|Original Release Date||Publishers||Designers||Composers||Platforms||Storage Method||Game In Series|
|May 7, 2001||Presto Studios, Ubisoft||Mary DeMarle and Phil Saunders||Jack Wall||Mac, Windows, Xbox, PlayStation2||CD-ROM (four disks), DVD-ROM||Third|
|Original Technical Specifications for Windows||Processor||Operating System||Hard Drive Space||RAM||CD-ROM||Graphics||Sound||Other|
|233MHz Pentium II or faster for CD-ROM, 233 MHz Pentium II or faster for DVD-ROM||Windows 95 or higher for CD-ROM, Windows 98 or XP for DVD-ROM||200 MB for CD-ROM, 400 MB for DVD-ROM||64 MB (256 MB recommended for XP)||4x for CD-ROM, 1x for DVD-ROM||640x480 with 24-bit color or higher for CD-ROM, 8 MB DirectX 9 compatible video card capable of 32-bit color for DVD||Microsoft DirectX 7 Compatible for CD-ROM, DirectX 9 compatible sound card for DVD-ROM||Microsoft DirectX 7 or higher for CD-ROM, Microsoft DirectX 9 and Quicktime 6.0 for DVD-ROM|
|Original Technical Specifications for Macintosh||Processor||Operating System||Hard Drive Space||RAM||CD-ROM||Graphics||Other|
|233 MHz G3 or faster||Mac OS 8.1 - 9.1||200 MB for CD-ROM, 400 MB for DVD-ROM||64 MB||4x for CD-ROM, 1x for DVD-ROM||640x480 with 16-bit color or higher for CD-ROM, 6 MB video card capable of supporting millions of colors for DVD-ROM||Quicktime 4.0 for CD-ROM, Quicktime 6.0 for DVD-ROM|
The year was 2001, only a year since the beginning of the new millennium and the Y2K scare racked the nation. It was a new world now, one more geared towards the future of computers, software, and gaming. A glimmering promise of new technology was on the horizon – gaming consoles were becoming more advanced with new machines like the Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube. Computers were getting more advanced as well – both Microsoft and Apple were working on new operating systems while maintaining the older ones. With the coming of this new era in gaming, Myst fans everywhere were talking about how Cyan, now Cyan Worlds, was thinking of a sequel. Indeed, the time was ripe for one – both Riven and Myst had since become well-loved by an entire generation of gamers. They loved the surreal environments, deep plots, and challenging puzzles, and they wanted more. The fans were truly addicted to Myst and Riven, and they craved another game. Enter Myst III: Exile, considered the most controversial of the Myst games because of Cyan Worlds’ choice to hand development over to another company, Presto Studios, despite stating that they would not make another game for the Myst series. Though it caused the fans to split into the ‘old game’ camp and the ‘new game’ camp, Exile broke the barriers of what fans expected from the series, with new technology, more prominent actors, and a dark, twisted new plot that brought back a few old friends.
Sometimes, the past can return to haunt you. Ten years after the events of Riven, Atrus calls you to his new home in Tomahna, an age he wrote as a new home for himself, Catherine, and his new baby girl, Yeesha. He has discovered that some of his race, the D’ni, are not quite dead, and he has decided to write an age for them to live on named Releeshahn. Atrus wants to show the age to you, but things go horribly awry before he can even so much as touch the linking panel. A scraggly-looking man links in, steals Releeshahn, and sets Atrus’ study on fire, leaving behind a book to a strange age called J’nanin. You link after him, only to find that he has locked himself in his tower. After some quick research, you discover that his name is Saavedro, he has been trapped here for twenty years, and he is very, very angry at Atrus for something his sons did to him. The bad news is that you’re trapped on J’nanin with him, and he’s a bit on the unstable side. This time, you’ll not only have to solve infuriating puzzles and escape with your life, you’ll have to traverse strange, delirious ages without losing your sanity. Will you be able to right was has gone wrong and survive this strange exile, or will you fall prey to Saavedro’s anger – or worse, go as mad as he is?
