A Clockwork Classic Redefined: 12 years later, Syberia is given a tune-up, and once again gets its gears going in this revamp of an adventure classic
Revamped by publisher Nordic Games, the highly popular mouse-driven adventure game Syberia (originally released in 2002 for the PC) returns for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Once again, players both old and new are invited to journey across a mysterious land in hopes of uncovering the secrets behind the Voralberg family and the automatons which they are famous for inventing. Has the game aged gracefully, still working as a fantastically well-oiled machine, or has it dulled with age, becoming old and rusted? It’s time to find out.
Being a revamp, the story of Syberia is exactly the same as it has always been. Players take control of American lawyer Kate Walker, just as she arrives in the wondrous fictional French village of Valadilène. Valadilène, although small, is world renouned for its productions of automatons as well as the family behind their creation, the Voralbergs. With the last of the Voralberg family just having passed away, the factory in which the automatons were produced had been put up for sale and was quickly purchased. The purchase was supposed to go quickly and easily, however with the mysterious and sudden news that a member of the Voralberg family is not only still very much alive, but an heir to the Voralberg’s company, Kate’s job goes from merely overseeing a contract to going on the adventure of a lifetime.
While no longer mouse-driven, Syberia still has a very iconic PC adventure game feel. The controls are quite simple and easy to understand. Rather than using the mouse, players now control Kate via the use of a control stick, and use buttons to interact with objects, open the inventory, and pause the game. In-game interaction between inventory objects and characters or objects in the environment is very smooth, requiring only that players select their inventory item and interact with said object or person to use it. In comparison to interaction, character movement is a little less graceful. While controlling Kate herself is a simple enough task, awkward camera angles sometimes cause Kate to move at an undesired angle. Oddly-placed and clunky-feeling invisible barriers frequently cause the protagonist to stop in her tracks, requiring the player to fidget around before being able to move forward. While certainly nowhere near game-breaking, it is rather annoying and cumbersome.
Visually speaking, the package is relatively nice, but not perfect. While not cutting edge (keep in mind that the game is for the PS3 and 360, the graphics are quite enjoyable and easily create a sense of wonderment and curiosity which makes it quite easy for players to become immersed in the world of Syberia. This feat is even more impressive when considering how far it has come graphically since its original 2002 debut. Even seemingly-normal scenery is done very nicely, and stands out in its own way. While very much visually appealing, character interaction with the environment has its not-so-good moments. Several times throughout gameplay, Kate would seem to magically walk over or through objects that were supposed to be in front of her. While this never seemed to occur during anything particularly important, it most certainly seemed as though the error should have had enough presence to have been caught before the game’s release. During such times, it was rather hard not to compare it to older titles with similar errors, most notably Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation One. As previously mentioned however, these errors were for the most part few and far between, and only occurred in relatively obscure places.
The overall auditory experience was quite positive. Though not a musically driven game, Syberia did a fantastic job of knowing when to play music, and never failed to match the overall tone of the scenery and/or story. The voice acting was very professional-sounding, and complimented the game very well. Listening to conversations was thoroughly enjoyable, and the personality of the characters really shown through during any and all dialogue. One thing that did not match up with the voice acting however, was the on-screen text. The written and spoken dialogue, while consistent on important things, would frequently mess up small words. As a generalized example, “yeah” would be written, while “okay would be spoken, or a laugh that was supposed to be there wouldn’t occur. There were even a few times where sentences were missing punctuation. The errors, though always small, occurred frequently and gave the written dialogue a rather rushed feel.
Despite any mistakes, the overall experience was a quite enjoyable one overall. Though a rather serious and realistic-feeling game, Syberia never fell short on mystery and intrigue. Gameplay always felt honest; there were no devious tricks or items hidden in ridiculous places to do nothing but extend the life of the game. Rather, the game relied on the cleverness and resourcefulness of the player. While things didn’t always make sense at the beginning of a puzzle, I always found myself reaching that “aha!” moment when everything finally clicked into place. The puzzles themselves were also quite enjoyable, and never seemed out-of-place in regards to the story. Even when things began to get difficult or confusing, the drive to see what came next – in terms of both story and scenery – was quite good at beating out the urge to quit.
Syberia, to be fair, is not for everyone. It still very much feels like an early 2000s adventure/puzzle/mystery game, although very much updated for the current generation of players. Though an adventure game by definition, it is not the type of adventure game that we are now used to. There is no combat, or platforming. There are no QTEs or massive dialogue trees. Rather, the game focuses on story and atmosphere, while encouraging players to use their brainpower to solve puzzles in order to continue the story along. It may have an older feel, but it’s definitely not down for the count. For those who are interested in puzzle-based adventures, point-and-click games, or even those interested in games with well-written and satisfying storylines, Syberia is worth checking out.
Final Verdict: 3.5 / 5
Available on: Playstation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PC ; Publisher: Nordic Games; Developer: Microids ; Players: 1 ; Released: December 2, 2014; Genre: Adventure; MSRP: $14.99
Note: This review was based on Xbox One retail code provided by the game’s publisher, Nordic Games.