2.1: Direbo

In Myst V: End of Ages we visit the most pointless Age to be found in any Myst game: Direbo. To reach Direbo, the player has to descend the shaft to D’ni (the Great Shaft); at each of four ‘resting places’ there is a linking book to Direbo. Direbo itself is a pleasant-looking evening Age consisting of four islands. On each island is a linking book (to the relevant ‘resting place’ of the shaft; a pedestal which can be used to access one of the four main Ages; and two bridges to other islands. These bridges have gates at both ends which can only be opened from the island they lead to.

The sole function of Direbo is to make the distance between the pedestals shorter. To begin with, the player has to climb down the shaft to access each island of Direbo; once the bridge gates have been opened, there is no need to return to the shaft, and it is easy to leave one Age and to enter another simply by returning to Direbo and crossing a bridge.

But this is eye-candy for explorers, nothing more, and the ease with which Direbo could have been left out of Myst V: End of Ages makes this clear. Instead of linking books at each ‘resting place’, we could have a pedestal; or, alternatively, the linking book at each level takes us to one of the Ages, where we find the pedestal close by. No more need for Direbo. Its function is not similar to that of J’nanin, the lesson Age of Myst III: Exile, which presents us with puzzles to be completed before the other Ages can be accessed—the Great Shaft fulfils that role. It simply makes moving between the Ages a little easier, as if taking a lift up to the previous ‘resting place’ wasn’t easy enough. And if you approach each Age separately, completing one before progressing to the next, it is utterly superfluous. Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing.

Even the very idea of Direbo is ultimately incoherent. Here is a passage from the official Myst V guide which explains the purpose of Direbo:

An Age for Resting: Direbo was a world meant to serve as a rest Age for the D’ni during their journey to the surface. Rather than hole up in carved niches along the way, the D’ni could link to this lush, green, peaceful Age and find rest and relaxation.

But Direbo completely negates the need for that journey to the surface. Just link there from somewhere—anywhere—and go to the first island, and can use the linking book to get to the top of the Great Shaft. If the gates on the bridges are locked, you need only get your feet wet. Why would anyone spend months building the the Great Shaft shaft when a few well-placed linking books to Direbo would do the trick?

None of which is to say that it it doesn’t look nice: it does. But the virtue of the Myst games has always been to immerse the player in the environment; and the feeling that the particular environment you are in is pointless, simply an extra click between where you came from and where you want to go, really does nothing to immerse the player.

Direbo is the least impressive—in the sense of creating an impression—Age in the entire Myst saga. It’s not the worst—that honour goes to Myst IV: Revelation’s Serenia, with it’s do-gooding new-age women and utterly preposterous spirit world. But whereas I wish I could forget Serenia (it totally ruined my appreciation of Myst IV: Revelation), Direbo is simply the most forgettable Age anywhere in the series.

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2.1: Direbo