Myst (2020)

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Comments: 1   (latest 22 hours later)

Tagged: reviews, ruminations, cyan, myst

Well, the thing is out. (On Steam, Epic, GOG, Xbox, Mac App Store, Oculus store. Supports Oculus, Vive, Valve Index, and regular flat monitors like regular flat people use.)

(I am a flat person, by the way.)

I blog the Myst news, which means I need to write a post. Except there's no news here. It's all been said. This is the most expected game of the year. You've already read most of this.

  • It's awfully nice-looking. Let's all agree on that.

  • It's Myst. You've played it. Eric Anderson said, "Not the way it looked, but the way we remember it looking." And that's true! I don't remember Myst (1993) as having low resolution or an 8-bit palette. I remember the places. Now here they are again.

  • Myst is now on, I think, its fifth engine and its fourth graphical rebuild. (Hypercard, native slideshow app, Plasma, Unity, Unreal. Do we count the iPad Unity version as different from the desktop Unity version? I've lost track.)

  • But, yes, the textures glisten wonderfully if you turn up the graphics settings. Sunlight burns through the clouds. The mist that we speak of rolls in.

  • The island is somewhat larger. The tower is closer to real scale. (The original game had a lot of forced perspective. Plus the forest felt more encompassing in slideshow mode, didn't it?) Again, this mostly doesn't come across as a redesign. It's the size the original felt.

  • A couple of rooms, but just a couple, have been seriously redesigned. The added breathing space feels good.

  • The interactions have been modified so that everything happens in the "batter's box", between waist-height and shoulder-height. (So that the game is playable in chair-scale VR.) This means some puzzles and devices look different. All doors are sliding doors, because in VR, swinging doors whack you in the face.

  • They took extra care to make the game more accessible. No puzzles depend on red/green distinctions. You can turn on subtitles for both dialogue and audio puzzles (which includes background audio cues like water flowing in Channelwood).

  • The randomized-puzzle mode is a nice touch but it doesn't make the game harder. It prods you to go read all the clues and write them down, just like you did in the 90s. It will also entertain speedrunners, which I am not.

  • All the linking books are now bolted down. This fixes the "plot hole" that I had some fun with last year.

  • Most of the audio is the same. I think they re-recorded Atrus's lines. Sirrus and Achenar have new faces. I gotta say, the new Achenar doesn't match his voice. That's the face of a baritone.

  • I was prepared to bet that "third quarter" meant "September 30th". Cyan beat that deadline by five weeks. Showed me!

  • No Rime. The developers say it's planned, but no release date.

  • No Linux. Dunno what the plans are there.

The upshot is that you have a great opportunity to replay a game that you enjoyed, and it sure does look brand spankin' new. It'll kill an evening.

You're a VR fan? This release will ring all your bells. Have fun.

You've never played Myst? ...This is really the question! Nothing about this whole "definitive Myst" process is aimed at me. I'm the guy who killed an evening replaying a game for, I think, the fourth complete time in 28 years. (I admit that I had to look at a hint! I forgot how the Stoneship compass clue worked.)

Cyan said up front that this release is aimed at a generation of gamers who know about Myst but never bothered to play it. And I honestly don't know what they'll think. The reviews are written by people like me. Or people younger than me who played Myst as research or nostalgia, but they've played it, and not recently.

Myst is weird. The story is so fragmentary as to be sleight-of-hand. The puzzles have one foot in environmental worldbuilding and one foot in soup can land. The ending fizzles. Atrus does not have, and never will have, a bedroom or a bathroom. In 1993, people were torn between the world-flooding sensory detail and the confusion of a somewhat janky puzzle game.

And yet Myst happened. It just "happened to happen", as King Derwin once said. It happened to millions of people. Is it likely to happen again? Everything has come 'round again; the weird story, the somewhat janky puzzles, the flood-tide of a surreal world that looks as good in 2021 as those little JPEGs did in 1993.

Everything else is different, of course. The market and audience and the expectations. (I've put way more of my weekend into Psychonauts 2 than into Myst.)

I don't know. I don't know if it'll sell. I don't know whether Cyan will break even on this project. (Beyond the up-front funding that we're pretty sure Oculus laid down.)

My guess is that a lot of adventure game fans will play Myst (2020). The people who play it will mostly be people who've played it before. I think that, like me, they're happy to see it; they'll kill an evening on it and treat it as a Firmament teaser. Some newer story/puzzle gamers will try it for the first time; they'll decide it feels kind of old-fashioned but they're glad they tried it. Cyan will see a revenue bump and long tail. I don't think that anybody will still be talking about Myst (2020) in 2022.

That's fine, actually. That's a successful re-release.

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