Syberia: The World Before (PlayStation 5) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 19.10.2023

Review for Syberia: The World Before on PlayStation 5

Benoît Sokal's visionary world, which players have been experiencing since the original Syberia, is a wondrous place full of magical moments and fun characters. Benoît himself unfortunately died before the release of Syberia: The World Before, and so the game was released with tribute to him. This latest entry is a chance for the console ports of the series to regain some of what it lost in the rough port of Syberia 3 which had many control issues. Having just received a port to the last gen consoles, can this game catapult the series back into its highs?

The story of the Syberia series has been a lot of fun but interlaced within that was a line of melancholy and this new entry, Syberia: The World Before, really isolates and pumps up that aspect. Kate finds herself in a secret Russian mine in a made-up but Austria-ish country. She learns that her mother is dead and goes through a very messy escape. Consequently, players also learn the story of Dana who lived in the build-up to World War 2, a girl with big dreams and musical talent who finds her race being chased out by the Brown shadow organisation. Her and Kate's paths intertwine very closely, with Kate's story playing in the in-game present, whereas Dana's story is experienced in flashbacks to WWII. This may sound depressing but much of Syberia's magical elements and sarcasm are intact for much of the events of the game. When it comes to the ending it may be polarising, but it is a good tying up of the series as a whole.

Backing up the Syberia series' feeling is the general aesthetic of the game. Microids has done a slap-up job of creating a compelling world using all sorts of cool environmental techniques. Calling back to the pre-rendered era of adventure games, this lush and detailed world abandons the pre-rendering but not the charm. The artistic metal work that gave the series its signature look is here in full force but sprinkled through a very German looking town, or up in the alpine mountain areas. These locations are rendered lovingly with loads of incidental details and with sweeping cinematic cameras that really get the most out of the fantastic visual style. This is backed by plenty of environmental details like reflections, post processing effects and environmental animations and interactions that really bring them to life. For example, when Kate is riding through the snowy mountain forests on a motorbike the landscape is highlighted and could even be seen as photorealistic at times with lots of incidental things like snowfall, lighting and animated greenery. It's genuinely impressive and can be breath-taking.

Screenshot for Syberia: The World Before on PlayStation 5

The same can be said of the characters that are much more in line with the design work of Syberia 2 than 3; everyone's a little more realistic but still very stylised. The animation work on the faces and characters are much more dynamic and really add to the atmosphere. Kate Walker looks great with lots of expressive animations and her signature sarcasm well intact. Even background characters benefit from a similar level of detail. Their costumes all fit the era and European setting too, tying them into the world better. One area that shines even more than the human characters are the automaton characters and machinery in general. The steampunk-ish industrial revolution of Syberia's world resulted in a very distinct style of robotic help being produced, lots of which was designed and implemented by the game's Hans Voralburg. These automatons have great animation and sport an excellent metallic look that makes them look congruous with the environments in which they appear. One highlight moment in the game is when Dana plays her recital which activates the Voralburg machinery in town, it's a heart-warming scene fans of the series should get a kick out of.

Gameplay also sees a huge overhaul on consoles. Syberia 3 was much hated for its console controls despite the previous games in the series controlling just fine. It seems this negative feedback resulted in a much better implementation for this game. It plays like any other console adventure title with direct control over the character movement but investigation and dialogue happening in isolation from the exploration controls. Exploration uses traditional fixed camera angles, so players move from area to area and with PlayStation 5's fast loading these transitions are instant. This allows the game to tailor a lot of the screens to highlight points of interest and naturally lead the player. It's great level design for this style of game.

Screenshot for Syberia: The World Before on PlayStation 5

Investigating areas swaps the view to a closer camera angle and lets players look for points of interest before choosing to use, investigate or use an item on something. The game also occasionally offers prompts to hear Kate deliberating and reflecting on these interactions. New to The World Before is the object investigation. These operate like mystery boxes with lots of switches and gizmos to interact with. They are genuinely amazingly fun to solve and can really make the player feel smart! However, these are not the only types of puzzles. There are some moments where Kate or Dana have to cross-reference multiple bits of information resulting in a real detective-y feeling. None of the puzzles were really so complex they required writing in the real world, but they are just challenging enough to be fun.

Conversations take place in dynamic talking scenes. These do their best to add energy to talking. The dialogue makes these interactions great and gives characters a real lease of life, it's a lot of fun to partake in even extra dialogue. The old glassy states are still there on occasion but are mostly absent as characters emote more naturally. Dialogue choices can have quite different outcomes and do affect the narrative, so players really need to consider their options before answering questions, or stepping away and doing more searching first.

Screenshot for Syberia: The World Before on PlayStation 5

Backing up all of this is a soundtrack that is simply sublime. The emotive elements of the tracks really help the emotional scenes reach their proper impact. Inon Zur, who has composed the entire series, returned for this entry and really encapsulates the full range from melancholy to comedy. Even the voice acting is great a lot of the time even if everyone is lacking the appropriate accents for the German speaking nation it's set in. Most voice actors for returning characters are present which helps everything feel authentic to the series, and the sound effects, both environmental and incidental, are excellently implemented.

Where the game slips up a little is with a little technical issue. When the camera moves it updates at a different frame rate to the rest of the scene causing a sort of jerkiness that is really distracting. However, aside from that minor issue, the rest of the game feels very solid and technically sound.

Screenshot for Syberia: The World Before on PlayStation 5

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

It's hard to resist the world of Benoît Sokal's Syberia: The World Before. With its sweeping vistas, well designed machinery and unique charm, it's a visual joy. This joy is backed up with sublime music and an irresistible dialogue and story that uses ample sarcasm. This, possibly last, entry to the series is a love letter to all that came before and a much-needed return to Syberia. Highly recommended to all lovers of adventure titles.

Developer

Microids

Publisher

Microids

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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