Uru: Ages Beyond Myst

A forgotten and surprisingly pleasant voyage for Myst fans.

5_1In the pre-Sims world, Myst was the game that captured the imagination of the masses only to be universally reviled and misunderstood by the hardcore. Deriding it as a slideshow game, people missed the point entirely; it remains one of the deepest and most involving gaming worlds ever created, and a fable about the power of books and storytelling. Uru: Ages Beyond Myst was to be an evolutionary reinvention of the experience Myst provided. While it was earlier pitched as an MMO, it eventually morphed into a solo game.

Credit where it’s due, Uru succeeds in large part thanks to Cyan’s eye for details — the game’s stunning pocket universes (Ages) feature pools of water that sound and behave so life-like that your own feet get damp. The odd premise of Uru is that everything that happened in the first three Myst games really happened long ago in the underground civilization of D’ni. The stories were later told to, and subsequently translated into videogame form by, Cyan’s Miller brothers. Today, the D’ni Restoration Council is rebuilding its ruins, preparing to reopen parts of it to the public.

The question is, What happened to the D’ni? Recruited to investigate, you play as yourself — or as close to yourself as the avatar-creation utility lets you be, which in my case is downright spooky. Your body has weight and mass within the physics engine, plus the ability to run, jump, and budge objects with spectacular real-time results. You can switch on the fly between first- and third-person views, a necessity for navigating the game’s puzzles.

12_1At its heart, Uru is about exploration. Your overall quest is to locate seven tapestries in each of the game’s four main Ages (five if you count New Mexico). Since there’s no “game†to save (it’s all real, remember?), these tapestries serve as handy checkpoints for when you get stuck. As Uru is a Myst game, most puzzles concern harnessing the power of machines, whether it’s how to use them or just how to turn one on. Each puzzle is flawlessly logical and integrated into the environment. Many times you have to wonder “What did the D’ni architects have in mind here?†when trying to solve a puzzle.

Quality adventure games were few and far in between, but Uru seems to strike a good balance. It was a pleasant voyage into an intriguing game world, rendered using what was then latest tech, and with puzzles hatched up by some talented game designers.

System Requirements: Pentium III 750 MHz, 512 MB RAM, 1.5 GB HDD, WinXP

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