Riven, there are only two characters that you need to be concerned
with. Catherine doesn’t appear much in this game – she had her day
in Riven – so she’s excluded from this description. (Sorry,
Catherine. You’re awesome and all, but you’re just not in this game
enough to qualify. No hard feelings, right?) The first main character is none
other than your old pal Atrus, a familiar face to Myst and Riven
fans alike. In Exile, Atrus is only seen at the beginning, the end,
and in a few holographic messages. He’s a kind soul and usually very bright,
but he unfortunately is a bit disorganized in thought, forgetful, and a little
too forgiving. He’s also the kind of person who hates dealing with a problem,
preferring to shove it aside and let it solve itself. This last point is the
main reason Atrus gets into so much trouble, such as having his once-friend
Saavedro seek revenge on him for something Atrus never even had a hand in. Atrus
was once again portrayed by Rand Miller, who reprises the role in Myst IV:
Revelation and Myst V: End of Ages.
The second character is Saavedro, an exiled man from the age of Narayan and the antagonist of the game. The guy’s plain insane, to put it lightly, and he’s haunted by the terrible things that Sirrus and Achenar did to him and his home age of Narayan. He believes that everyone in his world is dead, including his wife, Tamra. He is obsessed with trying to find a way to ‘bring her back’, even going so far as to paint her portrait on the wall of his room in the central tower of J’nanin. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite remember all of the details right, resulting in the portrait having no eyes. Prior to becoming the shell of a man we see in Exile, Saavedro was a teacher who aspired to become an Elder, or leader, of his community some day. He was also an artist. He was even one of Atrus’ best friends, and indeed, it was Atrus' naive nature that caused Atrus to send the brothers to Narayan for tutoring. This only resulted in the boys returning years later to destroy the age entirely and trap Saavedro on J’nanin. One other thing of note is that Saavedro carries a makeshift hammer, his trademark weapon, and he’s not shy about using it on things such as walls, creatures – and your head. Saavedro was played by character actor Brad Dourif, known for his roles as the voice of the evil doll Chucky in the Child’s Play series and as the traitorous Grìma Wormtongue in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Exile has six – count ‘em, six! – worlds for you to explore, more than any of the other Myst games (barring the spin-off Uru). I am not including Releeshahn in this count because the player never actually got to see Releeshan until Myst V: End of Ages was released nearly five years later. Exile reverts to Myst’s ‘hub age’ format, differing greatly from the more linear Riven. The ages are also a lot more garish than Riven’s, contributing to a very surreal, delirious feel, and because Saavedro has made the ages in the game so much a part of him, it’s almost like stepping into his mind for a split second.
• Tomahna: The starting age for Exile, Tomahna is Atrus’ new home. After the trouble that occurred on Myst Island, Atrus decided that it held too many painful memories, so he wrote Tomahna as a new home for himself and his wife, Catherine. We never see more of Tomahna than the front porch and Atrus’ study until Myst IV: Revelation, and you don’t really do much of anything here except explore Atrus’ study and watch a few cutscenes. Tomahna's name comes from a D’ni word, ‘tohmahn’, meaning ‘home’.
• J’nanin: The central hub age and where the game really begins. J’nanin is a sunny age full of cliffs, and as such it is often referred to as a Rock Climber’s Paradise. The main, feature, however, are four enormous tusks that jut from the ground, three of which lead to the other three main ages of the game. The fourth contains an observatory on top and Saavedro’s lair at the bottom. Wandering about this age, it’s easy to see why Saavedro went a little nutty during his stay here – there’s little to no music, only the sound of the ocean waves and the eerie sound of the wind as it whistles through strange rock formations, and that sun looks blisteringly hot. The heights and steep cliff drops don’t help any, either, especially when those steep drops lead to a very long fall into a shallow basin below. Sandy tan and brown dominate this age color-wise. All of these things combine to give the feel that one has entered a very foreign, lonely, and almost unfriendly world. Many Myst fans cite J’nanin as one of the eeriest and even scariest ages in the series for these reasons. J’nanin is rumored to come from a Narayani word that means ‘Place of Learning’, but this isn’t known for certain.
• Edanna: A lush, tropical age that is basically an inverted tree. That is, all the vegetation is on the inside and the wood part is on the outside. This is the only age in the game with both plant and animal life, and the puzzles of this age all rely on the plant and animal life within the age itself. As with all of the ages in this game save for J’nanin and Tomahna, Edanna has a special mantra or lesson that you need to find. For Edanna, that mantra is “Nature Encourages Mutual Dependence”. The color green dominates this age, for obvious reasons. One other thing of note here is a certain creature called a Squee, an animal native to this age. This animal is a sort of mascot for this game as well as a well-loved creature to many Myst fans. In Edanna, it’s integral to one of the puzzles and is extremely cute besides.
