Walkthroughs Adventure Roleplaying Games Computer Games for Kids

The Non-Boring Guide to Riven

Riven is a highly linear game. There are few optional actions that can be taken, and each puzzle has one (and only one) solution. Though I've written a walkthrough for Riven in my usual "travel guide" style, it's rather short. There just aren't that many things you're in danger of missing in this game.

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But there's another kind of Riven walkthrough that might be of great use to you, especially if you're playing with your kids, and that's a walkthrough that distills just the fun parts out of this older and very difficult to navigate game. It's my opinion that games shouldn't waste their players' limited time doing things like walking back and forth over and over again, performing useless tasks, trying to read the game designer's mind and guess which puzzle to attempt next, and waiting for something to happen. In the final count we all play games for escapism, not realism; I can wait in line at my own grocery store, and have less than no desire to simulate the experience in a game. So here's my Non-Boring Guide to Riven, in which I tell you exactly where all the interesting parts of this game are and in which order to do them to maintain the highest fun-to-tedium ratio. There are no puzzle spoilers in this walkthrough. I tell you where the puzzles are and whether it's possible to solve them yet, but not how to go about it. If you're looking for the solution to a particular Riven puzzle, I recommend the excellent UHS site--you can only see one hint at a time there, so you can get the answer to one puzzle without ruining all the others for yourself. My walkthrough, bare-boned by design, is meant to help lead you past those sticking points that are the fault of the interface, bad writing in the game, or just your own uncertainty about what you're supposed to be doing next. Feel free to print it out and use it to help lend some added direction to your travels through Riven. If you want even fewer spoilers--you're considering whether or not to buy the game, for example, and just want to know whether there's anything you're going to hate in it--please try my Riven Review page to find all the pertinent information in one convenient spoiler-free package.

The Non-Boring Riven Walkthrough

Unlike other Myst games, Riven is set in one gameword ("Age") and your travels are definitively bounded. There are several islands on the Riven Age, though, and you can travel between them at will. In fact, you can wind up going back and forth and back and forth so many times that you lose interest and turn off the game. It happened to me. Riven has a great gameworld, but unfortunately, more of its locations are empty space-fillers than areas of interest, and it can take 10-20 clicks to get from one important location to another. Follow this general guide and you should find all of the puzzles and interesting locations on your own.


There is a spinning dome on each of the five islands. You will need their precise locations and the symbol on each of their kinetoscopes for a puzzle, but there is no need to actually enter all five. They all have the exact same opening mechanism and the exact same contents. The duplication here is a little surprising, but once you have opened the slider lock on one of the domes, there's no need to bother opening the other four.


This is where you start out. You'll have to come back here, but you can minimize the travel if you do all of these things before climbing into the cable car (which you should be able to tell, by looking at the tracks, will carry you to a different island).

*Examine the telescope; you won't be able to do anything else with it yet.
*Look over the edge of the cliff. (You won't be able to interact with what you find there, but it's interesting.)
*Inside the round room, pull on the strings attached to the gold beetles to view some religious art designed by Gehn, depicting himself as a sometimes-benevolent, sometimes-angry god. (Not necessary, but it is interesting.)
*Solve the first puzzle: figure out how to manipulate the rotating room so that you can open all the doors leading in and out of it. Everything you need to solve this puzzle is on this island and can be done right now.
*Make sure to turn the steam valve you can find behind one of the exits from the rotating room. If you don't you'll need to come all the way back here to do it later. Besides, how often do you find a lever in a puzzle-adventure game that you're really never supposed to touch?
*You can explore the main dome, which will be useful later; manipulate both bridges to make travel simpler in the future.
*Inside the temple-looking area, take note of the carved wooden fish with the offerings of fruit in front of them. (They're called wharks, you'll learn later.) You can get into an underground area from here. Though you can play around with the wire-frame chair, it has no importance (well, not to you anyway; quite clearly it had a purpose for Gehn).
*Once you figure out how to get to the cable-car, you're ready to take it. The ride is very nice to watch, at least the first couple of times.


This island is inhabited, though you're prevented from ever having any interactions with any of its inhabitants. You will catch glimpses of them as you travel through--a sentry sounding an alarm, a mother collecting her stray child and hurrying away from you, a little girl scooting into the forest. There's nothing you can or should do about this, it's just there for ambience. If you get tired of the guy sounding his alarm every single time you walk past, your escape key will skip it. The mine cart and the cable car will eventually carry you to the next two islands (Factory Island and Clue Island, respectively.) It doesn't really matter which of those two islands you visit first, since they are connected to each other by another cable car.

