counterparts. Still, they are not present onscreen long enough to be an enormous problem.

The puzzles are what make the world in Myst come alive, but they can be difficult for players who may be uncertain as to what to do or where to go. Writing down notes and keys for puzzles has helped many a player who has played Myst in the past, but this becomes problematic with the use of VR. There are no obvious hints or guides to help move the player in the right direction. This presents a mixed bag for players who are not used to solving puzzles in games, or don’t consider them very good.

They are presented with a variety of different puzzles, each one unique from one another. Without a means to record information, however, retaining that information can be difficult. As a result, solving those puzzles in order to receive a needed item or piece of information can feel needlessly complicated and more difficult than they were probably intended to be. This is especially true in a game where trial and error is encouraged, as well as memorization.

Myst is equally a story about mystery and intrigue as it is about its puzzles. I loved learning more about the brothers and the family that resided on the island of Myst, along with the unique inhabitants of the different Ages. There is a great amount of lore and information present that was ahead of its time back in the early ’90s, and that may be a large reason why the series remains so beloved today.

Players are encouraged to take their time when playing Myst. If you rush off to solve every puzzle in order to complete the game more quickly, you’re missing something quite special right under your nose. Cyan has come a long way since Myst was first released in 1993, and although there are very few changes present overall in this VR remake, it remains clear to me that Myst will continue to be a strong influence for games and storytelling for many more years to come.

The Bottom Line

 

The pivotal experience for any Myst player, the VR port of this game is a must-play, although some changes may bring unnecessary challenges to the table.

 

8.0

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Andrea Racoti

Born in a Romanian-immigrant family and brought up in Central Texas, Andrea loves the art and importance of story-telling, especially when it comes to video games. Her favorite games include rich world-building and character growth, and it's a joy for her share her passion with other gamers.

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