Month: March 2016

Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne


Draw bloody battle lines in a war between tyrants.

PC Release: July 1, 2003

By Ian Coppock

I had thought we would end the month with the Myst V review, but I also didn’t want to leave Reign of Chaos hanging without the expansion that makes Warcraft III truly great. Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne is a fitting epilogue to the month of March, and one of my very favorite real-time strategy games. It manages to preserve the gameplay that made Reign of Chaos fun, but also adds some much-needed narrative weight.


Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne is an expansion set for Reign of Chaos, meaning that while it provides a new narrative in the Warcraft universe, it is not an entirely new game. Rather, it retains Reign of Chaos‘s gameplay and visual style, while adding new units and narrative.

The Frozen Throne‘s story is set several months after the end of Reign of Chaos, which followed four high fantasy civilizations and the heroes who lead them. It turned out that the undead Scourge were just the lapdogs for an army of demons, who invaded the world in huge numbers. Luckily, the remaining three civs (humans, orcs, and Night Elves) were able to set aside their differences long enough to beat back the undead and their demonic masters, scoring a major victory for mortals everywhere.


Reign of Chaos culminates in an epic battle between the three living civilizations, and the undead and their demonic overlords.

Like Reign of ChaosThe Frozen Throne features an overarching narrative broken up into several campaigns, each one following one of the game’s core races. The game kicks things off with the Night Elves and Maiev Shadowsong, a vicious prison warden in hot pursuit of a mysterious captive who broke out after 10,000 years’ imprisonment.

That captive turns out to be Illidan Stormrage, a half-Night Elf, half-Demon sorcerer who played a minor role in Reign of Chaos and returns as one of The Frozen Throne‘s most pivotal characters. Though the demonic Burning Legion is gone from the world, Illidan has been hired by one of its overlords to complete a top-secret mission in their name. To that end, Illidan has awakened a bloodthirsty race of serpentine sea-men called the Naga, who debut as a new, fifth civilization in The Frozen Throne. Maiev’s campaign to bring Illidan to justice soon turns from a police chase to a full-scale war.


The Naga are a new civilization whose specialty is naval combat. They field a wide arsenal of heavy-hitting units and are a force to be reckoned with.

The Warcraft universe also features “normal” elves, the same kind that you see in Lord of the Rings and so forth, whose civilization was devoured by the undead in Reign of ChaosFrozen Throne‘s second campaign follows the few elves who survived and their war-weary leader, Prince Kael’thas, who discovers that his brethren suffer an addiction to magical power. Kael’thas is approached by the Naga, who share this condition, and he reluctantly signs on with Illidan in exchange for a cure for his people.

The third and final campaign of the main narrative returns us to the undead, who have become an independent faction without the demons to boss them around. Arthas, the human prince-turned-undead knight, crowns himself king of his ravaged homeland and begins exterminating the few humans who eluded his grasp in Reign of Chaos.


The undead seize upon their demonic masters’ defeat.

Arthas’s hunt for humans is interrupted by a dire warning from the undead’s telepathic master, the Lich King. It turns out that the secret mission Illidan was hired for was to destroy the Lich King and the titular Frozen Throne from which he rules, in retribution for the King daring to make the undead independent from the demons. Arthas immediately takes off in a race against Illidan, setting the stage for a showdown between Warcraft‘s deadliest villains. One seeks to destroy the Frozen Throne, the other seeks to save it… or perhaps… take it for himself.

Is everyone with me so far? Just like with Reign of Chaos and StarCraft, it’s hard to summarize an RTS with so many campaigns into less than a few paragraphs. The Night Elves are out to arrest Illidan, Illidan’s out to destroy the Frozen Throne, and Arthas is out to save it. Oh… I guess that’s a summary right there!


The Frozen Throne features a much more intricate plot than its predecessor.

You would be correct to believe that The Frozen Throne has a much stronger narrative than Reign of Chaos. The first game’s story had its moments, but was mostly a black-and-white battle between four different civilizations for the fate of the world. Such a premise is large in scale, but scale is never an ideal replacement for intricacy.

The Frozen Throne‘s storyline features multiple factions within the same civilization, some of whom are competing directly against each other in this bleak game of thrones. In Reign of Chaos, the various heroes in each campaign were in charge of the same faction, but now each hero in each story has his or her own sub-faction. Maiev Shadowsong’s vicious group of Night Elves stands apart from the calmer sentinels led by Tyrande Whisperwind in the last game. The elves begin to resent their human partners as they drift ever closer to Illidan, and Arthas faces a homegrown insurrection from undead who resent his brutal reign. There are dozens of moving pieces in The Frozen Throne‘s story, and keeping track of them all can be a challenge.


All three main campaigns alternate between at least two sub-factions within each civilization. It can be a lot to follow.

Although there’s a lot going on in The Frozen Throne, the main story is tightly designed. The dialogue writing is significantly stronger than in Reign of Chaos, and hero characters both new and returning are much more complicated than the one-sided shades of heroism or evil we saw in the last game. It’s hard to know who to root for, and that’s the way I like it; Maiev’s quest for justice will see her do horrible things for the greater good. Illidan is out to destroy the undead, but he’s doing it for demons. The other characters within each faction display much stronger writing in their characterizations and dialogue, making the story more interesting.

In addition to many moving parts and much stronger narrative writing, The Frozen Throne also features better level design. The campaign missions in Reign of Chaos are pretty straightforward; set up a base, train units, and keep pushing across the map until all of the enemy squares are gone. The Frozen Throne gets much more creative, throwing players into winding dungeons with few units, or unconventional means of gathering resources. One particularly long and grueling siege of a demonic fortress requires players to balance two factions of siege units and a third group of stealthers who sneak around nabbing gold. Most two missions are never the same.


The Frozen Throne’s mission design is more varied, and therefore more interesting, than that of its predecessor.

It would be one thing if The Frozen Throne changed things up just in narrative or mission design. We have a much darker story and more complicated characters at its helm. But, each of the four main civilizations also receives a few tweaks to freshen things up a bit. Each civ receives two brand-new units for combat, and a new hero unit that can level up and be resurrected in the same manner as the heroes introduced in Reign of Chaos. Players can also build a store and buy items for their units. You can now buy health potions directly instead of hoping to happen upon them in the wilderness.

The Frozen Throne also introduces a plethora of new “lesser” races that populate the world and add to its vibrancy. Giant scorpions, walrus-men, sentient pandas, and others are just a handful of the new creatures you can expect to run into. Some can be hired, others can only be killed, and you can hire neutral heroes in specially designated taverns.


Neutral heroes will fight for whoever has the most coin. My favorite neutral hero by far is the anthropomorphic, alcoholic panda, A.K.A. the Pandaren Brewmaster.

I tell you all of this because if Reign of Chaos is pretty fun, The Frozen Throne is ridiculously fun. More units for each civilization means more creativity than we’ve seen in the past. The new units also serve to tweak the strengths and weaknesses of each civilization a bit, bringing in some of the checks and balances that Reign of Chaos missed. The Frozen Throne takes what Reign of Chaos made workable and perfects the formula, making it, in my opinion, the best real-time strategy game of the 2000s.

