The expansion pack to Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, The Path of the Shell lets us explore more 3D worlds while solving a host of new, brain bending puzzles. Fans of Myst that appreciate the new dimension of the gameplay are certain to enjoy The Path of the Shell. New gamers may feel slightly alienated in the largely silent and static worlds whereas fans may take comfort and revel in the solitude. Myst has long been a virtual sanctuary due to its incredibly imaginative landscapes.

Ahnonay and Er'cana are the two new worlds (called "Ages") that you will explore. Shells act as warp points in the Ages so that you can move around to different areas without having to start at the beginning of a particular Ages. Due to the nature of the puzzles, some of which require backtracking, this is a very welcome addition.

One can expect the puzzles to be in the same vein as Ages Beyond Myst, which is a good thing if that's the reason you're interested in purchasing this expansion pack. You will explore ancient lands that once thrived with sophisticated civilizations. Many of the worlds are void of any terrestrial life but remain breathtaking examples of artistic imagination whether they are barren dessert or a lush natural paradise.

Remnants of these civilizations remain scattered throughout the Ages. Various machines, buildings and architecture have long since been assimilated into the environment forming an odd, juxtaposed coexistence between the natural and the unnatural.

Understanding the relationship among all these elements is the key to solving the puzzles but since you have no point of reference pertaining to these obscured civilizations the puzzles appear arbitrary and confusing. Not to worry. Although you don't carry around an inventory like you did in the original Myst series, you will have a journal that you can use to store the various helpful clues and hints that you will discover. Various clues will be posted in the caves, caverns and structures that you explore. They don't always make sense and sometimes you'll need to find quite a few hints before you can tackle a certain puzzle. Just attempting some of these by trial and error right off the bat is not recommended since it may result in broken monitors when you put a fist through it.

Nothing is lost in terms of stunning graphics despite the inexpensive $20 price tag. The different Ages look incredible but even though the game is in 3D you are still forced to stay on a path that sports an invisible barrier prohibiting you from exploring any area that you see. The sounds are sparse, in keeping with the overall sense of alienation perpetuated by the mysterious abandoned civilizations. There is an occasional voiceover which is well done, and the background music is always appropriate for the situation. When the sound effects kick in, especially when the huge machines start up in the desert world, the effect is quiet pronounced given the sparseness of such sounds. Even if you don't have the latest PC software, upgrades or a killer sound system you'll still be able to appreciate the quality of the presentation of this game.

The Path of the Shell may not be the best place to start if you want to get into the Myst series, but longtime fans will appreciate the new direction that the expansion pack helps to further while adhering to the ambience of the Myst universe.


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System: PC
Dev: Dev Cyan
Pub: Ubi Soft
Release: July 2004
Players: 1
Review by Shelby