I’m sorry for all the downers and grumpy people in the world, but I am relatively happy today. Not only am I walking in the graduation ceremony for my college today but I also successfully installed Myst III: Exile to my Windows 8 machine and finished it in less than 4 hours! That, by the way, is a personal best, because I am typically a conservative gamer.
Real 3-D quality!
Now technically both Myst and Riven had 3-D rendering aspects in order to create their worlds, but in all honesty, they both felt very two-dimensional in gameplay. For Exile, however, the player can now explore the world with 360 degrees turn radius and 180 degrees vertical radius (not a game designer, so I don’t know what the technology for that is actually called). Exploring the game felt slightly more real, I suppose.
Remember that Exile was made in 2001 for Windows XP, Mac OS, XBOX, and PS2. This whole 3-D business was still very cutting-edge despite not being able to move quite freely yet.
Having a three dimensional perspective on the worlds created in the Myst series is definitely an improvement from its two predecessors. In hindsight, Exile has always been a personal favorite of mine in the Myst series, which I will get to why that is later. Then again, I have yet to play Myst V: End of Ages, the last game in the series, so I might change my mind.
Remembering the past…
The premise of Exile is that Atrus, 10 years after you reunited him with his wife, is giving you a chance to see his newest age, Releeshahn. Atrus has been making this new age for the remaining survivors of D’ni, that mystical civilization that one day went down in ruins, according to Myst lore. Releeshahn is supposed to be a new hope for the D’ni people so that they can rewrite their future and stabilize their civilization again, not necessarily to its former glory but so that they can thrive in peace once more.
At least, that’s how the story goes anyway.
The moment Atrus meets with you, however, a mysterious figure burglarizes Atrus’ house and steals the Releeshahn linking book! Not only that, but he sets the house on fire also! You, being Atrus’ most trusted comrade after 10 years must enter the linking book that this burglar uses to get Releeshahn back. Well, that’s what you decide anyway, because you really don’t have any time to think.
The world you enter is J’nanin, an island similar to that of Myst, as it is a hub for four other ages. J’nanin is one of Atrus’ first ages that he had ever written in the Art, and the four additional ages were like trials he had written to create the “ideal” age. As you follow the burglar, he escapes into one of these ages with Releeshahn in his hands.
As you later discover, J’nanin was used as a training ground for Sirrus and Achenar, Atrus’ sons, in learning about the Art also. Of course, as you know from the lore, these sons betray Atrus and destroy many of the precious ages that he had written, and this burglar just happened to be caught in the middle!
Needless to say, this crazy castaway has now escaped into an age you can’t get to right away, so you have to explore the remaining three ages: Voltaic, Edanna, and Amateria to get to him.
Atrus is a deceiving bastard!
Well, at least that’s what I’m calling him. I mean, I know that as the player, you’re like his best friend or something. The exile however, whom you learn to know of as Saavedro (the coolest name ever, by the way) believes that Atrus is a jerk that left him to die by the hands of his sons as they destroyed his home! Atrus, your friend, a jerk? No way are you going to take that crap from this guy, who you barely met!
At least, that’s how you’re supposed to feel about him.
To be honest, Atrus being an asshole is probably the most accurate description of the main protagonist in the Myst series. I mean, he imprisoned his two sons that destroyed his ages, destroyed the books that imprisoned his two sons once he was released from his own prison, not to mention he imprisoned his own father who was a tyrant on Riven. Sure, he does all this out of vengeance, but come on, Atrus is kind of an unforgiving bastard.
And yet, Atrus does all of this crazy puzzle things in his ages to ultimately teach people a lesson. As much as you, the player, appreciate that he’s doing this for your own good, Saavedro does not see it that way.
And believe me, once you get to meet Saavedro face-to-face, Atrus to him is the worst scum in the universe. He believes that you are Atrus this whole time, but when you get to Narayan he is utterly disappointed that it’s you and not him. Guess this is your way of deceiving this poor guy.
Once you’re stuck on Narayan, the last age in Exile, there’s really nowhere else to explore other than the shielded chamber that you link to. And of course, you’re stuck with a madman that’s hell bent on getting his revenge on that deceiving bastard Atrus. Having said that, he gives you a fair warning: “if there is one thing I know about linking books, the doors they open don’t close behind you.” That should give you a hint of your level of trust with this guy.
To get the real ending to Exile, you actually have to end up deceiving Saavedro yourself! It turns out that Narayan, Saavedro’s homeland is actually still thriving and untouched by the sinister hands of Sirrus and Achenar. However, one last puzzle stands in the exile’s way: the way out of the shield is a two-person operation, and he still has his bargaining chip. He trusts that you will set him free and in turn would give back Releeshahn.
Now let’s be honest: do you really want to trust this guy? In a final moment of desperation, you have to play the asshole this time. Saavedro trusts that you trust him because as it stands, he’s still at an advantage. You have to prove to him that you can’t trust him and thus force him into a corner to give you Releeshahn. Once you do that, of course, you can set him free.
Building a brighter future…
To this day, the ending to Myst III: Exile (the real ending) really gets my tears welled up. After 20 years of exile and ultimately having his heart broken by a complete stranger, Saavedro can finally go home and see his wife and two daughters. Sure, the ending is relatively abrupt once you make it back to Atrus’ age of Tomanha, but unlike its two predecessors, Exile actually has a somewhat fulfilling ending.
There is no certainty that Saavedro does in fact find his family again after so long. On the other hand, that doesn’t matter so much to the game as you can return to Atrus with Releeshahn in hand and Saavedro thanks you with a seldom smile on his face.
Atrus closes with a final word that proves once again that maybe he’s not a deceiving bastard after all. He knows that like the D’ni people, he’s had a very shady past and in hindsight would wish that it could be rewritten. On the other hand, it is the lessons from his mistakes that he learns to improve himself. This is why remembering his past, both good and bad, is crucial to life: so that he could build a brighter future.
Just when you thought it was all over, Atrus once again reveals yet another secret to his past. Stay tuned for my review on Myst IV: Revelation.