The Riven remake transforms a tricky classic into a modern masterpiece

Again within the early Nineteen Nineties, the creators of Myst had a downside with their testers. Gamers would wander across the preliminary island, poking on the rocket ship, flipping the levers on the podiums up and down, and watching as none of it did something. The amount of puzzles was overwhelming, the options inaccessible. They’d get bored, after which get pissed off, after which too a lot of them would quit.

The answer was so as to add a hologram, close to the place to begin of the sport, which contained a recorded message from Myst’s guiding determine, Atrus. And if gamers missed that room, there was a piece of paper — a piece of paper, free on the bottom — with a observe on it that instructed gamers — with, like, phrases! — to go examine that room.

Right this moment, this is able to be fastened by making the message room extra apparent. Or by beginning with the participant dealing with the door, or by placing the room in a privileged place. Within the style of puzzle video games during which you discover a sequence of freaky li’l rooms, environmental storytelling is king. Besides the phrase “environmental storytelling” wouldn’t be coined till years after the discharge of Myst and its expectation-shattering sequel, Riven.

To unpack the legacy of these two video games would take one other article by itself, however suffice it to say, the style that developer Cyan Worlds placed on the map has accomplished some vital evolving within the 30 years since Myst and Riven had been first launched. Which is precisely why it’s so fascinating to play this week’s 3D remake of Riven, during which Rand Miller and the remainder of the oldsters at Cyan return to a masterpiece with three many years of environmental puzzle video games at their backs.

Picture: Cyan Worlds by way of Polygon

Riven (2024) is a compelling work of preservation. The sport’s earliest life started because the Starry Expanse Undertaking, a fan-run effort to faithfully convert the three hours of video and practically 5000 photos that make up the unique Riven into a traversable 3D surroundings. The last outcome, after Cyan formally absorbed the Undertaking’s belongings and even employed a few of its contributors, is — in a phrase — attractive.

Riven, in spite of everything, is a sport of stone, metallic, and wooden, textures that the Unreal Engine can simulate with its eyes closed, and there are vistas within the remake that, as long as you don’t transfer your view, you could possibly nearly persuade your self are images. The different excellent news for the pleasure facilities of followers’ brains is that the unique sport’s sound design is undamaged. The meaty thunk-griiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind-LATCH of Temple Island’s rotating room, the keening screech of metallic as a maglev automobile turns round, the bone-vibrating slam of a hearth marble turning over — all are simply as you keep in mind them.

Additionally acquainted: The loading screens take endlessly. However for a sport that initially prompted you to insert one in every of 5 completely different CD-ROMs each time you moved from one island to a different — a core, frequent, and meant a part of the gameplay — sitting by means of a gently disguised loading display screen, nonetheless lengthy, is a palpable development.

Different elements will not be acquainted.

Some options that remained the identical from playthrough to playthrough within the authentic at the moment are randomized for every save, so cheeky gamers can’t simply search for the solutions. The full-motion video actors have been changed with animated figures, synced to each authentic and re-recorded dialogue, from necessity. These 30-year-old recordings merely don’t scale as much as modern screens.

Ghen’s throne room in Riven (2024).

Picture: Cyan Worlds

A bridge leading to a dark metal dome adorned with a pattern of round sigils. In the background is a horizon of endless sea, blue sky, and fluffy clouds in Riven (2024).

Picture: Cyan Worlds

The transition from static photos without having for consistency of euclidean house to a full 3D surroundings has had a myriad of results. Some rooms aren’t the place they was once; some modes of journey merely turned out to not work in 3D house. However some tweaks appear totally thought-about on the a part of the builders — and well-chosen.

The Riven remake gently gates areas of the sport that had been initially totally accessible to a new participant, but unsolvable till a lot later of their playthrough, in order to stop precisely the sort of overwhelmed frustration that early Myst playtesters skilled. Two of the sport’s most concerned puzzles have additionally been fully reworked in ways in which had been merely not technologically potential in 1997.

These will not be small modifications, and I count on a few of them could tweak on the nostalgia of longtime followers. However then again, Riven’s most finicky, tedious, time-consuming stumper is right here transformed into one thing visually jaw-dropping and interesting to control.

When you’re a Riven fan, you merely should play this model. When you’ve by no means performed Riven, there’s no higher alternative. Escaping into one other world is not only the exterior promise of the Myst video games, however the precise premise, and Riven’s replace brings these two issues nearer than ever earlier than.

Riven was launched June 25 on Meta Quest VR and Home windows PC. The sport was reviewed on PC utilizing a pre-release obtain code offered by Cyan Worlds, Inc. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. You could find extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.

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