Review – Myst (Oculus Rift)
Myst from Cyan Worlds was one of the first puzzle games I was ever fully enthralled by. I’ve played it countless times and even played it last year when realMyst: Masterpiece Edition was released on Switch and PC. At the time, I thought that was the best version of the game we’d ever see, especially since it was already almost three decades old. Yet here we are, about a year after the release of realMyst: Masterpiece Edition, with a brand-new fully revamped iteration in VR. Never one to shy away from another excuse to play Myst, I eagerly tried out this latest version. Immediately I knew that this was the way this game was meant to be played.
I find it funny (and a little embarrassing) that I didn’t see this coming. Just last year I had the pleasure of interviewing Rand Miller, the co-creator of Myst, and one of the questions I asked was if he would ever branch out into other gaming hardware, like VR. He responded: “Absolutely. VR is the most satisfying medium I can think of to get lost in another world.” So how I didn’t see Myst in VR coming is beyond me.
For those who aren’t aware of what Myst is about, here’s a simple synopsis: when picking up a strange book, a fissure opens in the ground and both you and the book fall through it. You awaken on a mysterious island, with no real information given to you as to who you are or what you’re suppose to do. Myst is all about exploration and solving puzzles, even though your efforts often result in raising more questions than answers. However, if you’re thorough enough and investigate everything the islands have to offer, then you’ll be rewarded with a troubling glimpse into what transpired on each island before your arrival.
Quite a bit has been changed from the original 1993 game, but the story remains the same. So if you’ve played Myst before, you’ll know exactly what’s coming. There is an optional mode to randomly generate the puzzles, which does mix things up a bit, but if you already know how to solve them, then this feature won’t really do much for you. At the the end of the day, this is still very much the same Myst as before.
That’s not a bad thing though, especially considering how amazing the game is in its own right. There’s a reason why Myst still has such a huge following almost thirty years after its initial release. It essentially created the exploration-based puzzle genre. It offers almost no direction whatsoever, and never holds your hand throughout your journey. This was alluring enough on a regular PC and consoles, but this new venture into VR territory was a stroke of genius.
I can honestly say that this is the best way to enjoy Myst, without a doubt. Myst feels right at home in VR. Since this game is all about exploration in a first-person perspective, you’ll be instantly enthralled by this Mysterious world (see what I did there?). The level of immersion in VR is remarkable.
You can choose to move around in one of two ways. You can move in increments like in the original version of the game, where you click on the ground where you would like to go. Personally, I’ve never really been a fan of moving this way since it feels very stilted. The second option is to go into settings and choose the free movement option. This is definitely the best way to go, as it just adds to the immersive feeling of the game.
While the game itself might be the same Myst we all know and love, there are still some new improvements to the original and even the realMyst versions. All of the graphics have been enhanced, making this iteration of Myst the best looking it’s ever been. The difference in visual quality was immediately noticeable to me, as one glance at the ocean to my right made my jaw drop with just how real the waves looked. In fact, my jaw hit the floor multiple times as I was entranced by the sheer size and scope of everything. It really felt like I was there on those islands. Everything has been visually enhanced, including the textures. The wood has realistic looking grains in it, the stones have texture and sheen, and the trees have leaves that no longer look like cardboard cutouts.
Nearly everything in this iteration of Myst looks pretty real, aside from the few people in the game. This is my only real complaint with this version: the humans you’ll encounter now look very obviously computer animated. I’m not sure why that aspect was changed, to be honest. In the original and realMyst versions, the three people you interact with are all live action. Even though this was done due to budgetary constraints at the time (the people were played by the Miller brothers who co-created the game), their live action representations looked great, even thirty years ago. I think they would have fit even better in this version, especially since everything else looks so realistic.
The sound design has also been enhanced. Instead of faint sounds of waves and wind, the ambient noises of the nature around you are much more noticeable. Once again, this adds to the immersion and I often found myself just drinking in the sights and sounds of the world around me. It’s also even more crucial since so many of the puzzles in Myst are solved by listening to the proper sound cues. Things are much clearer now, with you being able to tell the distinction between sounds easier, as well as the direction they’re coming from.
I’ve been a fan of Myst my whole life. I was already impressed with realMyst released last year, but playing this version in VR is a whole different experience entirely. It looks better, sounds clearer, and plays smoother. If you’ve never played Myst before, then you need to check it out. If you have played Myst before, then you need to check it out in VR to experience it in a whole new way.
The graphics have had a major overhaul, with vastly improved textures and lighting effects. The difference is especially noticeable in VR.
You can move frame by frame like in the original, or you can opt to move around fluidly, which greatly enhances the experience. Pressing buttons and picking up objects is much easier in VR.
The sound design has been redone and it’s fantastic. Hearing the waves crash, the trees rustle, and the birds chirp all around you just adds to the immersion.
Myst shocked me with how well it fits in a VR setting. This is by far the best way to play the game.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Myst is available now on PC compatible with Oculus Rift, Valve Index, and HTC Vive.
Reviewed on Oculus Rift with an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb RAM.
A copy of Myst was provided by the publisher.