Whether or not you like the fourth Myst game, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, will probably have a lot to do with why you play adventure games. If you play them for meeting new characters and participating in exciting stories, then you’re probably not going to like Uru. But if you like pretty scenery and challenging puzzles, then Uru might keep you occupied for many a night. Unfortunately for me, I find myself much more in the first category than the second, and playing Uru turned into an odd form of torture until I finally gave up on it.
The story behind Uru goes something like this. It’s 250 years since Myst III: Exile took place. Humans have discovered several of the Ages created by the D’ni, and the Dn’i Restoration Council has gone to great lengths to safeguard the Ages and prepare them for tourists. You, just like in all the other Myst games, play a rather anonymous person suddenly thrown into other people’s problems, and you soon discover that you need to travel to four Ages and activate seven “journey cloths” in each one. Why? I have no idea. There are hints that something dire is going to happen if you don’t, but I had trouble picking up what people were saying (not that there’s a lot of dialogue in the game), and of course the game doesn’t have a subtitles option to help out in such situations. So, slightly conjecturing here, but in Uru you have roughly the same goal as in Exile: go to strange Ages and solve the puzzles there, so you can go to the last Age and win the game. If you’re looking for reasons to be solving the puzzles, then you’re in the wrong adventure game series.
Having an adventure game focus entirely on its puzzles isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It worked well enough for Exile. But in Uru the puzzles are rather brutal. You won’t get a lot of feedback about what you’re doing. You won’t, for example, push a lever and see something happen, and then push a button and see something else happen, and then generally figure out what the machine is supposed to be doing and how to use it. Instead, stuff only happens after you complete a puzzle, and so tinkering and trial and error will get you nowhere.
Consider this puzzle. There are seven pressure plates in a room, plus a locked door. The idea (which isn’t obvious) is to place objects on the right pressure plates so the door opens. You get a clue for the puzzle, but the clue involves the Dn’i numbering system, and no translation of the system is given in the game. So if you don’t remember the numbering system from the previous games, the clue is worthless, and the odds of you figuring out the puzzle drop down to somewhere between slim and none. And that’s one of the easier puzzles.
I don’t mind being lost and confused to a certain extent, but I felt like I had zero chance of figuring out several of the puzzles in the game. Finally, in the third Age I played, which I’ll dub the “Let’s Read Along with the Walkthrough” Age, I got so frustrated and demoralized with the game that I gave up on it. Uru is for people who thought Schizm was a lot of fun. It’s not for people (so much) who thought the earlier Myst games were fun.
One other note about the game. At one point there was going to be a multiplayer component called Uru Live, but it eventually got canned. (No surprise, really. A multiplayer adventure that required broadband? And not enough people signed up? A shocker!) The good news is that developer Cyan Worlds apparently already created a bunch of content for the multiplayer part, and they’re now going to make some of it available. They already have one expansion pack available for free on their web site, and other expansion packs are likely to be on the way (although they possibly won’t be free). So if you enjoy the game, you might have a lot of extra content to look forward to.
There are other aspects of the game -- like the beautiful Ages and the shaky interface -- but I think it all comes down to the puzzles. If you like the puzzles, then you’ll like the game. If you don’t like (or can’t complete) the puzzles, then you probably won’t. Since I’m guessing most people will fall under the latter category than the former, Uru isn’t a game I’d recommend you purchase.