I purchased the new realMyst on Steam for the sole purpose of having a copy of Myst that will actually run on modern hardware. Revisiting Myst is a tradition for me. The feeling of "standing" on Myst Island is akin to building a warm fire in my brain. It is a deep, nostalgic trip to my childhood; dreamlike, mesmerizing, and incredibly familiar. I return to Myst to remind myself of who I was when I was younger, and reflect on the person I am now. I was optimistic when purchasing the new Unity-based realMyst, despite some disappointing pre-release screenshots. Unfortunately, my fears were well-founded.
realMyst: Masterpiece Edition (RMME) suffers from dramatic inconsistency. It is often sloppy and unoptimized, but can be, at times, staggeringly beautiful.
I feel the consistency in art direction which made the original realMyst [which also suffered from poor optimization] look good for its time was lost to accommodate for shaders and surface normals in the Unity engine. I suspect most of the normal maps from the game were generated from the original diffuse textures in CrazyBump, and not much care was put into the nooks and crannies to make things look right. The original Myst gave attention to every detail, with every bolt and screw painstakingly rendered. RMME is plagued with glaring texture seams and poor texel density distribution across the various Ages. Things are not made to look lived in, but are clean with poorly tiled textures. Comparing the foliage on Myst Island to Channelwood, I can't help but think how some level-of-detail work could have really paid off while showcasing some of Unity's best features, or would have at least made these choices less apparent.
When the game gets dark, it gets really
dark. I imagine the flashlight was included to combat this, but it only serves as a painful reminder that the artists neglected to put proper spec maps on models. Everything I shine the flashlight on turns a blinding white, even with bloom disabled.
The control scheme has also taken a misstep from the original realMyst. In Free-Roam mode, you are unable to stand in one place and look around without holding right-click, and the cursor reacts awkwardly as you look around. Moving up and down ladders is a chore, and having to rely on my meta-game first-person camera instincts to navigate breaks all immersion the game tries to render. Classic Mode completely locks your camera view, disabling the ability to appreciate various angles in realtime without accessing the menu again to disable it. I believe while trying to simplify the control scheme that the designers have in fact created a more cumbersome system that alienates and punishes users who are already familiar with playing first person games on the PC.
I hold out hope that Cyan plans to release future updates to refine RMME, for I would really appreciate having it be my go-to Myst game in the future. The fact that Myst, Myst: ME, and realMyst cannot be made to work on modern hardware without breaking your computer is tragic.[Edit: I stated before that there was no hot-key for the flashlight, which somehow I recall the F key being unresponsive in-game. I tried again and it works. I've edited my review to reflect this. Thanks, Vec!]
Posted: February 6th, 2014