Riven: The Sequel to Myst
Platform: PC
Publisher: Red Orb Entertainment
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Format: CD-ROM (5), DVD-ROM (1)
Released: US 10/29/97

Graphics: 92%
Sound: 85%
Gameplay: 80%
Control: 85%
Story: 80%
Overall: 86%
Reviews Grading Scale
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How do I reach the dome in the distance?
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Not an entirely still image; bugs crawl on the foliage in this area.
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The Moiety.
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This game would have been quite different if you could actually enter those huts and talk to people.
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Patrick Gann
Riven: The Sequel to Myst
Patrick Gann

I was never one for PC gaming, but when it came to this series, I couldn't resist. It was over a decade ago that I placed my preorder for this game at the local game store, with feverish levels of anticipation regarding the sequel to one of my favorite games.

Perhaps at the time, the Miller brothers didn't realize they would be dragging this series out into five installments, since they entitled the second game "Riven: The Sequel to Myst" instead of something easy like "Myst II: Riven." Whatever the case, I happily received my five-disc point-and-click adventure (later released in a single DVD), and got right to playing.

And then I got stuck. A lot.


The gameplay in Riven, like many point-and-click adventures, comes down to two things: exploration and puzzle-solving. A notepad by your side, along with a keen eye and an excellent memory, are your tools for conquering the game. Unfortunately for me, I was only 13 and I had no idea what I was doing. They even added a couple of randomly generated numbers in this game so you couldn't just memorize and move ahead, nor could you rely on simple walkthroughs to send you from start to finish.

Riven is much bigger than Myst, and as far as puzzles are concerned, the puzzles in Riven "grew up." Much like the graphics, this world's innovative puzzles matured, perhaps to a point that was beyond me. Playing through the game again, a decade later, I am certainly able to navigate my way through the five islands without any major hitches. Even then, however, it was important to save often, since the multiple endings including some really bad endings if you committed a "sin of omission" along the way. Be sure to dot your i's and cross your t's along the way.


At the end of Myst, Atrus tells you that his vanquished foes are small potatoes compared to the big fish to fry: Atrus' own father, Gehn. At Riven's opening, which leaves in that same room in D'ni as when Myst ended, you learn even more. Gehn taught Atrus how to do the whole "write books to create worlds" thing, but Gehn became a tight-fisted megalomaniac with a God complex bigger than the entirety of Riven. To make matters worse, Atrus' wife Catherine is being held captive by Gehn. There's a rebel group of individuals, hidden from the world of Riven (in their own separate Age), who would like to see Gehn removed from power. And so, Atrus sends you to take care of business.

Like Myst, much of the plot is told, not through people, but through objects. However, in Riven, there is more direct interaction with people. While some have argued that this kills what made Myst so great, the character interactions are sparse enough that the feeling of isolation in your exploration still pervades. The one fault with this game, as compared to Myst, is that from start to finish you know exactly what your mission is, and this mission never changes. There are no twists, and you know everything you need to know from the first minute. The "learning" aspect comes from reading books and observing the five islands of Riven.


Unlike Myst, which had a nice balance of color, Riven is dominated by blue and gray. Why blue? Beautiful skies, and five islands surrounded by an ocean...that brings a lot of blue to the screen. As for gray, much of the islands are made of stone and sand, so the light, earth-toned grays dominate. Fortunately, even with a more limited color spectrum, the rendering is superb. Granted, these were still images (with many embedded movies to bring some life to the screen), but there were over 5000 images made for this game, and they are all breathtaking. To put it in proper scope, we still do not have a game that can render real-time images as life-like as what we find in Riven. If you can be satisfied with exploring still images in a point-and-click adventure, Riven is still one of the most beautiful games of the genre.

Alongside the "embedded" movies, there are also over a dozen full-screen movies for character interaction, transport sequences, and other little surprises. This adds a lot to the game, and I appreciate it just as much now as I did when I first played it.


Robyn Miller, co-founder of Cyan Worlds (alongside his brother Rand Miller), came back to score the music to Riven. While I personally find more interesting music in Myst, Riven holds to the same atmospheric, minimalist tones, with a stronger emphasis on "native" ethnic percussion and woodwinds. It's an enjoyable soundtrack, to be sure, but still not quite on par with Myst, in my opinion.


While it may not be hailed as a classic, genre-defining game, Riven was a very strong sequel, a difficult thing to do considering the widespread popularity of Myst. It's clear that the graphics in Riven are probably its greatest selling point, though the larger world and more difficult puzzles may also bring more P&C adventurers to love this game.

Riven was originally released as five CD-ROMs in 1997, but if you look for it, there is a somewhat-regularly-available "Myst 10th Anniversary" box that has the first three games (Myst, Riven, Exile) all in one set. If you've never played anything in the series before, but are willing to commit, this would be a good way to do it. I cannot imagine playing Riven without having first experienced Myst, so it's something to consider.


© 1997 Cyan Worlds, Red Orb Entertainment. All rights reserved.

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