Some of you might have noticed that I omitted the orcs from the main story. So did The Frozen Throne. The orcs have a fourth, bonus campaign set months after the conclusion of The Frozen Throne that serves as a prologue to World of Warcraft. The campaign is set up like a dungeon crawler instead of an RTS game and follows Rexxar, a half-orc, half-ogre warrior who helps the orcs set up their new country. Thrall makes an appearance in the story, although he apparently has nothing better to do than direct the construction of roofs. This cordoned-off campaign sometimes sees you in command of multiple units, but mostly you’re working with just Rexxar and a few of his buddies at the helm.


The orc campaign stands apart from The Frozen Throne’s narrative and has a different gameplay style. It sets up the events of World of Warcraft.

A few people cried fowl at not including the orcs in the main story, but I don’t think it was lesser for their absence. The developers couldn’t find a way to work them into the race for the Frozen Throne, so they gave them their own mini-story to set up World of Warcraft.

The Frozen Throne also features a few mini-games tucked away in its menus, including the precursor to Dota 2, and an egg-hunting game featuring a chain-smoking Easter bunny hero. The games are fun on or off of Easter but the latter seems especially relevant today.


Oh Lord…

Overall, The Frozen Throne is a great game. Its gameplay has been significantly upgraded to give it the punch that Reign of Chaos missed, and its narrative features stronger, tighter writing. The graphics are still as blocky and goofy as ever, but when you’re talking to a gamer who prefers story over style, graphics only mean so much. I highly recommend setting aside some time for The Frozen Throne. It is difficult, but not cruel. It is vibrant, but not over saturated. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn good.

Also, I wanted to let you guys know that I’m taking some time to refurbish and re-format some old reviews from my previous website. There will be no reviews all of next week, but we’ll pick things up again the week of the 4th with regularly scheduled content. Thanks for reading!


You can buy Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Myst V: End of Ages


Save the last remnants of a fallen civilization.

PC Release: September 20, 2005

By Ian Coppock and Branson Roskelley

Well, this is it. The culmination of a 12-year series. Myst V was, in the words of the Miller brothers, the absolute last installment of the Myst series. Whether it’s the last Myst game is beyond dispute. Whether Myst V manages to end the series on a satisfactory note, however, is a matter of fierce debate.


In stark contrast to previous Myst games, which usually happen within a decade of each other, Myst V takes place many years after the events of Myst IV: Revelation. Whether you return as the Stranger is a matter of some ambiguity, especially since it’s been so long, but your character is a silent, first-person protagonist all the same.

The game starts you off in the ruins of D’ni, the mysterious fallen city that was once home to Atrus’s ancestors. When their civilization collapsed, few survived to carry on their culture, including the creation of Linking Books. Those D’ni who remained followed Atrus, our esoteric Linking Book writer, in his attempt to rebuild. These ventures ultimately failed.


The death of a civilization. A nice, light tone to start things out on.

The player soon encounters Atrus’s daughter Yeesha, no longer the bright-eyed child we saw in Revelation, now much older and apparently descended into madness. Yeesha rambles that the civilization her father tried to save can still be salvaged, if you can venture into four exotic Ages and find the magical tablets hidden within. Because Yeesha failed to complete this mission herself (and because you apparently have nothing better to do) you take up this mission for the D’ni.

As you travel deeper into the ruins to find the Linking Books, you encounter a D’ni survivor named Esher, who advises against following Yeesha blindly. He takes it upon himself to appear throughout Myst V and offer advice, though his end game is unclear at best.


The little girl we encountered in Revelation has seen better days.

Esher’s not the only one following you into the darkness. A race of furry, humanoid bug people called the Bahro (E.T. meets an ant) have also taken great interest in your journey. Yeesha’s journal entries out in the ruins reveal that they’ve been enslaved by the tablets you seek. Like everyone else who’s put their trust in you, though, they keep many of their motivations in the dark.

So, yeah. We have a tired old woman, a secretive old man, and an army of bug people rooting for our grand finale.



As you might’ve noticed from these screenshots, Myst V is not pre-rendered in any sense of the term. Everything is built out in 3D graphics. Cyan Worlds, who returned to design Myst V, felt that 3D had become sufficiently immersive to supplant pre-rendered visuals. It’s an assertion that we strongly disagree with. While the environments of Myst V are certainly expansive, their significant graphical downgrade is anti-climactic.

The real-time visuals also detracted from the character animations. The voice actors wore motion capture equipment to make their in-game faces look as realistic as possible, but even that doesn’t compensate for the stiff character models we see. Again, to see this after Revelation‘s smoothly executed live acting was a major disappointment.


I’ve seen scarecrows that were more convincing than these character models.

Myst V‘s environments may have suffered because of its real-time visuals and some downgrades in sound quality, but the puzzles are excellent. Once again the Myst pendulum has swung, this time favoring reasonable and more accessible puzzles. You no longer have to consult reams of walkthroughs or satisfy the whims of obscure prankster gods to figure out what’s going on here.

Cyan Worlds made this decision to make the game more accessible to new players. I suppose it’s better to start doing this at the series finale than not at all. It’s a shame Myst and Myst IV: Revelation‘s puzzles never had the chance to follow suit.


What’s that? These puzzles run on that thing called logic? Oh my stars and garters, I thought this day would never come!

What do we mean specifically when we say the puzzles are better? We mean that the two halves to a solution aren’t on opposite sides of an Age. We mean that the game tells us all the rules we’re operating with so that we have some idea how to proceed. Not to say that the puzzles are a cakewalk, but Myst and Revelation‘s failure to adhere to the above guidelines made puzzling a true chore. Not to mention that Revelation‘s cheat sheet was wrong.

In defense of the 3D format, Myst V‘s new style allows you to putz around the game free of the point-and-click restraints we’ve seen in all the other games. It was nice to be able to run freely around the Ages instead of going from scene to scene, which, no matter how much you gussy it up, can be tedious.


If the environments are going to look less impressive, at least we the adventurers can be freer for it.

Even though Myst V‘s visuals are down for the count against other Myst games, the Ages you travel to still haven’t lost their impressive sense of scale. Todelmer, an Age built to study the cosmos, is an enormous-feeling map. Gorgeous island archipelagos stretching as far as the eye can see may not be as impressive without the pre-rendered visuals, but at least they’re still big and give you lots of room to run around.

It’s a tough balance to strike in writing about Myst V, because though a lot of the key ingredients for the game are there, the new visual style is so radically different as to make Myst V not feel like a Myst game. Not a great feeling to have, especially when we’re supposed to be playing a series’ grand finale.


The contrast between Myst’s new style and its old universe is difficult to reconcile.

The biggest problem we faced with Myst V is that its premise and narrative feel completely disconnected from one another. You’re supposedly out to save a fallen civilization, but that premise takes less and less precedence over running around in some backwater, drawing symbols on rocks. It’s a schism that makes the story hard to follow; is this game about the gorilla people hanging out behind us, or the last remnants of a people that we never. Ever. See.

Ultimately, the goal is the magical tablets. But as we go on, all the reasons why we get the tablets fall away in face of unlocking, brace yourself, the MASTER TABLET, which is even more incredible than our now-pedestrian normal tablets.

