myst disc 88 .
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Myst V: End of Ages, a DVD-ROM by Cyan World for Ubisoft, distributed with a 12-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP and a 1.5 Ghz Pentium 4 PC or a Mac with a 10.4.0 OS, for ages 14 and up, NIS 219.
Rating: **** 1/2
Myst is an apt name for this game series, which began in 1993 and has reached its conclusion now with its seventh game (despite the misleading "V" in its title): It is mysterious, mystical and surreal - and its devoted fans will be misty eyed over the fact that there will be no more versions to follow. The final game in the series is even better than Myst IV: Revelation, reviewed here 18 months ago.
The story is based in the D'ni, an ancient imaginary civilization whose members have the ability, mysteriously called "The Art," to travel to different worlds called "Ages" across the cosmos. The End of Ages begins with Atrus, the father figure in the series, in a bleak and despondent mood at the end of his life. He has lost his wife Catherine, grandfather, father and troublemaking sons Sirrus and Achenar, and he fears he has lost his middle-aged daughter Yeesha (who appeared as an infant in Myst III) as well. Unseen but with dramatic voice acting by Rand Miller to represent his role, Atrus expresses his pessimism while his monologue appears in longhand on a scroll that fills the screen. As this is a first-person fantasy adventure, a thinking game with puzzles to solve rather than an action shooter, gamers not used to this genre may feel lost. There are no mission directives, hints or orders to follow, and the skimpy user's manual doesn't provide any information on what you have to do.
You find yourself in a gorgeous room with shining mosaic flooring, which fans of the previous Myst will recognize as the place where they last left Atrus. Some strange creatures scurry out of view, the scene quivers as if a tremor has hit and a long gash appears in the floor. Grasping at straws, you click on the book with links to Myst Island that lies on a table, but its cover just shakes obstinately, refusing to open. The numerous ornate doors in the room are locked as well, and you may get stuck even at the outset. Links to the game's Web site will provide some clues if you don't find the way out yourself. But don't lose hope: The effort is worthwhile, as the game's graphics are indescribably beautiful, the challenging puzzles demand intelligence and endurance and the emotional background music perfectly suits each mood. The immersive but bizarre environments, from giant soap bubbles to wintry forests, will amaze. As you proceed with the puzzles, you release a series of tablets lying on pedestals and on which you must draw symbols freehand and sometimes erase them. When you reach the final tablet near the end of the game, you must make an earthshaking decision and save the D'ni culture.
The game is so malleable that it even lets you choose among three methods of navigation - the classic slide show, in which one clicks in the middle to move ahead and right and left to turn around; "Classic Plus," in which one maneuvers the mouse to rotate; and the freestyle mode of using the arrow keys to move and the mouse to turn. You can choose only one mode or alternate among them by pressing the 1, 2 and 3 keys.
The only two visible humans are Yeesha and a self-appointed adviser named Esher, both of whom are computer generated rather than human actors - but nevertheless their rambling, obscure and often bitter monologues are synchronized well with their lip movements. The two look very lifelike, with their faces full of expression and outfits of cloth flaps swaying in the breeze above their leggings. Both Yeesha and Esher want you to release the seven power-bearing tablets assigned to each age, but they have their own ulterior motives, so don't trust them implicitly.
Players must have an excellent command of English (which rules out most Israeli teenagers and many adults) to weed Yeesha and Esher's riddles and hints out of their sometimes interminable monologues. At least the texts of what they tell you are archived in an accessible book that should be used regularly for reference. Myst is not for all gamers, but tried-and-true fans will probably be misty eyed over reaching the end.