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Review: Riven

When the Riven remake was announced with VR support, I was really excited to see another of Cyan Worlds games getting brought into VR after the success of Myst and their latest game Firmament. I have now been taxing my brain with the puzzles of Riven, has it been another success for Cyan Worlds and Virtual Reality?

Release Date: June 25th 2024
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Publisher: Cyan Worlds
Price: TBC
Reviewed On: DPVR E4 Black
* Access Provided For Review *

Three Step Plan

Riven continues where Myst left off with its companion novel The Book of Atrus. Atrus who knows how the create Linking Books needs you to go to Riven and help rescue his wife, Catherine. Who is the captor? None other than Gehn, Atrus’ manipulative father and self-declared ruler of Riven. So, off you go into Riven with a book Atrus has created to imprison Gehn, which looks identical to a Linking Book but is a trap. Your three objectives being trap Gehn, free Catherine, and then signal Atrus for a Linking Book to get off Riven.

A Puzzle Masterpiece

As you would expect from Cyan Worlds and the 1997 release of Riven, the game is going to revolve around puzzles, which are going to take some working out – and of course they wont be holding your hand along the way. These puzzles are spread across five different islands in Riven, some you can get via a Meg-Lev and some that might take a bit more figuring out.

As the puzzle solutions are all about exploring these islands, finding information that will be required at points on other islands, paying attention to everything possible and seeing if you can find any help and hints is always going to be important. However, please be aware you will be required to do some reading to find some hints, as this can be hidden in the journals of some of the characters. With the mix of useful information between the islands, these puzzles can get pretty hard to work out and some had me scratching my head for a good while. But, as you start to piece it all together you can see how well all of these puzzles have been designed. Cyan Worlds have done a fantastic job keeping it part true to the original but, changed it enough to make it work for the tech that is now available – and something that works perfectly for Virtual Reality at the same time.

One element of Riven I love is how the team have implemented a notebook, that is also very usable in VR. With a press of the button you can take a screenshot of what you are currently looking at – meaning maybe you think a note might be important for a puzzle, then take a screenshot. This will then put into a notebook, which you can access from the pause menu, which also includes a section next to the screenshot where you can type notes. This really does come in handy for some of the puzzles in the game, and it felt good not having to lift the headset to scribble down notes on some paper. Where it would have been nice to take it our your satchel rather than needing to go the pause menu, I think the pause menu option is less immersion breaking than lifting your HMD all of the time.

As with any Cyan Worlds games the gameplay is all about the puzzles although, unlike other games they have released there is some set situations where it is possible to die but, for the most part you are safe. I couldn’t see any collectibles that are hidden to locate, it’s all about getting your head around the puzzles – which I think is a good thing as you really don’t need any distractions when the puzzles are as difficult as they are.

The Beauty of Riven

There was only one way I wanted to play to Riven and that was PCVR, as Cyan Worlds creations are always beautiful to look at – so I wanted the full power of a PC behind this one. With this in mind Riven did not disappoint, just like Myst and Firmament as soon as you step into Riven and start to look around and explore there are plenty of times your jaw will drop. Each of the Islands you visit in the game will give you its own different environment and feel, as you move between them over and under water just taking in the views on offer. Everything is super detailed in every place you visit with high quality textures, shadows and lighting bringing Riven to life perfectly.

As previously mentioned the games does include some reading if you want all the lore to characters time in Riven, and also for some hints to some puzzles. I always think if reading is to be in a VR game you should be reading it directly from the book/journal to not break the immersion. With the above mentioned high quality textures, all your reading in the game is directly from the hand-written notes in the books and they really clear and easy to read.

To go with the outstanding visuals you are also get just as impressive audio, which each Island having environmental sounds to match it perfectly – meaning you are truly immersed in the world of Riven. The spoken dialogue in the game, even if some is Rivenese and wont make sense to you is all voice acted to a high standard.


The Verdict

Riven has seen Cyan Worlds use what is possible with current day tech to give their classic title from 1997 a new lease of life, and they have done this successfully again following the same treatment being given to Myst in 2021. Bringing it with it some of the most challenging puzzles I have ever faced, which are designed perfectly for both flastscreen and Virtual Reality. With the world of Riven looking truly stunning and a pleasure to explore as you work out the puzzles. Cyan Worlds are doing great with bringing the best and most taxing puzzle games to VR. Where the puzzles do get difficult, when you solve them you see how fantastically they are designed, for this reason any puzzle game fans should add Riven to their library as soon as possible.