is an adventure game with such monumental impact on both game design and the computer industry-at-large that you can see noticeable differences between games that came before and after.
Its 3D-rendered backgrounds, full motion video and interface-free design presented a new way to make adventure games that capture the interest of people who didn't grow up with the complex text parsers of Sierra Entertainment
games. However, it's the open-world, environmental storytelling and logic-based puzzles that made the longest impact, even serving as a source for inspiration on 2016's celebrated The Witness
. Its audio design is still iconic, remembered for being used within messaging programs in the '90s and referenced in Vaporwave
music in the 2010s. Despite its legendary status and influence on games, it occasionally falls short of modern standards in game design. Myst
's puzzles are few and far between and often easy to a fault. It makes for a short but sweet adventure across Myst
's unique worlds. Maybe it's just conditioning from modern games, but I frequently got frustrated at Myst
, as I tried to figure out the purpose of interactive objects that seemed to do nothing. The worlds of Myst
have a bad habit of not clarifying between what's there for interactive storytelling and what is part of a puzzle. Not telling the two apart gave me more trouble than any puzzle itself.
It's my own user error for overthinking the world, but isn't that what the game is designed to do? It wants you to think about every detail and put two spatially separated areas or objects together in your head to find a solution. While it's great to be given no guidance at the start, the game could have benefited with more clear guidance toward your end goal. At the beginning, I found myself going through worlds and puzzles without ever feeling like I made a clear sign of progress, as there is no end goal given to the player. The openness to the narrative pays off well, but the adventure often feels meaningless until its finale.
The world and narrative is a minimal one but there is a beauty to its simplicity. These perfect, abstract worlds have aged wonderfully and the dated 3D-renders give it a charm -- it's hard to say how much of this is due to my own nostalgia, having grown up around pre-rendered backgrounds in games. There are more visually impressive versions of Myst
but even those look dated now, so I felt it ideal to play it in its most pure form.
The only problems this brought was that it's sometimes hard to see crucial details, like trap doors and small levers, on such low resolution images. Flaws aside, each area of Myst
is distinct and communicates ideas of its former occupants through subtle environmental design. The woods of one age are serene, while the stormy foreboding sea of another is a haunting place you will want to quickly finish. It provides so much needed variety in visuals and tone, throughout the game's puzzles.
Although many games took inspiration from Myst
, there still isn't another game that captures its distinct atmosphere and purity in design. As much as I wish there was more to its story and puzzles, I also can appreciate that there is very little there that is poorly dated and needed removal in its future versions. I look forward to playing its sequels which I hear refine and improve the formula established here, but I imagine something would be lost without knowing how things started, both technically and narratively. Myst
might not be as far removed from time as the island in it, but there still remains an appeal in exploring both what brought so many to it in the '90s and what inspired many games long after.