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This game was conceived by the team at Ubisoft as a finale to the Myst series of games, which show beautifully detailed backdrops, puzzles varying in difficulty, and characters that explain little gems of information to help you through the Ages of Myst to decide the fate of civilization. Compared with the presentation of the last Myst, this one actually is flawed, in that they tried to conceive an idea which was cleverer than its predecessor, without summising that 'If it aint broke, don't mend it'. The characters that were designed for this game are animated characters and less realistic than those in Revelation, and I believe this is one of the downfalls of the game. The backdrops of the different worlds of course are wonderfully colourful and innovative, and I think Ubisoft got complacent, and forgot what good value for money they gave folks with the game of Revelation, the last in the series. The characters in that game were video likenesses to human beings and very real in their interaction with you as a player. They also changed the amount of things that you, as a player, were left to puzzle out, and the manner in which you do it. In revelation, you really can do an amazing amount of snooping around on your own, and discovering what the different buttons and knobs are about, though in this game, you feel instructed by the characters of Yeesha and Esher.
Instead of the Girl next door image that Yeesha had in the last game, here we are faced with an animated 3D yeesha that looks positively anerexic and miserable, and who irritates the player into wishing she would go away, and a rather pompous and ridiculous Esher, whose clues really are limited in their worth to the player.
The object of the game is to release the tablet and save the civilisation, liberate it from the hold that keeps it stagnated. The player can save or destroy the empire by its actions.
A new game is born. It hits the supermarkets in September 2005, and gets into the charts in October of the same year. Even at Christmas, the shelves in the supermarket heralded it as the best game to buy for the Christmas period. Hitting the shops at this time, the price tag was just over 30 GBP, although the Makers had the sense to produce a budget edition when initial sales slowed down, and offered the game at just over 12.99 GBP. And so the game was born, and started to be explored by potential gamesters, and what they found was that the size of the file was every bit as hefty as the Revelation file at a staggering 4,119Mo even for the minimal installation, which takes a good quarter of an hour to install. It's a huge file and if bought online from the Ubisoft site itself, is stated to take almost three hours to download on a High speed connection.
One should also realise the specifications that Ubisoft quote both on the packaging and on their download site, since it is essential to get it right, for the best running of the program. These are shown at the bottom of the review.
When you are new to this game, it really is hard work working out what you are supposed to do. You run around different worlds like a headless chicken, not sure of what the aim of the game is, with little hints from the animated characters in the game, and from books that you pick up along the path you take. Each of the books includes a little information that will be handy, though to new players, it takes a while to get used to the layout, and accessibility of the books. The options are hidden at the top of the screen and not obvious at all. The graphics are stunning, and cunningly clever, and take you into bubbles with pedestals, where you find a slate which is used to help you communicate and interact with Bahro, who are the natives, and who will understand instructions you write onto the slates. Learning how to use them at first proves difficult, although even if you don't get the hang of it straight away, I found that taking a walk through of the first level helped me considerably to understand what I had to do. I would advise people who have never played Myst before in any of its forms to seek help with online walk throughs for the first part of the game, to give them a feel for the gameplay. The first attempts are hard for beginners to grasp, and in many ways fail to keep you interested when you get to dead ends. Here, I would strongly suggest that when you do find dead ends, the best bet is to switch off, and try it again when your frame of mind is fresher.
Remember always the aim of the game is to release the tablet and that upon completion of levels, you will get to remove one arm that holds the tablet in place, a tablet that, in the right hands, can save the Myst Ages. Walking through the first part is acceptable, though learn as you do, because the learning you do will help you to play the rest of the game on your own.
As you grow more accustomed to the gameplay, you begin to see how the puzzles work. Here, I was disappointed that the game didn't include a camera and journal to log the things that you needed to remember like the previous Myst game did. I ended up using paper and pen to list things that I thought I needed to remember, symbols that meant different things to help me communicate with the Bahro.
