This is one area where Uru doesn’t disappoint: the variety of ages available for exploration, unsurpassed by any other Myst game. D’ni, in particular, is huge, which makes it all the more disappointing that all you can really do there is a glorified scavenger hunt. Most of the online-only ages are tiny, but they’re quite lovely, and the Pod Age, in particular, features a lush wildlife. Puzzle-wise, the outstanding contenders are Kadish Tolesa, Ahnonay and Minkata, all of which will require you to get those brain cogs moving. The rest are a lot more hands-on, especially Gahreesen.

The Cleft: ShelterAccessed via a yellow linking book with the outline of the Cleft depicted in green on its spine, this is the spot where the entrance to D’ni is situated, somewhere in New Mexico. The Cleft itself is a crevice in the ground next to the volcano that houses the Great Shaft, which links D’ni to the surface world. The crevice contains living quarters, which were first inhabited by Atrus’ grandmother, Ti’ana, and where Yeesha lived for a while before exploring D’ni herself. This is where you start your journey in the offline version of the game, under the beating desert sun, arid expanses dotted with scant, scraggly bushes stretching around you on all sides and eagles circling overhead. A short trek takes you to a trailer, where Zandi welcomes you and encourages you to find the clues Yeesha has left. Once you listen to a message from her and find seven Journey Cloths, which look like orange squares of tapestry with a hand pattern on them, you’ll be able to enter an underground chamber, where your Relto book awaits. In the online version of the game, you start out in Relto and can link to the Cleft via the appropriate linking book, even though the ‘beginner’s’ puzzle is no longer there.

Relto: Safe havenAccessed via a green book with Yeesha’s symbol on the cover attached to your avatar’s belt, Relto (“the high place”) is a small island lost in a sea of pink clouds, as lovely as it is soothing. Situated on a towering pillar of rock, it features a small hut at the base of a cliff and four totem-like pillars set in a square pattern. Each pillar is decorated with different carvings and sports a differently coloured hand symbol. The hut is rather bare-bones: all it contains are two bookshelves and a wardrobe. The latter allows you to customise your avatar whenever you feel like it. The right-hand shelf contains a book with some cryptic quotations that serve as clues for the starting ages, as well as five volumes containing the prophecies of the Watcher, which are integral to Path of the Shell. The left hand shelf is designed to house linking books. The four pillars outside the hut represent the four initial ages (actually five, but two of them are linked), and each contains the corresponding linking book. As Yeesha explains, she wrote Relto by breaking a number of rules that the D’ni held as sacred and immovable. For example, several instances of the age exist simultaneously, one for each player. As you explore other ages, you can collect pages with drawings on them. These pages can be inserted into the Relto linking book, and ‘activated’ and ‘deactivated’ at will to customise the age. Also, unlike other linking books, the Relto book travels around with your avatar. This means that you can go there whenever you like, and falling off a ledge will prompt an automatic ‘panic link’ to safety.

Gahreesen: Maximum securityBuilt as a high-security R&D facility for the Guild of Maintainers, Gahreesen (“fortress”) is accessed via a muddy green linking book located in the totem depicting a blue hand and an open book surmounted by an eye–the symbol of the Maintainers, who were in charge of ascertaining whether newly-written linking books were safe. In fact, you can find Maintainer Marks, which look like round searchlights on the ground with a Maintainer symbol on them, in most of the ages. Gahreesen consists of two monolithic rotating stone buildings situated on small islands in the middle of a river that flows through a hilly, lush jungle. The local wildlife seems to be highly dangerous, judging by the metallic spikes adorning the buildings and a journal left behind by a DRC member. The idea here is to explore the facility–a task rendered problematic by its extensive state of disrepair. The smaller building contains the Maintainers’ living quarters, as well as a KI dispenser. The larger building contains the Wall, which was used for Maintainer training. There was a plan to get it to work online, so that players would be able to compete with each other, but it remains inaccessible offline. The top floor of the building also contains maximum security prison cells, which can only be accessed via an external link from Teledahn. Gahreesen also contains two linking tablets to D’ni.

