|A Spoiler-Free Cure for Fear of Myst|
June 13, 2001 | Joel Sparks
What’s new for ExileMyst was created by brothers Rand and Robyn Miller, who were also central to the creation of Riven. However, the Millers were peripheral to the creation of Exile, which comes to us from a different company altogether. This may account for some of the differences I noticed.
The three games are connected by a continuous story line, but if you’ve never played the first two, you can dive right into Exile. There’s nothing special you need to know. On the other hand, Myst and Riven are excellent games and well worth picking up.
Graphics technology has naturally improved quite a bit in the last eight years. You’d think that wouldn’t matter much for a game without real-time action, but for Myst III: Exile, the designers have changed the format a little. Each location is now a 3D visual; you can roll the point of view 360° left or right and (roughly) 180° up and down. Before playing, I thought the wraparound view would be a distracting gimmick but it turns out to be an improvement that saves clicking, increases realism, and caused me only a tiny bit of motion sickness while I got used to it. With OpenGL hardware acceleration, scrolling is perfectly smooth. There are rare instances of pixellation. And sometimes you can lose your orientation and wind up going back the way you came.
The appearance of the worlds is excellent; two of them in particular are not only beautiful, but designed with consistent and distinctive themes. Paths are winding and complex, so you have to search very, very carefully for hidden paths, even more so than in the other games.
One complaint: The animals are too cute. Every critter seems more like a cartoon toy than a living thing, with giant teddy bear eyes. Sure enough, if you shell out the extra $20 for the Collector’s Edition of Exile, it comes with a pewter creature. (You also get the soundtrack CD, the Making Of, and a hint guide).
Without giving much away, I can tell you that some of the Ages you visit in Exile are “lesson worlds,” challenges to be solved by students of linking-book lore. That's rather a short-cut way to explain the existence of so many puzzles, but it's forgiveable.
Overall, the puzzles are very good. I found them slightly more subject to thrashing than in the other games -- it is possible to hit the right solution to some of the simpler challenges without knowing why it works. Only later would I see the clues that I was supposed to follow.
Riven remains the most difficult of the three games, but in general, Exile is challenging, satisfying, and a worthy successor to Myst.