Myst V: End of Ages
First posted on 15 April 2014. Last updated on 15 April 2014.
Myst V: End of Ages: Limited Edition
The Limited Edition includes, in addition to the DVD-ROM version of the game, an original game soundtrack audio CD, a special Making the Game video DVD, and an official strategy guide. In some releases, it also includes an individually numbered collector's lithograph, whereas in other releases, it also includes a collector's booklet on the D'ni language, artwork gallery, and an exclusive preview of the novel Book of Marrim by Rand Miller. Otherwise, the DVD-ROM version of the game is identical to the CD-ROM version.
Myst V: End of Ages is the fifth and presumably final game in the highly acclaimed Myst series. The series was created by Rand and Robyn Miller, who cofounded Cyan (later called Cyan Productions) under which Myst and Riven: The Sequel to Myst were released in 1993 and 1997 respectively. The series then undertook a long hiatus, until the release of Myst III: Exile in 2001 and Myst IV Revelation in 2004 by Presto Studios and Ubisoft respectively. In 2005, the Miller brothers finally returned to release the last installment of the series, under their studio now renamed Cyan Worlds. For many fans, it is a fitting end that the creators themselves are able to give a pleasant and satisfying closure to perhaps the most iconic game series in the history of the adventure genre.
Myst V: End of Ages takes place over 200 years since the events of Myst. Atrus has grown old and despondent. His wife Catherine is dead, as are his two sons Sirrus and Achenar. Only his daughter Yeesha is still alive. Atrus wants to see the ancient D'ni civilization rebuilt to its former glory. Yeesha, who is also known as the Grower, wants to restore the D'ni civilization through the use of 4 magical Slates that lock in a powerful Tablet. Supposedly, by unlocking the Tablet, the rightful owner will have omnipotent power to be able to restore the D'ni race. Unfortunately, Yeesha has tried but failed, meaning that she can never try again.
As an unnamed ally, you respond to a request from Atrus to locate these Slates holding the Tablet from 4 different Ages so to return the Tablet to its rightful owner. The Ages that you will visit are Taghira, Todelmer, Noloben, and Laki'ahn. Throughout the quest, you will receive aid not only from Yeesha but also Esher who is among the last D'ni survivors. As well, you will get help from the Bahro, an ancient humanoid species once enslaved by the D'ni. There are 3 endings in the game—only when you choose wisely will you see Atrus reunited with Yeesha in Releeshahn and the rightful owner of the Tablet regain its own destiny.
Installation of the game is straightforward without any glitches. You have a choice of 3 navigation modes: Classic Mouse-Click, Classic Plus, and Free-Move (Advanced). The Free-Move (Advanced) navigation uses the keyboard in addition for directional movement. The game defaults to Classic Mouse-Click mode. You can change to any of these modes at any time during the game by simply pressing hotkeys 1, 2, or 3 on the keyboard. In the Main menu, you can choose from New, Continue, Options, or Quit. Choosing Options opens up tabs for Video, Audio, and Controls. For Video, you have a choice of different screen resolutions, various graphics settings, and whether to play in full screen or windowed mode. For Audio, you can enable or disable subtitles and adjust different sound and volume settings. The settings for Controls, however, can only be changed once a game has started. While playing the game, moving the cursor to the top right of the screen will also allow you to access the Settings and Options controls: the Camera that can take snapshots to record your adventure as well as the Player Journal, Yeesha Journal, and Encounter Journal that keep track of the progress you have made so far in your journey. There is no inventory to manage in this game.
The game begins with Atrus reading a letter that he has sent to you in hope and desperation. He tells you that only you can unlock the Tablet and choose its rightful recipient. After escaping from the same prison cell in K'veer that has once imprisoned Atrus in Myst, you explore the nearby chamber until you find a strange bubble (later identified as the Keep). Looking through the bubble, you see the different Ages that you will eventually explore. You enter the bubble and touch the sealed Tablet. Upon exiting the bubble, you are greeted by Yeesha, who tells you that the Tablet has somehow responded to you. Once Yeesha finishes explaining to you about your new duty, you are teleported to a crater inside a volcano. There, you are greeted by Esher, who tells that it is your quest to locate the Slates with which you can use to release the Tablet. He tells you to find a way to the Cleft where your real journey shall begin. Eventually, you will reach Direbo, from where you can access the different Ages in order to complete your quest.
The game's overall production is simply brilliant. The story makes good use of the existing Myst mythos, with locations such as the K'veer, the Cleft, and the Great Shaft instantly recognizable to fans of the series. Although this sequel is devoid of many characters from previous games in the series (with only Yeesha and a cameo by Atrus), it also introduces a number of new characters such as Esher and the Bahro. Like previous installments of the series, you are tasked to visit different worlds (Ages) to complete your quest. In some ways, this sequel is the perfect complement to the series, in that both Atrus and Yeesha will eventually end up in Releeshahn, as predicted and recorded by Atrus in his own journal. The game is non-linear in that you can choose to explore the different Ages in any order you want. In additional, the game introduces for the first time the use of the Slate to help with navigating around Direbo and the other Ages. At times, however, you will need to drop the Slate to perform several actions. The Bahro, who are the keepers of the Slate, will always pick it up and return it to a pedestal where you can retrieve it again later. The intermittent appearances by Yeesha and Esher serve to give you hints periodically about what you need to do and where you need to explore.
The graphics in this game are absolutely breathtaking. Both the environments and characters are fully rendered in 3D and in real time. Additonally, to add realism to the characters models, faces of real actors are digitally captured and then mapped onto the models' faces. This allows the characters to show lifelike expressions when talking to you. Motion capture techniques are used to animate the characters' movements. Lip synching works well.
The voice acting is excellent. The game features a professional cast of actors, including David Ogden Stiers (of MASH fame) who voices Esher. Rengin Altray, who voices Yeesha, speaks with much passion, feeling, and conviction. All of the actors play their parts to perfection, giving their characters their own distinctive personalities.
The ambient music is emotive. While the game does not feature a full orchestral score, it uses a combination of individual instruments and an array of synthesizers as an effective replacement. Composed by Tim Larkin, the full soundtrack consists of 17 scores, with a different theme for each Age. Sound effects, which are kept to a minimum, are well done when they exist.
The puzzles are many and varied. Like the original Myst, they are diabolically hard, with some bordering on near impossible. Fortunately, they are well integrated with the story and do not feel at all contrived. The puzzles range from deciphering Bahro symbols and numerals, to melting ice in Taghira using steam vents, to creating rain and a sand storm using the Slates, to raising the floor in the Great Shaft, to using a tram in Todelmer, among others. The game's hardest puzzle takes place in Todelmer where, unbeknown to you, there are 4 telescopes out of alignment. You have to go elsewhere to adjust these telescopes so to observe vital Bahro signs. There is no provision to bypass any puzzle. The game can easily take up to 60 hours to complete, depending on how long you get stuck on the more difficult puzzles in the game.
In sum, Myst V: End of Ages, brings a fitting closure to the classic Myst series. For gamers who have played previous games in the series, they will undoubtedly love this finale. For gamers who are new to the series, they will be endeared by the game's mythos and want to try out the entire series. The game is immersive and family friendly. Notwithstanding the game's difficulty, I unreservedly recommend this game to any adventure game fan. Indeed, I am deeply saddened that there likely will not be another sequel to extend the series. Thanks, Cyan, for the memories!