Review: Uru: Complete Chronicles

Official web page; Cyan Worlds (creators); UbiSoft (publishers).

Review written by Andrew Plotkin

Not much of it
Writing and dialogue
Very good
Quite good, although there are problems in some chapters
Vary from good to excellent
Quite hard
Forgiveness rating
You cannot make a fatal mistake. You can "die", but that just sends you home, and you
can easily return to where you were.

This will be both a short review and a presumptive one. I haven't actually purchased Uru: Complete Chronicles. I have purchased the original Uru and its two expansion packs. I've written reviews of those three chapters already. But I want to ramble a bit about Uru as a collected, complete experience.

Uru is an unusual game. It was shaped from parts of a planned ongoing storyline -- an on-line game which never materialized. The reshaping was not perfect; you can see seams. Uru doesn't have the shape of a traditional, story-based adventure game. Instead, it's a multifaceted partial exploration of a world. It's both frustrating and engaging: you can sense a huge potential world, but you can't reach most of it. The parts you can reach are, literally, fantastic. It breathes. I wish there were more of it.

Maybe there will be.

The three parts that comprise Uru are not really blended together. When you enter the game, you first pass through an introductory chapter in the desert. But after that, you have several paths open to you. You can explore them in nearly any order. They form three main "storylines", although it's hard to call them stories; but three sets of non-overlapping puzzles, with three separate resolutions. I'm not sure how it will be to enter them all at once. I suspect you will focus on one at a time, perhaps switching to another when you get stuck in one. That can be frustrating, since there's little chance that progress in one "storyline" will open up new possibilities in a different one. You could quite easily be stuck in all three simultaneously. But as long as you remember that they are separate sets of puzzles, it won't be any more frustrating than playing them sequentially, as I did.

As I said, Uru doesn't exactly have a story. There is background to discover, but you are not caught up in events, as you were in Myst and Riven. It's hard to say whether the online Uru Live would have felt the same lack, or if it would have brought out an overarching storyline which did not survive the cancellation. In any case, playing Uru: Complete Chronicles is more an immersion-in-setting than it is a narrative. Individual scenes have plenty of focus -- you're solving puzzles, after all, and there are excellent puzzles to solve. But the overall game... doesn't quite go anywhere. Or it goes in three directions, none of them very far. I don't want to say Uru falls apart; there is an overall sense of coherence. What it lacks is... drive. Tension and denoument.

It isn't a story.

But it does have all sorts of terrific stuff in it. Since I've written about all the stuff already, I will simply refer you to my previous reviews:

Overall conclusion: Uru: Complete Chronicles is a fascinating experience, and well worth playing. It has its flaws, and you shouldn't expect the deeply-engaged plot which most adventure games have. But Uru has a great deal of excellent adventuring, and some of the most spectacular interactive environments the genre has ever seen.

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