|Original Release Date||Publishers||Designers||Composers||Platforms||Storage Method||Game In Series|
|October 29, 1997||Broderbund, Acclaim, Sega (In Europe), Enix (In Japan), Mean Hamster Software||Robyn Miller and Richard Vander Wende||Robyn Miller||Mac,Windows, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Pocket PC||CD-ROM (five disks), DVD-ROM||Second|
|Original Technical Specifications for Windows||Processor||Operating System||Hard Drive Space||RAM||CD-ROM||Graphics||Sound|
|Pentium 100 MHz for CD-ROM, Pentium 166 MHz for DVD-ROM||Windows 95 or higher||75 MB for CD-ROM, 84 MB for DVD-ROM||16 MB||4x for CD-ROM, 1x for DVD-ROM||640x480, 16-bit color quality||Windows Compatable for CD-ROM, Soundblaster 16 or 100% compatable for DVD-ROM|
|Original Technical Specifications for Macintosh||Processor||Operating System||Hard Drive Space||RAM||CD-ROM||Graphics|
|PowerPC 90 MHz for CD-ROM, PowerPC G3 for DVD-ROM||Mac OS 7.5 or higher for CD-ROM, Mac OS 8.1 or higher for DVD-ROM||65 MB for CD-ROM, 84 MB for DVD-ROM||9 MB for CD-ROM, 16 MB for DVD-ROM||4x for CD-ROM, 1x for DVD-ROM||640x480|
With the overwhelming success that was Myst, people around the world found a new way to enjoy puzzles. Everyone was talking about the strange game that spoke of magical books and mysterious worlds, some praising the game and some criticizing it. Myst was, and had been, the number one best-seller for years, and the fans were itching for more. They knew another game, one superior to Myst yet humble towards its roots, was right around the corner – but the title was anyone’s guess. Imagine their surprise when Riven: The Sequel to Myst appeared on store shelves in late 1997, boasting more realistic graphics, a greater degree of user freedom, and a main age so huge that it needed not one, but five CD-ROM disks to contain it. The highly-anticipated Riven sold millions of copies, garnered hundreds of new Myst fans, and became a favorite of an entire generation of computer gamers.
The plot of Riven is much edgier and darker than that
of Myst. Months after your adventures on Myst Island, Atrus calls you
back to D’ni and asks a favor of you. His wife, Catherine, is being held
hostage on her crumbling home world of Riven, an age written by Atrus’
insane father, Gehn. Your task is to find and capture Gehn, who has been ruling
over Riven with an iron fist, rescue Catherine, and eventually, find your way
back home. That’s not as easy as it sounds, however – wickedly challenging
puzzles, dangerous creatures, and Gehn’s loyal followers are all waiting
to slow you down – and possibly take your life. The player’s actions
greatly influence the game, much like in Myst. Unlike in Myst,
however, the player can kill themselves if they choose poorly, making Riven
the first of the Myst games where the player can actually die.
are three major characters in Riven aside from you. The first major
character should be familiar to you if you’ve played Myst –
Atrus. In Riven, Atrus charges you with the task of finding his wife
and ending the injustice and tyranny that Gehn has spread once and for all.
Atrus is a kindly, sensitive, and bright man, though a bit scatterbrained. He
has a tendency to shove problems aside rather than deal with them head on, something
that often gets him into trouble. Atrus was played by Rand Miller, who reprised
the role in Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation, and Myst
V: End of Ages, making Atrus the only character to appear in all five of
the Myst games.
Atrus’ wife Catherine, the damsel in distress in Riven, is the second character. She is a native of Riven, and her real name is actually Katran, but Atrus kept mispronouncing her name as ‘Catherine’ when they met, giving her the name she is more commonly known by. Catherine also knows how to write linking books, something Atrus and his grandmother taught her. Catherine is a daydreamer with very radical ideas about the art of writing. Therefore, her ages often defy the boundaries of what Atrus had previously thought was possible. Catherine has been portrayed by a number of actresses, but interestingly, two played her in Riven: Sheila Goold was the live actress for Riven, but Rengin Altay (who later played another character in Uru and Myst V: End of Ages) provided the voiceover as Mrs. Goold didn’t quite sound like what Rand had in mind for Catherine’s voice.
