Home » Riven PC review – Into the pages again

Riven PC review – Into the pages again

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After developer Cyan remade its classic game Myst a few years ago, it was easy to wonder if they’d do Riven as well. Of course, the latter game was considerably larger and more complex, so it would require quite the undertaking. Well, the curtain’s been lifted on the remake and it honestly blew me away. The way this remake brings the game to life with a fully rendered world is a feast for the eyes and a treat for the brain. Modern audiences might have trouble solving its mysteries sans guide, but there’s no other experience quite like this and seeing it in three dimensions is truly something to behold.

Riven picks up after Myst ends, with Atrus meeting with the nameless protagonist in D’ni, a world very different from our own. He tasks us with heading through a Linking Book into the titular world so that we’ll capture his evil father and free his wife. Much of the story is told through character journals and, while the basic facets of the narrative are simple and clear, there’s so much depth to the world-building and so many fascinating details included that it’s hard not to be enraptured by it all.

While Myst (and its remakes) focused on a hub with a few separate areas, Riven‘s island is broken up into 5 interconnected islands. And what a marvel these islands are. The graphics here are spectacular. I often felt like I was visiting a real place and not just playing a video game. I can’t even imagine how much more impactful this is for players who experience it via VR. Everything here feels so lovingly designed and crafted that I enjoyed simply just taking in the sights. This is one of those games where it’s easy to just gawk and want to take pictures because everything is so lovely.

Riven remake review behind bars

In case you’re not aware, Riven is an adventure game that’s far less about typical puzzles than Myst is. Instead, the entire game is basically just a giant puzzle itself that you’re slowly building up to. There are a few typical puzzles, but even then everything is pretty much interrelated to an almost shocking degree. Seriously, some puzzle solutions are referenced by later puzzles and many of these are less puzzles and more just demonstrating an understanding of various core concepts or knowing how to translate numbers to different numbering systems.

As an adventure game, there isn’t much typical “gameplay” in Riven. You walk and look around in first person and interact with any points of interest you come across. You find a spyglass capable showing you invisible paint, though, which you’ll need to use to spot important pieces of information and clues. Plenty of the interactive objects in the world are there just for worldbuilding and flavour as well, so paying careful attention is mandatory for progress here. Just like the Myst remake, you can easily take photos in-game and look them up within the program, only this time you can actually add notes to them.

Therein lies the rub with Riven. If you play the game sans guide, you’re going to need to identify and take pictures of just about every seemingly important aspect, lest you have to stop what you’re doing, find the part you didn’t grab a snapshot of, and then make your way back. There are absolutely no hint mechanisms and you have an entire game world you can explore freely, so getting stuck is not only possible – it’s likely. While it’s really something to see a game treat players like that in this day and age, anyone who lacks a keen eye or isn’t up to solving some of the world’s mysteries might find it to be too much for them.

Riven review puzzles

Some of the “puzzles” here are downright devious in how demanding they can be. Even though the screenshot system and accompanying notes will likely be able to get you through much of the proceedings, you’ll still probably need to jot some symbols down and work through them on paper at a couple of points. Purists will love this, more casual adventure fans, on the other hand, may just give up. But, Riven feels so rewarding that it’s so worth putting the effort in.

There aren’t many games like this nowadays and Riven is one of the crowning jewels of the genre. It does an amazing job of presenting the islands in 3D and offers such tantalising vistas and powerful storytelling that it’s hard to do anything but gush about the overall experience. Anyone who isn’t looking to learn and scrutinise will likely not find it to be their cup of tea and the lack of direction can be downright unfriendly. However, this is an amazing remake that’s just as vital and impressive today as the original was years ago.

Riven PC review

Riven: Gorgeous, clever, and captivating, this remake of Riven hugely succeeds at bringing this world to life in stunning fashion. Andrew Farrell

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