It's been more than 10 years since Myst revolutionized adventure gaming with its beautiful, surrealistic scenery, its elegantly simple point-and-click interface, and its mind-bending logic puzzles. And now the series is officially concluding with Myst V: End of Ages, a game that stays true to its roots, such as by having a remarkable audiovisual presentation. Last year's Myst IV: Revelation was created by Ubisoft Montreal, which did an excellent job of following in the footsteps of Myst's original developer, Cyan Worlds, who returned to the helm for this final chapter. Ironically, then, Myst V omits a few of the key presentational features that made last year's game so captivating, and its fully 3D graphics aren't necessarily a superior alternative to the prerendered scenes of most previous Myst installments. Regardless of that, Myst V concludes this landmark series with dignity and style, delivering a challenging and sophisticated adventure that contains a number of satisfying moments.
A difficult but captivating journey awaits in Myst V, which invites you to tour the ages of the D'ni one last time.
Myst V doesn't expect you to have previous experience with the series, and as its story unfolds, there's a fair bit of summary about what transpired in previous installments. In addition to seeing some strange creatures darting around in the darkness, you'll encounter two characters early on in your adventure: a tormented woman named Yeesha, and an enigmatic man named Esher. Yeesha's diaries are scattered throughout the game, cryptically explaining the predicament you're all wrapped up in. Meanwhile, Esher will often appear (and disappear) out of thin air, telling you about the place you're in and offering veiled clues on how to proceed.
Esher looks and moves like a real person, but it's the voice work by David Ogden Stiers that brings this interesting character to life. It's clear early on that Esher and Yeesha are not fond of one another, though neither character's motives are apparent. As such, what eventually transpires feels like a bit of a letdown, since the subtlety of these two characters completely breaks down and their agendas and personalities become obvious. This happens with all the unpleasant abruptness of turning on bright, fluorescent lights in a dark room. Nevertheless, Myst V mostly does a good job of thinly layering tantalizing bits of storyline as you make progress, compelling you to discover what's really going on.
As in previous Myst games, you view the world of Myst V from a first-person perspective and may play through the entire game using just the mouse, which lets you easily navigate the assorted landscapes. There's no danger to battle--just places to explore and mysteries to solve. By default, Myst V plays like older Myst games by limiting your movement from node to node--you can only travel from one specific point to another. However, you have the option to switch to an "advanced" control scheme that lets you move freely throughout the environment, using mouse-and-keyboard controls that have long become standard in first-person-perspective games. A third variant is also present, combining node-based movement with the ability to freely look around just by moving the mouse.
The advanced control scheme is probably the best, since it lets you quickly get around without having to scan each node for other points you could move to. However, the advantage of node-based movement is that the game will make sure you're standing in the right position to solve various puzzles. If left to wander around on your own, you might have more trouble figuring out exactly where you're supposed to go.
Several different control methods allow you to explore Myst V's fully 3D environments any way you prefer.
Presumably these three different control schemes are there so that players can find one that really suits them, which will help them get immersed in Myst V's visually striking world. Yet much like how it's possible to fruitlessly pursue a false lead while trying to solve one of Myst V's difficult puzzles, it seems the developers of Myst V implemented these options at the expense of certain subtle details that might have made for a more enthralling experience. The absence of these details is especially noticeable since they helped make Myst IV's world feel so alive. Unlike in that game, here you won't be able to interact with any objects except for ones that are somehow important. So even though you'll be seeing all kinds of wonderful contraptions and architecture, it's all window dressing, since the only stuff you can use tends to be tied to the game's puzzles. You also can't hear your character's footsteps, so all the unusual textures you'll be walking (floating?) over make no sound. Myst V is certainly pretty to look at, but it doesn't wholly succeed at making you feel like you're really there in its imaginative worlds.