Myst V: End of Ages

I finished Myst V. Now I can finally read the strategy guide and watch the “Making Of” DVD. More thoughts later. For now, I just keep thinking of a quote from Babylon 5: “The future is all around us, waiting, in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.”

Update: More thoughts below. Beware spoilers for the whole game.

After reading the strategy guide, I am now a little depressed. Although I did finish the game, I seem to have missed large chunks of the puzzle of two of the ages, finding the right solution but not for the right reasons. I knew there were things I did not understand about what was going on, but having it explained to me makes me feel slightly stupid.

Details: I solved all the D’ni puzzles first, opening all four doors into Direbo before venturing far into any of the ages. This gave me some flexibility, and I tackled Tahgira and Laki’ahn first; I solved them in relatively short order, and checking against the strategy guide shows I didn’t miss anything important.

Then I spent about two weeks beating my head against Todelmer. I finally started to make more progress, and then beat it, but it turns out I didn’t understand what I was doing. I had looked throughout the entire age, and finally noticed something in the telescope I had never seen before, but it never occurred to me that there was a reason I had never seen it before. I just assumed I hadn’t looked carefully enough. And because of the order I had done things in, I missed the significance of the next clue too, because I had already applied it. And I completely misunderstood what the Bahro sign told them to do, because it happened to work out right for me. So I made it to the Keep. But it turns out that you can get there by clicking around for a week or two rather than understanding what’s going on.

I had a similar problem, if in reverse, with Noloben, which I also spent about two weeks at with my head against a wall. I actually did solve all the puzzles here, but not the right way. One of the things you’re supposed to do is use the rain and the symbols on the wall as a clue to opening Gesh’s sanctuary. Turns out you don’t need to. You can solve it by trial and error without too much trouble, and that’s what I did. So I got stuck, because I assumed there must be something I was supposed to do with the rain, and the symbols on the wall, and the windows into the laboratory, and so it never occurred to me that I should just ignore them and look elsewhere, because they were clues to a puzzle I had already solved. I finally stumbled upon the real solution to the final puzzle of the age, and finished the game.

The other thing about reading the strategy guide that annoyed me were the constant references to Uru, which I’ve never played, since it was never released for the Mac. It appears I missed large chunks of the Myst storyline because of that (also because I haven’t read the novels, but that doesn’t bother me as much). Apparently if I’d played Uru, I would have understood more about Yeesha and her story, and perhaps the ending would have been more poignant.

The end of Myst V bothered me too. It seemed a little hastily put together. I picked the wrong ending at first, although I pretty much knew that it was the wrong thing to do; I just decided to do it and see what happened. In the Making of Myst V DVD that comes with the “Limited Edition” version of the game, the creators talk excitedly about how great it was that the player gets to make a choice in the end, and how they get to control the fate of the world. That seemed amazingly overblown to me; it’s just a game, and the choice you make is no more interesting than any of the previous Myst series. If anything, it seemed a little more forced.

In general, the game seemed rushed, and there were a number of small flaws. I already wrote about how I wasn’t quite sure about the gameplay, but it also seemed like there was the occasional missing link to the story or puzzle. For example, in Noloben, it’s possible to arrange the stone tunnels such that you can walk into sheer black walls, where they seemingly forgot to put a 3D texture. There should be rock there, but instead it’s just black. My guess is that it didn’t occur to them that someone would try to solve the puzzle physically, rather than as a combination lock, or they would have made it more difficult to solve that way, but you can find holes in the map if you do it that way. Also, I was able to discern four different possible ways I should have been able to finish the story, but the game only has three endings, and when I tried to do my fourth version, it assumed I had done one of the others, even though I hadn’t.

Overall, though, I’m happy with the game. I was able to finish it without looking in the strategy guide, which makes me happy, and it kept me entertained for well over a month, and that makes it worthwhile.

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