• Amateria: One of my favorite ages, Amateria can basically be described as “Theme Park meets Feudal Japan meets the Giant’s Causeway”. Most of the puzzles have to do with sound or abstract energy. The mantra for Amateria is “Dynamic Forces Spur Change”. The age is in perpetual twilight and the hexagon is the predominate shape. Amateria is primarily dominated by cool colors and stony grays, giving it a friendly and serene feel. The puzzles are designed to be visually pleasing as well as functional, and at the end, the final puzzle results in an awesome roller coaster ride in a sphere of ice. I’ll repeat that – a sphere of ice. I’m sorry, but as far as end-of-age cut scenes go, that’s got to be one of the coolest, no pun intended. I know fans, including myself, who have played Myst III: Exile more times than any sane person should, and they still can’t get over the awesomeness of that cut scene.
• Voltaic: Imagine the Grand Canyon. Now imagine the Grand Canyon filled with machinery that vaguely evokes spider legs and dinosaur bones. There’s Voltaic in a nutshell. Voltaic is themed around energy, and as such, it’s primarily based around the color red, an energetic color. Not only do you invoke the use of energy, you use three different types of energy – water power, thermodynamic power, and even steam power – all just to activate the final puzzle. It’s very interesting to see how everything comes together – you can tell that this age was obviously written by Atrus, because it’s just so scientific. The mantra for Voltaic is “Energy Powers Future Motion”.
• Narayan: You only get to see this age at the end of the game. Narayan is Saavedro’s home age and possibly one of the strangest-looking ages in the Myst universe, barring Uru’s odd ages. Picture a bunch of alien-looking trees floating above an endless ocean with misty pink clouds, and you can kind of get where I’m going here. The people of Narayan live on these trees and build their houses into them in an important ritual called the Weaving Ceremony, but I won’t go into that. Saavedro, of course, believes this age to be ruined and all of its inhabitants dead - all save for him. Fortunately, if you’re a kind-hearted person and choose the best of the endings, Saavedro finds out that Narayan is alright and can go home. Then again, if you’re a cruel, despicable sadist, you can always leave him there… you heartless cad. Narayan is dominated by the colors pink and green, but blue dominates it at first due to the icy shields that prevent Saavedro’s return home. This radical color shift marks the transition between simulated, cold death and vibrant, energetic life. Narayan has a mantra, too – “Balanced Systems Stimulate Civilization”. Narayan is also one of the most loved ages amongst Myst fans; there’s even a group of Myst fans dedicated exclusively to learning more about Narayan and the culture of Saavedro’s people, including the spoken and written language.
Riven and Myst became runaway successes, the original Miller
brother duo decided it was time they went their separate ways. Robyn Miller
left Cyan to pursue other interests, leaving Rand Miller to run the company.
Rand, now in charge, made some radical new changes to the company, including
a new headquarters in Spokane, Washington and changing the name of the company
to Cyan Worlds to reflect the changes he was bringing. He began to talk of a
newer, more expansive Myst universe. He planned to turn it into something
different from Myst entirely, but still connected to the series. The
result was later developed and released as Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. Rand
also planned a sequel to Riven, originally meant to bring Sirrus and
Achenar back, but after he discovered that two projects was too much for the
company to handle at that point, Rand put the sequel project up for offer. Presto
Studios took the project and, under Rand’s supervision, created a very
different experience from Riven or even from Myst. The sequel
focused much more on realism than the previous games, and with the new 360-degree
technology and better rendering engines, that realism became possible. Strong
visuals such as interesting landscapes and bright colors were key, resulting
in a much brighter, energetic, and sometimes even dream-like look of the game
– something that the fans have been split on ever since the game was released.
Presto Studios was, at the time, most famous for their work on their popular Journeyman Project series, a series of games where you play a time-traveler who attempts to fix problems in time. The Journeyman Project was known for pioneering several advancements in computer technology, including the use of 360-degree camera panning, something now used in almost all games today. Being a company known for pioneering technology in gaming at the time, Presto Studios gave the next installment in the Myst series a very different flavor whilst still blending in the eerie feeling of Riven and the surrealism of Myst.
