Riven (Quest 3) Review

• written by Krist Duro
Riven (Quest 3) Review

Playing Riven on a VR headset in 2024 gives us a glimpse into a bygone era of adventure gaming that trusted players to explore freely without being led by the hand and I don't know how I feel about that...

As someone too young to have experienced the original release of Riven back in 1997, I came to this remake with no prior knowledge or nostalgia for the game. Stepping into this mysterious island world for the very first time was a weirdly disjointed experience compared to modern titles.

From the minute you arrive, the game provides almost no context or instructions. I had no idea what my overall objectives were or where to even begin exploring. After being so accustomed to games clearly signposting my next steps, it was jarring to be dropped in with such little guidance. But this is exactly what gives Riven its unique charm, although it's not a game for everyone.

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An image showcasing the game described in this article.

There is no hand-holding as you navigate the sprawling landscapes. Clues must be intelligently pieced together by paying keen attention to every tiny detail and solving one puzzle might reveal breakthroughs for puzzles solved hours ago. You might be near a switch or a lever you can pull and you will not see it as they are not colored with a bright yellow paint like in most modern puzzle games. It becomes clear that everything is deeply intertwined, requiring scrawling countless notes to map the connections. And I don't know how I feel about that, especially since taking notes while in wearing a VR headset is not the most comfortable thing to do.

This organic, open-ended approach gives a true sense of mystery. Rather than rushing from objective marker to objective marker, you feel like an outsider slowly unraveling the secrets of this alien world. Each new location holds wonders left unchecked and questions left unanswered, beckoning return visits.

An image showcasing the game described in this article.

One boon this decades-old game benefits from is the vast array of community-created walking guides freely available online. Being able to consult walkthroughs was immensely helpful when I got stuck and I got stuck a lot of times. With its interwoven puzzles requiring backtracking, it's easy to get turned around or overlook minor details. Having a reference for suggested solution paths or compiling community notes on obscure clues takes some of the frustrating trial and error out of the process. You might argue that using a walkthrough defeats the purpose of playing a game like Riven, and while you’re 99% correct, avoiding getting stuck for hours because I missed a tiny lever, I am all-in for that 1%.

Also, keep in mind that if you are going to use a walkthrough, make suree to follow that walkthrough step-by-step and do not make the mistake I did where I just ran all over the different islands, hitting switches, turning levers and solving puzzles kinda out of order which made my life harder the more I progressed through the game.

In terms of presentation, Riven looks really good with gorgeous art direction and world-building that still hold up remarkably well despite the game's age. Of course, there are some minor technical issues but these don't really detract much out of the overall experience. Graphical pop-in, blurry textures and long loading screens break immersion at times but that is somewhat to be expected from standalone Quest VR titles.

An image showcasing the game described in this article.

Playing Riven on a VR headset in 2024 gives us a glimpse into a bygone era of adventure gaming that trusted players to explore freely without being led by the hand. Fans of the original game will find much to love in this new version as seeing locations that were previously only static pre-rendered images come to life in VR is breathtaking. But for newcomers or modern audiences, Riven might be a tough pill to swallow. Thanks for reading!

The game was reviewed on a Quest 3 via a promo copy provided by the publisher. Riven is available on Meta Quest and PCVR.

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