the writings of a mind

Title: URU: Ages Beyond Myst
Genre: Adventure
Big Word: Myserable
Strap: Surely Myst: The Movie canít be far away now?

It didnít seem possible. It didnít even seem likely. Cyan Worlds have managed to take the point and click adventure backwards a step. In this respect at least, Uru is impressive.

This is the fourth game in the well-loathed Myst series, but it also marks a movement from the pre-rendered, fixed-point perspective design of previous incarnations. A big movement (snicker), as this is now a complete 3D world, your character viewed from a third-person perspective, a roving camera, and action-adventure controls. Except, when I say controls, what I mean isÖ (It was at this point that the reviewer began weeping uncontrollably).

In comparison with Uru, Tomb Raiderís recent calamitous interface feels like futuristic, fully immersive, real time, synapse-reactive fluidity. This is abysmal beyond all human understanding. Without using vulgarities that would make Kieron Gillen blush, I cannot find words to capture the true extent of the poverty of these controls. Your avatar takes not one, not two, not twenty-seven, but three steps forward after you release a movement key. While conversely, the response to turning left or right is delayed by at least a couple of seconds. And when a game has been designed to be played upon the apex of a billion narrow mountain and cliff paths, I genuinely began to twitch as I tried to play. This game gave me a twitch. I might sue.

The story is the usual Myst affair Ė deep, complicated, and utterly uninteresting. It involves the regular array of books opening up worlds, in which the story is shouted at you by those you meet. And once more, this tale is entirely detached from the tedious puzzles that litter the lands. As has been the attention-needing fault of the previous games, you donít solve a puzzle in order to achieve a goal Ė you solve a puzzle, in order to find out what the goal was. This leads to a frustrating clicking of the buttons until some nature of pattern is discerned, and then a supposed solution can be formulated. Upon reaching this target - that a latch clicks, or a door opens Ė there can be no sense of victory.

The foray into 3D is a mucky one. When close to objects they are pleasantly rendered, but take a step away and they are reduced to a blurry goo. And getting close to objects is a combination of battling with the hopeless controls, and the insanely unhelpful camera. Seemingly designed to obscure your view at every conceivable moment, it teams up with the interface in throwing you to your death with an unplayable regularity. And the backwards step? Theyíve managed to make Ďhotspotí hunting /harder/. Now in order to discover a microscopic object, you have to be standing pixel-perfect immediately in front ofÖ the thing you didnít know you were looking for.

Whether the story could be enjoyable or can only remain a mystery. Any joy to be had is utterly rubbed out by the misery of the engine, the usual terrible acting, and the stupid, dreary puzzles.

Margin Note:
Missed Online

Ubisoft would love us to point out that the single player part of Uru is only half the experience. That Uru is in fact also a massive multiplayer online world, with new puzzles and stories to explore. But this isnít working yet, despite the game already being on sale. It may happen some time in the new year, but itís hard to be interested either way.

 Once again, successfully replacing the "aye" for a "why?"


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Price: £35
Minimum System: PIII 800, 256Mb RAM, 32Mb 3D card, 2GB HD space.
Recommended: PIV 1.4Ghz, 512Mb RAM, 64Mb 3D card.
Multi-player: Not yet.
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