Robyn Miller returned to compose the music for Myst’s breathtaking and challenging sequel, Riven. Though the soundtrack is six tracks shorter, it is also a good 12 minutes longer. This means that, on this soundtrack, one can expect for each and every song to be longer than the songs on the Myst soundtrack.
However, despite an increased variety of musical instruments used by Miller, it is my opinion that the Riven soundtrack is not as worthwhile a listen as Myst. The reason is because, despite the use of new instruments (such as marimba, some new percussive sounds, and a whole lot of string synth samples), there is a formula to nearly every song. It goes like this:
Step one: start every single song with a low drone. The effect is decent in-game; it means that no matter where you go, that low ominous drone follows you. On the soundtrack, however, it just gets boring. Let’s hear some songs without that low wail, please!
Step two: add one of the aforementioned instruments (marimba, etc.) in a simple repetitive background melody. The song has begun to build.
Step three: cut the pattern in step two, and throw in some high wailing note that bends and eventually fades. Repeat a few times.
Step four: Combine steps two and three for the climax.
Step five: slowly fade out, leaving that low drone on until the very last second of the song.
Though Myst was somewhat formulaic too, it had some variation on the formula, and there were plenty of songs that didn’t require low drones: silence was the key in Myst. In Riven’s soundtrack we find an almost complete lack of originality, and many of the songs blend using similar melodic themes. It is not until the end of the soundtrack, when we get a few decent character themes, that the album “picks up” musically.
The songs I have sampled were the most “musical” songs I could find on the album. They are enjoyable, and they produce a similar effect to the Myst soundtrack, if a little darker and at times threatening. When sleeping, resting, relaxing, etc., I much prefer the Myst soundtrack to Riven. The music was great in-game, but outside of the game, I usually get bored with the Riven soundtrack in a hurry.
Also, from Myst III onward, Robyn Miller is no longer the composer. The game’s creators chose different composers for the next few games. Perhaps Miller had simply “run dry” after creating these two incredibly ambient soundtracks.
Fans should pick up this soundtrack, but if you must choose only one, get Myst before this one. And, of course, go play the games. They are some of the best point and click adventures known to man.