High Programmer > Alan De Smet > Rants > Reviews > Video Game Reviews > Myst V: End of Ages

Myst V: End of Ages

Rating: 5/10 - A mediocre, hamfisted game that seems disconnected from the rest of this noble series.
Platform: PC

(My Myst series reviews: realMyst, Riven, Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation, Myst V: End of Ages)

How did such a noble series fall so low? This game is so flawed that it seems unrelated to the Myst games before it.

You find yourself back in the Ages. There is a powerful magical stone. Atrus's daughter Yeesha wants you to claim it and absolutely not give it to her. Another man, Esher wants you to claim it and absolutely not give it to her. There is a highly artificial trial you must undertake to claim the stone.

One real innovation is the Slate. The Slate is a large heavy stone you can carry about. It's heavy, so you can't climb ladders with it. You can write upon it, or erase what you have written. There is a strange teleporting race, the Bahro that obeys commands written in their strange symbolic language upon the Slate. A number of puzzles involve finding Slate symbols or sending commands to the Bahro. Having a concrete item you carry about is a big change in the Myst series, but it's a good addition and fun.

Beyond the Slate, the game is all downhill. First, what happened to Yeesha? In the previous game Yeesha was a sharp little girl. Now she's a mopey, unpleasant emo girl. It doesn't suit her.

As with previous games you spend a great deal of time reading journals to learn the situation. Unfortunately in this game you're almost exclusively reading Yeesha's fragmented journal. Instead of just telling you what you need to know, she tells you to look for her journal. And Yeesha's journal is exactly what you'd expect from a moody teenager. It's full of whining, bad poetry, an overinflated ego, and it talks around the situation. Yeesha's journal is absolutely terrible. Instead of an opportunity to learn more fascinating details about the world, I viewed it as a chore I had to do.

As for Esher, he's just a smug jerk. The previous Myst games all emphasized your loneliness. All had some human interaction, but the majority of your time was alone. I spent this game wishing for some peace and quiet. In this game you can't go twenty minutes without Esher teleporting in, offering clues to the next puzzle, and teleporting out. That he's a smarmy git makes it all the worse. He's supposed to be one of the last D'ni survivors of the fall of their civilization. If he's a reasonable representative of the D'ni, I'm glad their civilization fell.

Now both Yeesha and Esher want me to claim the stone. They both know exactly what I have to do. So why do they both pointlessly speak in riddles? As a result they both come across as dicks. In the previous four games I wanted to help. In this game I wanted to tell Yeesha and Esher, "Screw you idiots" and abandon them. Bizarrely, just abandoning them would be a plausibly good ending, but the game won't let you.

Throughout the previous four games transportation between Ages has been limited to linking books. A key limitation of linking books is that you can't take the book with you, requiring planning. Apparently Yeesha and Esher are now working for Starfleet circa the Next Generation, since they can teleport around with a tap of their chests. Naturally the jerks don't offer to share their power.

Graphically the Myst series has always gotten better and better. End of Ages takes a decided step backward. The game uses a full 3d engine. While the freedom of movement is nice, it's not worth the necessary drop in quality. The extremely realistic environments of Revelation are gone, replaced with relatively generic worlds I might see in any other modern game.

The Ages you explore are all linked to a central Age, making it easy to hop between Ages you've already visited. This seems like a good idea, but the linking books in the central age are separated by waist high cattle gates. Sadly the protagonist is unable to climb over such a measely gate, so you'll spend a bunch of your time needlessly solving puzzles to access the later portions.

End of Ages kept the camera from Revelation, but managed to trash it. Instead of saves you have photos, which is an interesting idea. The photos are kept in a journal in which you can also type notes, which is a good idea. However the photos are relatively small, and you can't zoom in on them. As a result the photographs are nearly useless for keeping notes. This is a decided regression from Revelation.

Since you spend so much of the game listening to Esher, the game provides a journal of all of his dialog. It's a good idea, but with bafflingly poor interface. The text is broken into short lines, each centered. There is needless space between the lines, so even short conversations take several pages. This might be okay, except that turning pages is ponderously slow. The text itself is small and hard to read.

Finally, Esher seems perfectly able to accomplish the quest on his own, and he will get what he wants. He clearly knows what needs to be done. At one point the only puzzle is one that he himself set up. So why doesn't he do it? I end up feeling like a pawn. A pawn in a really, really stupid game.

In the end the game does offer an interesting and non-obvious happy ending. But it can't correct for the previous flaws. I do not recommend End of Ages for anyone but die hard completionists.

(My Myst series reviews: realMyst, Riven, Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation, Myst V: End of Ages)

Update 2009-01-05: Typo fix.

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