Myst Online: Uru Live seems to be one game that not only continually gets the proverbial shaft, but also knows how to come back from the dead better than the Scourge of the Eastern Plaguelands. Ubisoft canned it, Cyan Worlds brought it back via a shard system in "Until Uru", GameTap brought it back officially, GameTap canned it after one season, and now Cyan Worlds is once again attempting to put life back into their only online Myst game thanks to the extremely active and vocal community.
Mike Fahey over at Kotaku might think Uru should die already, but this blogger is currently squealing in glee in his computer chair. In an attempt to pass the glee on to you, loyal readers of Massively.com, I've compiled not only what Myst Online: Uru Live is all about, but why you should turn your attention to this massive online adventure game.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Myst line of games, let me give you a brief rundown of what's going on. Under the surface of the Earth lies the ruined civilization of a culture known as the D'ni (pronounced dun-NEE), a race that possessed the god-like power to create their own worlds through an advanced form of writing books known as "the Art." These books, when completed, do not show words but instead an incredibly life-like picture of the place they "link" to. Placing your hand on the image teleports the user to the newly created world, called an "age" by the D'ni people.
The current D'ni culture, however, is extinct except for a few small exceptions. What's currently going on down in the D'ni caverns is a restoration effort spearheaded by normal people, like you and I. The goal of the project is to investigate the D'ni culture and rebuilt what has been lost to the decay of time. Of course, this leads to puzzles and adventure fun for anyone who joins in the restoration effort and aids in exploring these great and amazing "ages" of D'ni.
So what's this "Myst" then, you ask? Shouldn't it be called "D'ni?" Myst Island is the setting of the original "Myst" game, and home to some of those D'ni exceptions I mentioned earlier. It is a world that has been written by a member of the D'ni culture, and the original contact point between our world and the caverns of D'ni. Only a limited area of Myst Island is available in Myst Online: Uru Live, as the focus of the game is on the entire D'ni culture, and not just Myst Island.
With all of that out of the way, let's get down to the meat of things. Why do you need to play this game?
- Amazing, well created, vivid worlds with lush graphics - They keep telling me that this game was made back in 2003, but these graphics have withstood the test of time. The DIRT engine (D'ni In Real Time) was made in house by Cyan Worlds to reflect the vast beauty of the many ages of D'ni. But it's not just the graphics that make this game look so good, it's the creativity of Cyan itself. The many ages have unique artifacts that you just aren't going to find anywhere else and puzzles are woven within the very fabric of everything around you. The worlds really do feel alive with a variety of wildlife noises, motion, and dream-like visuals. Plus, each age has its own unique feel and look, making them easily distinguishable from one another. You could be in a more alien technological age in one moment, and then in a cold, hard, prison age the next. Try that one on for size, high fantasy ripoffs.
- A die-hard, active, and extremely social community - I commented in one of my other articles about the lack of sportsmanship in online worlds and a rise in inappopriate behavior by players on a universal level. However, Uru Live has almost zero of that style of gameplay. What you get with this game is a community full of people who will welcome you with open arms and be extremely glad to get you started with the game. Trust me, I went from complete Myst newbie to understanding basic D'ni language with their help. They throw events, they throw parties, they're active and social, and above all they're friendly. They're also willing to help you out with the puzzles and lore of the game without revealing spoilers unless you want them because they know how critical the puzzles are to the game. You really can't ask for more. But speaking of the D'ni language...
- Lore so fleshed out they wrote a book about it - And not just one book either, we're talking three books in addition to the five single-player games. The D'ni culture is truly just that -- an entire culture. They have a spoken and written language, unique alphabet, unique method of time keeping based on the lake in the Cavern, hiearchial society, traditions, marked holidays and full history. Plus, the community is extremely invested in not only deciphering these many aspects of D'ni, but also upholding them. When you play Myst Online, you play an entirely new world.
- Progress based on skill and without levels - Myst is not about battles or about killing your opponents. Myst is about thought, cooperation and the passion of exploration. There are no stats, no levels, and no marked way to lord anything over the other users. But that doesn't mean Myst is devoid of a sense of progression or a way to mark where you have been! Going through the ages allows you to gather new pieces of clothing to wear and new pages to insert into your Relto book so you can add on to your home island with things like rain, waterfalls, butterflies and more. Plus, if you can complete one of the ages, you'll get a piece of a stone ring that will sit like a trophy rack in your home island. Of course, completing ages brings about one of the best gifts -- more ages to explore and more beauty to behold.
- "Easy to learn, difficult to master" - One of my favorite parts of Myst is that anyone can play it, gamer and non-gamer alike. The interface is just your standard point and click interface for the most part. Most of the communication, however, lies in the KI bracelet that you wear around your hand. The KI is a puzzle in itself, hiding all of the functionality behind pictures and D'ni symbols. It's a bit clumsy to use at first, but once you get into the mindset of the culture it becomes pretty easy to use. Also, when other people watch you play the game, you'll look amazingly intelligent for being able to decipher something that looks really complicated.
- Voice chat with people who won't scream about chocolate milk in your ear (link NSFW) - Myst is also one of the few MMOs to utilize voice chat, and one of the very few that also utilizes sound distance, directionality, and maximum range. The voice chat quality is pretty high and you'll be able to talk with everyone within earshot of you, which can be upwards of 90 people at once. There is some lag to deal with in this regard, but it's a small price to pay in the overall scheme of things. As a bonus, the people on Myst don't abuse voice chat like your standard Xbox Live gamer (NSFW).
If you can't wait for Cyan Worlds to open the doors to the cavern once again, you can always communicate with the players at the Myst Online forums and hear what they have to say about the game. Otherwise, shorah for now readers. Gorvehn boyihm shehm.