It’s a bit weird to see a game go off its own rails like this. It’s not that the dialogue is badly written or that we don’t feel some sense of grandeur as we did in previous Myst games, it’s just difficult to keep track of what we’re fighting for. In games past, this was crystal clear from the get-go.


How is dicking around an abandoned resort going to save anyone?

It’s difficult to tell you what to take away from all this. Sure, there’s wonder and majesty in some of the environments we see, but it’s at a lower dose than in previous Myst games. We have characters whose development is rarely explored, a palette of beautiful but hollow environments, and a radical change in game design that is much more befitting of a sophomore effort than a grand finale.

It sends the series out on a dang, rather than a bang. Some of you will play it and say, “oh, this is fun,” but it won’t stick with you like the older Myst games will. It feels like KFC trying to replicate grandma’s home cookin’.

Ironically, this installment of the series actually is available on Steam, even though its superior predecessors are not. We appreciate the opportunity to write about this amazing series for you… we just wish it had ended on a higher note. And don’t even get us started on Uru.


You can buy Myst V: End of Ages here.

Thank you for redading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. You can also find Branson on Twitter @MrRoskelley, and at his website,

Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos


Wage war across a massive, magical landscape to save it all from ruin.

PC Release: July 3, 2002

By Ian Coppock


Is Branson gone again?

Actually, I shouldn’t say that this time. For all of Branson’s wit and accomplishments, he found StarCraft to be a complete bore, which is part of the reason I shunned him from last Sunday’s review. But, Warcraft III is a game much dearer to both of our hearts, and maybe I’m writing this alone because I’m still butthurt about how good of a strategist he is. In any case, we’re taking yet another break from this month’s Myst series to focus on Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. It’s not the most popular of Blizzard’s RTS games, but it might be one of the best.


Most gamers today know Warcraft because of World of Warcraft, the undisputed king of massively multiplayer online games. Despite valiant efforts by such genre heavyweights as Star Wars: The Old Republic and ArenaNet’s excellent Guild Wars 2, no one has been able to unseat World of Warcraft from the giant pile of money that comprises its throne.

Before World of Warcraft‘s release, though, the Warcraft series was a mainstay of the real-time strategy genre. In stark contrast to StarCraft, Blizzard’s other RTS entry, Warcraft takes place in a high fantasy universe. Warcraft and Warcraft II were early 90s entries that focused on conflicts between humans and orcs, but Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos is where the series metamorphosed into what we know it as today.


Before its transition to MMO, Warcraft was a real-time strategy game.

Warcraft III hit shelves in the summer of 2002, and there’s no realization quite like that to make you feel old. Set years after the humans’ heroic victory over the orcs, Warcraft III‘s narrative is told from the perspectives of four civilizations and their leaders. We have the Alliance, a union of humans, elves and dwarves whose solidarity would bring a tear to Gandalf’s eye; the Horde, an unruly army of orcs and trolls; the Scourge, a teeming mass of undead creatures; and the Night Elves, a race of purple-skinned, moon-loving elves who are a real terror when the sun goes down, and not just because of their skimpy outfits.

It’s at this point that most of you will start to draw some parallels with StarCraft, if the similar-sounding names didn’t already clue you in. Once again we have a diverse group of civilizations to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Once again, they’re balanced against each other by different means of producing militaries and gathering resources. Once again, we have an isometric strategy game whose narrative is supported by a simple gameplay structure.


An Orc riding on a wolf through a field of skulls on spikes. Just another average day!

Again as with StarCraft, Warcraft is split into several episodes that each follow a civilization’s own story, while also contributing to an overarching narrative. Each of the four campaigns focuses on each of the four major races and has a large cast of characters.

Things start off relatively simply with Prince Arthas, heir to the human kingdom, who finds himself battling an undead horde threatening to engulf his homeland. After fighting valiantly and engaging in some morally questionable war tactics, Arthas succumbs to the terrible will of the undead, and the very humans he’d been fighting to save weeks earlier become his newest targets.

During the events of this Anakin Skywalker-esque betrayal, the orcs escape human internment and set sail for a new homeland across the sea. Thrall, the brutal but honorable Warchief of the Horde, seeks a home for his people on the turf of the Night Elves, ruled by a priestess named Tyrande. As she fights off the orcish interlopers, she realizes that an army of demons that tried and failed to destroy the world 10,000 years ago are returning, and she must make haste to save both her homeland and the world at large.


Things are about to get spooky.

Warcraft III‘s narrative is huge, and not easily summarized. Because each campaign has so many characters, most only get a few bits of screentime before we’re back into the fight. I can’t help but feel that StarCraft‘s writing was stronger, both in creating memorable dialogue (“looks like you mashed some poor feller’s dawg, sarge.”) and relying less on character tropes.

Warcraft III‘s main characters can generally be attributed as Darth Vader, Moses and some rabid chimera of Catwoman and Mother Theresa. The Vader analogy is for Arthas, the straight-edged boy of destiny who becomes whinier and whinier until he transforms into a monster, and finally becomes interesting. It was cool to be able to play him leading the humans into battle, and then using the undead to crush the fortifications you’d just defended in the last campaign.


Arthas becomes a much more intriguing character after turning to evil.

The Moses analogy goes to our stalwart young Orc warlord, Thrall, who does emulate the Biblical figure by leading his people through a desert exodus, but spends time spilling lots of red fluid with his warhammer instead of parting it in a sea.

Tyrande might be the only character who can’t immediately be assigned a stereotype. She rides a giant white tiger (no, not Chinese cocaine, it’s literally a white tiger) and can summon meteor showers with her brain. She makes up for her novel qualities as a game unit with boring monologues about destiny and the power of nature. Her husband Furion, who has a giant pair of antlers for no apparent reason, isn’t much more interesting.


“How can there be a war going on, I was only asleep for 10,000 years!”

If I keep comparing Warcraft III to StarCraft throughout this review, it’s because I can’t help but do so. The two games are very similar, and encapsulate congruent core narratives across different worlds. The issue I run into with discussing Warcraft III‘s characters is that they lack the charm and the quirks of Blizzard’s earlier writing. StarCraft‘s space rednecks might not be the classiest crowd, but they’re a damn sight more interesting than straight-laced warriors who could be mistaken for Kodlak Whitemane with how much they blather on about hearts and honor and all that bullshit.

If our three main characters yield so little to speak of, their supporting casts are not much better. Each hero has a cadre of buddies that will tag along with them throughout most missions. To be fair, Warcraft III does do a good job of introducing some inner-faction conflict, which inadvertently saves its main cast from being a complete bore. Arthas starts growing distant from his mentor in the human campaign, and conspires against his new master as an undead warrior. Thrall starts having a hard time reconciling his best friend’s heroism with his reckless brutality, and Tyrande gets caught up in a steamy love triangle with Furion and his imprisoned brother Illidan.

Just kidding. I put that last line in there to wake you up.


Each campaign’s sub-narrative may not have the strongest characters, but the storylines themselves manage to remain interesting.

