Riven 2024 review: Under the dome

Men will literally trap their relatives in book prisons instead of going to family therapy.

Myst’s 1993 release—and subsequent runaway success—shook up home computer gaming. The shockwaves reached as far as our rural Texas farmhouse, where my dad and I played through it together on the family Macintosh. The Linking Books that stitched together worlds and the family dysfunction that tore them apart lodged firmly in my four-year-old brain. Memories beyond that first game are fuzzy. I wouldn’t fully revisit the series until junior high, when Ubisoft released a four-disc box set of their latter installments. And now, when I play through the updated Riven 2024.

The 2021 Myst remake was a personal revelation: decades-old landscapes made new, goofy but charming three-dimensional models of characters previously in full FMV, familiar puzzles in new contexts. But the sequel I barely remembered was a harder sell. Beyond vague recollections of rusted pipes, metal bars, and sand, there was no weight of nostalgia to guide me. Nevertheless, I eagerly dove into Riven 2024. Barring a few absolute stumpers, Riven surprised me with its ambition—both at the time of its original release and today.

Related: Mean Girls 2024 Review: Eat Your Grool

Riven 2024, rusted stairs lead up to a closed brick boiler room.
Screenshot via Cyan.

But first, a zoomer-friendly summary of Riven’s backstory

Atrus’ jerk dad, Gehn, returns after a long absence of “going to the corner store for milk.” He teaches Atrus how to write Linking Books that connect worlds together. Atrus eventually figures out his dad’s a little sussy, so he and a local baddie named Catherine trap Gehn with the locals on Riven and hit the bricks.

Atrus and Catherine are down bad for each other and put a ring on it, but their two sons—Sirrus and Achenar—grow up to be mega salty, looting Atrus’ work and stranding Catherine back on Riven. You trap both brothers in gay baby book jail. But then Atrus sends you to Riven after his ride-or-die. He wants you to clap back at Gehn with a custom-made gay baby book jail and rescue his wifey. Meanwhile, Atrus stays on that alpha grindset and keeps writing in Riven’s Linking Book so it doesn’t collapse with his bae inside. And that’s what you missed on Myst!

Riven 2024, a glass-windowed catwalk stretches through orange-hued stalactites.
Screenshot via Cyan.

Natural Enemies

Riven is an unforgiving age. You emerge from the Linking Book as metal bars spring up in front of you. A white-garbed man speaks a language you don’t know, wresting away the prison book Atrus gave you. And then he slumps over to the sound of a blow dart piercing his neck. A masked rebel pockets the book, forces the cage open, and drags the man’s unconscious body off screen. Only after that do you assume control.

The original Myst island was mostly pleasant solitude. Wind whistled through trees, water lapped against rocks. The only faces you saw were from the distance of a Linking Book or viewfinder screen, when you chose. Riven’s introduction immediately puts you in conflict with other people—a tense standoff you don’t understand. The perspective has flipped: you have little control and are an unwelcome intrusion. You, like the family members Atrus has sealed away, are completely at the mercy of this place. There is no warping out. These strangers are fearful. Even Atrus himself doesn’t explain the situation at length, telling you to piece it together from the personal journal he stows in your bag.

Riven’s current state feels unnatural. Rusted machinery juts at odd angles out of the sandy rock. Makeshift wooden bridges and elaborately carved totems clash with spinning, seemingly power-generating domes. The Moeity—the native people of the Island—and Gehn, the pushy D’ni elder, have no alliance. Flip the wrong switch on a release valve, and a Moeity bridge to another area crumbles into the water. Power for power’s sake. Spiderwebs of metallic gadgets and felled trees paint a clearer picture than Atrus’ journal: Gehn is remaking this world in his image, by force if necessary.

Riven 2024, floor lights illuminated a cushioned chair in a spiderweb of machinery.
Screenshot via Cyan.

Riddle Me This

Riven’s cultural corrosion shows up everywhere. In the schoolhouse—where children learn to count in D’ni by lowering a wooden man into a whale-shark’s splintery maw—someone has written a cheat sheet to the numbering system in crimson ink. At the front of the classroom, you can switch on a recording of Gehn speaking, projecting out from a wireframe orb.

