Path of the Shell players return to the Ages Beyond Myst, for more point-and-click puzzles and first-person adventure. Uru: Path of the Shell is officially the second expansion pack for Cyan Productions' Uru: Ages Beyond Myst (following the free-for-download update Uru: To D'ni, which was released a few months earlier). Billed as the game's final content update and retail package, the Path of the Shell adds a number of new "ages" for players to explore and master. Once again, the overall goal is the collection of magical objects that have been scattered throughout time and space, but in this adventure players seek shells instead of tapestries. The expansion adds several new challenges, but also equips clever players to handle them. The player's character can now keep an editable journal, interact with other creatures, and swim across large bodies of water.
When Uru: Ages Beyond Myst first arrived, it was met with both interest and trepidation. Interest because it was the first Myst game to use a third-person perspective and full 3D; trepidation because it was also to include a massively multiplayer component that seemed rather odd in theory. How could a massively multiplayer puzzle adventure game work? Unfortunately for Cyan Worlds, developers of the Myst series, few players gave the multiplayer element a chance and it was canned shortly after release.
Instead of letting all that code go to waste, however, Cyan bundled it into two expansions. The first expansion, To D'Ni, was released for free and the second, The Path of the Shell, is now available for download either as a standalone expansion or as part of a bundle pack that includes the original game, To D'Ni, and The Path of the Shell. Shell continues the story of the D'Ni and takes you into the future of the D'Ni. It's too bad, however, that The Path of the Shell lacks much of what made Ages Beyond Myst enjoyable.
The controls for The Path of the Shell are identical to the frustrating system that plagued Uru. If you became comfortable with the controls, you won't have any problems; if you found them bothersome or nauseating, they don't get any better. The next Myst game is supposed to return to the static screens of previous titles. In truth, this is a good move on Cyan's part, because it simply didn't get a good handle on 3D movement, and this sort of game works well with static screens. Your character also now has the added ability of being able to swim, but this is only necessary in one Age. It was disappointing to find you can't swim beneath the water to look at anything, and in the end, the swimming section of the game just became a bother.
A key element of the Myst series has always been an assortment of devilishly difficult puzzles, but they're mostly missing from The Path of the Shell. The expansion technically includes five Ages, but you'll spend most of your time in only two of them, with only small forays into the other three. Even the two primary Ages only had a handful of long, but very tedious puzzles. Very few of the puzzles stood out as interesting, and one in particular has you jumping back and forth between Ages using the shell cloths you find on the walls. (You'll probably find yourself staring at the black load screen more often than the game itself.)
Then there are the two "waiting" puzzles. These are completely unforgivable because each requires waiting and doing nothing for about fifteen minutes. One of those literally requires you to leave your character standing in one spot, unmoving, for about fifteen minutes. It's not much of a puzzle when you're leaving your game to put on a load of laundry or give the cat a bath. Why anyone thought this would be a good idea is hard to figure out; the only reasonable explanation is that it was meant to pad out the gameplay a bit.
The other bad side to The Path of the Shell is that it just ... ends. When you reach the end, it's so sudden that you may not even realize it. One minute you think you're on your way to the last Age, the next you realize you have no more puzzles to solve. You can look around some, especially in the other Ages where you'll find some more clothes, another couple of Relto pages, and a few hints and goodies, but overall it simply ends with a last word from Yeesha.
If you've been interested in trying the Uru series, the Uru: Complete Chronicles package includes everything from the franchise. As an overall package, it's a good bargain, but only since the original game had lots of fun puzzles and a great backstory.
People who downloaded Uru: The Path of the Shell have also downloaded:
Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Myst IV: Revelation, Myst V: End of Ages, Myst 3: Exile, Riven: The Sequel to Myst, Myst: Masterpiece Edition, Real Myst, Undercover: Operation Wintersun
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