Syberia (PC) Review

By Athanasios 10.01.2022 6

Review for Syberia on PC

Once upon a time, the mind of French comic book artist Benoît Sokal created the steampunk world of Syberia, offering a great point-and-click adventure, in an era where the genre wasn't exactly at peak popularity. Developed by Microïds, this turned out to be something more than just a hunt for the titular, legendary land. Put aside the clockwork Automatons, as well as the mysterious locales that will be visited, and it's easy to see that the backbone of this tale is actually the protagonist's evolution; how she begins her journey, and how she slowly, and joyfully sheds her past self - and it's this that saves this from being just another ok game, as puzzle-solving is not exactly at the forefront. Long story short, here's why you should play Syberia in 2022, if you haven't done so already.

Kate Walker enters the autumn-y village of Valadilene of the French Alps, to carry out a relatively simple task for an experienced lawyer such as she. There's an enormous factory there, which belongs to the famous family of the Voralbergs, and she must finalize its take-over on behalf of a big bad toy company. Said family is famous because of the automatons they've been making for centuries, which are basically sophisticated machines that use clockwork mechanisms rather than traditional circuits, and so on, and, upon her arrival, Kate gets to meet a whole group of those that escort a funeral wagon; a scene that's sad as it is strange. By the way, the lady that apparently lies in the coffin is Anna Voralberg; the sole heir of her company. Worry not, worry not! One trip to the local notary will solve that in a jiffy, as, according to her employer, this shouldn't be a problem.

Screenshot for Syberia on PC

The door is blocked by an automaton - the first, and simplest puzzle amongst the many that await young Kate - piece of cake for a smart girl like her. So, she steps in, has a talk with the notary, and… oh, no! It seems that there's another successor to the "throne," which is none other than the long-lost brother of Anna Voralberg. Well, it seems that her mission is a little bit more complicated than what was initially expected. Unbeknownst to her, this was the first step towards a bizarre, life-changing adventure, into the heart of Europe, and then to the distant and cold lands beyond that. In terms of gameplay goals, Syberia mainly revolves around finding a way to wind the clockwork train she travels with from - imaginary - town to town, in hopes of finding Anna's brother.

Of course, in typical point-and-click fashion, this won't be a simple task, as each chapter will make this otherwise simple task much harder than it should. This is where the expected puzzle-solving comes into the forefront, and to be perfectly honest, it's the weakest part of the game. First of all, many puzzles can't even be considered puzzles. Most of the time it's all about finding the right key item and using it in the obvious "keyhole," or talking with people to gather the necessary clues or "key words," which can be used in conversations. The process is far from bad or mediocre, just a bit… forgettable, and almost devoid of challenge. It's also a bit sad that only a few puzzles deal with automatons, which tend to take a backseat to simple machinery, or dialogue sequences with NPCs.

Screenshot for Syberia on PC

What isn't so hard to accept is how slooow Kate Walker… err, walks. No, actually it's not her walking speed, but how the levels are structured. Want to go from A to B? Okay, now walk through three or more scenes of absolute nothingness, with little to no hotspots to interact with. These intermediate steps are there just to be there - they help strengthen the sense of place, and already powerful atmosphere of Syberia, but they can also ruin the fun every now and then, especially in the second chapter, where Kate Walker will complete a small marathon before finally leaving for the next town in line. It's equally annoying when Kate stops and wastes three seconds aligning her feet before ascending a staircase. There's also no way to "teleport" via double-clicking the edge of a screen, like it's possible in many point-and-clicks, so be ready for lots of jogging.

Screenshot for Syberia on PC

The good news? It's an absolute joy walking around and getting immersed to it all. From the calm, alpine town of Valadilene, and imposing, art nouveau-filled university/plant and bird conservatory of Barrockstadt, to the dark and ominous land of the post-USSR Komkolgrad, and the almost Silent Hill-esque serenity of Aralbad, every location is filled with carefully crafted, beautiful scenery. The pre-rendered 2D environments surely show their age (and budget), yet it's one of those cases where it doesn't really matter. Yes, most screens are static, yet the few animated elements (streams and so on), combined with the wonderful use of ambient sounds, manage to grab you, and pull you right into this strange microcosm, with the majestic, emotional OST being the cherry on top of this tasty cake.