Teledahn: HallucinogensAccessed via an orange linking book located in the totem depicting an orange hand and a mushroom, Teledahn is the age I like the least in the series. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that none of its various owners seemed to like it much either. It consists of a lagoon peppered with gigantic mushrooms. Originally, the mushroom spores were harvested to make bread, but its mass production exhausted the supply, and the last owner of the age repurposed it for a much darker pastime, to the extent that there was an ongoing investigation when D’ni collapsed. The initial link-in point is located in a small hut inside one of the mushrooms (ugh), where falling spores create the illusion of snow. The mushrooms are connected by metallic walkways, which stretch over brownish oily water. In fact, the prevalent colour palette for the entire age is a dirty brown. Its other specificity is a rapidly orbiting sun (or maybe some kind of artificial light source) that never sets. Sharper used to be the official caretaker of the age and has therefore christened its native lifeforms. You’ll encounter flappers, which look like round grey discs on the surface of the water that propel themselves into the air every once in a while, as well as giant dragonfly-like insects, dubbed “buggaros”, which feed on them. And then, there are the elusive shroomies, which look like giant lobsters. Sharper had a bit of a fixation on them, and you can glimpse one from a distance by attracting it with mushroom spores. The age also contains linking tablets to Gahreesen, Sharper’s office in D’ni (with another tablet back to Teledahn) and a spy room housing Phil’s Relto book, also in D’ni.

Kadish Tolesa: CrumblingAccessed via a purple book located in the totem depicting a tree and a purple hand, Kadish Tolesa (“Kadish Vault”) is my favourite age in the game. It was written by the wealthy Guildmaster Kadish in order to protect his riches. The age mostly consists of a forest of gigantic trees, and you first link into a clearing hemmed in by massive trunks. Ghostly purple light filters through the canopy, and leaves fall silently around you, creating a hushed, solemn, mysterious atmosphere. There are ruins dotted here and there among the trees, providing access to a lower level. Further exploration leads you to a platform with a vista of treetops swathed in purple clouds and a simultaneously visible sun and moon in the sky. This is actually reflected in the structures that Kadish has built. Besides the ruins among the trees, there’s a Moon Room, which looks like a well with light streaming in from above, and a Sun Room, which looks like a large, grandiose pyramid. The ruins and the two Rooms are all puzzles designed to keep intruders out. They’re rather complex to figure out, significantly more so than most other ages, which is fitting, considering their purpose. In fact, you’ll find a linking tablet to a hidden room in D’ni (with amazingly beautiful music) exclusively dedicated to helping you solve these puzzles. Incidentally, this is the one age where the cryptic clue found on Relto is the most useful. Kadish Tolesa also contains a linking tablet to a balcony in D’ni.

Eder Gira: Bare bonesOne of the twin garden ages accessible via the totem depicting a fish and a green hand. Eder Gira is the one the totem links to (even though the fish carving actually references Eder Kemo) and is featured in a red linking book on your Relto bookshelf. Garden ages all have “eder” (“rest”) in their name and the common characteristic of being enclosed spaces usually designed for the private enjoyment of D’ni nobility and royalty, often at the expense of local inhabitants, according to Yeesha. Eder Gira (“steam/heat rest”) consists of three main areas, only two of which are accessible. You first link into an arid canyon of red rock and succulent plants, featuring a lava flow and geothermal vents. Once you manage to get past a rock wall, you’ll also find a stream and a series of waterfalls, with some very large bones all around. The stream is inhabited by bioluminescent stingray-like creatures and, as the age has a day-night cycle, you can witness them glowing in the dark. Beyond this area, you can glimpse tower-like structures, hinting that the age is or used to be inhabited. For the purposes of Yeesha’s puzzle, Eder Gira and Eder Kemo are intimately connected, to the extent that they are considered as one whole. Gira also contains a linking tablet to a rooftop in D’ni.

Eder Kemo: Zen geometryAnother favourite of mine, the second of the twin garden ages, Eder Kemo, is very different from its counterpart. Where Gira is (mostly) arid and fiery, Kemo is all about water and vegetation. The age looks like a Japanese garden ensconced in a nook of grey rock striated with a blue substance that some alarmingly large black insectoid creatures (dubbed “keanulints”) appear to be feeding on. There are also numerous evocative drawings all over the place, left behind by Yeesha and the bahro. The local flora includes a grove of bamboos and trees with parasol-like canopies, with an Oriental-looking gazebo and a fountain to complete the picture. Past a tunnel in the rock, another grove houses some bizarre trees that look disturbingly like giant brains with rigid stalks hanging from them, as well as a curtain of vines. It’s a favourite spot for fireflies and features a large floating statue that could be the depiction of a D’ni king. Beyond the brain trees are giant puffer plants, and beyond those is a lovely, peaceful lily pond inhabited by rainbow-coloured fishes, dubbed “kemos”, which give the age its name. Kemo also has a weather cycle, alternating between overcast grey skies and flash thunderstorms. Despite that and even despite the creepy keanulints, it has a very soothing atmosphere.

