Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Why Riven is the Best Game Ever, Part 2

The Fire Dome puzzle - oh, how I love thee. This puzzle, truly, is the hardest and most beautiful puzzle in the game. You find your first clues - which are also, in a sense, your reward for completion - way, way beforehand. The items in question: On each island, there is a dome that looks vaguely like a world globe, spinning very quickly. Embossed on each side are circles of eye motifs, with each symbol a slightly modified version of the previous, until a cycle is made. Nearby, there is a camera-like device with a button on it, and a strobe-like reading of the symbols. Here, it is illuminated that one of those symbols is golden - a unique one per island. When you push the button as the gold symbol passes, the dome opens up in a spectacular animation. Upon closer investigation, it is revealed that there are five sliders on a 25-notch path. With no further clues to go on, the player leaves.

Later, the player will discover Catherine's journal, which, amidst other great detail, includes the code to open the domes. It also tells you that the books within the domes aren't powered (a long story) and that to use them to drop a visit to Gehn, the player will have to find a way to give the domes the power to teleport him to Gehn's new Age.

Another clue is found on Survey Island: maps. One of them is a view of Riven from a bird's eye, using the Age's weird water physics to construct representations of any given island's topography. The other is a 25 by 25 grid of topographical sectors of Riven, with the fire domes highlighted (sensing a motif?). However, a player may only examine the island that the larger map is set to. At first playthrough, this seems like a curiosity, or some ridiculous puzzle.

The last clue also comes from Survey Island, in Gehn's little "aquarium." He's tied up colored lights to a control panel, to train his Wahrks (think sharks, with tusks and trapezoidish bodies) to be his little Pavlovian executioners. The symbols for the colors match the eye-like symbols.

Finally, though, the player comes full circle and finds himself staring one of the most glorious sights in the game: the Temple Dome, a huge, golden monstrosity filled with iridescent water and a nexus of pipes from around the Age - pipes which connect to the Fire Domes. And then they see this a 25x25 grid, and six marbles of different colors. And, maybe, everything comes together.

Tune in next time for the next part of the review.


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