Myst – “Journeying Through Ages Past”

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When I first laid my eyes on the Miller brothers’ “Myst”, I knew it was something different. I couldn’t quite grasp what it was at the time – I was only twelve you see – but it was powerful enough to stay lurking in the back of my brain for all these years. My father, a man who appreciates cinema and classical music, but thoroughly belittles video-games, looked at “Myst” and sensed the same thing I now do: amazement. He couldn’t understand it, just as I couldn’t have, but he perceived enough to know it was special. And special “Myst” is, of that there is no doubt. It is as special as only a handful of video-games have ever been.

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Like the player, the game’s main character is literally thrown into an island covered in mist, surrounded by an endlessly sprawling sea.  Left entirely alone, the player is invited to embark on a voyage of discovery through a strange world, in hopes of deciphering its origins, and the reasons behind its emptiness and desolation. Faced with the ceaseless solitude, you can hear the gentle sound of the waves hitting shore, the sea breeze blowing softly, even bird’s chanting at times; your mind gently enters a state of calm and introspection. As you explore the scenery, lulled by its soothing ambiance, you encounter a dreamy realm, filled with breathtakingly beautiful natural scenery, but also an eerie mix of human constructions, from an impressive dome of classical architecture, to a sunken ship made of stone, not to mention a Jules Vernesque flying rocket. These remnants of the island’s inhabitants are the narrators of the story, as each building holds inside its history, either literally inscribed in it, in the writings of lost journals, or present in more subtle ways: imbued in its architecture, decoration or secret puzzles.

The puzzles thereby serve as the perfect metaphor for the unveiling of the hidden mysteries of the land. Solving them is a delight, not only because the game’s simple interface and elegant design makes them brilliant exercises of deductive reasoning, but also because they blend beautifully in the landscape, becoming a seamless part of that world. Simply put, every image, sound and object in “Myst” is a clue, making the aesthetic itself a part of the puzzle, a physical materialization of the secrets of the realms of “Myst”. The haunting atmosphere also becomes the embodiment of that story of ages past, with its atmospheric soundtrack (Robyn Miller) and realistic sound effects (Chris Brandkamp) serving as a natural complement to the surreal imagery.

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“Myst” is a spatial painting that players are invited to explore with their senses, but also an enigma which they must decipher with their minds. A hypnotizing interactive museum built in a world of utopia, where players are enticed to unveil the shrouding mystery that covers its past. More than anything, it’s a journey through many different, fantastic universes, a mesh of places where magic and technology merge into physical marvels that one can only observe in wonder; places where the most idyllic dreams of men have become a reality… All of this, condensed into an arresting piece of interactive entertainment and art. In other words, a Masterpiece.

score: 5/5

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  • Comments (3)
  1. Myst introduced new standards to the level of quality an adventure game could provide in its day. The use of high-quality pre-rendered images has lent great help in the process of making it look more like a piece of fantastic or surrealist art and less like a videogame – at a time when “pixel aesthetics” were predominant. The Miller brothers, and some of the other brilliant minds they inspired, were among the few who knew how to take advantage of the CD-ROM format.

    Not all, of course, had the same impact and sales figures as Myst was among the first games to be considered an essential piece of software to every computer owner, not just the game aficionados. I remember it won the prize of “game of the year”, an award that had always been associated with board games in the past.

    Congratulations for the review: mentioning your own personal background and focusing more on the experience and less on the technical details increased the quality of this great read!

    • Ken Graham
    • December 1st, 2009

    Myst as we all know was an Immersive Adventure that transcended all known expectations simply because there were none before Myst. The Brothers Rand created a world that required one to explore, just like in life, to learn and apply that knowledge to solve puzzles required to gain entrance to other worlds.

    Here we are at the close of 2009 and Myst continues to be sold along with many other games now part of the Myst Franchise. To date, Cyan Worlds has just released Myst on the iPhone as an App. Rand Miller made a recent post that he is committed to the last of the Myst games called URU which, for a while, enjoyed an online presence as a massive multiplayer game where players made Avatars of themselves.

    Rand quoted that Cyan Worlds is making a huge step and releasing the source code into the OPEN DOMAIN and it is his hope that users themselves will help develop the game via Guilds that are part of the Myst heritage and develop the game in ways that no one company can do.

    Rand is not alone, his brother Ryan has joined the company full time and Robyn Miller left after Riven was released to pursue his music and art and is working with bringing a movie to fruition about the first book of Myst called TiAna.

    Before the Brothers Rand released Myst back in 1993 they had created two other games that featured the foundations of a world that led to Myst, which continued to enjoy iterations as Myst was redeveloped twice to utilize 3D engines.

    I also came upon an interview with Rand where he professes his belief in God and that he wanted to share God with people through these interactive environments where people could reflect and enjoy the creations.

    Myst is more than a game. The entire Myst Franchise is a story line complete with fantastic worlds created by talented people who were trained to write the Ages that people would live in. The civilization referred to his is what is called the Dni (Dunny) and there is even a language and a series of books that outline the continued development of this civilization and its amazing developments and failures.

    Myst is about good and evil and how good can conquer over evil through love. So, there is a threat of truth about this franchise in regards to life.

    I hope you will find a way to play this interactive and imersive experience. It is more than a game, and it will change the way you view games and how they are played.

    If trying Myst is not your thing, then I recommend reading the Myst books. The richness of the stories contained will compel you to understand just how amazing the world of fantasy can be and how it can affect and change the way we view not only life, but gives us all creative outlet to explore and learn which is really the human condition at its finest.

    • ruicraveirinha
    • December 1st, 2009

    Myst is surely one of the finest works ever to grace our small pond of children games. Yes, to call it a game is, in great part, a disservice to it. It is so much more.

    Thanks for the comment.

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