If the fun of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos is not quite to be had in the narrative, at least there’s a lot to be had in exploring this big, colorful world. Each level in each campaign is gorgeously rendered. The graphics look big and blocky by modern standards, but still retain a lot of color and terrain variation. You can find hidden relics secreted around the maps, and some units can wield them to increase their powers.

The game world also comes alive through the presence of numerous animals, and, unlike in StarCraft, dozens of “lesser” races of creatures that hang out in small camps. From centaurs to ogres to harpies, there are lots of colorful new races to find out in the world. Most are hostile, but some can be hired at mercenary camps to join your standing forces. They don’t come cheap, but they train immediately and might be able to balance out some of your units’ weaknesses.


Despite looking a bit polyhedral by today’s standards, Warcrafft III’s world is big and full of adventure.

Speaking of balancing each other out, how does each civilization handle on the battlefield? The rules of WarCraft III are pretty conventional by RTS standards. Start out with some peasants and a cottage, and turn that shit into a brick-and-mortar citadel with knights and cannons. All civilizations must gather gold and wood to build up their bases. Each has a different spin on resource gathering, but if you want to get anywhere in the game, you’ll need ample amounts of both. Like in StarCraft, you can research technologies to speed up resource gathering and make your troops more formidable on the battlefield. Hero units, which can level up a la RPG, make their Blizzard debut in this game. They may be expensive, but are exponentially more dangerous than rank-and-file units.

It’s also worth noting that Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos does not balance its playable civilizations out as well as StarCraft did, and the differences between some of them are hard to spot. Humans are good at producing a mix of medium-weight units, but that’s about it. The Orcs aren’t the world’s best architects but compensate with an arsenal of slow, heavy warriors. The undead devour everything in their path and make their war trail a literal cemetery, and the Night Elves build their bases in mobile trees and can turn invisible at night for brutal ambushes. While cool on their own, none of these design facets really check the strengths and weaknesses of the other civilizations. It’s like they were just thrown into the mix without as much forethought.


Blizzard fumbled a bit on making its races feel distinct.

My case-in-point for this issue is the Night Elves. They aren’t just my race of choice because I was sired by tree-huggers; they are absolutely brutal on the battlefield. Their buildings can pick up and move position, they have a unit for almost every situation and weight class, and they can utilize the environment in a way no other race can come close to doing.

But, most of this can’t touch the narrative. It’s not as interesting or quirky as StarCraft‘s storyline, but it does carry that feeling of high fantasy grandeur that you get from an Elder Scrolls game, or a Lord of the Rings film. There’s something about running around casting spells and burning whole towns to the ground that just makes me choke up a bit.

(sniff)… I’m not gonna cry in front of you assholes.


Every encounter from the biggest battlefield to an afternoon medley with fish people is an opportunity to kick some ass. And satisfying ass-kickery it is.

I recommend Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos because it’s a big fantasy world to explore. It’s also much more accessible than StarCraft, in that the average joe won’t need cheats just to survive the goddamn tutorial. I managed to beat the whole thing without cheats, and I invite you to attempt the same and give this game a go. Warcraft III was a huge hit in my teen years and remains a great adventure for any gamer, RTS fan or not.


You can buy Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Myst IV: Revelation


Save everything that Atrus loves from the machinations of his villainous sons.

PC Release: September 28, 2004

By Ian Coppock and Branson Roskelley

It’s hard to believe, but we’re on the second-to-last Myst game already. For a series that has inspired millions of gamers worldwide, it feels weird to cover the whole thing in just a few weeks. Revelation was a game that stirred controversy among many core fans, but it was critically acclaimed and a great deal of the fanbase still appreciated its achievements.


Myst IV: Revelation was the second Myst game in a row to be developed outside of Cyan Worlds. Its development was handled by our old friend Ubisoft, whose villainies I have railed against many times since taking up blogging. In the days before starting up Uplay and casting aside its scruples, Ubisoft was a champion of indie projects. It went so far as to hire artists who specialized in point-and-click games to preserve Myst‘s aesthetic, and how many Triple-A studios go that far out of their way these days?

The Myst narrative seems to favor ten-year increments, because just as Exile took place a decade after RivenRevelation starts off 10 years after the Stranger’s exploits in Exile. Once again, things begin with the Stranger being summoned to Atrus’s home of Tomahna.This time it is Atrus’s daughter, Yeesha, who shows you around and acquaints you with the basic mechanics of the game.


Yeesha serves as your guide during the prologue of the game.

 Myst IV‘s gameplay remains largely unchanged from that of its predecessors, with a few upgrades that nicely round out the series’ focus on exploration. You get a camera, a Myst first, that allows you take pictures of the environment. This might not sound like a big deal at the outset, but for a puzzle game that deals with complex solutions dealt out over several levels, it’s a huge deal.

To compliment that feature, the Stranger is also given a holographic journal, and you can write entries to accompany your photos. As with the first Myst, note-taking is hugely important in Revelation, but it was nice for that feature to just be in the game directly. No more tree-killing for the glory of Myst.


Playing Myst is a great way to put some mileage on your reading glasses.

The addition of the camera and journal are the two major augmentations to the same point-and-click gameplay we’ve seen four times now. It’s pretty self-explanatory; look around a gorgeous pre-rendered scene and click wherever you want to go or on items you want to interact with.

Thankfully, Myst IV also adds Zip Mode, a feature that allows players to travel instantaneously from one region of an Age to another. It’s a great way to cut back on tediously pointing and clicking. You have to actually explore the area and find points you can travel between first, but once they’re there, you can teleport around at any time.


This is an in-game screenshot. No joke. For a game that came out in 2004, Myst IV’s visuals are stunning.

Because Myst IV‘s visuals are pre-rendered, its graphics are competitive with games that came out even last year. You can cast your gaze around the scene, and each point you can look at has been rendered to accommodate exploration. I can’t imagine how much of a nightmare it was to engineer hundreds of scenes like this, but it pays off splendidly. Myst IV: Revelation is a gorgeous game.

The primary difference between Myst IV‘s environments and those of its predecessors is the work that went into adding environmental effects. Myst‘s environments were almost completely static. They still felt immersive because of the music, but you’d otherwise feel like you were moving around in a picture. Exile‘s environments added a bit more detail, but not a whole lot.

Revelation‘s are bursting with movement and sound. Everything from the shifting of leaves to the flutter of a bird’s wings is there to complete the scene. These animations and sounds were also taken into account when rendering Myst IV‘s environments. It’s an impressive feat of video gaming and makes for an immersive world.


It looks like a scene that you can step into.

The one aspect of Revelation‘s visual design that could’ve used more work was the characters. For the fourth time now, Myst‘s human characters are presented as live actors against the game’s vivid backgrounds. We were pleased to see that the actual transposition of the characters into the game’s worlds looked a lot less shaky; the presentation looked less like a crappy hologram and more like an actual person.

Unfortunately, this didn’t save the presentation from some unintentionally goofy acting. Cutscenes that are meant to ramp up the tension or convey character motivations often fall flat as a result of poor execution. Rand Miller, who plays Atrus, does a serviceable job as our hero’s best friend but absolutely nothing more than that. Other characters vacillate between flat and melodramatic voice acting, to say nothing of the “action” sequences.


