4.1: Tahgira

Tahgira is even worse than Noloben, even though it took me a bit longer to complete. There is only one real puzzle there, and maybe a couple of subsidiaries which are barely worth mentioning. Even Noloben is more complex. It has to count as the weakest Age in the Myst saga (Direbo is the most forgettable, and Serenia is the worst, but even Serenia had some decent puzzles).

You arrive and can’t get out of the cavern. But on the ice you see the design of a Slate. So you drop the Slate, and a Bahro appears to collect it, and the ice begins to crack. You pick up the Slate, which the Bahro had returned to the pedestal, stand on the crack, and the ice gives way completely. This doesn’t really count as a puzzle as far as I’m concerned, because, frankly, it’s too obvious. I heard the ice cracking under me and thought ‘Ah-ha—I need something heavy!’—then I look down and there’s the shape of a Slate etched onto the ice at exactly the right place. Way too obvious.

Then you proceed outside, have to drop the Slate to climb up the ladder, and you come to the main—indeed only—task. Etched on a wall is a glyph which instructs the Bahro to make steam when drawn on a Slate. Then you have to turn on the six generators (right=on / left=off, so again not exactly difficult) and adjust the six levers (left / off / right) so that the energy pumps through the pipes in the lake in the right way. Not overly complex; what took me the most time was realising that I could walk over the pipes when they were hot. The official Myst V guide explained that this was possible because the micro-organisms in this Age are attracted to heat and come so close together that you can walk over them, and indeed, even eat them! Me, I found out by accident that I could walk over them, and would have really liked some decent clue somewhere in the Age itself that this is the case, rather than reading about it after the fact in the guide. Anyway, so much for the main task.

On the other side of the lake, you find that the final pedestal—in the Keep, as it’s known—breaks away from the ice when you approach, to prevent you entering. You’ll have to get the Bahro to take the Slate there and then link to the Keep from the first pedestal. And how do you find out what the glyph is? No, no puzzle—you squint at the screen, maybe even increase the resolution of your monitor, and try to make out what glyph is written on the pedestal. And again I’m sorry, but that’s lame. I spent a while wandering around the area trying to find a clue, because that’s what you do in Myst games. If you can’t make it out clearly—and you couldn’t in this case—it’s because you have to do something else to make it clear. Not because you have to squint and experiment until you happen to get it right. For example, the flag at the end of Laki’ahn—you can’t see the glyph clearly until the wind is blowing. But in Tahgira, this squinting is the approved method, according to the official Myst V guide. Not good.

I appreciate that Tahgira is meant to be the first Age that a player will visit—being accessed from the top-most ‘resting place’ of the Great Shaft—and so is perhaps a little more introductory—but even that goes against the grain of Myst games. There has never really been an introductory Age before—introductory tasks, yes, but Ages, no. There have always been ‘hub’ Ages, which may introduce you to the ideas found in the other Ages (see Structural Problems in Myst V), but there has never been an Age specifically designed to ‘get the player into their stride’. So why start including them with the fifth game in the series? Apart from anything else, the whole thing is a little too linear: while Tahgira is introductory, anyone who decides to explore Laki’ahn first will see a side of Esher that shouldn’t be revealed until much later in the game.

And yes, there have been one-puzzle Ages before: Selenetic from Myst, for example. But look more closely and Selenetic doesn’t really qualify. It actually involves four tasks:
  1. Turn on the electricity on Myst island, which powers up the spaceship;
  2. Inside the spaceship, complete the music puzzle;
  3. On Selenetic, complete the sound-based puzzle;
  4. To leave, navigate the maze by listening carefully to the the noises at each location.
Also note that the maze in stage 4. is a real maze, unlike the one is Laki’ahn; there is no way that a process of elimination could take you through this one, and it’s almost impossible to map (I’ve never seen one on the net). The maze is littered with the bodies of people who failed to find the exit (okay, maybe not ;-) . But still, although Selenetic has only one task, it is hard to get to and mind-bogglingly difficult to leave. Tahgira is neither; and the only difficult thing is working out that heating the pipes allows you to walk over water, and that yes, you do have to squint. And how counter-intuitive is that? In a series of games which have always prided themselves on the requirement that the player should ‘just imagine he or she is there’, Tahgira falls well below the mark.

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4.1: Tahgira