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Syberia

Windows - 2002

Alt names Сибирь, シベリア 日本語版, 西伯利亞, 赛伯利亚, L'avventura di Kate Walker: Syberia Volume 1, Sibir
Year 2002
Platform Windows
Released in Canada, Czechia, France, Germany, Russia, United States (2002)
Germany (2004)
France (2005)
Germany (2007)
Canada, United States (2008)
Worldwide (2009)
Worldwide (2010)
Poland, Worldwide (2011)
Worldwide (2020)
Worldwide (2023)
Genre Adventure
Theme Graphic Adventure, Puzzle elements, Steampunk
Publisher 1C Company, Adventure Company, The, Anuman Interactive SA, Big Fish Games, Inc, Microids SA, Microïds
Developer Microïds Canada Inc.
Perspective 3rd-Person
3.92 / 5 - 12 votes

Description of Syberia

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One of the touchstones of the adventure genre is the presence of unnatural puzzles and illogical plot points that parody real life. Aficionados know about these things, however. They know that brainteasers and wildly intricate storylines have formed the backbone of every good adventure since Larry Laffer first hit the town in his leisure suit. And that if you're going to get persnickety about such things as logic and common sense, you're not going to enjoy too many adventure games.

Which brings us to Syberia, a new adventure envisioned by French graphic novelist Benoit Sokal (best known in gaming circles for Amerzone, one of the biggest-selling adventures to hit Europe during the 1990s) and brought to your hard drive courtesy of Canadian developer Microids. Although it features all of the expected lapses in logic, the setting is so wondrous and the plot so fantastically engaging that it's easy to forgive any faux pas. Sokal has developed a slightly surrealistic world as captivating as a good fantasy novel, and populated it with three-dimensional characters that wouldn't be out of place in an award-winning movie. Although Syberia might be too traditional an adventure to convert the masses, fans of the genre shouldn't miss out on what is easily the finest game of this type since The Longest Journey arrived in late 2000.

Like The Longest Journey, Syberia features a female lead. You play Kate Walker, a New York mergers and acquisitions attorney sent to the European town of Valadilene to arrange for the purchase of the Voralberg Toy Factory. Of course, things go horribly wrong right from the beginning, Kate being welcomed to Valadilene by the funeral cortege of the person with which she was supposed to be negotiating. No sooner is Anna Voralberg interred in the family mausoleum, however, than Kate is informed by the local notary of the existence of Anna's brother Hans. The elder Voralberg sibling, long believed dead, has become the sole owner of the toy factory, and as such must be contacted before any sale can be arranged.

As you might expect, Kate's search for Hans Voralberg becomes the focus of Syberia. It stretches across Europe, from Valadilene to the university town of Barrockstadt, and on to the futuristic Russian city of Komkolzgrad and the strange land of Aralbad. Each location is rendered with 2D backdrops that could have been excerpted from a contemporary graphic novel. Various 3D touches -- such as animated water, flying birds, morning haze, and so on -- bring this background scenery to life, as do the 3D character models. Every personality in the game has been given a unique look that blends realistic features with minor cartoonish qualities (Kate's abnormally wide eyes, for example) that accentuate the strangeness of the setting.

Although the game ostensibly takes place in modern Europe, various characteristics of the four principal locations indicate a world that's not quite our own. Valadilene, for instance, seems to have been designed by a medieval architect with a passion for Art Deco. Barrockstadt gives us modern technology with what appears to be Victorian sensibilities. You always feel that you're one step out of pace with reality, as if Kate's trip has taken her a lot farther than contemporary Europe.

Many in-game characters reinforce this surreal setting. The Voralbergs are masters at creating lifelike automatons. In their hometown of Valadilene, there are automatons everywhere, performing all manner of functions. The town notary checks out visitors through the eyes of an automaton set beside his front door. Another sits atop a crypt in the churchyard cemetery. And one that goes by the name of Oscar becomes your constant companion... after you fix him up with some new feet. Again, this lends the game an anachronistic atmosphere. Most of the automatons resemble English gentlemen of a century ago, as they often wear top hats and sport pince-nezs over elaborate metal moustaches. Many appear like toys made life-size and converted into useful tools, such as assembly line workers. Much of the game plays out like an imaginative child's fever dream.

But that's all that is unique about Syberia. Gameplay is firmly rooted in traditional adventure territory. A standard mouse-driven interface allows Kate to interact with her environment. You just click on a location to tell her to move, making the minor adjustment to double-clicking if running is necessary. Important locations and items are noted when the cursor changes away from its usual halo shape. If you can look closer at a particular area, you see a magnifying glass; if you can pick an object up, you see a stylized hand; and if you can activate a switch, you see a lever.

Right-clicking activates the menu system, where you can select items to be used and read through the many documents that you'll acquire. Conversations are handled with Kate's notebook. After the initial pleasantries, the notebook pops up with a number of topics that can be discussed. Just click on the subject that you're interested in and Kate will begin querying her interviewee.

Actual gameplay is just as old school as the interface suggests. Meaning that you must solve all of the puzzles typical to adventure games. You will hunt down keys, run mundane errands to gain access to locked areas, and pick up every object you find in the knowledge that you will need it in the future, no matter how unlikely it might seem in the present. Thankfully, there are few serious stretches in logic. You will rarely scratch your head too long before figuring out how to move forward - though of course you will often wonder at the absence of common sense amongst the inhabitants of the game world.

The only serious complaint here is that some of the puzzles seem to have been introduced solely to lengthen play. A number of assignments feel more like chores than the exploits of an adventurer. Having to get the notary's stamp on a document in order for the train to leave Valadilene was both unnecessary and annoying, as were the blood-testing games with the cosmonaut in Komkolzgrad.

The proceedings are further slowed down with a lot of audio dialogue and written documentation. Although the conversations are well written and voiced (in the French edition of the game that was played for this review), they sometimes go on too long. Microids took some heat over the shortness of its previous adventures, Amerzone and Road to India, so it seems as if the designers over-compensated this time. At any rate, this is not a game that can be completed in a single sitting.

All in all, Syberia may be the perfect title for an adventure gaming traditionalist. The setting is rich, the characters are captivating, the interface is clean and easy to use, and the puzzles are just obtuse enough to be challenging, not frustrating. But at the same time, there isn't anything new here to interest newbies and those tired of adventure games. Because of that, it's impossible to recommend the game to everyone. Still, if you've got a soft spot for old-fashioned adventures, there isn't a better game to be found.

Review By GamesDomain

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Comments and reviews

okrimilleznod 2019-04-03 0 point

The best game ever played

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Syberia is available for a small price on the following websites, and is no longer abandonware. GOG.com and Zoom provide the best release and does not include DRM, please buy from them! You can read our online store guide .

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