D’ni: SepulchralThe great city of the D’ni is accessible via several different linking books to various locations around the cavern it’s located in. The first one, a brown book with a hand drawing on the spine, compiles the multiple tablet-links to Ae’gura, the main district of the city. The light blue book with a golden pattern on its spine takes you to Bevin, one of the residential districts, or “neighbourhoods”, which serve as hubs for players in the online version, located around the large lake that occupies the centre of the cavern. Bevin serves as your first real access point to Ae’gura via several tablets, notably to the Great Zero, D’ni’s geo-location device, where the age’s main puzzle begins. The DRC neighbourhood of Kirel can be accessed via Phil’s Relto. Each neighbourhood contains linking books to the garden ages of Eder Delin and Eder Tsogal, as well as a book to the Nexus, which serves as a sort of public transportation system. It features on your Relto bookshelf as a yellow book with a circular green pattern on its spine and consists of a small, dimly lit room housing a collection of linking books to different cavern locations. You can also find linking tablets to Teledahn and Kadish Tolesa in Ae’gura. Unfortunately, for all the hype surrounding it, D’ni feels a bit disappointing. Considering that the city is in ruins and located underground, it’s understandably empty and very drab-looking, muddy brown being the prevalent colour. The lake contains bioluminescent algae that used to supply ambient light, but eventually sickened, which is why it’s so dark. This lack of light does contribute to the overall impression of sepulchral grandeur, though, especially from the iconic Arch of Kerath located at the entrance to the harbour. The problem is that very few locations are actually accessible. There are some highlights, such as the Hall of Kings, built to house the biographies of every D’ni king (warning: it’s a HUGE read), and the extremely unsettling ruins of the Kahlo Pub, which was the set of a tragic occurrence in the online version of the game. But everything I read about the city’s history left me wanting more: I would’ve loved to visit King Ahlsendar’s tomb, for example, or the Manor of Illusions. That aside, D’ni also houses the Watcher’s Sanctuary, a sort of pub/shrine established by Guildmaster Kadish, with a window looking out onto a gigantic tree. This is the beginning and end of the PotS puzzle, which Kadish designed to prove that he was the Grower, but also houses linking books to Ahnonay and Er’cana. In the offline version of the game, it’s accessed via a dark blue linking book with a leaf-like pattern on its spine on your Relto bookshelf. In the online version, it’s accessible via the Nexus.

Ahnonay: DeceptiveOh boy. Ahnonay (“water root”) was written by Kadish as part of his plan to convince people that he was the Grower and features the most mind-bending puzzle in the game. The fact that the age’s name can be broken down as “ah! no! nay!” is an amusing coincidence. There are two linking books associated with this age. When you first link in from the Watcher’s Sanctuary, you are taken to the Ahnonay Cathedral, which is a solemn-looking corridor lined with circular stained glass windows, and actually a different age, since D’ni rules stated that you couldn’t link to an age from within that same age. At the end of the corridor, the linking book to Ahnonay proper lies on an altar-like stand. On your Relto bookshelf, they’ll appear as brown books in the offline version: the Cathedral book has several circles on its spine, the Ahnonay one has a single circular pattern that may look familiar and will make sense by the time you solve the age’s puzzle. In the online version, the Cathedral book is bright green, while the Ahnonay one remains brown, both with four white circles on their spine. It’s difficult to describe Ahnonay without spoiling anything, but if you notice a discrepancy between the panel in its linking book and what you actually see once you link in, well…you’d be on to something. Ahnonay appears as a circular rocky island with a pool and what looks like a giant clock in its middle. There are trees with pink foliage and small crab-like critters called quabs–which apparently also existed on the native world of the D’ni, Garternay–scampering about. There’s also a stone tower located on a rock a short distance from the shore to which you can swim, provided you can beat the strong circular current. But there’s a lot more to Ahnonay than meets the eye. And that’s all I’m going to say. Other than to wish you luck with the puzzle. You will definitely need it.