*You should find four wooden balls painted with a stylized eye scattered around this island. Make a note of the sound each one makes when you touch it and the symbol on its underbelly.
*Notice the local wildlife; you should run into a beetle and a few marine animals sunning on a rock. The beetle will fly away when you touch it. Move carefully when approaching the marine animals (wait to step forward until they have calmed down and all their heads are down) and you can get right up next to them, close enough to hear the noises they are making before they swim away.
*You can get inside the giant wooden Wahrk statue at this time; the controls that will let you do so are hidden somewhere in the immediate vicinity. There are three levels inside here. On the topmost one, you need to pull the lever that closes the floor on the big conical structure. You can also visit the island's spinning dome from here.
*At the Rivenese village, you will eventually run into a dead end and be unable to get any further. This is normal, there is no way around this. (You can knock at the door with a knocker, but though a face will peer out at you if you knock the right number of times, he will not open up or help you.)
*So the next thing to do is manipulate the submarine. Getting it to work is not a puzzle, though I mistakenly thought it was; the machine is already operational, and once you've lowered it, you just need to go down to the beach (past the sunners) and follow a very hard-to-see path around to the submarine. Then you can get in and operate it manually. I'll save you from the frustration that made me shelve the game: turn the submarine around and head in the opposite direction than the one it's originally facing in. Why? Because you will be unable to get out or do anything else at any of the stations until you've pulled some levers at the very last stop along the route, which will be the first one if you turn around. What a dirty trick by the game designers; this was the most blatant piece of "Hey let's annoy the crap out of the players by making them waste half an hour doing nothing and wondering if they're doing everything completely wrong, then give them an obvious answer and make them do it all over again!" I've ever seen. :P Once you've pulled the levers, you'll be able to get out at all the stops.
*At the schoolhouse, make sure you play with the little "hangman" game. The execution method on this island should be pretty clear by now. (-: The game is useful not just for this piece of side information, though, but because it helps you figure out the Rivenese number system. If you're good with codes you might have been able to figure it out even without this clue (it's a very logical and regular system), but the clue is a very good one. Don't leave till you're pretty sure you've solved this puzzle, as the sub sometimes gets stuck and it is hard to get back to this area.
*At the gallows (the tall conical structure), ride all the way up and explore the dungeon until you find a puzzle in a ring of stones. Actually you can either locate the puzzle now or skip this whole area entirely, because you still don't have all the information you need to solve this puzzle and are going to need to come back later (you might be able to guess, but it would require not only good deductive skills but a fair amount of trial and error as well.)
*So go back and get into the mine car and enjoy the ride to Factory Island! (Or take the cable car to Clue Island; it doesn't really matter which of the two islands you do first. The mine car ride looks really cool, though.)


Clearly this island used to be used for paper production, presumably for Gehn's books. (You saw a stained-glass rendition of this back on Temple Island.)

*You need to solve a mechanical puzzle to get into the boiler (and from there into Gehn's offices).
*Once you've solved that puzzle, though, before you climb up to Gehn's offices, divert the power there; this will save you some useless puttering and an eventual trip back down. (For your amusement, first try diverting the power over to the wood chipper and turning it on. Good thing that wasn't running when you first arrived here, isn't it?)
*Once Gehn's offices are powered up and you've found your way inside, explore them carefully; some doors are impossible to see until you move some things around. You should be able to find this island's rotating dome, an important lever, and a barbecue-like metal contraption. If you set it correctly and wait very patiently, you will hear a distant clang and can haul it up to see what you have found. (If there's nothing in there, you didn't do it right.)
*Now you should be able to find a route into Gehn's laboratory. Read his journal carefully, as there's a critical clue in there (and one which is randomly generated each new game, so even if you visit a spoiler site, you're going to need this clue). There's also a wooden ball on Gehn's desk, and a clue about it in Gehn's notes. The other objects in here are interesting (especially the lava lamp) but not important to the game. One of the eggs in the one openable drawer seems to react to being clicked on, but nothing happens; this is part of an elaborate easter egg, not anything important to the game itself.
*If you open the door with the blue button there's a shortcut back to the spinning dome on the Temple Island, where you can learn its symbol.
*Eventually you'll want to take the cable car from Factory Island to Clue Island.


How thoughtful of Gehn, he turned one of Riven's islands into a giant clue about how to get to his secret Age. You can get everything you need to do that here, and then it's up to you whether you want to go to Gehn's Age first or go back and solve the circle-of-stones puzzle first, since you've already found the last wooden ball you needed to solve that too.

*There's a spinning dome here for you to turn off and write its symbol down, of course.
*There's an elevator that leads you up to a control panel where you can overlook a giant map of Riven and its islands. Play with the control panel here for a little while.
*Then locate the other control panel, the one which will give you a complete topographical rendition of each island. From this you should be able to deduce the exact location of each of the five spinning domes. Use a piece of graph paper to mark this down.
*Now find the big machine with two pull-down viewscreens. One of them just spies on Catherine in her prison, but the other will give you the last piece of information you will need for the giant linking-book puzzle. Yay. Also note that you can find a silhouette in one of these views that can help you to solve the standing stones puzzle, and that when you activate the red light, a big wahrk will come and swim around the light. Perhaps he's hoping you're going to drop him a prisoner. Listen to the noise he makes, and call him three or four times in a row to see what he does about it. ;-)


You now have all the information you need to solve the game's two big puzzles (the standing stones puzzle, and the one for traveling to Gehn's Age.) You can do these in either order and complete the game just fine, but since you don't have the linking book to trap Gehn with yet, I think it makes more sense to keep exploring Riven.

*Go solve the standing stones puzzle and travel to Tay. This sequence is very linear and you really have no choice but to wait around until the trap book and a linking book back to Riven are brought to you. You can peek out the window and catch some tantalizing glimpses of Tay, though.
*Go to the big dome on Temple Island and solve the marbles puzzle there. Once you have placed the marbles in what you think are the right positions, find a lever to pull and you will see if you were right or not. (This drove me nuts the first time I played, as I didn't notice the lever and didn't understand why the correctly positioned marbles weren't making anything happen!)
*Go to the spinning dome of your choice, enter the correct code, and teleport to Gehn's 233rd Age.
*Listen to Gehn's extremely long monologue, and make an important plot decision. Not going to spoil this interesting twist.
*Explore Gehn's Age; there is some interesting background material about his wife if you don't mind reading contemplative backstory in the middle of a slightly adrenalinized endgame sequence.
*Go and rescue Catherine. If you don't know the code you need to release her, she'll tell you where to go and look for it. (It's randomized, as are all the important codes in this game, so it is in fact impossible to release Catherine before confronting Gehn.)
*Now solve the final puzzle with the telescope. Congratulations, you've completed the game! Try not to let Atrus' annoying decision about what to do with you at the end of the game get you down. You know it'll actually work and you'll be fit as a fiddle by Myst 3. ;-)

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