The acting is well-captured in Revelation but unintentionally comical, as with this over-played fight scene. It’s like each actor went into the scene thinking “okay, I’m fighting. I AM FIGHTING!!!”

It would take more than some stiffly choreographed fighting to detract from Revelation‘s main narrative. Remember Sirrus and Achenar, Atrus’s wayward sons? The dudes who tried to convince us to forsake Atrus in the first Myst, and who were directly responsible for the destruction of Saavedro’s home in Exile? Well, as it turns out, they’re not actually dead. Atrus has kept them imprisoned in their own Ages for the last 20 years.

The story kicks off in earnest when the evil brothers break out of their prisons. When you come to, they’ve kidnapped Yeesha and spirited her away to parts unknown. Only by exploring their prison Ages can you learn enough about them to discern their next move. Atrus has gone missing, and Yeesha’s life hangs in the balance. It seems that Atrus was right to be skeptical that his sons had reformed.


Atrus’s villainous sons plundered many of the worlds he had written Linking Books for. After 20 years’ imprisonment, they’ve broken out for revenge.

Though Sirrus and Achenar are loose and out to raise hell, they left behind Linking Books to each of the Ages their father had imprisoned them in. Revelation takes the same opportunity that Exile took with Saavedro to employ a show-don’t-tell character story. You learn of the brothers’ backgrounds through the objects and evidence found in each Age.

Yeesha also left behind a magical amulet that allows you to experience memories associated with various objects. Unlike in Exile, where almost everything outside of Saavedro’s holograms is inferred, you get to see or hear most of the brothers’ direct struggles during their imprisonments. You also learn how they came to escape, and how they survived in inhospitable environments.


Exploring story and environment in Myst are one in the same. Sirrus’s banishment to Spire, A.K.A. Steampunk Mordor, sheds insight on his psyche.

Though exploring each Age is fun and fascinating, it’s where we found Revelation to sink to some of its lowest points. Remember how the puzzles in the first Myst were ridiculously hard, and the puzzles in Exile more palatable? Well, the pendulum has swung back, and Revelation‘s puzzles are some of the most frustrating you’ll ever encounter.

Myst‘s game design has regressed back to the puzzles of nonsense logic. From two halves of a puzzle spread across an entire map, to timing puzzles that you didn’t know required timing, we found the game’s puzzle design to be just as flawed and frustrating as that of the first game. The epitome of our despair was a massively over-complicated organ chair puzzle, which took us weeks, weeks, WEEKS, to figure out.


Myst’s puzzles have returned to being unreasonably hard.

“But wait,” we can hear Ubisoft lazily calling from atop its hemorrhoid doughnut, “don’t worry if the puzzles are too hard! We put a puzzle solutions guide in the options menu so that you can keep going if you’re stuck!”

Thanks, Ubisoft, but the solutions you wrote down in this guide are incorrect. We’re not even kidding. There is indeed a cheat sheet hidden in the options menu, but most of the solutions it lists are wrong (or unhelpful at the very least), which is profoundly sad. This is why it took us weeks to figure out some of the puzzles in this game. We read the “answer” in the cheat sheet, assumed that we did something wrong on our end, and then go back over and over and over again. It was only when we’d figured out the true answer through sheer guesswork that we realized what the issue had been. We were not pleased.



This is not acceptable puzzle and guide design. Not by a long shot. If you’re too lazy to double-check the solutions you put into your damn solutions manual, don’t bother getting our hopes up by presenting a solutions manual. Instead, make the puzzles fun.

It’s lucky for Revelation that its environments are gorgeous and its main narrative intriguing. There’s a gradual revelation of character development with our main villains that grants them more sympathy than we’d anticipated. A lot of core fans apparently took issue with the increased mysticism in the game, which we find ironic, considering that the Linking Books binding this whole series together are both magical and mysterious. An amulet that can read memories and a handful of priestesses who smoke a lot of incense doesn’t seem like much more to ask.


Revelation’s experiments with esoteric magic were not well-received by some fans, but we found them to be pretty in line with all the other experiments with esoteric magic we’ve seen thus far. Go team!

If the core of Revelation‘s game design has this many problems, why present it? Well, Revelation is an excellent example of… art as games. Its gorgeous visuals create an immersive world, complimented by a beautiful soundtrack from Peter Gabriel and a host of believable sights and sounds.

Its narrative is not without faults, but it feels like a fitting conclusion to the other Myst narratives we’ve seen thus far. It began with a confrontation against Atrus’s villainous sons, and our second encounter 20 in-game years later feels like the grand culmination of what we also saw in Riven and Exile. Even a walkthrough from the Internet cannot break this game’s mystical appeal.

Unfortunately, Myst IV: Revelation is not available as a digital download. Pirated versions are probably floating around out there, but this game can’t be found on Steam, GOG, Desura, or any of the other usual sources. Not even Uplay has it. Hopefully it will be re-released to the mainstream someday, but for now, it remains a great example of video game art done well. Not perfectly, but well.


Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. You can also find Branson on Twitter @MrRoskelley, and at his website,

Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

StarCraft (and Brood War)


Battle across multiple civilizations to save the galaxy they all inhabit.

PC Release: March 31, 1998

By Ian Coppock

As fun as this jaunt into the Myst universe has been, I feel that it’s time to take a small break before our review of Myst IV drops next Wednesday. Branson is a great writer, but he lacks the thirst for blood that drives like 90% of my daily functions. As such, we’re going to deviate away from peaceful point-and-click puzzle games and spend some time with StarCraft, arguably the most beloved real-time strategy game of all time.


StarCraft is a sci-fi strategy game originally released by World of Warcraft creators Blizzard Entertainment, in 1998. Like most RTS games, StarCraft is played from an isometric viewpoint and requires players to train soldiers and build up bases. You can gather resources, construct buildings and create an army, or do none of those things and watch everything you love get burned down by an enemy player.

StarCraft takes place on the opposite side of the galaxy from us and features three playable races. The Terrans, human colonists descended from exiles from earth; the Protoss, a hyper-advanced alien race with robots and psychic powers; and the Zerg, a terrifying hive of mutated bugs and reptiles whose ferocity knows no equal. All three races vie for control of the Koprulu Sector.


An early-game human base in StarCraft.

Any RTS worth half a damn will feature an intricate balance between its core civilizations, and StarCraft is an exemplar of this. Each race has its strengths and weaknesses that serve to balance out the others. Terrans are great at producing versatile units, the Protoss are all about quality over quantity, and the Zerg can train up massive numbers of units in a pinch. Becoming good with one or the other is a matter of practice rather than luck.

Of course, being good at an RTS also means being good at multitasking, which is why I’m terrible at them. StarCraft, more than any other game, counts on a combination of advancing your civilization and keeping the enemy on their toes. Generally, you either want to train up a small number of units to attack the enemy before they’ve gotten off the ground, or hunker down for a drawn-out, full-scale war. My opponents, more often than not, have had more creative ideas.


The infamous “Zerg rush” technique is the most diabolical of RTS strategies, made possible by the Zerg’s ability to breed like rabbits on cocaine.