Er’cana: ThirstyAccessed via a brown book with a branching pattern on its spine, Er’cana is an agricultural age that was purchased by Kadish, also as part of his plan to convince people that he was the Grower. According to the prophecies of the Watcher, the Grower was supposed to bring light back to the D’ni cavern. Kadish decided to do that literally by finding a cure for the failing bioluminescent algae in the cavern lake. In order to do so, he used grain harvested on Er’cana to produce pellets to feed the algae with. He was in the process of testing these when the collapse came. Er’cana is another age I don’t find particularly pleasing to the eye, although not as bad as Teledahn. The area you can access consists of a meandering dry river bed, where mechanised harvesters circulate on magnetic rails. The river has been dammed up, and a pellet-making facility, complete with a furnace and windmills, has been set up on the dam. The building is squat and quite ugly–all concrete, rusty metal and spikes–, and the dry riverbed is rather featureless, save for the plants it houses, something of a mix between giant algae and fungi (eww). The only eye candy in the age is the view of a snow-covered peak beyond the lake situated behind the dam. As you may have guessed, making pellets and testing them is your goal here. Why you need to do this is a different question (hint: it’s not just for curing the algae).

Myst: Closed offThis is more of a teaser than anything else, even though you do obtain the familiar old brown Myst linking book for your Relto bookshelf. As part of the ending sequence of PotS, you get to revisit the isolated room on K’veer island (located in the D’ni cavern) where you first met Atrus back in Myst. His makeshift writing desk is still there, with a linking book to Myst lying on it. As expected, this takes you to the old library, but the exit door is closed and the panels controlling it have been smashed, so there’s no way for you to go outside or to access the Library Tower. Moreover, all the books that used to be on the bookshelf are gone. This is a bit worrying, but there’s nothing you can do about it. The fireplace panel still works, though, and you can get a Relto page if you still have the original code from Myst written down somewhere.

Eder Delin: Fading lightThis is my favourite of the two ‘public’ garden ages that were written for the recreational purposes of the general D’ni population. A linking book was placed in the public linking room of every neighbourhood in D’ni, thus giving the common folk a place to unwind and take a break from the monotony of the cavern. You’ll find the linking book in Bevin, but it won’t be added to your Relto bookshelf, for some reason. Although it’s rather small, even by comparison with Gira and Kemo, Eder Delin is a beautiful place and the main reason I was happy when Uru finally came back online. The age is set in a rocky cuvette reminiscent of Kemo, with arches and overhangs, as well as a giant floating statue, some gazebos, benches and a fountain. However, the general look is that of a dusky, chilly autumnal forest, with tall trees rising into a pinkish-orange mist, birds calling in the distance and colourful, lush flora, all bright reds, purples and vivid greens. Delin also has a seasonal cycle and periodically experiences a light snowfall, which makes it one of the very few ages in the series to feature snow. The puzzle here is identical to its sister-age, Eder Tsogal, but would normally require teamwork and thus be impossible to solve on your own. Fortunately, if you’re not playing online, the Drizzle program slows the puzzle down, thus enabling a single person to complete it.

Eder Tsogal: MarshyEven smaller than its sister age, Eder Tsogal is the second of the two ‘public’ garden ages available in every D’ni neighbourhood. Just like its counterpart, its linking book can be found in Bevin, but will not be added to your Relto bookshelf, for reasons unknown. Tsogal enjoys bright sunny weather, with an uncommonly large sun shining over a stretch of marshland enclosed in a rocky nook, featuring tall grasses, large stones and pools of water dotted with the now-familiar gazebos and fountain. Beyond the rim of the natural enclosure, tall mountains and trees with colourful foliage can be glimpsed. Just like in Eder Delin, the puzzle here would normally require teamwork, but can be solved by a single person thanks to Drizzle.

Reziksehv (“The Pod Age”): Found in the Museum in Ae’gura, this age has two main peculiarities. First of all, its actual name is unknown: the DRC members simply translated “the pod age” into D’ni. Secondly, the age was designed as a museum exhibit, as its surface is dotted with spherical observation pods (at least 25 of them), each with four circular windows that can be darkened or lightened, allowing visitors to safely experience its landscapes, flora and fauna. The pods’ locations are depicted on a helpful DRC map. Each has its own name, corresponding to the island/continent it’s situated on (or, for Tetsonot, the name of the body of water it’s in), but the Museum only contains linking books to four of them. The age has a day-night cycle, and the pods have floodlights to accommodate this, although you need to switch them off before linking out, or the solar batteries powering them will deplete. Each pod also has four recorded animal noises that should, in theory, attract the corresponding animal close to the pod so that it can be viewed, but they don’t work.

Negilahn: JungleAccessed via a dark green book, this pod bears the number 18 and is situated in a luxuriant jungle featuring stilt trees, ferns and carnivorous plants. There’s a large tear of unknown origin in the ceiling of the pod, with vines snaking in. The notebook found in the museum evokes a great variety of animal life, but the only ones that are actually visible are fireflies; a spindly, monkey-like creature with two thin tails and large, insect-like red eyes, called a “panuhdoy”; and a gigantic flightless bird called an “urwin” that looks like a cross between a flamingo and a dodo, coloured to blend into the jungle environment. The rest of the species are not viewable and possibly extinct, following large-scale destruction by belligerent bahro.

