4: Puzzle Quality

It took me less than 18 hours to play through Myst V: End of Ages, with only a couple of glances at the official Myst V guide. I’ll explain when:
  1. When I was pretty certain that what I was drawing on a Slate was right—but couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Usually the guide confirmed that I was indeed drawing it correctly, so I drew it again and it worked (!)
  2. When I was truly confused—like having to draw the ‘sing’ glyph on the Slate in Laki’ahn—no duh!
And with the windmill puzzle on Laki’ahn, the difficulty of which was exacerbated by the jumpiness of the realtime engine, meaning I could barely see what I was doing, and it took 20 seconds to actually be able to hover the cursor over a button to click on it (and my computer—a 1.2 GHz iBook with 1.25 GB of RAM—is above the minimum requirements)—so I said ‘Stuff this’ and cheated.

18 hours is really short for any of the Myst games. I know that I checked the in-game hints in Myst IV: Revelation a couple of times (in Spire, for example) and it still took about twice as long.

One of the reasons for that is the lack of real nooks and crannies, as I’ve already explained. With less to do, and less to absorb, you do it quicker, even though there are more Ages. But the Ages themselves were too simple.

Actually, that’s not quite fair: Laki’ahn and Todelmer are proper D’ni Ages, with plenty of puzzles of varying difficulty. But the Great Shaft, which connects the main Ages, is a bit short on puzzles to say the least, and both Tahgira and Noloben are basically one-puzzle Ages.

Take Noloben. If you played the demo, you’ll know that it ends when you enter Esher’s laboratory. Well, there isn’t much more. You climb up the steps, meet a monologging Esher, and continue climbing. Two more tasks confront you:
  1. How do you get the ladder down?
  2. How can you keep the pressure point activated?
Neither is particularly difficult; the first because there is a simple diagram in the lab, the second, because there are so few options, and because the same basic device is used in various ways in three of the ages anyway—see Myst V Review: 5.1. Slates for more information. So basically, the most difficult thing in Noloben is gaining access to the lab—which is possible without using the rain manipulation glyph getting the bowls under the canopied area to fill up with water and reflect the correct glyphs, but by a simple process of elimination and a lot of walking. Noloben has to count as the simplest Age ever: it took me about two hours all told—for an entire Age! That’s got to be too small: if the aim in to immerse the player, then Noloben shares in Direbo’s difficulties—that if there is no need to spend time there, no-one is going to end up immersing themselves in that Age, because the time spent there is too fleeting.

(Actually, I’ve discovered the best way to spend your time in Noloben: its beaches are the ideal place for reading Yeesha’s journals.)

Tahgira’s problems, however, deserve their own section.

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4: Puzzle Quality