The Myst franchise is dead. Myst V: End of Ages had majestically ended one of the most famous series in the history of video games. One who, with almost every title, had the goal to revolutionize both the adventure genre in particular and computer games in general.
The first Myst game came out in 1993, at a time when computer games were just beginning to experiment and it soon proved that the medium had the potential of being more than mindless entertainment. Myst showed that by appropriately mixing the story, gameplay, graphics and sound, the player could be immersed in a fascinating and fantastical world. The game also proved that games aren’t just for kids, but rather, they can provide a good intellectual challenge for grown-ups too.
Finally, Myst also revolutionized computer hardware, because it was the first game to be released on CD-ROM, and proved that a lot of money can be made from the gaming industry (being, until The Sims, the highest grossing computer game ever). Sadly, after releasing five games that were received less and less enthusiastically, Cyan Worlds announced that the Myst saga has finally came to an end. It is something worthy of respect, though, that the developers have decided to give the story a fitting conclusion, rather than abandoning it like many have done before them.
Anyway, the disappearance of the Myst franchise will not make the subject of this review. Thanks to the newly opened “RePlay” section on the site, I now have the opportunity to take a look at an older game, one that was released by Cyan at the height of their success: Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. At first glance it might look pretty foolish to review a game that was released four years ago, but Uru was in many aspects ahead of its time. Except for a handful of titles that were released in the following years, it’s safe to say that no game developer took any more major steps towards revitalizing the adventure genre.
As was the case with the first two games in the series (Myst III: Exile was made by a different company), Uru makes a very good example of Cyan’s strive for innovation. Because of this, Uru is quite different from other adventure games, and even from games in its own series.
The most important addition to the adventure genre was Uru’s multiplayer mode, titled Uru: Live. I think that every adventure fan can recall times when he and a couple of his friends were sitting for hours on end in front of a game, banging their brains trying to solve the next difficult puzzle. Uru: Live would have been a subscription based MMOG, based on the same principle: players would have had the ability to solve puzzles by means of cooperation, and in some cases that was the only way to get past certain challenges. An interesting concept in theory, but once applied in the game it didn’t provide the expected success and as a result was canceled shortly after its release due to lack of subscribers.
As of the first quarter of 2007, the multiplayer aspect has resurfaced, with limited release in the USA and Canada, but a bit more successful than the first time. I have to admit that I am a bit skeptical regarding the success of such a multiplayer. I just don’t think that the adventure genre would feel at home in a MMOG format. Of course, I haven’t been able to actually play Uru: Live, so momentarily I’m only assuming that’s the case.