Gamescape: Myst, The Mechanical Age

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Three small islands, none more than twenty feet wide, surround a larger island in the middle of another vast, seemingly endless ocean. While the smaller islands are rocky, the larger island appears totally manmade: it is a clean-cut angular structure sitting atop massive machinery, a single enormous gear visible above the waterline. A thin rail surrounds the central island, a perfect circle at an ideal level to support the metal bridge that connects the islands.

A thin haze of sickly mist sits just above the water’s surface—there is hardly a single sign of life out here. The water, kept in constant motion by its tide, does not appear to hold any life, at least this close to the surface. Even the islands of rock reveal nothing. No plant life, even so much as a single dash of mold, grows on these. The air, still kept salty from the sea, is warm, thick, almost suffocating. There must be something in the quality of air or the water that prevents life from forming out here…whether this area or this entire world has always been devoid of life, one cannot tell from looks alone.

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Littering the smaller islands are gears, dozens upon dozens in a seemingly infinite variety of sizes. The most massive of these are not even entirely visible—they extend from the rock, sometimes almost entirely sunken in the ground. Embedded as they are, some still stand taller than  any human can, while others still lie scattered about, as small as seashells on a beach. On the southernmost island, it almost appears as if the gears were tossed from the sky, countless gears lie carelessly on the ground, rising out of the water, some hardly above water at all.

The central island, if it can be called that at all, consists of a large, angular building that rests on a massive piece of machinery. When viewed from above, this structure takes the shape of an eight pointed star, similar to those of Old World compasses—and reveals the purpose of its unusual placement. Three islands rest at three cardinal points relative to the central buildings: North, East, South…yet there is only one walkway. To adjust for this, the entire island moves, rotating on its gigantic hidden machine, the pathway following a guiderail that circles the structure.

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All of this technology, this detailed work…but for what purpose? The auxiliary islands hold little of interest, only pieces of a puzzle that could have easily been held in the primary island’s building. This world, more so than the others in Myst, suggests its use was merely an exercise in what one could and could not pull off in such a strange, faraway place. The materials exist for there to be bridges to each island, if one so desired, but where is the fun in that? Myst is a game of puzzles, and the Mechanical Age seems to exist simply as a monument to what puzzles could be created—a monument that says “look what I can do.”

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