A lot of people know StarCraft today because of its multiplayer community, which remains strong even after two decades and the recent release of StarCraft II. More importantly to me, though, it comprises one of gaming’s most memorable sci-fi narratives, split up into three chapters that each follow one of the three races.

As StarCraft‘s story begins, humanity has built a fledgling interstellar empire in the form of the Terran Confederacy. Jim Raynor, marshal of a remote human colony, is called in to help fight the hitherto unknown Zerg, who have begun encroaching on human settlements throughout the sector. After getting arrested for burning down a Zerg-infested command center, Raynor signs on with a rebel group whose goal is to overthrow the confederacy and prove that it’s working in league with the aliens. Raynor has his doubts that these allegations are true, but the Confederacy uses the Confederate battle flag as its emblem, so that’s reason enough to take it down.


The Terran campaign follows Raynor’s fight against a mix of human and zerg enemies.

The next chapter in the story follows the Zerg, led by a terrifying alien intelligence called the Overmind. The Overmind seeks to assimilate all life in the galaxy (hmm, I wonder if Blizzard has many Trekkies among its writers), and sees players lay waste to human and Protoss enemies. The main goal of the campaign is to find and destroy the Protoss homeworld, all while controlling the terrifying arsenal of creatures that is the Zerg. Kerrigan, a mutated Zerg-human hybrid, is the anti-heroine of the story and is featured in many missions.

The third and last chapter focuses on the Protoss and their fight to save both their homeworld and the galaxy. Tassadar, a psionic warrior, embarks on a new journey to understand the origins of the Zerg and unite the disparate tribes of his people. Completing this quest comprises the game’s most challenging maps, and perhaps even the unthinkable… an alliance with those filthy humans.


Zerg buildings are powered by mucus and the sounds they make are even worse. They probably smell, too.

The story of the first StarCraft is pretty much a cut-and-dry, three-way battle, but the story of the Brood War expansion pack contains many more shades of grey. Set a few days after the climactic end to StarCraft, the Protoss have lived to fight another day at the cost of their homeworld, and the zerg and humans are in disarray. A massive fleet arrives from Earth to conquer the sector in the name of humanity, and the story gets appropriately complicated. Brood War is Game of Thrones-ian in the scope of its power plays and shifting alliances, but there’s little doubt that Kerrigan and her rise to power is the main focus of the narrative.

That is the longest overview I’ve ever written.


Hehehe. Protoss rule.

It’s difficult to confine a game as large as StarCraft to one review, but I have neither the time nor the lack of backlog to do anything else. Each campaign within the game features a large cast of ensemble characters, mostly restricted to that campaign’s focused race. Without going into in-depth descriptions of two dozen characters, the biggest thing to take away from StarCraft is how well-written its narrative is.

Narrative or not, the game is also very fun on a technical level. It wouldn’t have taken over the RTS world otherwise. StarCraft is a great game because its outwardly simple mechanics can give rise to thousands of complicated strategies. You start off from humble beginnings, gathering space crystals and magic gasoline to build a few houses and a barracks, but will quickly construct a sprawling complex of warp gates and nuclear missile silos. Your initial army will go from a scattering of tollbooth guards to armadas of battleships, and Zerg monsters whose very roar will have your enemies shitting their pants. A mere two-resource flow quickly transforms into a very complicated game, replete with many units and technologies you can research.


StarCraft’s technical complexity is intimidating, but becomes more intuitive with practice.

Getting ahold of StarCraft‘s gameplay is easy. Gathering resources and building houses is child’s play. But getting accustomed to each race’s spin on warfare is quite difficult. Generally speaking, humans excel at building versatile, medium-weight units, and the fact that many of their buildings can fly makes setting up and taking down bases a cinch. Early-game strategy revolves around training marines and light vehicles, but the civ’s more sophisticated late-game fare of nuclear missiles and invisible assassins are where things get really fun.

The Zerg are designed to burn everything down as quickly as possible. Though their buildings are immobile and can only be spawned in certain places, you can evolve huge batches of their monsters in very little time and immediately unleash them on an enemy. You can recombine your Zerg on the genetic level by researching powerful upgrades, and evolving smaller Zerg into bigger, deadlier ones. It’s basically Pokemon by Stephen King.


Crazy giant man-eating thing in an egg, I CHOOSE YOU!!

The Protoss, my favorite civilization, specialize in training a small amount of units that kick a lot of ass. Like the Zerg, their buildings can’t be plonked down just anywhere, but the sheer firepower of their early and late-game units makes them a force to be reckoned with. Just make sure you can pay for all of it.

If you’re getting the sense that each race’s strengths and weaknesses fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, that is perhaps StarCraft‘s greatest accomplishment. Though each race has its overpowered flaws, like the Zerg’s ability to detect any invisible unit, the game does a fantastic job of balancing out its races against each other. This makes both the campaign and multiplayer fun, even when you’re up against another faction of your own race.


StarCraft’s checks and balances between its three races makes for a lot of versatile fun.

Not even this classic giant, though, is immune from a few major problems I noticed with its gameplay. The AI of many units is usually pretty dodgy, like when a group of marines will just sit there smoking cigarettes while the Zerg are busy smoking one of their buildings two feet away. It’s annoying that, so often, units that are right next to a raging battle battle will just sit on their heels and do nothing when things are clearly going to shit.

Hand-in-hand with the unit AI’s poor ability to notice nearby battles are some hilarious pathing errors. If you tell a unit to go somewhere, the odds are good that they’ll take the longest, most inconvenient way to the waypoint you’ve set for them. I have a red mark on my forehead from how many times I facepalmed at the sight of a human worker getting stuck in a housing complex ten miles from where I asked them to go.


StarCraft’s mediocre unit AI requires lots of intense micromanaging.

The other major issue with StarCraft on the gameplay side is that its learning curve is very unforgiving. The campaign will start you off winning missions just by building houses, right into battles against sociopath computer opponents. I won’t deny that a lot of the difficulty and frustration I had with StarCraft stemmed from my aforementioned ineptitude with RTS games, but when a nuclear missile is inbound before you’ve even started gathering space crystals, it’s enough to turn off a lot of players.

It’s because of StarCraft‘s high difficulty that a number of cheat codes are available. Yeah yeah, you won’t get the “pure” experience and all that, but of the dozens of gamers I know who have played StarCraft, only one has beaten it without cheats, and the ordeal took him weeks. StarCraft is a product of an age where you were expected to grind against harsh foes and campaign matches could take days. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit.


“You know what I did during the Great War, son? The Protoss had built a swarm of Carriers before I’d even finished my morning dump and the game was over not long after that. It was a great time to be a man, goddammit.”

“So Ian,” I hear you thinking, “If you’re speaking so glowingly of a game that I might have to use cheats just to be able to access, why should I spend any of my time playing it at all?”

Well, dear reader, StarCraft is not a game for the faint of heart, but the story is something that any sci-fi fan would appreciate. The campaign missions may be repetitive and the AI programmed with Richard Nixon levels of ruthlessness, but the game’s narrative is surprisingly poignant. Its combination of magic-wielding aliens, mutated bugs and space rednecks created enduring novelty that lasts to this day. Each character in StarCraft has multiple dimensions, even those with only a line of dialogue. We see all of StarCraft‘s human and alien characters experience their own arcs and character developments through the three original campaigns, then three more in Brood War.

