Riven review


Atrus. Connecting books. Eternity. A enormous cardboard box illustrated with an impressive ball-like structure, filled with CDs to install. Weird, strange, puzzles. Riven, like its equally celebrated prequel Myst, is one of those games that was so successful in the ’90s that it feels familiar – and even a little respectable – to almost anyone of (my) certain age. A true classic, known even to those who never intended to play it.

I need to know

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What is this? A classic puzzle adventure, expertly updated
Release date: June 25, 2024
Expect to pay:
Cyanowe Światy Inc
Publisher: Cyanowe Światy Inc
Review: Intel Core i7-7700HQ, GTX 1070, 16 GB RAM
Multiplayer: NO
Steam deck: Not supported
To combine: Couple

back to original in the chilly lightweight of 2024 is tough: a 640×480 flipbook of a game with much of its original multi-disc wonder and awe lost to time. This remake brings back all that antique magic in an instant.

At the risk of stating the obvious: it’s Riven, but in 3D. And I don’t just mean the elderly surroundings, the polished domes and worn-out machines that are still there. It’s the most accomplished, spiritually precise, real-time recreation of that unique, pre-rendered ’90s CG style I’ve ever seen. Everything is a bit unreal. The sky is almost too blue, the sun outside is always a little too brilliant, and the interior lighting has an attractive but artificial, pre-baked lighting quality. The rocky textures are acute and intricate, but never completely photorealistic. The leaves are overly detailed and yet naively simplistic, giant individual blades of green rising from the ground.

It is handsome. Elegant. Timeless. Being able to move freely through environments that once took hours to render from a single angle at much lower levels of detail on professional workstations is almost disrespectful to the story, but it instantly makes for a better experience.

Somehow, Riven still looks amazing even on relatively petite, state-of-the-art hardware. Due to an unexpected and catastrophic failure of my regular machine, I had to play the game on a laptop that I would politely describe as potato at best, and yet its GTX 1070 still managed to hit 60fps at 1080p at the game’s max graphics settings, with a few sporadic little dips along the way.

Familiar landmarks in the distance lend a hand me maintain my balance (Image source: Cyan Worlds)

However, it took a while before I was relaxed enough to appreciate it all, as Riven’s introduction is a narratively dense and confusing experience. As soon as the story begins, we are thrown into a mysterious place where I am preparing to travel to an unknown land by a man who has not given me his name (though Myst players will know this). I’m given strange and barely described tools to free someone I’ve never met from the clutches of someone I’ve never heard of. Then I was immediately imprisoned, robbed, the only witness to the murder, released, and then left to my own devices with just a briefcase and a few notes.

It’s a stunning flurry of scenes that brilliantly set the tone for everything that follows. The design completely surprised me – while it may sound counterintuitive, it actually helps make the game more accessible, in a very Torn Type of road. Not knowing what’s going on, or even having a good idea of ​​where I am, is normal in this game. And that means I won’t fail if I find some weird artifact typed in one of two different numbering systems and I have absolutely no idea what to do with it. This just means I’m playing Riven.

The Riven remake retains that unique sense of alienation, even though I’ve been in that world before. Not only have more than a few puzzles been changed, making it impossible to wander through the entire game with an elderly FAQ open in a tab, but this remake also makes no concessions to state-of-the-art tastes. I’m expected to do this on my own, with no helpful hint system to nudge me along, or even the option to highlight interactive objects in my field of view. At first, part of me felt that perhaps the remake should have included something like this – a little hint so that anyone who wanted to try could reach at least one of the game’s many endings. However, the more I played, the more I realized that getting to the end credits wasn’t really the point, and that reducing the game to a straightforward list of quests and shiny extras would rob Riven of its appeal.

What hasn’t changed in 27 years is that it’s less of a game to solve and more of a place to experience. I’m supposed to poke and prod everything I see, peek through little windows and pull various knobs and levers to see what happens.

Sometimes I’m sure it’s about just stopping for a minute and taking in the view – a golden beetle glowing in the sun, immense expanses of water that seem determined to darken the sky above them, strange non-spaces where the usual laws of physics no longer exist. are not valid and “up” is a matter of opinion.

As I was forced to adapt to Riven’s unhurried pace, as I was asked to look around and really notice the world around me, I quickly realized that guidance and lend a hand were basically everywhere. Buttons and levers are always visually related in some way to the object they affect. Secret passages were revealed in detailed notes. Every colorful glow, every piece of parchment covered with ink scribbles has a reason – even by playing with children’s toys, I can learn something useful. After all, it’s all vital.

That’s how I ended up with two pages of scribblings on fictional counting systems and notes that sounded like FROG=2???? AND IS THERE FISH??? It seemed more like I was channeling the spirit of da Vinci than solving the game’s puzzles, but I wouldn’t trade this extraordinary effort for anything. The reward for solving the puzzle was more satisfying than achieving the goal; it felt personal to me, like evidence that I was examining with my eyes open and relating to a world that literally didn’t speak my language.

Riven’s challenges may be confusing, but they’re surprisingly basic to follow. With the freeform notebook feature, I can take a screenshot of everything I’m looking at and add my own notes to it. The design is disorganized, and Riven’s loose structure does not fit with its structured labeling system. As time passes, the game becomes almost a travel journal, as well as a collection of vital tips, a record of where I was and what I noticed during my stay.

In 2024, Riven will be as captivating as ever. It’s an imaginative puzzle game that demands intense but unhurried commitment, and then generously rewards those who give it. It’s a lively alien world full of knowledge and secrets. It includes many modern features over elderly features that will surprise the biggest fans, but will still feel seamlessly integrated with others.

This is how you remake a classic.

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