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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: January 20, 2004
Cyan released the original version of MYST over ten years ago in 1993, and it received unprecedented critical acclaim and popularity with the public. Almost single-handedly this offering stimulated the entire adventure / puzzle genre, known more for lonely enigmas than fast action or character conversations. Now Cyan Worlds has released through Ubisoft the fourth title in the series (after Riven and Presto Studios’ Myst III Exile), Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. While generally following the tradition of its predecessors, this latest installment introduces a few key innovations, including full 3D movement, a choice of first-person or third-person perspective, and the promise of an online multiplayer component.
The story in Uru continues as did the earlier installments with the ancient underground civilization of the D’Ni, the people who created the Ages and the books that transport you among them. However, this time you deal not with Atrus but with Yeesha, his feisty daughter, who serves as your guide. You learn more than ever before (and possibly more than some players would want to know) about the history of the D’Ni and its leadership and culture. Oddly, you begin in the middle of a barren desert area in New Mexico with absolutely no clue as to what to do. You find out that you need to visit four Ages and initiate power in each one. Involved in your quest is also the D’Ni Restoration Council, a group of archaeologists, engineers, and scientists formed in order to restore the physical world of D’Ni.
In tune with its online aspirations, but in direct contrast with the pattern in most virtual adventures, Uru begins with you designing the appearance of your character. You may select from a limited range of choices a face, skin color, hair, clothing and accessories. You may alter your image at any time if you decide you do not like it. It is, of course, possible to spend a lot of time trying to get your depiction to look just right (most players apparently try to make it look just like themselves), but though enjoyable this keeps you from getting to the actual gameplay. Furthermore, in the single-player game, this has only marginal utility if you use the third-person perspective on the action, and it has no utility at all if you use the first-person perspective.
As is the MYST tradition, you have a huge amount of exploration available to you in Uru. You travel across four different Ages and collect seven journey cloths depicting a hand-shaped symbol. The Ages are the mushroom world of Teledahn, the garden world of Eder Gira and the sand world of Eder Kemo, the fortress world of Gahreesen, and the forest world of Kadish Tolesa. After visiting an Age, you receive a linking book allowing you to transport across Ages, and you are free to return to an Age you have already been to (you may return to the beginning of an Age or to the last journey cloth you touched) if you want to explore some more.
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