Described as the next chapter in the Myst franchise, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst introduces players to an ancient civilization known as the D'ni. Discovered in the late '80s, the D'ni lived below the earth's surface for 10,000 years practicing the "Art of Writing." This unique ability enabled them to create links to a variety of unimaginable worlds they called "Ages."
In 1996 Elias Zandi, one of the original explorers of the D'ni civilization and creator of the DRC (D'ni Restoration Council), passed away leaving his legacy to his son Jeff Zandi. Focusing on why it was the D'ni civilization fell, Jeff Zandi researched and studied the teachings of Yeesha, considered to be the most talented of all the ancient D'ni writers.
Now, years later, Jeff Zandi has become comfortable with introducing others to the ancient subterranean civilization of D'ni. Real-time 3D graphics promise visually stunning environments while players solve puzzles exploring this ancient world and traveling to new and exciting "Ages."
Until it was usurped by The Sims only recently, Myst and its sequels held the crown as the best-selling PC game series of all time. The latest game in the series, URU: Ages Beyond Myst, once again brings to life the world loved by millions of gamers -- both hardcore and casual -- in a single-player game with a wealth of fun puzzles, great atmosphere, and a terrific story.
When you start URU, your first order of business is to create your avatar. You can select almost everything about your character, from your approximate age and weight to clothes, shoes, facial structure, and hair. Playing around with these options will let you make a character who looks almost exactly like you (if you so desire). While URU is the first Myst title to let you create an avatar you can see, it has little effect in the single-player game other than allowing you the choice of playing in either first- or third-person instead of only first.
Once you've created your avatar, the game plops you in the middle of a barren desert. You'll see a trailer up ahead, where you'll find a man sitting under an awning who provides one of the first real clues to get you started. After that, it's typical Myst fare: you're expected to figure out what is a clue as much as how to solve the puzzle. Your reason for being in the game is to re-access four Ages, get the power going in each Age, and find its seven "journey cloths," best described as save points. During the course of the game you'll uncover the story of the D'ni, the people who learned how to create the Ages and the books which allow you to travel between them. You'll also learn of the D'ni Restoration Council, who was learning about the D'ni before something happened to them.
As with the other Myst games, URU has a slow pace. You can't die, though you can fall and get transported back to your Relto -- a personalized Age of your own. You also can't save the game. Instead, the last journey cloth you touch is the location you'll be transported to in each Age. URU remembers any puzzles you've completed, so the lack of save slots doesn't really amount to too much bother, but some of the puzzles are the kind that reset completely if you do something wrong, and it would've been nice to be able to save and reload in the middle of the puzzle.
As you're traveling through the four Ages, you'll come across Relto pages, which are used to spruce up your personal Age. One Relto page creates a waterfall, while another allows you to turn rain on and off. If these serve any real purpose other than decoration, it definitely wasn't obvious in the single-player game. Perhaps their purpose will be better explained when URU Live is up and running.
Not surprisingly, URU: Ages Beyond Myst has both beautiful graphics and sound. You won't find a lot of voice acting in URU, but what's there is topnotch. The real difference between URU and previous Myst titles is that now the stunning graphics and sound aren't quite as unique as they once were. Many titles look and sound at least as good as URU does, so while you won't find anything to complain about technically, you also won't be as wowed as you once were.
For better or worse, Myst has always been known for its puzzles and well-hidden clues. To its credit, URU has a lot of rather sensible clues that can be figured out with a bit of thought. Still, you'll want voodoo dolls of the developers for some of the puzzles, especially those that require you to play soccer (!) to solve them. You have no inventory in URU, and can't pick up anything up, so you're relegated to kicking objects until they're in the right spot. My suggestion: When every attempt to move an object into place fails, you can stick a pin in your developer voodoo doll. After every player sticks a few hundred pins in their dolls, maybe the developers will find a better method of handling object movement.
This is a direct reflection on how poorly the control scheme is handled in URU. You can control your avatar using either the keys or the mouse, but the scheme is difficult to use and never becomes intuitive. You'll probably find yourself running in place and missing jumps because the movement keys are uncomfortable. Far too much of the game is spent worrying over the controls instead of enjoying the puzzles and atmosphere. It's easily the worst part of URU, and it's unclear why Cyan didn't simply make the controls as easy to use as those in first- and third-person shooters (such as Max Payne).
Barring the terrible control scheme, the single-player version of URU: Ages Beyond Myst is a solid adventure title. Beautiful graphics and sound, fun puzzles, and lots to read and learn about the D'ni makes for an atmospheric game.
People who downloaded Uru: Ages Beyond Myst have also downloaded:
Myst IV: Revelation, Myst V: End of Ages, Myst 3: Exile, Riven: The Sequel to Myst, Real Myst, Myst: Masterpiece Edition, Uru: The Path of the Shell, Myst
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