Rating: 8/10 - A solid, satisfying adventure game
(My Myst series reviews: realMyst, Riven, Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation, Myst V: End of Ages)
With the runaway success of Myst, Riven was created. Armed with piles of money they graphics quality was radically increased.
Set seemingly immediately after Myst, your new friend Atrus asks for help. It seems his father, Gehn was dangerous. So Atrus trapped his father on the Age (an alternate dimension or world) of Riven. Unfortunately Atrus's wife, Catherine, is also trapped there. Atrus cannot go himself, so he asks you to trap his father in a prison book so the way to Riven can be reopened.
So you head to Riven to tangle with Gehn. Unfortunately Gehn has controlled Riven for a long time, so it isn't easy.
Unlike Myst, Riven is full of people. Mostly you only see people at a distance, but it is clear that the land is populated. You even directly interact with two characters. As a result Riven lacks the dreamlike state of Myst. Instead you are exploring a very strange but living land.
Like the original Myst Riven represents the world with static images that you move between. However Riven's images are high resolution, 24-bit color. They are rendered from high quality models. Simple effects makes water appear to ripple and provides for minor effects like insects buzzing around. There are many, many images, so movement from one point to another is always clear. For some sequences there are full screen videos showing your motion. As a result, with one exception, it's always clear where you are and how you got there. The game still looks great after all of these years.
At the time the game was a big of a bear to play. All of those images required 5 CDs. CD drives were slow, and you had to swap disks frequently. Fortunately you can simply copy all of the disks onto a modern hard drive. Off of a hard drive the transitions are quick and pleasant.
Gameplay is similar to the original Myst: you are in a strange land and must puzzle out the strange artifacts to stop Gehn and find Catherine. Most of the puzzles again feel well integrated; while they are strange they feel plausible.
The game really only provides a single Age to explore, although you see small bits of another. While the single Age is beautiful, it is a bit of a shame after the fun of exploring such different places in Myst.
The endings are again strong, with both the happy and sad ones providing acceptable conclusions.
Despite all of the immersive graphics, Riven somehow lacks the emotional involvement Myst provided. Perhaps it's the lack of a dreamlike state. Still, it looks great and the game play is fun. It has aged extremely well. I highly recommended it to fans of puzzle and adventure game.
(My Myst series reviews: realMyst, Riven, Myst III: Exile, Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation, Myst V: End of Ages)