First posted on 07 January 2001. Last updated on 09 October 2012.
It is an understatement to simply say that Myst marks a pinnacle in the history of adventure gaming. Since 1993, Myst has literally changed the landscape of graphic adventure games by bringing its surrealistic appeal to the masses. With over 6 million units sold, Myst has become the best-selling game of all time. Yet, the Miller brothers, creators of Myst, have never been truly satisfied with the technology that has first created the game. Their original vision of Myst is a fully immersive, dynamic world that a player can wander through and interact in. With the advent of real-time 3D graphics and improved hardware technology, this barrier can finally be breached. The game realMyst is the culmination of the original vision of the Miller brothers and is the version of Myst that they have always wanted to make.
You have stumbled across an old battered book. You pick it up and touch it. Suddenly, you find yourself transported to the beautiful islands of Myst. Myst is among the many alternate realms constructed by an ancient civilization named the D'ni. When Atrus discovers Myst, he notices that something has gone terribly wrong. His creations are being destroyed by someone else's greed. Moreoever, both of Atrus' two sons, Sirrus and Achenar, have been captured and imprisoned inside 2 magical linking books. With no further clues to help you on your quest, you decide to go on a search for the missing pages of these linking books. By recovering these pages, you hope to help free Atrus' sons. Yet, when you discover a note from Atrus stating that he now suspects his 1 of 2 sons to be the root of his betrayal, you are again completely puzzled as to the true nature of your quest in Myst. Not knowing which son to trust, who do you save? Both of them? None of them? Pieces of this mystery are slowly revealed to you as you wander around this mysterious world and decipher the many mechanical contraptions left behind by the former inhabitants of Myst and its ages. In the end, your final salvation can only come if you make the correct choice—a choice that can finally unlock the ancient betrayal of ages past.
Originally titled Myst Dimensions and Myst3D, realMyst is marketed as a remake of the classic Myst with cutting edge technology that allows the original vision of the Miller brothers to shine through. The game is a joint collaborative effort between Cyan Productions and Sunsoft (a console game developer). The remake, appropriately titled as "The ULTIMATE Director's Cut", features a realtime 3D engine that can deliver full screen graphics in place of pre-rendered, ray-traced still shots. All the graphic elements have been upgraded to brilliant 32-bit color. New sound effects have also been added to an original soundtrack with digitally remastered music. Movies and animations are now larger and in higher quality. Although realMyst supports both Glide and Direct3D APIs, it is optimized to run best on NVIDIA-based PC's and graphic cards supporting multiple resolutions.
The Miller brothers have taken care to faithfully reproduce the look and feel of the classic masterpiece. At the same time, the realtime 3D engine allows the incorporation of dynamic special effects that brings the world of Myst to full, vibrant life. There are now day and night cycles, dynamic lighting, weather effects including thunderstorms, roiling water, and fluttering wildlife such as birds and butterflies. Indeed, lead production artist Steven Ogden has described the difference to be "as varied and pronounced as the difference between looking at postcards from a place and actually going there in person" between the original Myst and realMyst. In addition to their roles as designers of the game, Rand Miller also plays the role of Atrus and Achenar while Robyn Miller plays the role of Sirrus.
Being faithful to the classic, the gameplay in the first 4 ages of realMyst is identical to that of the original Myst—the Selenitic Age, the Stoneship Age, the Mechanical Age, and the Channelwood Age. Each age is accessible only by a linking book found on the Myst Island and bears a distinct theme in both its appearance and its puzzles. Onscreen movement is by means of a mouse. 360° freedom is now possible by pointing the mouse toward the desired direction. Holding the left mouse button moves forwards, while holding the right mouse button moves backwards. The cursor disappears during these movements to allow for an unobtrusive view. The arrow keys on the keyboard may also be used in place of the mouse. To move quickly between locations, simply press and hold the Shift key on the keyboard while walking forwards or backwards. The designer is diligent not to activate this feature while the player is exploring a new territory, for fear that the player may miss an important clue otherwise skipped. The hand cursor changes shape whenever an object that can be manipulated comes into view. Pressing the left mouse button after moving the cursor over the object readjusts the screen to focus on the desired object. The player can then interact with the object (or its parts) by clicking. Moving the cursor to the side returns the game to free movement mode. There is no inventory, so the player can only carry a single item at any given time. The game automatically saves the player's progress at key points during the game. However, manual saving and loading are available by choosing the desired panel from the menu screen.
The puzzles in realMyst (and the original Myst) are all of mechanical nature. There are levers to pull, buttons to push, and wheels to turn. Marker switches on the Myst island allow the operation of various contraptions on the island that are essential for access to the various ages where the missing pages from the linking books are hidden. Sirrus is imprisoned inside the Red Book, and Achenar is imprisoned inside the Blue Book. Throughout the game, both characters plead to the player to help them escape from these books. To free Atrus' sons the player must return all the missing pages to the correct book. The puzzles vary in the levels of difficulty, but most are moderately difficult, especially to novices. Furthermore, the open nature of these puzzles may be somewhat disorienting to novice gamers looking for more clear-cut directions. All the puzzles are well integrated into the game.
Those who have previously played the original Myst are going to be delighted to see the addition of the new Rime Age. It is unknown whether this age is conceived by the Miller brothers during the original design of Myst or is simply tagged on to lure in fans who have already played the original Myst into buying this remake. After listening to the endgame speech by Atrus, the player is then transported to the Rime Age. The Rime Age is a small age with only a few but new puzzles. Nonetheless, like its sister ages, it is breathtaking to view and almost worth its weight in gold.
realMyst is immersive and surreal. The dynamic real-time special effects made possible by the 3D engine truly bring awe to anyone who treasures the surrealistic feel of the Myst landscape. The player can easily be lost in the moment just watching the sunset and rise of the moon over the horizon from the seashore. There are no dead end and no deathtrap. Time is not a predator in this game but serves only to deliver the dynamic beauty of the Myst universe. The sound effects and music, however few, are all well done.
A frequent complain of realMyst is its steep hardware requirement. Playing the game on a system meeting only the minimal requirement is an exercise in frustration. It is possible that the 3D engine in this game has not been optimally tweaked. As advertised, running the game on a NVIDIA-based PC helps to improve the frame rate which otherwise can be unbearable. Frame skipping is common and greatly detracts from the immersive experience. In addition, Myst (and realMyst) has always been faulted for a lack of interactivity. The tranquility of Myst translates to an experience too solitary for many gamers. While such sightseeing is a joy in a beautifully done game like Myst (and realMyst), a player can only take so much eye candy without craving for a bit of action. The improved ending in realMyst is still anticlimactic, serving no more than a lead for the sequel.
For years, many professional game critics have been baffled as to the reasons for the immense popularity of Myst. Some cite Myst to be an immersing experience that draws the player in and does not let go. Others cite its clever puzzles to be the key to its success. Debates to the merits of Myst are numerous and heated. Needless to say, the original Myst has changed the way players view graphic adventure games and the way designers make graphic adventure games. No doubt realMyst is going to reset the bar higher than ever before. Its lavish realtime graphics now sets a new standard to which all future graphic adventure games are going to be compared. Overall, realMyst is the culmination of the original vision of Myst by the Miller brothers. Improved technology has finally allowed this remake to successfully bring out the stark and fantastic beauty of Myst and its ages.