It’s an impressive feat of narrative structure, especially for an RTS game, and one that I recommend everyone at least try. The graphics haven’t aged well and the difficulty might not suit all tastes, but StarCraft‘s success at delivering an exciting sci-fi narrative made it worth it to me. Its ability to tell a story all will enjoy is at the heart of why I review video games, and why I decided to bring this beloved classic to your attention.

Give this game a shot and see if you agree.


You can buy StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Myst III: Exile


Stop a misguided madman from destroying an entire world.

PC Release: May 8, 2001

By Ian Coppock and Branson Roskelley

Our reviews on the Myst series continue! We weren’t able to get Riven to work, but fortunately the rest of the games have functioned and we’ve been able to play them to our hearts’ content. Myst III: Exile continues the series’ proud tradition of mixing mysticism with steampunk, though not without creating a few novelties of its own.


Set 10 years after the events of Riven, Exile begins as the Stranger is invited to Atrus’s home, Tomahna. The Stranger’s been asked to tour Releeshahn, the Age Atrus designed to be the home of the last remnants of the fallen D’ni civilization.

The Stranger’s visit is interrupted by a disheveled intruder, who sets fire to the house and steals Releeshahn’s Linking Book. The interloper escapes using a Linking Book of his own, and the Stranger, never one to shy away from the unknown, leaps right in after him.


Holy crap, where are we?

The Stranger finds themselves trapped by the maniac who made off with the Book, Saavedro, who it turns out had intended to lead Atrus here instead of you. As you explore the Age Saavedro calls home, you learn that he seeks vengeance against Atrus. Atrus’s villainous sons, who we encountered in the first game, ravaged Saavedro’s home, and now he’s driven by a warped sense of justice.

To escape and to save Releeshan, the Stranger must pursue Saavedro through a new crop of Ages, bolder and more beautiful than the ones we saw in Myst. Originally created by Atrus to train his sons in Age Writing, they’ve since been corrupted by Saavedro into a perverse game of revenge. Catching up to him means navigating his myriad of puzzles successfully.


Exile brings the fantastical beauty of Myst to new heights.

As you can see from the screenshots, Myst‘s visuals have received a hefty upgrade since the first game. Even by today’s standards, many of them remain quite impressive. Part of this is due to the still imagery of the game’s point-and-click format, but that does not detract from the developer’s talent with color and atmosphere.

I’ve praised video games past for popping with color, but Myst III: Exile brings more than that to the table. Its visuals are bathed in a palette of light styles that bring the game so much closer to reality than many titles released these days. Though the level design is fairly consistent throughout, each Age has its own array of colors, textures and environments. From giant jungles within a tree to sea-scoured pillars of stone, there’s a lot to explore in Exile. Each Age has much more character than their counterparts from the first game, which were oftentimes little more than a single room with one puzzle.


Exile gets quite a bit more creative with its environments than Myst did.

There’s something to be said for how much the game carries the feel of the original Myst, considering that it was developed by a different studio. Presto Studios, of which Rand Miller was definitely NOT the head, produced the third game in place of Cyan Worlds. Miller did not originally have plans for a third game, yet here it is. His relationship with Presto remains difficult to discern, but he returned to voice and act Atrus in Myst III: Exile.

One aspect of the first Myst‘s design that Presto did NOT replicate was the difficulty of the puzzles, and thank God for that. The puzzles in Exile remain challenging, but you won’t need a walkthrough or a heartbreak repair kit to get through them. We were able to get through a good chunk of the game without even once having to consult a guide. For a Myst game, that is indeed a novelty!


Like the first game, Exile’s puzzles are difficult. Unlike the first game, they will not melt your brains and give you an aneurysm.

Though Myst III‘s puzzles are much better designed than the first game’s, that doesn’t stop a few of them from feeling a bit like busywork. However, the purpose behind most of them is clear, and you feel motivated by the fact that you won’t break down and cry trying to discern their logic.

Apart from this, there’s not a whole lot to be said on Exile‘s gameplay. You get from place to place by pointing and clicking, and you can consult a journal as you walk around the various Ages. The point-and-click format can feel tedious at times, but it also allows for the game’s outstanding visuals, which makes it okay in my book.


Giant’s Causeway, anyone?

To draw yet another parallel with Myst, the game’s characters return as live acting projected onto the game’s vivid backgrounds. Rand Miller once again proves that he belongs more in the studio than on the stage, but at least he’s consistent in his performance as Atrus.

Far more interesting is the character of Saavedro, played by the guy who played Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. You encounter the character a few times in person and via recordings left behind for Atrus. Though some of Brad Dourif’s acting as Saavedro is melodramatic, it’s an overall impressive performance that conjures a villain we can sympathize with.


Saavedro’s quest for revenge takes center stage in Myst III.

Most of Myst III‘s story is restricted to a handful of character cutscenes and a much larger wealth of written material. All of the backstory and most of the mainline exposition is to be found in Saavedro’s journal, written with the same surprising intimacy that we saw in the journal entries of Myst. These new entries serve to combine the main narrative and the backstory into a single entity, since much of the time you’re by yourself solving puzzles.

In a sense, Saavedro’s character represents the madness of Atrus’s villainous sons. He is a product of wanton destruction and his anguish is directed squarely at the player. In this way, we become intimately familiar with the psychology of a scarred refugee, and he becomes easier to sympathize with in turn.


Not everyone likes to read. But this is NOT homework.

Overall, Myst III: Exile is a well-crafted game. Presto Studios is to be commended for making the puzzles relevant, and adhere to that handy little thing called logic. The story is simple yet engaging, relying on character strength rather than plot twists to convey an interesting narrative.

And you can’t beat the game’s visuals. You just can’t. Unless it’s Myst IV.


Myst III’s environments are very alive for a point-and-click game, conveying a sense of wonder.

As of this writing, Myst III is not available for digital download. You can surely pirate it, but there’s no stable build of the game, adapted for modern systems, that we’ve been able to find. Because Presto Studios is now out of business, and some of the Myst games are owned by Ubisoft, it is probable that Exile is trapped in some sort of limbo. Ironic, considering that’s the fate of many of its characters. You can chance it with a physical disc if you want, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll work, or be available at a reasonable price.

Hopefully someday a remastered edition will be released on Steam. Games that I swore I’d never see on Steam have been popping up in twos and threes over the last four years, so who knows? Maybe someday we can all have this gem again.


Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. You can also find Branson on Twitter @MrRoskelley, and at his website,

Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.



Riven.exe has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience.

PC Release: ERRORCODE&*$(484748948

By Ian Coppock and Branson Roskelley








WTF is happening right now


As you might have guessed, we were not able to get Riven to work. There are three remastered editions of Myst available on Steam, but apparently there’s not as much love for Riven. The only version available is the one and the same released in 1997, which has a hard time on modern systems. It’s a shame; I’m told that Riven is a high-caliber game and a worthy sequel to the original Myst. How often do we see the words “worthy” and “sequel” in the same sentence unless the word “isn’t” is also in there somewhere?

