The Whimsical Puzzler Myst Returns in a VR Remake
I love a good puzzle game, and when I’ve mentioned this, people have told me that Myst is one of the best when it comes to the genre. Being someone who’s into both virtual reality, and puzzle games, the Myst VR remake is right up my alley. After playing Myst for a short while, here’s how I think the game stacks up to similar puzzle titles, as well as giving a fresh perspective on an old classic.
How Does Myst Hold Up in 2021
Myst puts players in the shoes of an unnamed protagonist, who finds a book entitled Myst. Once they touch the book for the first time, they’re transported to Myst Island, a sci-fi world filled to the brim with all sorts of contraptions that seem out of this world. The game doesn’t mess around, putting players right into the thick of it with no guiding hand to help them, as well as cryptic clues to point them in the right direction.
I’ve tried the title out on both flatscreen and in virtual reality. I’m playing the game on both my Valve Index, as well as my RTX 2060. The game runs flawlessly in flatscreen mode. Being a free roam version of Myst, as the original was more of a point-and-click adventure. This new way to experience the game is wonderful, while still retaining the same feel of a lonely island being in the middle of nowhere, the game still looks like a title from the ‘90s. However, being able to walk around Myst island, as well as being able to experience the world in VR brings out the wonders, and eeriness of being alone with technology you cannot understand.
In Myst VR, anything is able to be interacted with, and all the books in the game are readable like real books. The game gives players the option for smooth turning and snap turning, as well as analog movement and teleportation. Personally, I quite enjoy the free-roam movement, although, the smooth turning is too fast for my tastes, and I’ve found myself getting dizzy often. Playing with the Index controllers, the game isn’t enhanced. While the Index controllers are supported in the game, players will find that the finger tracking doesn’t work the way that players thought it would, and the bindings are similar to the Oculus or Vive wands. This does mean clenching into a fist is instantaneous, but it’s a nitpick overall.
Picking up objects that aren’t essential to the game will be in a different orientation than picking up essential objects, as the game includes a camera function, allowing players to take photos instead of taking notes. In Myst, there are a few books in the library that have text on them, and they’re able to be flipped through like a real book, though it does take some precision to do so, as trying to flip through the books fast will have the player end up being stuck on a single page. The books do contain helpful information about the world, as well as hints for puzzles around Myst Island. However, with this being a puzzle game, you’re going to have to do some thinking. Spoilers ahead for those who are considering picking the game up.
When I started my playthrough of Myst, I had no idea what was in store. This was my first time experiencing the game and walking around the island was enchanting. I had never experienced a puzzle game like this in virtual reality. However, here’s the key to understanding the gameplay of Myst: it encourages exploration. While only being on a small island in the middle of the ocean, players are encouraged to look through every nook and cranny the game has to offer. Thus, I found myself in the library, and soon, after pulling a lever on a painting, opening a secret door into the tower.
After going up the tower, I noticed a plaque and a ladder. While there wasn’t anything there at the moment, I left and started fiddling around with the other objects in the library, and then I found the dial to rotate the tower. This then showed me a code at the top of the tower for a safe I had found earlier. It wasn’t until I had made it back to Myst Island after discovering the Channelwood age, that I messed around with the dial again, now realizing that I could start my journey into other ages by moving the tower around. While it sounds silly for someone who’s familiar with the rest of the game, at that moment, I felt extremely smart and resourceful. This is the kind of gameplay that Myst provides, this sense of wonder and puzzle-solving is key to making solid puzzles. While the game is getting tougher over time, as I’m currently in the Stoneship Age as of writing this, I can say that the logic puzzles for this game are second to none, and I’m certainly enjoying it.
The game runs almost flawlessly while playing on a flatscreen, and the only issue I’ve noticed while playing without the headset is that anyone who currently owns a headset will have to put “-nohmd” in their launch parameters on steam. I am unsure if this needs to be done by people who have purchased the game on GOG, but I haven’t seen any issues outside of launching the game like this.
VR is a bit finicky when I was playing with the Index, as launching the game from Steam VR put me in a version that was supper laggy, V-sync was missing, and the game was having terrible tearing issues. Trying to play the game on low settings ruined the background, as looking through the lenses of the headset felt like I was suffering from nearsightedness. However, it wasn’t until I launched the game on PC from the “Launch in Steam VR” option outside of the headset that all of the issues clear up, and I was able to play the game on high settings without any problem.
The soundtrack for this game is fantastic, being a mix of whimsy, epic, and eerie music depending on what location of the island the player is in. Ambient noises fill every single locale, and they’re used to complete puzzles around the world. For example, the Channelwood age has players moving water through pipes by listening to the sound of the water running through them and changing the flow of the water accordingly. There’s a section in Myst Island where the player has to navigate through a cave to make it to a power station, and eerie music and sounds will only play when they’re walking through the cave. Only once they make it to the door will the music stop. Other audio cues like the sound of stone failing to move is a note that the player isn’t doing the puzzle correctly. This makes for a truly immersive experience and continues to feel the same as the original.
The visuals are some of the best that Cyan Inc. has made. Being lovingly remade from the ground up in Unreal Engine, the game feels just like it came out of the ‘90s, yet still having a fresh coat of paint on the same puzzles. However, some things have been changed about the game, and it’s made the community a bit upset with the state of the remake. One massive thing about the title is the game’s characters. There are three characters in the game: Sirrus, Achenar, and Atrus. These characters have always been FMV videos since the original game was released in ’93. However, in the 2021 temake of the game, they’ve been replaced with 3D models. This has ruined the game for some, as the FMV videos have been a highlight for the game.
However, for those who still want the FMV’s in the game, there’s a fix for it. While Cyan said that they were unable to add the FMV’s in the game, a Steam user by the name of MrCoderwhite has re-added the original FMV’s into the game, replacing all the CGI models of the characters with the original Myst videos. For those who care about the FMV’s fear not, as the patch is extremely easy to install and is downloadable through the Steam discussion here. Aside from this singular hiccup, the game has knocked it out of the park replicating the original designs faithfully into the game.
Myst, like all of Cyan Inc’s games, has a robust community of fans both young and old, with a celebration of the series happening every single year. 2019’s Mysterium revealed that an update to the sequel of the game, Riven, is going to be made by both Cyan and Starry Expanse, the indie developers who have been already hard at work remaking Riven for the new age. Seeing that Myst has been remade multiple times, with the original and realMyst both receiving masterpiece editions, the game is surely going to be something else when the time comes.
In conclusion, Myst 2021, is great. It feels like a ‘90s title, while still being a game released this year. The game looks crisp and feels great to play. Minus the few hiccups when getting it to work in VR, as well as the issue with the models for the characters, the fix for the models returns Myst into a whole new world, while still retaining the soul of the original title. I definitely recommend playing this game if you’re new to puzzle titles. For those who have already played Myst, but want to re-experience it, the great news is that the game includes the option to randomize puzzles, allowing for players to experience the game again while getting new answers for puzzles they already know from the previous versions.