When you start, you pick a name and gender for your player character. Once these are picked, they cannot be changed, so transsexuals be warned.
Next comes customizing your character's body. I'll be calling it an avatar, a representation of you inside the game world. Your body is very customizable, though there are limits. You can pick your hair (which is restricted to colours that occur in nature), your face and at the same time, your complexion, your shirt, your pants, and your shoes. Most of the flexibility comes from being able to pick whatever colours you want for things. Except hair. Red eyes? Sure. Purple jeans? Absolutely, if you feel you must. Fortunately all of this is changeable later, once you make it to your home away from home inside the game. We'll get to that.
while, I thought that the thing next to my
name on the avatar creation page was "Dart"
transliterated into the D'ni language. I thought that
was a nice touch. Except it's not. The D'ni
characters you see here, are.
You start out the game out in the desert somewhere. There weren't any obvious landmarks, so I looked behind me. Cattle gate, big fallen No Trespassing sign, and barbed wire all around. It makes one wonder how I got here in the first place, given that there's nowhere else nearby where I'm allowed to be.
There are a couple of big rocks. I go and I look at the rocks. There's nothing at the rocks.
But I can now see something off in the distance. It looks like one of those mini-windmills you see on towers on farms in movies that warn your that there's a storm a-brewin'.
Hey, it's civilization. Off I go.
Before finding the tower, I see a trailer, and I'm welcomed by Jeff Zendi. He directs me over to "the cleft" and offers me help whenever I want it.
I continue off around the mountain to my left and I find the tower. There's a huge, poorly fenced hole in the ground. I think that I spot the way inside early but I make the tour around. I finally get to the windmill. It has a big bar sticking out from it. It's clickable but it doesn't budge.
I go back around to the near side and climb down into the cleft. I have a bit of trouble negotiating the ladder. I'm a keyboard man, rather than a mouse user, and to climb down the ladder, you push the down key. This managed to confuse me. I had learned by this point that the up button will take me ahead to where I want to go, and I want to go down the ladder.
I've never played a first-person shooter, like Doom or Quake, so I'm not familiar with games where you move around that way. For reference, the point-and-click interface of previous Mysts was very different. Even so, I quickly adapted to wandering around with the keyboard, turning corners fairly naturally, switching only to the mouse to look around.
On the other hand, there is a reason that this is called a stumblethrough.
Once I got off the ladder, I took a look around. The Cleft is a long, narrow fracture in the ground with ledges at various heights around the edges. There are two bridges leading away from the ledge at the bottom of the ladder and the stairs beyond. The one on the left has a huge hole in it, so naturally I take the more complete-looking one on the right. Makes sense, right? And doesn't the thing collapse as soon as I set foot on it, dumping my newly-designed butt in the bottom of the Cleft?
Fortunately, it doesn't look as though I've injured my avatar any. On the other hand, I don't see any other way back up now that I'm down here. Since I can't make matters any worse, I'll take another look around.
Off to the left there's a pool of water on the ground. I'm guessing it's too cool and dark down here for the desert sun to evaporate it. On the other side of the pond, there grows a tree. It's the same one you can see sticking out of the top of the Cleft from ground level. In the trunk is a hand icon. It's also clickable. It also does nothing. On the far side of the tree there's some kind of contraption. Not much of one from this angle, either.
It looks as though the ridges and whatnot here are a little low. There are a couple of boards here, even. I test my jumping ability and eventually I get out.
I'm now on a low ridge on the other side of the Cleft. Stairs take me up to another ledge with a window and a closed, locked door. Breaking and entering through the window is apparently not on the menu, so I'm probably going to have to find some other way in.
Once again, I'm faced with two bridges. They can't all collapse, can they? One of them sends me back to my starting place, and the other sends me in the direction of the contraption. They both have holes in them that look like I can't simply walk across.
I choose the bridge that sends me to the new ledge, knowing full well that if I fall in the hole, I'll probably land in the pond. I keyboard myself forward and jump, clearing the gap handily, and landing myself inside the room past the ledge itself. (It's around this moment that I'm completely sold on using the keyboard.) There isn't much of interest here, though. Just some towels and washing pitchers. We've found a bathroom. And let me tell you, it's a relief. It'll probably be the last one we see for a very long time.
Just outside the bathroom alcove, we see the upper half of the contraption. It looks like a well. I see a winch and a bucket on a rope. There's a foot pedal on it, but pushing on it avails naught.
I jump my way back across the bridge and try the other one. I drop back down into the bottom of the Cleft and explore its depths in the other direction. There are quite a few more fallen bridges. It looks as though this is not a new problem. Funny how only the ones I've been jumping on are still intact.
One of these bridges reaches all the way down to the floor, and an idea occurs to me. Not a new one, certainly, and worth a try. I climb up what's left of that bridge to a ledge on the same side as the original ledge. Here I find two little alcoves to explore. Both of them have the usual things for sleeping. Both of them have something interesting in them.
The one on the left has a small swatch of cloth up on the wall. It has the same symbol that the tree had on it. Perhaps this is a hand towel. Ha ha. It can be clicked on, but, as most cloths do to being touched, it does not react.
