Adventure Notes – Riven and the Intangible Inventory

Adventure Notes - Myst

Riven BoxartI finished Riven a while back. As a sequel to Myst, it did a great job of carrying on the story and upping the stakes. It wasn’t a mere rehash, nor did it diverge too much from its source material. It walked the delicate line that so many sequels have trouble finding of being both familiar yet new.

However, I think I actually liked realMyst a little bit more. I’m in the minority here, and don’t get me wrong, Riven was a great game. But as photo-realistic as they made Riven look, I think I preferred the more surrealistic charm of Myst. I also liked the more modular design of the original as opposed to the sequel’s wide open world.

But there’s another issue I want to discuss, and that’s the way the Myst games handle inventory, or lack thereof. In most adventure games, you find items laying around the game world, and you pick them up and carry them around with you, because as a player, you know that at some point, you’ll use them to solve puzzles. Where, when and how are left up to you to figure out, but you’ll at least know you have the right tools.

Myst games, on the other hand, are known for their minimalist interface, and not having a “proper” inventory system. You don’t pick up and carry items with you, and therefore, you don’t have tools to solve puzzles. Perhaps this is why so many people think the puzzles are so obtuse.

Riven: The Sequel to Myst
Riven: The Sequel to Myst

But as I played through Myst and Riven, I realized that they do, in fact, have an inventory system, and it works in much the same way as other adventure games. The difference is that instead of finding items scattered around, you find information. You then collect that information by writing it down on a piece of paper (in real life, in case you’ve forgotten that that exists), and keep it with you because, as a player, you know that at some point, you’ll use it to solve puzzles. The page of notes next to my keyboard was my toolbox, and it was essential in getting through these games. Information is sort of an “intangible inventory.”

I want to play through more of the Myst series, but Myst III: Exile and Myst IV: Revelation are not currently available on any download services. Uru: Complete Chronicles and Myst V: End of Ages are out there, but I don’t want to skip ahead without playing the others first, so I’m going to have to hold off a bit. In the mean time, I plan on trying out Broken Sword and The Longest Journey.

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2 thoughts on “Adventure Notes – Riven and the Intangible Inventory

  1. Jason X

    You might just be onto something here. Pretty much any adventure game in history has given you items that you use to solve puzzles. Myst and its sequels give you clues. It’s a very different approach to the genre, and as dumb as it sounds to say out loud, it never occurred to me to write anything down while playing these games.

    I’m going to have to give realMyst a shot now and see if it’s better than I’d given it credit for.

    1. Nester

      It really goes a long way. It’s hard to remember random numbers and symbols, but when they’re right at your fingertips, the puzzles fall into place pretty easily.

      The game still has its quirks, tho, like if you don’t realize that an elevator isn’t working because you didn’t think to manually shut the door yourself. Also, the sound puzzles are a sticking point for most people. It’s hard to write down a sound. (“Buzz,” “click,” rattle?”)

      I think the later games in the series included an in-game note-taking system, complete with the ability to take photographs of things. It really goes to show that that’s how the games were intended to be played.

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