To round off the year, I would like to be indulgent and review something slightly different. Riven: The Sequel to Myst is my single favourite game of all time. In the game, you have been transported by your friend Atrus through a Linking Book – books that spirit people away into the worlds they describe – to the archipelago of Riven, where you have the ultimate goal of rescuing Atrus’ lover from his father.
Much like its prequel, the puzzles in Riven are deliberately opaque. After the sparse intro, you are completely left on your own with almost nothing to help you. You really need to be playing with a pad and paper by your side, in order to take down the intriguing clues you will find scattered throughout the islands, and to learn about the culture of the villagers of Riven. There are a fair few cleverly hidden passages all around the island, but each time you discover one, you feel like you have uncovered something that ought to have remained hidden.
The atmosphere of Riven is like a noise-cancelling shroud. When the game is not mysteriously beautiful with its views of the ocean and calming sounds of wildlife, you are listening to Robyn Miller’s deliciously ethereal soundtrack while walking through stony caverns and wooden residences that are definitely inhabited but are suspiciously empty. The game imbues a feeling of being oppressively, helplessly alone – but at the same time, you feel like you are constantly being watched. Each time you catch a glimpse of another human, they will run away from you out of fear. Even though you are here to help, absolutely nobody wants you here.
I love Riven so much. It is a wonderful, beautiful, mysterious world that grips me with awe and curiosity every time I visit it. It was a game that made my younger self value books as items that are capable of working magic. It’s a game that makes me value quiet, slow, introspective progression over bombastic action and excitement. In my experience with video games, nothing is better than this.