In the other sleeping chamber, a letter lies on the bed. It's the same opening that we hear at the beginning of the game, with new notes scribbled on it: "I will use them to bring me the least impossible," "Now his burden is mine," and "What I have found must be returned." It's written in lipstick red, with the same degree of legibility you'd expect from doing that. Someone needs to work on their handwriting.
Off this ledge there are a couple of boards that let you cross to the other side. No jumping required, but no handy ropes to keep you from going off the side either. Once on the other side, there's a ledge with another invitingly open alcove, but it's too high for my avatar's feeble jumping to reach. I can however drop down to a lower ledge to my left, and that ledge has another half-bridge to climb. That will take me up to where I want to go.
This alcove, I called the Workshop. There's a basin-looking thing off to the left, and a work table on the right. Dead ahead is a typical Mystian device. On its front is a round something. It's divided in four on the diagonal, and the centre is a dark area. There's a symbol in each quadrant. Like everything else here, it's non-functioning. I look around the room a little more. There's an overturned chair on the floor. Never a good sign. The far right of the room, as I walked in, has shelves with supplies in them. Maybe wood, maybe cloth, maybe paper. Maybe all three. The lighting here, as everywhere, isn't so good, and I can't rifle through it to look.
There's another round symbol carved into the wall just to the left of the door I came in. There's also a button beside the door to play with. I go up to it to take a close look. There's a board leaning against part of the symbol, obscuring part of it. My avatar walks right into it, kicking it over. I jump because it makes a loud noise, and frankly, immersives where you can walk around don't let you do things like that. Usually I find myself frustrated by all the pretty things that have been rendered that I don't get to play with. Bonus point for Ubi and Cyan.
The board falling reveals the portion of the symbol due east. On the Device, that symbol is a square spiral overlaid with a cross, and on the wall it's a circle with a closed eye complete with killer eyelashes.
I go back over to the Device and click on the east symbol. Sure enough, it changes. It takes quite a few clicks to get to the eyelash symbol but now the two versions match. Clicking in the centre still does nothing.
On the left side of the room is a doorway to another chamber. There's a log lying at the top of a set of stairs going down. I manage to walk around that one.
Once I'm inside I recognize the room whose window I was looking through before. There's a large table on the far side of the room with lots of food-preparing stuff on it. We're in the Kitchen. I also notice that the walls are beautifully painted with an intricate design that I'd go nuts trying to duplicate by hand.
Just beside the stairs is another device. There's a lever in front of it that actually works. I flip it, and I hear something mechanical move, but I don't know what. After playing with it a while and looking around, I see what I'm doing. There's a big metal pole sticking up through the ceiling. Wrapped around the pole is some kind of mechanical "hand" that clenches and unclenches as I flip the lever. I invoke the First Law of Myst: Everything is set wrong when you find it. I leave the hand open.
Beside the Pole Device is a fireplace/oven with more firewood logs lying around, and the other side of the door I tried to open earlier. There's another button beside the door. It doesn't work either.
I go back up the stairs (around the log) and out of the Workshop. I look around the various ledges and whatnot, surveying the Cleft. I've been everywhere. Nothing works. Now what?
It occurs to me that this Cleft does not constitute the entire world.
I make my way back to the original ledge, and I climb back up out of the Cleft. I go all the way around the opening and go over to the windmill. It's on a long pole reaching down into the ground. I go over to the bar sticking out of it and try moving it again. It budges and the windmill starts up. I guess it just needed a push-start. The bar coming swinging back around toward my back and I get the heck out of its way. This may be a stumblethrough, but I have limits.
I scramble back down into the Cleft and back to the Workshop. There are lights lit. Yay! Most surprising is that the basin thing that I ignored before has a little green light at its front. I push it, and the image of another letter, like we found in the Nice Bedroom, flickers before disappearing. It's still not working properly.
There's also a pale blue button lit in the middle of the Device front and centre. I push that next. It's a Holographic Projector.
We meet Yeesha. I won't transcribe the whole thing for you. She starts out in a D'ni dialect, then reminds herself that she's in, say, New Mexico, and most likely she'll need to speak English to us if we're to understand her. We learn that our basic objective here is to "find the journey", by which she means locating seven somethings in each age, described as being part of a tapestry, in each Age, including this one. Among other things, she draws the symbols engraved in the wall. Writing down the access code while she's making the message. Just the sort of thing I'd do. She also wanders off to the side where the supplies are and touches the wall. (I fail to catch on.) She does this hippie chick thing like the desert bird she is and swoops around the room while talking of water running downhill to seek its own level. She finishes up by coming back to the projector. Help me Obi Wan. You're my only hope. (Admit it. You thought it too.) She shuts it off by pushing the same button we used to turn it on, which I thought was cute.
Astonishingly, I don't go rushing out to the Less Nice Bedroom and investigate the "hand towel" we saw there. I want the Kitchen door open first because it's going to make getting around just that much easier. The buttons next to both doors are now lit up, and the Kitchen door does open. Hmm. Funny that the Kitchen is lockable, but the bedroom, where the Cleft's inhabitant (probably Yeesha) actually slept doesn't even have a door to close. At any rate, before I go looking at any bits of unresponsive cloth, I'm going to see if all the gadgets here are operational. I cross bouncing back to the Bathroom to look at the well winch.
