By Thomas McDonald
The first words of this column, written almost 10 years ago, were the undeniably childish (albeit accurate) “I hate Myst.” Myst was an anti-game, a desiccated husk of an imaginary world peppered with puzzles that only grew in tedium the further you traveled. Levers and buttons and switches, oh my!
Well, a decade or so later, Myst finally comes to an end with Myst V: End of Ages, and I needed to see if maturity had done anything to mellow my feelings about this spawn of the brothers Miller. The answer is a definitive “sorta.”
Despite the mighty efforts of team Cyan, reams of text, and oceans of dialog (all well-voiced), I still feel no connection to these humorless, mopey, unappealing characters and their problems. End of Ages is loaded with the sort of overripe text that defines the series: “What is a stranger? Someone who is not me? Yet sometimes I feel like a stranger to myself.”
This is simple sub-Robert Jordan wankery: low-level freshman English comp with pretensions of profundity. As a passing bit of narrative/character backfilling, it would be merely something to dismiss on the way to the next bit of lever/button/switch twiddling. The problem is, the entire game—indeed the entire series—is permeated with this grim portentousness. It’s a particular style of fantasy narrative that many readers (and gamers) adore, but which leaves me utterly cold, and it partly explains why this series has never clicked with me.
And yet… there is a real sense of imagination at work here. While the narrative and gameplay sensibilities of the Millers hold little appeal for me, the visual style and grand sense of the fantastic is mightily impressive. Myst’s worlds—dark and empty as they always are—display a tremendous amount of invention. World-building is no easy matter, and an entire landscape with such wondrous places and clever touches is a tremendous achievement. Cyan always delivers the eye-candy, and a wholly 3D Myst world is an amazing place to explore. Too bad I’ve never felt there was a good reason to explore it.