When I looked at the ads for Myst IV, I saw another entry in the Myst universe, not written using the Uru 3D engine, which meant no more jumping and running. How could I not be drooling over this game? I suppose that Uru should have given me a hint or two about the current directions in game design for the Myst universe. I enjoyed the continuation of the Myst story, but this game was a mixed experience for both me and my wife.
Graphics (quality, animations, cut scenes)
This is an easy description. Myst IV has the best graphics of any game I have ever played (or seen). The graphics are stunning and realistic, and the entire game feels alive. Light levels change due to cloud movement, tree branches move in the wind, birds and insects fly around you, and the wildlife notices you and interacts with you (usually to run away).
It really doesn't get any better than this.
Sound (music, voices, special effects)
Revelation took sound effects to a new level with this game. The interaction cursor is a hand, and you can tap on any surface within reach. Hot spots do hot-spot things, but all other surfaces elicit a sound when tapped, and the sound is always something that matched the material. Crystals clinked, wood thunked, metal clanked, and so on.
The music was good, although not up to the sheer wonder of the original Myst game. They even included a vocal piece by Peter Gabriel, who also did some of the voice work.
Voice acting was good throughout, with the only weak spot being Yeesha. The girl's voice was rather monotone and under-acted, but I suppose it must be really hard to find a ten year old who can act very well.
The only jarring note was the sound of your character's footsteps. I really don't make that much noise when I walk, and I really think they should have been eliminated or reduced in volume.
Story (plot, theme, depth)
As usual, I will decline to describe much of the plot in the game. The game's plot is more explicit than that of the original Myst, but there are long stretches of the game where you learn about the story from people's journals and personal belongings. I found the story to be complex enough to keep me interested and complete enough to be satisfying. If nothing else, I learned more about Yeesha when she was a child (she was weird even when younger).
Characters (depth, development, interaction)
Your interaction with the various characters is minimal, and anything you learn about the characters is through reading their journals, rooting through their personal belongings, listening to flashbacks, and watching them in a few FMV sequences. I must say that it all worked for me: I may not have gotten to really know them, but I at least learned enough for the purposes of the game.
Puzzles (difficulty, uniqueness, suitability, ugliness, linearity)
This is where the game went downhill in a hurry.
Myst 4 throws timed sequences at you in several places, and some of them are darned hard—hard enough that the manufacturer felt obligated to slow one of them down when they issued a patch. The timed sequences are truly pointless and infuriating.
If timed puzzles weren't bad enough, the game designers did what I can only call "cheating". Many clues and puzzles were intentionally vague or misdirecting, which sometimes forced me to try multiple possible solutions, even though I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I had all of the relevant information sitting in front of me. For example, one puzzle involved crstal shapes, and the designers appeared to have intentionally made two of the crystals look very much alike. Identifying the correct crystal was an exercise in frustration, when I felt it should have been an exercise in brain power alone. The puzzles were difficult enough without the intentional misdirection and vagueness inserted by the game's designers.
I will also accuse the game of containing mazes. Not because there were lots of passages that all looked alike, but because several of the worlds visited had many, many curved paths, all of them with very similar looking surroundings. This was an easy game in which to get lost.
Most puzzles are well integrated with the story and the environment, but there are some number of them that are just dropped in place to block your progress; they have no correlation or integration with the game in any way.
Controls (user interface)
First the good news: the game had a good set of options, including gamma, brightness, and contrast controls. You could also control screen resolution, as well as various other settings that allowed you to run the game on a slower machine and video card.
The cursor was an animated hand, and it would indicate hot spots or possible close up views by changing shape. The problem was with the speed of this animation: it was so slow that I would see some cursor shape change when it was halfway across the screen from the actual hot spot. This slow cursor resulted in you slooowwwly moving your cursor around the screen. Not a good design.
The control panel where you chose options, save game, load gane, etc., was driven 100% by mystery meat navigation. What you see is a disk with about 8 buttons on it, none of them labelled. You had to hover your cursor over the button before it would display what was hidden behind that button. More poor design.
Bugs or problems
There were no subtitles available. There was a menu option to turn them on, but it indicated that only the Dutch language was available. Even that was a lie—you couldn't turn the subtitles on, even in Dutch.
I had no other problems on my machine (XP Pro, ATI AIW 9600 video card, AMD CPU, 512 Mb RAM).
Make sure you have a lot of disk space available. The package indicates that you will need three gigabytes of disk space, but that is for the minimal installation only. I recommend you choose the maximum installation option to eliminate pauses and delays while the game loads a lot of data from your DVD drive. The maximum install option will require over eight gigabytes of free disk space, but the only time it looks at the DVD is at game startup, when it does the copy protection check.
On XP, Myst 4 installs a Safedisc device driver on your machine, and does not uninstall the damn thing. Uninstalling it from the device manager doesn't work—it just reinstalls itself the next time you boot.
To see if you have been "infected":
- Right click My Computer and select properties
- Select Hardware tab
- Click on Device Manager button
- Select View Hidden Devices from the View menu
- Expand Non-Lug and Play Drivers section
- Look for secdrv device driver
- Right click secdrv device driver and select uninstall
- Do NOT reboot when asked
- Delete the file WINDOWS\system32\drivers\SECDRV.SYS
- Now you can reboot
It took me a while to find my saved games (not in the game folder, but under My Documents)
- Outstanding graphics, animations, and video sequences
- Great sound effects and music
- Safedisc copy protection driver not uninstalled
- Timed sequences
- Intentional misdirection and vague clues
- Mystery meat navigation
- Cursor animation was far too slow
- No subtitles
Myst IV: Revelation is a game that I will recommend, but with warnings attached. It's immersive, graphically stunning, has a good story, and some really good puzzles. But (and it's a big but), it can be a damned frustrating game at times, sometimes to the point of completely ruining your gaming experience.
This article copyright © 2004, Murray Peterson