Riven Review – A Great Update to Riven: The Sequel to Myst

Riven Review

I knew going in that Riven was a remake of an older game, but it took me a while before I remembered the full original title: Riven 2: The Sequel to Myst. The title might conjure up an older, more opaque era of gaming. That’s a great reason to remake a game. With a classic story and even more classic puzzles, the original Myst games should be a staple. Unfortunately, as we a lot of old games, it can be a pain to get working. Even then you have to contend with old interfaces and antiquated menu. That’s why game remakes have so much potential. So does the new Riven stand toe-to-toe with the classic?

The Remake of the Sequel

The first Myst came out in 1993. It was pretty unique then for being a peaceful, methodical puzzle game. That’s less rare today than it was then, but it’s still pretty remarkable. Myst wasn’t just a series of riddles and puzzle rooms. It was a whole exploration game in a bizarre fantasy world. The puzzles were often dependent of the player’s understanding of the setting. They were also famously intuitive but nevertheless, people loved that adrenaline rush of solving the puzzle and hopping into the next book (there’s a fair bit of magical book hopping).

Riven is, as the original title declared, the sequel to Myst. This remake is a full 3D environment, that you can navigate like any first person game. Mobility is still limited, which gets frustrating when you are searching for the door to get you to the platform 5 feet below you. Just jump! (You can’t.) Besides moving and observing, you can interact with some objects. You also carry a notebook stuffed with valuable information, including some scene setting from Myst, to catch you up on the major players. The world is well realized, but you still can only do so many verbs.

Timeless Art, but New

As for the 3D environments themselves, they rule. Riven is on a dusty Mediterranean-looking island filled with weird statues and magical devices. You’ll see a lot of pretty domes, and some alien looking palm trees. Riven always had incredible artwork, so seeing it realized with this level of fidelity is a treat, even if this is your first visit.

Is this Riven remake a good game? That’s kind of a tricky question to answer! Even when they were first released, these games were extremely niche. Some kids played Duck Hunt and some kids played Sonic the Hedgehog but the super nerds played Myst and Riven. There’s a lot of reading; there’s a lot of looking. This is a game that really feels like a book. Some people like to read books! Myst fans were passionate in the 90s, and I am sure there is a new generation of little dweebs who want to solve a fantasy mystery.

Rosetta Stone Puzzle

Is this the best version of Riven you can play? Almost definitely. I’m sure there are some people nostalgic for the low-res photo style of the original, or the clunky point and click controls. This Riven plays smoothly and is miles more accessible. Unless your interest is academic, even if you found yourself an old copy and somehow got it working, why would you subject yourself to 90s menus? The real core of Riven is the story, the setting, and the characters, and I think this easily is the best way to experience them.

Is Riven a masterpiece that modern games should be drawing from? Listen- game design has come a long way in the last 30 years. Since the indie boom of the early 2010s, an interesting new puzzle game drops practically every week. Some of them still blow me away. Papers Please. Return of the Obra Dinn. Shadows of Doubt. Paradise Killer. Case of the Golden Idol! All of these games owe a lot to Myst and Riven, and all of them have built off that foundation.

If I could only pick one puzzle game to bring to a desert island, I probably would not choose Riven. Fortunately, that is not the case. It’s fascinating to see this missing link of game design. It’s nice to dig into some genuinely excellent writing and art. The puzzles are as opaque as they ever were, which is what a lot of people like about them. I think we need more remakes like Riven, that capture as much as they can about how games felt back then. That’s how we move forward, that’s how games get even better.

***PC code provided by the publisher for preview***

The Good

  • A faithful remake of a classic
  • Easily accessible
  • Art looks sharper than ever

The Bad

  • Famously opaque puzzles
  • Ideas that have been improved upon