Riven follows the Stranger as they confront Atrus’s tyrannical father Gehn, though the details of this mighty confrontation we won’t be able to tell you. You might have better luck getting it to work on your system, but we weren’t able to find a workaround past constant system crashes. Good luck!


You can buy Riven here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. You can also find Branson on Twitter @MrRoskelley, and at his website,

Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.



Explore fantastical worlds in search of an enigmatic scholar.

PC Release: September 24, 1993

By Ian Coppock and Branson Roskelley

February was a bleak month in terms of recommendable video games. We lurched back and forth between half-baked platformers and woeful attempts at storytelling. In the interest of avoiding both of those things, I’ve co-opted my best friend and together we’re reviewing one of the most prestigious video game sagas of all time: Myst.


Myst was the breakout video game by brothers Rand and Robyn Miller. It received critical acclaim upon release and remained PC gamedom’s top-selling title until The Sims in 2002. Few video games hold such a record for so long, and the Myst series retains a large, loyal following even 23 years after its debut. In an era where female gamers were virtually unheard of, 33% of its initial audience comprised women.

In the Myst universe, players assume the role of “the Stranger” and travel to a diverse palette of worlds. These worlds, reached by the mystical technology of Linking Books, represent the creativity of their Writers. Myst Island, the game’s primary setting, is one such world, and where the Stranger beings their journey.


Myst is where the bulk of the game takes place.

The Stranger has arrived to Myst in search of its primary occupant, a Linking Book Writer named Atrus, but he’s nowhere to be found. Not long after arriving, you also find the island’s library in disarray, with two damaged Linking Books in the main chamber. Something seems amiss, and not just because of the symbols scrawled on the books or the conspicuous absence of Myst’s inhabitants.

Myst is a first-person adventure game presented in a point-and-click format. The meat of the game is a series of puzzles that are challenging… to the point of being brutal. These puzzles stand between you and figuring out what’s going on around here. Clicking around the island and sorting out each conundrum is the only way to proceed.


The variety of the island’s environments is exceeded only by that of its puzzles.

Before long, the Stranger figures out that the two damaged books in the library contain messages from whatever worlds they contain, and only finding the books’ missing pages will make their communications clear. The pages have been scattered all over the island for you to find, but it’s not clear if either of the books’ inhabitants are Atrus.

Finding the pages will also require linking to worlds beyond Myst. Players will find books linking to four additional worlds, or Ages, each with their own environments and challenges. Most worlds only contain a single, massive puzzle with many moving parts, whereas the puzzles in the island hub are mostly unconnected.


Because Ages come from the imagination of the Writers’ Linking Books, they contain fantastical, gorgeous environments more often than not.

As is implied with the title card we used for this review, we didn’t play the original version of Myst. There are several remastered versions of the game available on Steam, but realMyst: Remastered Edition released in 2014 is by far the best. The realMyst version also allows players to move about on their own without being constricted to a point-and-click format, which suited me just fine.

realMyst also contains some upgrades to the game’s visuals, mostly in the form of brighter colors. Everything else in the game has remained true to form, from the original sound effects to the gorgeous soundtrack composed by Robyn Miller. Purists need not worry about missing out any original content. The remastered version also apparently adds a bonus Age, which I missed in my playthrough.


Myst’s environments have been remastered, but not changed.

Though Myst‘s gameplay has received some nice upgrades, the puzzles are exceptionally difficult. Were it not for the game’s unique premise and its beautiful visuals, we’re not sure it would’ve caught on as much as it did with puzzles this hard. And we’re  not talking about something akin to a difficult Test Chamber; I’m talking about puzzles that run on something next to nonsense. These are the old-school type of adventure puzzles that demand remembering lots of sequences and writing reams of stuff down. A good puzzle runs on simple rules but can still be a challenge. A mediocre or bad puzzle is challenging because of the complexity of its rules.

From writing down book symbols that apply to an obscure machine on the other side of the island, to timing puzzles that the game did not tell us require timing, anyone who beats Myst without a walkthrough deserves the highest accolades. Myst forces its players to endure a lot of unnecessary frustration, and the game also pads out its playtime because of the sheer amount of pointing and clicking back and forth around the island. The thrill of solving a puzzle is unfortunately outweighed by the built-up frustration that goes into figuring out its obscure rules.


This game is beautiful but its puzzles are ridiculous.

Myst’s puzzles are much more difficult to discern than its narrative, one of the game’s biggest saving graces. Myst prefers to present its story in a show-not-tell format, and most of it is found in journal entries scattered around the island. We explore the life and times of Atrus, and the island’s other inhabitants, through written down memories rather than actual conversations. A few characters make in-game appearances toward the end of the game.

The stories contained in these journal entries smack of high fantasy despite the game going for a steampunk-esque aesthetic. They’re surprisingly immersive to read, much more so than an Elder Scrolls book, or Dead Space‘s holo-logs. Gone are the days when video games used a plethora of journal entries to reinforce the narrative. Imagine if mainline studios today had the audacity to ask their audience to read something. I personally wouldn’t mind putting James Joyce into this year’s Call of Duty, but Activision’s marketing department might disagree. Their loss.


Myst is a video game that was designed for avid readers.

Myst didn’t get everything right. It missed the mark on the puzzle gameplay that would go on to inform the entire series. But everything else about it has aged surprisingly gracefully. The big, beautiful worlds it contains would go on to inspire scores of other games, and its blend of steampunk and high fantasy remains novel even to this day.

Though the narrative is restricted mostly to journal entries, that doesn’t stop the game from touching on some deep themes. It becomes evident that Atrus feels remorse for a major disaster long in the past, and came to this island to embark upon some sort of reconciliation. That doesn’t stop him from having some fun; his journal entries alternate between somber recollections of times past and joyous thrill rides in other Ages. It demonstrates some character-building techniques that were, again, a rarity in the game’s day.


Atrus is played by Rand Miller, and the worlds he creates are a central focus of the series. His initial connection to the player character is not made clear right away.

Because Myst was built as a point-and-click games, the imagery the game contains was cutting-edge in its day and remains impressive now. The remake added a few colors and atmospheric effects. What few character appearances there are in the game were live-action shots transposed onto the game’s backgrounds. The voice acting could use a little work, but legend has it that Rand Miller found no one else to play his title character and decided to do it himself.

As we’ve said throughout this review, Myst’s puzzles are not for the faint-of-heart and we doubt you’ll be able to solve them without a walkthrough. We say that only because everyone we’ve talked to who played this game invariably lost their patience with it after the upteenth hour spent pointing and clicking in search of obscure solutions. But we still recommend the game on the merits of its artwork and heartfelt exposition. The worlds you travel to are fun to explore as well, even if their puzzles require you to have a walkthrough open in another window.



Still, give them a shot without a walkthrough if you’re feeling adventurous and have time to kill. Just don’t feel bad if you need one to tell you that the lighthouse switches have an invisible timer and you need to have the runes on the other side of the island in a hitherto unknown order first.

Seriously, don’t feel bad.


You can buy realMyst: Masterpiece Edition here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. You can also find Branson on Twitter @MrRoskelley, and at his website,

Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.