The best thing about these few areas Kate will visit is that, despite their "ordinary" look, there's a feeling of decay prevalent - as if these places have been abandoned by civilization, which makes them ooze with a dreamlike aura that's hard to verbally explain; an aura enhanced by the few inhabitants of each level, which feel as forgotten as the places they live in - remnants of the past, left on their own to do whatever they want. Visually they are nothing special, especially when compared to Kate Walker, who has the best level of animation and detail. The same can be said about the voice acting. Kate Walker's Sharon Mann does an excellent job, but the rest are… there. Nothing special about them. Thankfully, the writing is very good, and manages to bring all these fellows to life.

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The interactions with the few characters on offer are pretty interesting, with the cast being small, but quite "colourful," and thus memorable. Many NPCs are figures of authority; usually high-nose, bureaucratic, hypocritical figures of authority, who scold Kate or make her trip harder for no reason. Then there are those who have a what's-in-it-for me mentality; people who won't lift a finger to help Kate if she doesn't do something for them first... and then there's Oscar, the automaton train operator, whose passion with rules and regulations is second to none. Nevertheless, this piece of gears and springs, this machine, is far more likable than most actual humans (like in real life, basically). All these confrontations are there to help players connect and sympathise with the protagonist, and eventually get wholly immersed into her quest towards the unknown.

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At the end of the day, this is a game about Kate Walker. It's not about Automatons, about Syberia, about puzzles, etc. It's all about her; how she begins her adventure, and how she slowly but steadily changes through it. Luckily, this is a fantastic character, on par with other walking masterpieces such as The Longest Journey's April Ryan. She is excellently written, occasionally funny, and most of all, a genuinely kind person, with her good nature many times shown in very subtle ways, like in the beginning where she simply asks for help with her luggage. Even better? She is kind, but not naïve. She is a smart lady, who knows when to push, or hold back. She understands when someone is making things hard for her because there is no other way, and when he or she is simply a moron.

The biggest pleasure here, by far, is watching Kate change, and slowly getting detached from everything she has left behind; her friends, family, and work. It's great seeing her question her life, while she discovers an adventurous side inside her soul that she wasn't aware of. The driving force behind this change are the occasional phone calls from her self-centred fiancé, hypocrite of a best friend, rude and demanding boss, and annoying mother (the default mother, in other words). These are people that you'll never meet in person, but the game will manage to make you hate them, which will make it even easier to root for Kate's escape towards the freedom of the unknown, and probably shed a tear or two during the finale… and that, fellow gamers, is good, immersive writing.

Screenshot for Syberia on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

The adventure genre has two sides. The first is the fun that derives from melting your mind to find solutions to problems. The second one, is exactly what it says on the box: adventure! Syberia is definitely not a point-and-click aimed at those who want to test their puzzle-solving skills - far from it. Syberia is an emotive, deeply immersive journey, with a fantastic lead; a lead whose development throughout this magical quest is undoubtedly a big part of the game's charm. Don't be discouraged by its age. Try it right now - just be sure to play the PC original, or a decent port that doesn't mar the experience.

Developer

Microids

Publisher

Microids

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Sandy (guest) 11.01.2022#1

Absolutely love the first 2 Syberia games! Their Switch ports are excellent too!

Definitely agree there - the first two are great. I started with the third game, which was okay, but going back to the first two made me realise just how fantastic they were in comparison!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

I've always hated S3 so much that I never managed to complete it.
Watched a playthrough online to see the story... and then I hated it even more.

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

Not holding out much hope for S4 then? Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Can't say I do - from the trailers and articles at least.

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

I have not yet played 3 but it's a shame they seemingly bungled it. Syberia 2 is so cemented in my memory from picking it up randomly on ps2!

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