Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Genre: Adventure / Puzzle
ESRB: Everyone

Cyan Worlds, the developer of the classic Myst, experimented last year with a significant deviation from this successful series by releasing Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. This title featured a third-person perspective (along with the traditional first-person view) with full 3D┬ámovement, a different kind of story, required running and jumping, and the promise – never fulfilled – of massive multiplayer online play. Although this risky set of innovations generated mixed reactions, the company has persisted and now released Uru: The Path of the Shell, an expansion pack incorporating an earlier free add-on named To D’Ni. The Path of the Shell apparently consists of ages which might have been eventually integrated into the online version. Can this release cement the value of this new approach?

Uru: The Path of the Shell provides you with even more depth concerning the tale of the ancient civilization of the D’Ni – the people who escaped to Earth eons ago, built an underground civilization, and created the ages and the books that transport you among them. Later, after the D’Ni civilization dissolved, Yeesha (the daughter of Atrus and a direct descendant of the D’Ni) strives to set things straight. Long afterwards, the D’ni Restoration Council tried to return the civilization to its former glory. The plot in The Path of the Shell focuses specifically on spiritual rather than physical restoration of the D’ni, with the power of the gods at stake.

As in Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, a hub exists within the Relto Age that allows you to link the other ages. Although the action in this expansion pack has you spend time in five ages, including the original Myst Island, you end up being present the vast majority of your time in just two new ages: Ahnonay and Er’cana. Ahnonay is a watery world with other forms such as an outer space variant, and Er’cana is an arid industrial world replete with complex machines. Both continue and extend the spirit of the original offering. Once again, although the environments presented are expansive, you usually move around on specified paths from which you cannot deviate very much.

Uru: The Path of the Shell contains fewer discrete puzzles than I am used to in the Myst series, as each of the two ages in which you spend most of your time have just a few rather lengthy challenges. Most of the puzzles rely on logic and careful observation of your surroundings to succeed, with plenty of matching drawings and symbols, pushing buttons, and pulling levers. Often you find pieces of paper with numbers on them, referring to a passage you need to read from one of the linking books on Relko. In a couple of instances, however, the pace slows down to a crawl as you end up having just to sit around doing nothing for over ten minutes for solutions to emerge.