The worlds that open up to the player are picturesque and well worth seeing. The music is atmospheric and suits the game, and the voices of the characters a little hollow and echoey. From a field upon the top of cliffs, to the beach environment of Noloben and Laki'Ahn, to the halls and corridors of K'Veer, or the icey reception of Taghira or the top of the world at Todelmer, what you get is a wonderful journey through either the bubbles' pedestals or the travel books, and the journey is unforgettable and graphics stunning. Water shimmers in the sun, tides wash up upon shores, hollows echo, and the tasks that you find as you travel are challenging, though to my mind more encouraging to those who already know the working of Myst, and extremely difficult for those that have never played the game before. Revelation is more user friendly, has more distractions, and more features. The transitions from place to place are fast and point and click simple to understand, and the useage of levers and buttons more difficult than in Revelation, though still a joy to those who have never experienced an adventure game like this. As you progress and learn the object of the game, so it becomes more addictive and time consuming. Try experimenting, never be afraid of pressing buttons. It is all part of the learning experience, and adds an element of pleasure to your experience.
Getting accustomed to controls, to the way which takes you from one piece of the puzzle to another, and mapping your route in such a way that you can scout easily from one area to the other, experience plays a huge part in whether you will progress or not. If you find an area where nothing appears to be happening, don't be fooled. Look upwards, side ways, head on, and take your player as far as the screen will allow it to go, as there are surprises waiting around corners. Getting to know Myst games is a thrill, though this one to my mind is not the best. Revelation got it right and whilst the stunning special effects and time bubbles are amazing to view and use, travel through Revelation seemed to make more sense to me. Look for symbols in white, as these really have significance, learn to write upon your slate, and how to use the slate to instruct because it is only by learning that you progress to a fuller understanding of the mysteries of the game.
When you understand a game, can manipulate and control the destiny of its' characters, its' mechanisms and hidden puzzles, then you can finish this game. It's hard. It's not for the faint hearted, and travelling through caves, up cliffs, around fields that hide their secrets takes hours. If you were to compare this game to the likes of Syberia, which in fact the shop did where I bought it, Syberia comes off as baby play in comparison with the complexity of this game. It's good value for money, although I really would advise potential purchasers to try Revelation first, since the explanation and experience gained there helped me to play this game better. I still have a way to go, though when I get there, I shall have earned my reward with hour upon hour of play that has lasted me the last six months, and so is a lasting project that requires devotion. Age range depends upon how much you want to get out of the game, though if buying for children, it would help their enjoyment to understand more about how Myst works, and buying the previous version first.
This game is available in many forms, as cheaply as 8.00 GBP from Amazon, and as expensively as 45.00 GBP to the potential buyer that doesn't have the sense to shop around. Ubisoft's own version from their download site comes in at about 12.99 GBP, although I prefer to own the disc, rather than depending upon a download. It's a worthy game and one that will take you age upon age of hard work and logical conclusion to get to the end. Shop around, and don't give up with the game, because it's conclusion is possible, with logic applied to the puzzles, and the learning process enhanced through the different levels of thinking and understanding.
PC SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
Supported OS: Windows® 2000/XP
Processor: 800 MHz Pentium® III or AMD Athlon or equivalent (1.5 GHz Pentium IV or AMD Athlon or higher recommended)
RAM: 256 MB (512 MB recommended)
Video Card: 32 MB DirectX® 9.0c-compliant video card supporting 32-bit color (see supported list*)
Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compliant (Sound Blaster® Audigy® series recommended)
DirectX Version: DirectX 9.0c (included on disc)
DVD-ROM: 4x or faster CD-ROM drive
Hard Drive Space: 4.5 GB free
Peripherals: Mouse, keyboard
Good value gameplay, though buying the predecessor, Myst Revelation, first is a good idea, and helps the player to understand the gameplay better.
Compared to Revelation 8/10
Compared to other games on the market 9/10
Atmospheric Soundtrack 10/10
Developed by the original creators of Myst (Rand Miller and his studio at Cyan Worlds), Myst V: End of Ages improves upon a series already renowned as the pinnacle of adventure gaming.