I bought Myst III: Exile over two years ago, soon after it was first released. I finally installed it last month. Tonight I finished the game, and I only used a hint site once. What did I think? Spoilers below:
It was fun, no doubt. I remember, when Exile first came out, reading that it was not as difficult as Myst or Riven. That might be true. It certainly took me a while to complete (I played for about three weeks, on and off), but once I started to get into it, the puzzles just didn’t seem that complicated. I completed Voltaic in only an hour or so. In general, when I did get stumped, it was more due to being completely baffled as to what I could do, rather than having a puzzle I was unable to solve. The one time I had to ask a friend for help with Riven (thanks Mike!), it was because I had run into a puzzle that I simply couldn’t figure out, even though I had (almost) all the information I needed.
Edannna gave me the most trouble in that regard. The “natural” surroundings, combined with Exile’s navigation system, meant that I often simply was not aware of which paths I could take and which were inaccessible. It seemed like there were plenty of ways that I could have (in real life) easily walked or climbed that were off-limits to the game. And the one time I needed to use a hint site (see above), it was because I had missed a fork in the “road”, because it had was indistinguishable from the other parts of the scenery. The more mechanical ages were less troublesome, because they tended to have easy-to-see paths, but the navigation still gave me fits sometimes, because it wasn’t always obvious which direction you were facing after moving. Usually it’s the same way you were before, but not always. I never did get the hang of moving vertically.
The game’s puzzles had a similar feel to the original Myst: they were very clearly divided into ages, and you didn’t have to worry about other ages or other parts of the age in order to solve a given puzzle. Riven was much more expansive and complex; the different parts of the world were interconnected, and you had to go all over to solve the puzzles. They also occurred more naturally in the storyline; Exile’s puzzles were even more puzzle-for-puzzle
‘s-sake than the original Myst. This is intended, according to the narrative.
Still, I’m not great with puzzles, so Exile was pretty much to my speed; it made me feel smart, and I was able to keep the story moving enough to eventually get too the end. Which means I have no more Myst. If only Uru was available for the Mac…