The main villain of the game is Gehn, Atrus’ father. Gehn had a wife named Keta, but she unfortunately died in childbirth, resulting in Gehn becoming hardened and callous. He taught Atrus how to write, but unfortunately, Atrus discovered that Gehn was delirious, believing that his ability to write made him a god, a literal creator of worlds. Atrus eventually stranded Gehn on Riven with no possible way of getting back, but Gehn has been experimenting with possible ways to escape, resulting in books powered by spinning domes known as Firemarble Domes. Gehn’s rather disgustingly large ego prevents him from keeping his delusions of grandeur inside of his head where they belong, and his xenophobic tendencies mean that he often appears in the ages he writes to help ‘civilize’ the inhabitants into worshipping him. Gehn wrote Riven and several other ages, all titled with numbers (Gehn refers to Riven as ‘Age 5’; the native name for it is ‘Riven’), but unfortunately, none of them were very stable. As a way to fix this, Atrus has been trying to stabilize Riven through proofreading, but the age is still in grave peril of collapsing. Catherine also tried to help fix the problem, but her surrealistic style only resulted in a strange sort of portal known as the Star Fissure – literally a wormhole that can possibly lead you home from Riven. Gehn was played by John Keston, a British actor.
Riven has three main worlds, but despite having only three, it manages to take up five whopping CD-ROMS! Unlike in Myst, the main age of Riven has five separate islands – and you have to visit almost all of them, many of them multiple times. While you can visit the islands in any order you wish, you must visit the three main ages in a very specific order. Did I lose you there? Don’t worry, I’ll explain it.
• Riven: Riven is the main ‘hub’ age of the game, consisting of five islands. Riven was once one island, but because the age is so unstable, it slowly began to split into five islands, all shaped like tetronimos, oddly enough. I’ve detailed the five islands below.
• Temple Island (Also called Dome Island or Allatwan, the native name for it): The island you begin on. Temple Island is called Temple Island because Gehn ordered the people of Riven to build a shrine to him there. Other features include a giant golden dome (which powers some of Gehn’s contraptions around the other islands), a turning room with an egotistical ‘comic book’ hidden inside golden beetles (actually part of Gehn’s shrine), and the (rather eerie) shrine itself. There’s also a maglev tram that you can use to get to another island.
• Jungle Island (Also known as Village Island or Riven, the native name for it): So called because of the lush jungle there. The people of Riven live here, but you will only see glimpses of a few of them because they’re very shy of strangers. Also a native of this island is the Wahrk, a deadly creature that is half-whale, half shark, and all hunger and teeth. There are signs of Gehn’s influence everywhere, from a gallows where unruly natives are fed to the Wahrk, to a small mini-shrine in a classroom. There is a hidden maglev to Gehn’s private study on Riven as well as a minecart that leads to another of Gehn’s work islands.
• Boiler Island (Also called Book Assembly Island or Crater Island): This is another of Gehn’s private islands, where he attempts to make his own version of Linking Books. Also here is Gehn’s laboratory and study. Otherwise, there isn’t a lot else to see here. You can walk to Temple Island via a bridge here, or you can take another maglev tram to another of Gehn’s private islands.
• Plateau Island (Also called Map Island, Survey Island, Spike Island, Garden Island, or Matrix Island): Another private island that Gehn uses to survey Riven’s deterioration, this island contains a large map that shows the locations of firemarble domes on the islands along with topographic views of the same. This is also where Gehn keeps his pet Wahrks – you can even meet one of them face-to-tusks in an observatory in the lower level of this island. Just be careful about bothering it too often… Unlike the other four islands, this island can be skipped if you know what you’re doing.
• Prison Island: This island once held a massive and mighty tree, but Gehn cut it down to use for his books and the island drifted far away, too far to be seen from the other four islands, and is now reachable only through a book on Gehn’s private home on Age 233, another age he wrote. Gehn is holding Catherine prisoner in a small room on Prison Island, and it’s up to you to figure out how to reach her.
• Age 233 (also called Gehn’s Age, Gehn’s 233rd Age, or the 233rd Age): This age is the only actually stable age Gehn managed to write, and it serves as his home and private retreat. The terrain was once covered in a caustic sea, but after some time, the sea neutralized and lowered to reveal many strange rock formations, the result of corrosion. The conditions, however, are still so harsh that Gehn has to wear protective clothing whenever he ventures outside. Gehn wrote this age whilst he was trapped on Riven, and it is the only age that contains links to all of Riven’s five Islands, including Prison Island.
• Tay (also called the Rebel Age, Moiety Hive, Rebel Hive, or Moiety Age): Tay is nothing more than a strange-looking, enormous tree in the middle of a lake surrounded by mountains. This age was once written by Gehn, but he considered it a failed age and attempted to get rid of it. However, Catherine managed to salvage it and turned it into a hideout for the Moiety rebels, a group that is strongly – and violently – against Gehn and his followers. At the end of the game, we learn (in the best ending, anyway) that Riven was destroyed and Catherine took the Rivenese natives to this age to live there.