It is working now, but the bucket comes back up empty. Dry even. It doesn't make it all the way back to the pond. So maybe that's not what it's for. I leave the bucket down and cross back to the Kitchen and down the stairs to the Cleft floor. (I do not send my avatar hurtling off the ledge, as I have a strange aversion to it after going to all the trouble of making him look vaguely like me. This will prove to be troublesome later on in this session.) The bucket is at the bottom now, and stuck to the side it another scrap of cloth identical to the one in the Not As Nice Bedroom. It's clickable, and it reacts.
The hand icon looks like your left palm facing you, with a swirl leading from your thumb into the centre of your palm, and four disjoint fingers above it. The hand icon glows blue from the tip of the thumb to about halfway across where the wrist would be. Yay! I found a thumb. Now I'll go off to the I Like You But You're Still A Guest Bedroom.
There, the hand glows blue all the way around the swirl from the tip of the thumb to just below the middle finger. Okay, so the cloths aren't each their own piece of the hand; they're a count-up towards completion. And there are seven of these things around. Shouldn't be too hard to find.
So where would I hide a little scrap of cloth? And the answer occurred to me: I'd hide it on the back of the door that I have no earthly reason for closing. The Workshop door. I cross to the Workshop and triumphantly close the door.
No journey cloth.
Okay, you're right. I'd hide it on the front of the door I'd have no reason for closing, on the wrong side from the thing that closes it. I leave through the Kitchen and go all the way around, and I see the cloth from the Bedroom ledge.
Three down, and it glows all the way to the palm.
The next thought occurs to me that there are lots of places where a little piece of cloth can be hidden in among other things. The Workshop shelves, for example. I go back around and into the Workshop and I open the door. I head over and start looking around, and there, plain as day, is a fourth journey cloth stuck to the wall, right about where Yeesha went over during the holographic message. If I'd walked further into the room and watched her swoop around, I would have seen her lay her hand right on it.
Four down, and now I have the index finger glowing.
I did go looking through the Workshop and Kitchen, but still wasn't able even to look through and under the things that might be covering another cloth. So again, having exhausted the avenues in the Cleft, I went back topside.
I do the long tour around this fenced off patch of desert, admiring the well-rendered little bushes going by while I verify that the available space that I can move around in has the rest of the world fenced out, and the mountain fenced in. I pass some unidentified scrap metal and a sun-bleached skeleton of some big creature before coming all the way around to Zendi's trailer.
As I come up to him, he tells me that I'm missing a really easy one right near here. Well, that confirms that not all of the cloths are in the Cleft itself. I wander around to the back of the trailer, and what do you know.
Five down, and the naughty finger glows brightly.
I go back around to see if Zendi's message changes, and he tells me of another journey cloth at the "Riven remnant". Well, I have two cloths left, and I found two thingies out in the desert. The conclusion seems obvious.
I go clockwise around the mountain this time, and encounter the skeleton first. There's nothing obvious, but I walk up to it from behind, between all the ribs, because that's just the kind of person I am, and on the side of the jawbone sits another journey cloth.
Six down, and only the pinkie to go.
I run quickly over to the scrap and quickly identify it as the ice cream cone that eventually breaks that world and falls with me into the crevasse in Riven. (I later tell my boyfriend what I'm searching here, and he doesn't remember what I'm talking about, which means I was either describing it badly, or it was just that long ago. Then again, that skeleton is supposed to be from Riven, too, and I don't recognize it flesh-free.) I search it all thoroughly, but there's no cloth here. Where is there left? Do I do the tree last, and that makes seven?
I go back to Zendi and he suggests that I go back to where my journey began. Oh, duh. There is one more landmark around here.
I run off to the cattle gate, which probably isn't wise, given the climate. The next time I feel myself drawn inexplicably to the desert, called by something I do not understand, I'm bringing water. Behind the big No Trespassing sign is my last journey cloth. Give the boy a hand!
I go back to the trailer, impressed by the fact that they thought to give Zendi enough different clues to finish the entire world, instead of having him parrot the same useless information that helped with a piece of the puzzle that you solved ten minutes ago. Another extra point for Ubi and Cyan.
Zendi tells me what I expect, which is that the tree is indeed my next stop. I clamber back down and around the pond to the tree and touch the hand icon. It opens inward and I venture forth.
It's even darker in here. Has Yeesha never heard of fluorescent lighting? Next time I find myself drawn inexplicably to the desert, I'm bringing water and a flashlight.
Inside are the same sort of blue glowing cave paintings from Exile. Now that I think of it, this whole world, from holoprojectors and letters from Atrus to loved women in his life, to climbing inside living plants, we've just fast-forwarded through the whole series to date.
Sitting on a lectern is a small linking book, looking more like a passport than the heavy tomes I usually think of. My avatar picks it up, attaches it to his hip somehow, and links away.