A few weeks ago I saw that Cyan Worlds had put up a Kickstarter campaign for a 25th Anniversary Collection of Myst, a series of games I adore but because of limitations, mostly incompatibility with modern systems and being unavailable for purchase, haven’t been able to play as much as I’ve wanted to, with some titles in the series completely out of my reach.
Needless to say, I jumped at the chance and spent a ludicrous amount of money on the project, going for the next to last tier, “Writer,” which will nab me the digital and physical copies of the games and a Myst Book Box, which along with the rest of the rewards I’m hoping will be freaking cool.
With the Kickstarter about to end and excited at the thought of finally being able to go through these games without anything getting in my way, I thought it would be cool to talk about the games I’ve played in the past that have evoked memories of my experiences with Myst. In other words, I wanna talk about my favourite Myst-like games.
But what makes an adventure video game “Myst-like?” Well, for me it’s this:
- The game is primarily about puzzle solving and exploration.
- There is a plot, and it might be of such profound spiritual, intellectual or metaphysical meaning that it stands out and apart from what other developers and storytellers dare to even attempt, but it’s told in fragments, be it text, voice or images, but without depending on lengthy exposition cutscenes.
- The puzzles will be a combination of inventory and logic, the latter involving spatial awareness, math, rhythm, sound and music and much more. They’re gonna be tough as hell, but the clues will be good enough so you’re not just lost.
With those rules in mind, let’s talk about the best Myst-like games, in no particular order:
Quern – Undying Thoughts: This is my latest obsession a game I found in my Steam library, purchased during a sale or one of those moments when I scour the store looking for games of a given genre. Metroidvania and Point & Click adventures are my usual targets.
Much like Myst, the main character suddenly appears in a mysterious land with letters from a benefactor telling him bits of the story but never anything conclusive. On this land, Quern, time doesn’t move so it’s always noon, and people there don’t need to eat or sleep. Your benefactor not only left letters but also challenges to test your mettle and pace your progress through the land, as they hope in doing so you will understand the meaning of the journey.
I haven’t finished the game and so don’t know what the resolution of the story is, but I’ve been addicted to it. The puzzles are phenomenal, and between the beautiful visuals, phenomenal music and the myriad of environmental clues to puzzle and plot alike, it’s a wonderful experience I’ll be sad to finish.
The Room: I discovered The Room only a few years ago, finding the first game in the series when I played the demo for the third one at Rezzed. I devoured the first two titles in a single evening, and not because they were easy, but because I couldn’t let them go.
The room combines Myst with Lovecraftian entities and dangerous experiments pushing the limits of science and world-ending cults. The games revolve around the pursuit of the Null Element, which alters time and space and makes the puzzle boxes and bizarre constructions found in The Room games possible. But inevitably, the presence and hunt for the elements drives people mad.
The first three games followed the same character, driven in his pursuit by notes left by an acquaintance, much like other Myst-like game protagonists do. The first title had just puzzle boxes of increasing complexity. The second added travels through ever expansive rooms. The third added a hub that led to multiple other worlds and rooms and the latest takes place within the confines of a Doll House, its various rooms holding strange mysteries and the story of the couple living within.
They are all phenomenal and the latest one, The Room: Old Sins opens the in amazing ways with its ending. I can’t wait for the next title in the series!
The Talos Principle: The Talos Principle left me speechless when I played it. Of every game in this list, this was the one that hit me the hardest, emotionally speaking. Much like every other, part of the experience is finding out what happened to the world and what the character’s purpose is.
The thing is, one thing that is clear immediately in The Talos Principle, is that the character exists in something of a virtual environment, the doors and information not only locked behind gates but with an overlord forbidding access to them and creating a narrative for the denizens of this digital landscape with a heavy religious focus, where the entity is essentially their god and he can destroy them should they disobey him.
The puzzles are amazing, based on physics and pure logic, using different tools to often create something of a choreography of effects and puzzle triggers, such as pressing a button that activates a fan to propel a laser beam receptor crystal into the air where it might link two other projectors and stay aloft for just enough time for you to cross the gate and collect your prize.
But the true wonders of The Talos Principle are the intensely emotional human stories you witness and read about in your journey for the truth.
Obduction: Ok, this is an easy one as it’s developed by Cyan Worlds. But it deserves the spot on the list. It’s a wonderful experience that manages to even bring back FMV characters and make them look good.
In obduction your character suddenly appears in a small town covered by a dome of energy. The dome is impenetrable and touching it merely shunts the character to another part of the contained town.
Much like Myst this town is merely the starting point and hub, as you’ll soon find the way to crack open the dimensional doors and explore worlds beyond, each holding but a fragment of the story, with the truths about the plot and the worlds hidden both carefully and astutely.
Something I loved of this game is how the teleportation works. When using the devices that send you to another world, it doesn’t just transport you but a chunk of the terrain around you, meaning that in some cases, teleporting the correct landscape is part of the puzzle, as it will open a path previously impossible to traverse.
Ether One: This is a game I played after hearing an acquaintance speak about it. It puts you in the shoes of a man jumping into the memories of a psychiatric patient, going through their memories, finding clues and helping them overcome their condition by solving puzzles, these tied to the missing pieces of their mind, presented mostly as missing information. The person worked at a power plant but when you reach the schedule it’s empty, or when you look upon the board with the coal load limits, some of the values might be missing.
By filling in the details you see echoes of the past that teach you not only of the character’s life but of the town where they lived, their existence tied to the condition the character is suffering from. Ether One is a profound journey through the human psyche. It’s complex, and as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking.
Lake Ridden: Would you believe me I’ve spent the entire night playing this game? I had a bit of a long siesta yesterday, couldn’t sleep and so set myself to the task of playing Lake Ridden, a game I had only a few moments with during EGX Rezzed.
In Lake Ridden, your character, Marie is out camping with her sister when she wakes up to find her missing. Rushing after her she becomes lost in the woods and comes across an abandoned estate, with the clues leading her ever deeper into the property, encountering the many ghosts and apparitions left in the manor. The ghosts aren’t harmful and for the most part they just offer a few words to Marie and attempt to guide her—or manipulate her.
But though there are such characters along the way, you are mostly on your own and the story is there for you to find in notes, some of them hidden inside complex puzzle boxes. I’ve yet to finish it but I’m already loving it.