The latest in the beloved Myst series of graphical adventure games capably continues the traditions that started more than 10 years ago. Like its predecessors, Myst IV Revelation is a deliberately paced first-person-perspective adventure game whose controls are almost instantly intuitive--and yet its incredibly complex and challenging puzzles are about as far from instantly intuitive as possible. However, as with most great adventure games, there's a cohesive underlying logic to the Myst IV's lengthy series of complicated trials. Furthermore, this latest chapter in the Myst series features some dazzlingly beautiful sights and amazing sounds. Much of the game is truly a wonder to behold, and while unraveling the story will probably be an interesting incentive for longtime fans of Myst, it's the thrill of being able to fully and freely explore the game's imaginative and remarkably lifelike worlds that often proves to be the biggest incentive for pushing past Myst IV's near-impenetrable puzzle barriers. Then again, solving the game's puzzles can be very rewarding; just be sure to bring plenty of patience and a keen eye for detail.
Prepare for a lengthy, highly challenging, and graphically stunning adventure in Myst IV Revelation.
Though your familiarity with previous Myst games is not necessarily assumed by Myst IV Revelation, its storyline is heavily intertwined with previous entries in the series. Longtime Myst fans will catch numerous references to earlier games, and they will most appreciate the ability to gain a lot of new insight into Myst's main characters, including the Da Vincian scientist Atrus and his scheming sons, Sirrus and Achenar. Even if you aren't already familiar with these characters, there's a good chance that they'll readily endear themselves to you, thanks to the game's use of live actors in its full-motion video plot sequences. The actors portraying these characters do a particularly fine job (some of the other performances aren't quite as strong, but they're OK), and they help give Myst IV a personal touch and a surprisingly distinctive personality, seeing as very few games feature live actors anymore. At any rate, though the story loosely ties together the events of Myst IV, it's mostly just there as a setup for you to explore a series of wondrous, otherworldly locales. If you've played a Myst game before, then you know not to expect a lot of dialogue or character interaction here. At the least, you can look forward to discovering and reading through the various main characters' journals during the course of the game and discovering their ambitions and their secrets along with some important clues. These journals are lengthy, but they are expressively narrated and packed with interesting detail.
As in previous Myst games, your character's persona is undefined, but it's evident that whoever it is you are, you're Atrus' friend and you're willing to help him. After all, Atrus is a remarkable individual--he has the power to write "ages," which take the form of completely different worlds that seem to spring forth from Atrus' books (he humbly explains that he merely links to these ages, rather than creates them). Your journey through Myst IV will see you through several unique ages: Tomahna, a beautiful cove in which Atrus and his remaining family reside; Spire, a gloomy and equal parts bizarre and awe-inspiring world of floating cliffs and perpetual storms; Haven, a lush prehistoric-looking land filled with strange creatures; and Serenia, a utopian society that's reminiscent of the legends of the lost city of Atlantis. Each of the game's settings is incredibly designed. The different ages are highly distinct from one another, not only in terms of the sights and sounds you'll experience while there, but also in the nature of the puzzles you'll be solving in the respective environments.
You'll explore the game's different ages on your own, but you'll encounter several key characters throughout.
Unlike many other adventure games, Myst IV lets you go about some of your objectives--and visit some of the different ages--in no particular order. This free-form structure is both liberating and bewildering. Myst IV doesn't ever lead you by the nose from one location to another, it instead invites you (and challenges you) to find your own path. Navigating is as simple as can be. A context-sensitive cursor in the shape of a hand (you can even choose a right- or left-handed version) changes to indicate when you can move toward a distant area, examine an object, or use an object. Unlike last year's Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Myst IV is not a fully 3D game, which means you'll be moving from node to node--from one picturesque scene to another--as you click around. Transitions from node to node are occasionally animated, but mostly, Myst IV harkens back to its predecessors just by crossfading from one scene to the next. This effect works fine. You'll hear a few footsteps, and the crossfade generally takes about as long as it might take for your character to walk forward a few paces to the next scene, so your imagination will readily fill in the gaps between nodes. No imagination is necessary to take in all the splendor of what you actually will see, though.
Within each node, you're free to investigate all around you by moving the mouse in any direction to rotate your view. Some clues can and will be above or below eye level, and in general, there's a lot to take in at practically every location. Of course, not every single node in the game packs in some sort of mission-critical clue or puzzle. In fact, Myst IV goes so far as to throw some red herrings at you--aspects of the environment that seem interesting and with which you can interact--and yet these things are just there for curiosity's sake, if not to draw your attention away from the real puzzles. In turn, since Myst IV's scenery can be so dense with detail, it can be difficult to tell--especially when first starting out--exactly what you can and cannot interact with. You'll invariably end up searching for "hotspots" onscreen--places where your cursor changes to indicate that you can do something there. Even so, you're liable to miss some of these hotspots unless you're really on your toes--and sometimes this means overlooking a subtle but important clue. Of course, there's generally no sense of urgency while playing Myst IV, thanks partly to the serene landscapes and soothing ambient music. It's important to be patient and to take your time while playing.
You don't need an engineering degree to solve Myst IV's puzzles, but we figure it'd probably help.
The game has a couple of noteworthy twists beyond the simple point-and-click mechanics of its predecessors. For one thing, in Myst IV, you get to be a photojournalist of sorts. You begin the adventure with a camera and an image viewer. The camera may be used at any time, either to take snapshots of the pretty vistas or--better yet--for committing important clues to a permanent visual record. Symbols, patterns, and secret codes are hidden throughout Myst IV. You may not recognize their significance right away, but if you find something unusual looking you might as well take a picture of it in case you need to refer back to the information later. By giving you a camera with which you can take note of important clues, the creators of the game gave themselves license to build some meticulously complex puzzles that require you to decipher links between locations that may, at times, be quite far apart. However, it's usually pretty apparent when it's worth your while to snap a photo of something (these tend to be the things that you may zoom in on to investigate up close). Since you'll frequently be using the camera to keep track of potential clues, it's best not to clutter up your film reel with pointless pretty pictures.
Since Myst IV involves a lot of open-ended exploration and features some multipart puzzles whose solutions are spread throughout the ages, you'll be comforted to know that the game includes a rapid transportation option to cut down on some of the needlessly time-consuming backtracking that has negatively impacted other adventure games in the past. Here, after you visit a key area, you gain the ability to instantly teleport back to it at any time. This ability ("zip mode") isn't explained and is there just for convenience, and purists may choose to toggle it off if they wish. However, zip mode is a small blessing in Myst IV. It doesn't ruin the sense of exploration since you can't teleport to areas you've never visited, nor can you use zip mode to cross between ages. Instead, much like the camera, it's a gameplay device that's necessary to facilitate some of Myst IV's ambitious puzzles. Once you finally discover the hidden logic to one of Myst IV's complex, interweaving natural or mechanical networks, you'll want to be able to quickly manipulate these systems to see what happens rather than spend a lot of time trudging from point to point. Zip mode really doesn't seem like a big deal in the context of the game, but it does a lot to help mitigate any sense that you're wasting time going back and forth.