To write the story, Presto Studios first had to study the Myst and Riven universes as a whole. A core team of Presto Studios employees held discussions on the previous games and developed goals for their project, including vibrant and visually interesting ages, a way for the player to measure their progress, and a satisfying ending. Progress was most important to the team, because Greg Uhler, the president and producer of the company, believed that the reason many players didn’t finish Myst or Riven was due to a lack of a way of keeping track of how far they’d gotten in the game. Presto Studios writer Mary DeMarle came up with three possible plots, all different, but after a meeting with Cyan Worlds and then-owner of the Myst franchise Mattel, an entirely different plot was created, one that tied up some pesky loose ends from Myst. All of the studio’s staff was put to work on Myst III: Exile. The game ultimately took two and a half years (nine months of which were spent on pre-production and design) and millions of US dollars to make, but the end result was spectacular.
In keeping with Myst and Riven’s legacy of live-action actors, Exile also used live actors and props, because Presto Studios felt that using computer-generated graphics would have broken the realism and reminded players that they were only playing a game, something that went against everything Myst was as a franchise. Like in Riven, the developers filmed the actors on blue screen and used Chroma Key to insert the actors into the game. Live actors were once again key – even Greg Uhler’s baby daughter Audrey made into the game as a baby Yeesha, a character who would become important later in the series. The cast included character actor Brad Dourif, who took the role as Saavedro because he was such a big fan of the series and thought it would be interesting to act in a video game. He later noted that acting for a game was harder than acting for a movie, because he couldn’t see the player or environment and interact with it like he would for a film. Dourif was extremely convincing in his role, and to this day his role as Saavedro is often cited as one of the most dramatic (and even one of the most feared) characters of the Myst series. (And quite honestly, I’m a big fan of Brad and I could go on and on about stories involving him and his role as Saavedro, but since this is a Myst fansite and not a Brad Dourif fansite, I regretfully have to move on. Maybe next time, net-surfers.)
Development also required a lot of flexibility and creativity on the part of the developers. One very tricky shot near the beginning of the game involved Saavedro linking into Atrus’ study behind the player, the player’s view whipping around the see him, Saavedro throwing a firemarble to cause a fire, and the player’s view whipping around to see the result, then whipping back around to watch Saavedro link away with Releeshahn. Because of all the whip-pans (which are exactly what they sound like), Presto found it hard to make the cut. They eventually added the whip-pan effects via computer, resulting in an appropriately dramatic opening to a dramatic game. Preparation for all of the scenes took four months to set up, but only took a week to film.
The music for the game was a tricky aspect. Because Robyn Miller was gone, Presto had to find another composer for the game. The studio eventually chose video game music composer Jack Wall. Wall’s opinions on video game music varied radically from Robyn Miller’s – while Miller felt that music in a game should be quiet and unobtrusive, Wall believed that having more thematic music in a game gave the player a sense of what the atmosphere of the age is like. Wall wanted to create something with the emotional force of a movie score – he wanted the player to feel instinctively uneasy around Saavedro and feel a sense of welcoming serenity in ages like Amateria and Edanna. Wall studied Miller’s music extensively, eventually deciding not to go with a similar score to Myst and Riven because he wanted the music to have a reason for being there, rather than just being ambient background music. He composed several ‘reward’ music pieces that would play after the player finished a puzzle along with three ‘welcome’ pieces that played when the player entered a new age. He even composed a new song for his wife, singer Cindy Wall, to sing, which was not used in the game but was included on the soundtrack as a bonus track. Wall did not compose a theme for Narayan, which is supposed to appear cold and lifeless at first sight, or for J’nanin, which was meant to feel lonely and primitive, but he did compose a dramatic, building main theme for the game with full vocal accompaniment, making Exile the first of the Myst games to have vocals in its opening and end credits. Wall also composed extensive themes for Atrus and Saavedro. Atrus’ theme was based off of his old theme from Riven, right down to the quiet feel and native-sounding percussion of Riven’s score – with a few of his own twists. Saavedro’s theme was intended to feel edgy and unstable, to reflect the character’s unstable mind. The theme itself is only ten notes long, a simple tune that is found, with lyrics, in the main theme of the game. However, Wall added in warped and ghostly voices, unidentifiable noises, nervously fluttering flutes, and screeching clarinets. Couple this with an ‘entering-and-fading’ effect and the result is a feverish, nightmarish soundscape that almost makes you want to turn your head to look behind you.