The arc of Riven’s puzzles charts out Gehn’s haphazard rule through gilded domes and orbs. Stop spinning domes to enter a starry in-between world. Use a pattern of golden domes to map out the small island network onto a pegboard. And in Gehn’s lab, read over his studies of fire marbles, rock orbs that give off light when struck a certain way. By the time you reach the makeshift gallows, the circular platform lowering transgressors to their doom comes as no surprise. The dude loves a circular motif.

Puzzles are primarily knowledge-based, with only a few dependent on spatial reasoning or timing. In theory, this only deepens the thematic links between the Moeity’s hidden signals and Gehn’s overt takeover of Riven. But when you hit a wall on a pure knowledge check, it sends you reeling. A ring of engraved stones gave me particular trouble, despite the helpful PDF sent along with my press key. I knew what I had to do: translate Rivenese numbers to determine a symbol’s order. But something about converting from Rivenese counting to D’ni and back again confounded me.

This moment was supposed to feel significant—using hidden knowledge scattered across Riven to unearth a secret—but I was just irritated. I eventually solved the riddle after experimentation and backtracking, though I couldn’t tell you how. My trouble easily added two hours to an otherwise brisk romp through Riven.

Riven 2024, golden trinkets scattered across a star-inlaid, gilded marble dais.
Screenshot via Cyan.

Detail Work

Riven’s 2024 glow-up doesn’t skimp on the little things. Broader achievements mark progress, but the more obscure ones are often funny. I laughed after an achievement popped up just for annoying a sea creature. Riven rewards your notice in less overt ways, too. The watercolor diffusion effect after zooming in on the scenery feels on-theme for a world that is slowly unraveling. This work wouldn’t be possible without the Starry Expanse Project, a fan-led remastering that directly informed Riven’s 2024 remake.

Despite the welcome attention to detail, my press build had a few slight hiccups. Screen flashes and texture pop-in—even after I used Riven’s graphics quality detection—might affect more photosensitive players. And the subtitling options don’t extend to in-game journals. While the different calligraphy styles are distinctive, sometimes I had to unfocus my eyes to get the shape of a word right. Accompanying captions for Riven’s stellar character writing would be welcome.

Riven 2024, a bridge stretches over the water to an inlaid steel dome.
Screenshot via Cyan.

Riven 2024 verdict: A step into the future

Myst usually gets top billing in gaming histories. But after my playthrough of Riven 2024, I am seriously reassessing that. Riven outdoes its groundbreaking predecessor in almost every way. The atmosphere is tense, the puzzling is sharp, and the story is more than a series of journals to read. Riven’s slow corrosion seeps into every facet of the game, and its conclusion doesn’t disappoint. Great power always comes at great cost.

Riven 2024 is a true labor of love, a direct result of fan efforts to render the game in a modern style. Character models, puzzles, and other touches have been dramatically streamlined, and barring a few hard knowledge checks, my time in Riven sped by. Graphics hiccups and captioning omissions are tiny blemishes on Riven’s triumphant return. I’ll be thinking of it, pun intended, for ages.

Press SPACE to Jump Review score 9
Image by Press SPACE to Jump

Amazing

ProsCons
Smart technical updates in a cohesive 3D style.Occasional pop-in and flashing may affect more photosensitive players.
Streamlined but not diminished puzzles.Lack of accessibility options for in-game journal text.
Eerie atmosphere with deliciously morbid detail work in places. 
A cautionary tale I will be thinking about for years. Possibly more than Myst itself! 

Read the Press SPACE to Jump Review Scale for more information on what our scores mean. For more games coverage, stay tuned to the site!

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Taylor Hicklen
Taylor Hicklen

Taylor is Press SPACE to Jump's community lead. He likes midrange JRPGs, fighting games, and Dicey Dungeons. Bonus points if there are good fonts. To contact him about your game or other professional inquiries, you can email him at pstjtaylor@proton.me.

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