URU – Ages Beyond Myst – video game review

I just finished the last of URU that I can play without having high speed internet access. Out of the box it has a whole standalone game, much like MYST, Riven, and MYST III: Exile, with plenty of tricky puzzles and … somewhat to my dismay, a fair amount of jumping to precarious and often distant, more often moving landings. Anyway, when, in a month or few, I have high speed internet access again, I will be able to enjoy URU Live, which promises new Ages to explore every month, community activities, and a hand in unraveling the larger mysteries of D’ni. But as I don’t have that, I’m not reviewing that. Just the standalone part.

Pretty good.

What, you want more?

Uhhmmmm… Well, there are … six … (maybe nine or ten) ages to visit (depending on how you could them, perhaps as few as five), each with its own set of … challenges to face. One of the ages is like … home base. Whenever you get into any trouble … say, a puzzle you can’t figure out and you want to try something else, or if you’re about to fall into a bottomless expanse or a pool of lava, you hit this linking book you keep conveniently on your hip at all times and you are returned to Relto, your ‘home base’. Which is handy, since I missed where I was jumping to quite often.

Anyway, the graphics are keen. Amazing, really. We played it on my brother’s new computer with a Pentium4/2.66Ghz and a Radeon 9600XT, so that may have had something to do with it, but seriously, the graphics were amazing. I was never aware of a clipping plane, and the textures were … just … soooo… detailed. Wow. The detail and variety that went into designing everything was just outstanding. You can switch between 1st and 3rd person modes as you explore the photorealistic realtime 3D environments, and the camera in 3rd person left little to be desired. It was aware of what you needed to see and when and sometimes even managed to point me in the right direction on how to handle puzzles. Fantastic.

The interface is clean and simple, very little to get confused by and a quick, quick learning curve. The environment is quite reactive; they spent a fair amount of time, it seems, developing a physics engine. While the interface does not give you real use of your hands (beyond using linking books), your feet can and do kick around quite a few objects. And the objects react in a realistic fashion. And while I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around it, my brother and father had no trouble with it and got me through the several parts of the game that required to use the physics engine to get through something.

The story is rich and detailed and … though we have been playing on my big TV set instead of a computer monitor and thus cannot quite make out much of the text … there are around a dozen (maybe more) books just full of information about the ages you visit and the D’ni and their culture and history … it’s just … very deep. And with the character creation system (appearance, really), you can make an avatar that looks just about like you in face, features, even fashion, and play the game watching yourself wander around in these environments. Between that and the storyline, you can really get drawn into the world of URU.

Overall, if you have a computer that can handle it, I recommend it. Sadly, Cyan Worlds has made the decision NOT to offer a Mac compatible version of URU … as of yet. With no announcement of one being in the works, either. Sigh. And if you have internet access and enjoy the games in the MYST line, URU Live promises to be a continuously updating pleasure. So, well worth the money. Yep. I guess that’s about that.

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