Because the game was meant to feel more alien than Myst or Riven, Wall chose exotic sounds and tribal drums, to underscore not only the foreign, ‘tribal’ feel of the ages but also to musically demonstrate Saavedro’s mental state. He mixed this with traditional instruments, creating a very interesting musical flavor that blends the modern with the primitive. Wall also added in vocals with written lyrics sung in Saavedro’s native language of Narani, sometimes warped and mixed with VOX and mixing tools to give an ethereal, eerie feel. The game itself had a built-in mechanism that would play a clip of the score at random, making it so that no two musical experiences were alike. The mechanism is most infamous among Myst fans for its stock clips of wailing vocals from Saavedro’s theme and various music and vocal clips from the main theme, which are used in J’nanin and often pop up without warning, especially around the tusks and the area around Saavedro’s tower. This is one of the main reasons Myst fans find J’nanin to be one of the spookiest ages of the Myst series.
Exile wasn’t quite as big of a success as Riven, but it definitely sold, selling one million units within a year. The sound and graphics were praised extensively, along with the 360-degree rotation feature, for providing a much more immersive experience. The puzzles were also lauded for being less difficult, easier to find, and more relevant to the story. MacWorld journalist Peter Cohen praised the game for giving away the story slowly, in bits and pieces, rather than just providing all the detail and exposition in cut scenes near the beginning and end of the game. Critics did complain about Exile’s four-disk format, which was cumbersome and annoying, but the DVD re-release largely fixed that problem. Critics also noted that there were several bugs, including graphics glitches, sound errors, music file errors (A file is missing on the DVD version, resulting in music only being in the cut scenes), incompatibility with some graphics cards, and system crashes, but this was only on ten percent of the first shipment of the disks and has largely been fixed with various patches.
fans themselves were split on whether or not they liked this new addition to
the series – some old-time fans were angered at Cyan Worlds for giving
the project over to Presto, but were quieted when Cyan Worlds revealed that
they were currently busy with something else. Others had different complaints.
Some felt that the music was too dramatic. Some felt that the game was too bright.
Some thought that the puzzles were too easy or seemed too much like puzzles
to feel like a natural part of the worlds. Some disliked the fact that the game
had a very few obvious graphical glitches, such as a panel in Amateria that
did not close all the way and left a conspicuous gap. Still others disliked
Brad Dourif’s acting as Saavedro, which some thought was overly dramatic
and detracted from the game. Some disliked the lack of the ability to explore
Narayan and Tomahna. Many of them felt that the game just wasn’t immersive
enough. These critics were usually older Myst fans, those who had been
around since the beginning, and they sat firmly in the Purist camp. Though they
still enjoyed the game, they felt it was worse quality than Riven –
and some even thought it was worse quality than Myst.
The other half of the fans really loved the game, becoming just as excited about Exile as they were about Riven – and the game, to them, confirmed that excitement. Some of these fans took it a step further, resulting in a sub-group of Narayan and Saavedro fans forming within the Myst community. This group was generally full of newer fans of the series, those who had just begun the games, or those who had as of then only played Exile. These fans, feeling that the critics were unfairly attacking the game, angrily rallied to defend Exile. This only resulted in a split between the Myst fans, which was only resolved after Cyan Worlds, after constant prodding, explained why they had given Exile over to Presto. The older fans were placated (but still had lingering bones of content with the game), the newer fans felt justified, and all the fans became excited about Cyan World’s next release, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.
Can’t figure out how to work that lever in Voltaic? Lost in Edanna? Saavedro’s just threatened to smash your head open if you don’t find a way out of Narayan? Never fear, walkthroughs are here! I’ve listed two good ones below. The first one’s Universal Hint System’s low-spoiler walkthrough, which only reveals subtle hints at varying levels, from the barest bones of a clue to a flat-out spoiler. I highly recommend this one, because it leaves you free to guess at what’s coming up next – and what’s the fun of playing a Myst game if you don’t bang your head on the desk in frustration once in a while? The second is full walkthrough and spoils the entire game, start to finish. I don’t recommend that you use this one, simply because having the answers doesn’t make the game as interesting. It’s like having the answers to an exam – pointless. However, if you really are stuck and you feel you absolutely must use it, feel free, but I warn you, you’ll hate yourself in the morning.
Low-Spoiler Walkthrough ~ Full Walkthrough
I’ve also included the patch for Exile, just in case you don’t own version 1.22.
1.22 Patch for PC ~ V.
1.22 Patch for Mac