Myst (2021 remake)
Continuing on from my previous blog, I can now give my thoughts on the recent Myst remake, following a (mostly) enjoyable playthrough. I completed the game over several days, sat at my trusty computer desk while occasionally gazing out at the rainy weather. A perfect setting for such a game.
Myst is billed as the new definitive edition, built from the ground up with new visuals, sound and interactions. The quality throughout cannot be denied – the only issue is that we have been told this before. Firstly, with Myst: Masterpiece Edition in 2000, realMyst in the same year, and realMyst: Masterpiece Edition in 2014. Each time I have happily revisited my favourite island, never once thinking – if I am honest – that it needed to be remade every five years or so.
2014’s realMyst: Masterpiece Edition is still fresh in the mind for me, with wonderful visuals true to the original game, a handy help guide, and the option to switch between the fixed ‘slideshow’ screen positions of the original game and free movement. Sadly, this year’s version of the game no longer features the fixed node option or many of the other features of the 2014 edition, which feels like a backwards step.
If I had been overseeing the project, I may have gone one step further and created the new game to have only the fixed nodes option. This would have then been a true and faithful remake of the original, with ideally rendered, high-quality scenes, without the usual graphical drawbacks of motion blur, juddering sprites, and everything else associated with moving around in a game. The trouble with 3D graphics is that they usually become dated very quickly, much like CGI in films. With fixed rendered images – much like films shot on analogue cameras without added CGI – there is a timeless quality that lasts. Now, one has to wonder how many years it will be before another Myst remake is announced to upgrade the current version, in an endless loop.
Another huge issue soon becomes apparent when I enter the library and ‘fire up’ the red and blue books. I expected to see the reassuringly suave Sirrus and insane Achenar attempting (very badly) to convince me of their innocence and wrongful imprisonment on the forgotten island. Instead, I am met with awful CGI recreations that looked like they belong to a mid-2000s game. This is unforgivable. Apparently the DEVS said it was not possible to use the old QuickTime videos with the new VR technology, however within an hour of release, someone on Steam had already provided simple instructions on how to restore these with ease.
Very strange. I understand that these low-res videos are problematic the longer time passes, however they worked perfectly in the 2014 edition, with a few scenes of Atrus being shot again to tidy matters up. The key difference being that everything still felt real. Actors have been a staple throughout the series and one of the most immersive elements of the story. Why take that away? The game also removes the changing weather and the bonus age at the end, first brought in for realMyst. This is another backwards step.
But does the game have any redeeming features? Of course! There are many. Most obvious of all is the visuals. What can I say, other than that Myst island and it’s hidden ages have never looked this beautiful. As someone who knows the puzzles backwards (even with the new puzzle randomisation option), I could have completed the game in an hour or so, however I chose to play for over six hours, most of which was spent exploring and gazing at the incredible detail throughout. I thoroughly recommend taking a moment to enjoy the sun setting over the Stoneship age, or marveling at the Channelwood age’s bubbling swamp and the leaves on the trees. The sound and music were also as atmospheric as always. From the wind buffeting your face on the shores of Myst island, to the hum of Jules Vernian technology below the ground in the Selenitic age, there can be no denying the care and attention taken.
So, should you play the game? Absolutely, for both new and returning players, this is the best-looking version yet. However, returning the original FMV files to the game is essential. Do a quick search on google once you have downloaded the game and follow the instructions, you will not regret it. For me, all the new visuals in the world cannot make up for the lack of the original characters. If they had not tinkered with these, I could have stretched to a 7.2/10 on my rating. Sadly, I must review the game as it is, with the CGI monstrosities included.
But before we close, there is another question that burns unavoidably in my mind. Once I have completed the game yet again; once the sea has grown still on the shores and all is as it should be in the ages of Myst; once all the puzzles are solved and the books are whole once more, there is a simple question that cannot be avoided any longer:
WHERE IS THE RIVEN REMAKE?