Dereno: Icy treesAccessed via a light grey book, this pod bears the number 25 and is situated far to the north, in a partially frozen lake. The top half of the pod shows the surface of the lake, dotted with serac-like ice structures, as well as strange, fern-like plants that are able to grow on the ice, with their roots visible in the water below. The lower half of the pod displays a teeming marine environment, with several varieties of fishes. There’s also a stingray-like creature with an enormous single faceted eye, called a “kamkenta”, as well as coral pillars, mesh-like algae and spherical sponges.

Payiferen: Nom nom nomAccessed via a yellow book, this pod bears the number 13 and is located in a desert that might have formerly been a salt lake or part of an ocean, as the surface features slightly raised stretches of white rock that look like salt or mineral deposits. The smaller rocks are phosphorescent and give off a faint glow at night. The pod also contains a clue to the Pod Age puzzle, in the form of what look like bullet holes in one of the windows. The only visible local animal is a variant of the urwin called a “sandscrit”. It’s another large, flightless bird, but this species is a light green colour, looks somewhat more like a pelican and doesn’t appear to have any wings at all. Its beak is yellow, with numerous sieve-like holes (*cue trypophobia kicking in*) to accommodate the bird’s feeding habits: it scoops up sand and filters it for nutrients. It also has a pretty unnerving call.

Tetsonot: ClaustrophobiaOh god. Accessed via a blue book, this pod bears the number 6 and is located underwater, off the coast of one of the age’s islands. However, it seems to have suffered extensive damage and is now out of order. There’s a leak somewhere, as water is dripping from the ceiling, and the bottom of the pod is partially flooded, although it doesn’t appear to be filling up (thank god!). Switching on the power produces an ominous red light that flickers and blinks, but the windows remain darkened, and the pod periodically groans and creaks, as if under great pressure. It’s an extremely unnerving experience, at least for me, as I’ve always been terrified of the idea of a malfunctioning submarine. But it would make a great setting for a Myst horror spinoff.

Minkata: Lost in the sandAccessed via a beige linking book with a sun and moon on its spine found in the Great Library in Ae’gura, Minkata (“heavily scarred”) is another doozy of an age. The puzzle isn’t difficult to understand, but the execution is another matter entirely. Minkata is a desert age, featuring endless stretches of sand whipped up by a strong wind, and a piercingly blue sky with three stationary suns overhead. The link-in spot is near a strange cage-like structure made out of the bones and tusks of some gigantic creature. A tarpaulin with a compass drawn on it is stretched across it about halfway up, and below it is a stone covered in bahro writing. Minkata was a training ground for the Guild of Cartographers, and the puzzle here involves orienteering, with help from the notebook found in the Library. The idea is to find five “kivas”, which are caves formed inside the mineral stumps that dot the Minkata landscape. This is not easy by any means. Once you find a kiva and touch the bahro stone inside…something strange–and very beautiful–happens to the age, which is probably a display of power by Yeesha and/or the bahro. You then need to follow the instructions found on the kiva bahro stone. As a humorous aside, you may find a football during your explorations (hint: if you happen upon it, you’re going in the wrong direction).

Jalak: Game without rulesLocated in a brown book with some tribal-looking drawings on its spine, Jalak…is rather pointless. The age consists of a loose enclosure of stone walls containing some kind of arena for an unknown D’ni game, located within a lush green forest surrounded by mountains, somewhat reminiscent of a Chinese landscape. The playing field consists of a 5×5 group of pillars surrounded by what looks like a force field. The corner pillars each have a coloured symbol on them, while the corresponding corners of each of the other pillars reprise these symbols. The body of each pillar is also ornamented on each side with the same patterns as on the linking book’s spine, and each can be raised or lowered by several increments. The KI also allows you to generate luminous 3D shapes in this age, to use as you see fit. The idea was for people to invent their own games, I guess, but I don’t know if it ever really caught on, especially considering the small number of online players. Offline, there’s nothing to do in this age besides fooling around for a bit. Something worth noting, however, is that you may find the age referred to as Jalak Dador online. This is actually the result of a joke between players: Jalak Dador is supposed to sound like “d’ja lock da door?”, but people not in the know thought it was the age’s real name. Within the game, however, it’s only ever referred to as Jalak.

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