In 1993, Cyan Worlds launched Myst on an unsuspecting public. The impact that followed was akin to a nuclear bomb. The sophisticated atmosphere and accessible adventure gameplay propelled Myst to become the best selling PC game of all time, a title not usurped until The Sims many years later. Since then, the proud series has experienced a gradual decline in sales and, after more that a decade, the Myst saga is drawing to a close. After sitting on the sidelines for Myst III and Myst IV, the series creators at Cyan Worlds return to finish what they started, and end the series with class.
Myst V feels like an amalgam of the three previous, Cyan-developed Myst titles (Myst, Riven, and spin-off Uru). There's a conscious effort to capture the "best" elements of each. This outing reverts back to a structure much like the original Myst. There's a basic "hub" world (or "age," as Myst calls them), that branches off into other self-contained ages that can be tackled in any order. Just as the original Myst had players collecting blue and red pages as their ultimate objective, Myst V's ages each have a stone tablet that needs to be reached. While I'm not a fan of collect-'em-ups stories, I have to say, Myst V's pacing benefits tremendously from the focus and variety of environments.
Riven, the second game in the Myst lineage, frustrated some (myself included), with its seemingly obtuse puzzles. Whereas the original, third and fourth installments each had apparent logic puzzles littered throughout -- it could only lead one to conclude that the world was built by a very bored Enro Rubik. In Myst V, puzzles require a bit more observation and exploration, and their objective is often very unclear. This rarely results in the degree of frustration suffered in Riven, however, because of the way the smaller ages are all self-contained, lending focus and direction.
Myst V also adds a new "tablet" system which has players drawing symbols on a tablet to trigger powers or teleport the tablet itself. It's a novel mechanic and used fairly well (although sometimes the game seems to have trouble recognizing what symbol has been drawn), but it doesn't drastically change the way you’ll play.
Perhaps the most talked about change in the franchise is its leap to 3D. The Myst series has always been known for its lushly detailed pre-rendered worlds, and finally technology has advanced to the point where these worlds can be done justice in real-time. Using what appears to be an updated version of the Uru engine, Myst V brings to life a fantastic world (or set of worlds) that might not reach the level of detail seen in Riven, but certainly feels fully realized. Some ages are pedestrian, but others are staggeringly beautiful, with some especially nice skylines being a highlight.