After the overwhelming success of Myst, brothers Rand
and Robyn Miller decided that they wanted another game in the series. In 1993,
not even a few months after Myst’s release, the Miller brothers
began work on a then-untitled sequel. Though it didn’t have a title yet,
the brothers knew they wanted a natural flow from Myst to the sequel,
smoothly continuing Atrus’ story and your adventures. Because Myst
was so popular and commercially successful, the brothers were able to expand
their skeleton crew of four into an even larger team of developers, designers,
and programmers. And they would need it – Riven took four years
to develop and a budget of between five and ten million US dollars, more than
ten times the money it took to create Myst!
The new crew contained co-designer Richard VanderWende, who had previously worked at Disney. He brought with him an edgier, unique style that made Riven radically different from its predecessor, Myst. This style gave Riven a darker, more serious feel and lent it a poignancy that was missing from the surrealistic and dream-like Myst. Also on the crew was programmer Richard A. Watson, known to Myst fans as RAWA. Watson is most famous among Myst fans for putting several easter eggs in Riven, unlocked by following clues from a mysterious Cyan insider known only as Spyder (another member of the Riven team). Later in the series, RAWA became a self-proclaimed “D’ni Historian”, providing research and insight into the culture of the ancient D’ni race. RAWA is also credited as the creator of the D’ni written and spoken language, which appears throughout the games, beginning with Riven. Around this time, the Millers also changed the name of Atrus' race from 'Dunny' to 'D'ni', both to match the way that words were pronounced and written in RAWA's new language and because they had discovered that 'dunny' is an Australian slang word for 'bathroom' or 'toilet'. The change in the way the word was written, however, didn't change the pronunciation, though it does somewhat alter how the word is pronounced in the D'ni language.
The design for Riven is gritty and rustic, reflecting the islands’ steady decay. This, believe it or not, was revolutionary in computer graphics at the time, because most computer-generated images at the time all looked smooth, like plastic, instead of textured like in real life. To find the textures for the worlds they had created, Cyan sent out a team of designers and photographers to find textures in real life that they could use to make the ages of Riven more realistic. Besides sky, stone, plant, metal, and dirt textures, the photographers found a straw texture and an adobe wall texture to use on the native buildings in the game. Even this, however, didn’t prevent the designers from making a few mistakes – on Jungle Island, for example, there are two hinges on a door that do not have a texture, making them look brand new due to the default grey texture that the computer-generating program uses when it can’t find or doesn’t have a texture. Another example is found in Gehn’s laboratory on Boiler Island – there is a book on one of his desktop bookshelves that has a grey question mark on it because the computer-generating program couldn’t find the texture for it. Unfortunately, these mistakes clash with the rustic look that the designers intended, but Riven fans regard these minor issues as strange quirks and nothing more.
Because of Myst’s success, Cyan was able to hire more prominent actors to play roles in the game. Rand Miller, however, had to reprise his role as Atrus even though he hated acting, because the crew couldn’t find anyone else who wanted the role. Much like with Myst, all actors were filmed against bluescreen backgrounds with bluescreen props. The blue was later removed with Chroma Key, a technique used in professional moviemaking to create special effects and insert actors into various backgrounds. Riven was the first game in the series where the actors in the game were actually directed rather than merely speaking into a camera and reading from a script.
Robyn Miller once again composed the music for Riven, later released on an album by Virgin Records. For this game, Robyn created three leitmotifs – one each for Gehn, Catherine, and Atrus. The music of Riven has a rich, mysterious, and tribal sound that incorporates bits and pieces of Gehn’s motif, to reflect the influence he held over Riven. To make this unique sound, Robyn blended synthesizer and real instruments, including some very interesting percussion features. Rather than compose the pieces before seeing the ages and areas of the game, Robyn allowed the game areas to dictate the sound of the music. All in all, there are 54 minutes of music in Riven.
Riven was also one of the most widely-anticipated games of the 1997 holiday season. Besides the eager Myst fans, Riven had a strong advertising campaign including trailers, previews, and some very odd magazine ads. One magazine advertisement shows an image of an old-time fair crowded with people, with images, words, and website links hidden in and around the image. It was even more successful than its predecessor, selling 1.5 million copies within a year and becoming the best-selling game of 1997 despite it only being on the shelves for three months.
If you’re really in a tough spot in Riven – and there are a lot of them – and simply cannot find a solution, here are some walkthroughs you can use. There are two. The first is a low-spoiler walkthrough from Universal Hint System, a good way to go if you just need subtle hints and, I think, the best way to go. You wouldn’t want to ruin all the secrets of the game, would you? The second links to a full walkthrough. I don’t recommend this, because, as a fellow Myst fan and friend of mine once said, “You only experience your first playthrough once.” If you really can’t figure out the game, though, feel free to use it. Whichever path you choose, I hope that you find what you’re looking for and enjoy your experience in Riven!
Walkthrough ~ Full