Release year: 2002
Developed by: Microïds
Genre: Point-and-click adventure
Platform replayed on: PC
It’s the journey, not the destination.
Perhaps an overused cliché in general, and one arguably workable to any venture game.
But Syberia is an venture game quite literally well-nigh a journey.
I remember playing this virtually the time it was released, and still have my physical copy.
I’m not sure how I heard well-nigh Syberia, but I’m not surprised I have it in my collection, stuff a big fan of point-and-click venture games. It was highly regarded at the time, in a time when point-and-clicks were not as popular as in their heyday in the late 80s/early 90s.
I recall Syberia having a larger focus on the story than on the puzzles, and I remember finishing it as I can remember the ending very clearly. This may not seem like anything worth mentioning, but when I reflect on story-driven games, I can’t unchangingly recall exactly what happens at the end. For example, I’ve replayed Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis here on Present Perfect Gaming. I know that our hero Indiana Jones wins the day in the end in both games (particularly in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, given that it’s based on the film), but ask me to describe the endings in detail and I wouldn’t have been worldly-wise to do it prior to my replay. This is plane increasingly interesting, given Syberia is a title I haven’t touched since my original playthrough, where I had played both Indiana Jones games then since first playing them.
So what was it well-nigh the ending that made it so memorable?
Let’s take a look. It’s time to journey to Syberia…
The story in Syberia sees protagonist Kate Walker, an American lawyer, having just arrived in the fictional small French town of Valadilène. She’s there to sign a deal securing the takeover of a family-operated toy factory at the heart of the town’s economy.
It’s a “big fish eats small fish” premise, but it quickly disappears into the preliminaries as the real journey takes over. Kate becomes invested in finding the missing heir to the company, whose signature she will need to well-constructed the takeover.
But it’s not just a physical journey for Kate, as she chases a signature wideness Europe, but moreover a personal one. She faces challenges from friends, family, and colleagues from home, all distracting her from her job and ultimate goal of getting the deal signed.
In terms of gameplay, Syberia is very accessible. The interface is very simple for a point-and-click venture game. There are three vital deportment when it comes to interacting with the environment. Kate can pick up objects, interact with objects, and talk to people. You don’t plane need to toggle between the actions, as when you hover over anything you can interact with, the towardly whoopee is selected.
There’s quite a lot of reading in Syberia, as you collect a lot of documents withal the journey. There’s moreover a lot of dialogue, in person and on the phone with Kate’s contacts when home.
Combined with the exploration, Syberia is a slower-paced point-and-click adventure. It feels increasingly like interactive fiction than a true puzzler of a point-and-click venture game. And that’s not a criticism, but it does require that as a player you get yourself invested in the notation and story.
And with that, let’s meet some of these notation as we join Kate upon her inrush in the French Alps, in the small town of Valadilène…
Syberia begins with Kate arriving in Valadilène with the rain falling, and the town in mourning.
Unfortunately, Kate has arrived too late to conclude negotiations for the sale of Voralberg Manufacturing.
Current owner, the elderly Anna Voralberg, has died, and there’s no firsthand succession plan.
Kate’s first task is to speak with the local notary to see how the sale can continue. This is where we learn of the terrible Voralberg family secret—there is a living heir. Anna’s younger brother Hans, long thought dead, is still alive.
Not quite the inrush Kate was hoping for, and as Hans’ whereabouts are unknown, it’s a multiplicity that could potentially jeopardise the sale.
However, unavoidable delays don’t seem to generate any sympathy from first her partner, and then her boss.
These calls from home were the first in what turns out to be an unfolding drama for Kate in both her personal and professional life. Kate and her partner, Dan, seem to be wayfaring apart, with Dan seemingly unable to understand how an international lawyer could possibly get delayed. And Kate’s boss, Edward Marson, simply doesn’t superintendency what’s happened in Valadilène, and puts pressure on Kate to well-constructed the sale through any ways necessary.
With Kate at a loss as to what to do next, she starts exploring the town. And this is how we learn increasingly well-nigh just what kind of visitor Voralberg Manufacturing is.
The Voralberg name is associated with luxury mechanical toys and automatons. Valadilène is filled with these automatons, and they are inside to the story in Syberia and the journey Kate is well-nigh to take.
Interacting with these automatons moreover provides a lot of the puzzles you need to solve.
Check out my playthrough of the first twenty minutes of Syberia on Youtube as Kate arrives in Valadilène.
It doesn’t take long surpassing Kate meets Oscar, one of these automatons. Oscar is a fairly wide automaton, and can speak. He’s not completely voluntary though, and is unseat by a set of protocols.
Before Oscar is going to be of any use, you must work out how to well-constructed him. You see, when you first meet him, he doesn’t have any feet (this interaction reminded me of one of my favourite films, Edward Scissorhands, where Edward was similarly left unfinished).
With Oscar completed, Kate learns that his function is to operate a train stationed in Valadilène. The destination? Hans Voralberg.
Finally, Kate has found a lead.
Before Kate can depart though, she learns of the events that lead up to Hans’ so-called death. In 1930, a ten-year-old Hans discovered a grotto near Valadilène, which housed seemingly mystical murals of mammoths. Yes, mammoths.
One fateful day, Hans takes Anna to the cave. Once there, he spots an object on a upper ledge. Grabbing what turns out to be a mammoth figurine, he suddenly loses his grip and falls.
What follows over the next few years is a sad tale, as Hans is never worldly-wise to recover from the accident. Physically and mentally stunted, Hans barely speaks, is very tying to his older sister Anna, and is obsessed with drawing mammoths.
It’s a challenging time for the family, with Hans’ father giving him a job in the toy factory to try and requite him a endangerment at a normal life. Here he shows quite the talent for towers automatons. Oscar is one of his creations.
But Han’s obsession with the mammoths and where they came from does not let up, and he decides he wants to leave Valadilène. His father however, does not support this and locks him yonder in his workshop. When Hans escapes, his father fakes his death.
Kate learns that at the time of her death, Anna was writing a letter to Hans, indicating that she was intending to meet with Hans. The train that Oscar can operate was designed by Hans and built by Anna for this journey.
With Anna now having passed away, Kate decides to well-constructed this journey. Without all, she still needs that signature…
The story in Syberia is front-loaded, with all the preliminaries and context provided early on in Valadilène. It definitely requires an investment up front by the player. There’s not a lot of action, and it’s a lot of reading, particularly Anna’s diary.
The remainder of the game is well-nigh the journey Kate takes on this mysterious mechanical train to find Hans.
After a long journey, the train pulls into Barrockstadt, a university town. Immediately, you can sense why Hans may have scheduled a stop here.
For a university town, it’s pretty quiet, with whimsically any students around. Kate soon learns that it is an institution well past its prime.
This is a worldwide theme in Syberia, as Valadilène’s glory days were moreover long since past. Two once-great towns that have been left overdue by progress and the modern world.
Regardless, it’s an important stop for Kate, as she uncovers increasingly well-nigh Hans. He spent some time at the university, and got to know a paleontology professor.
The professor shares his research with Kate, which is on the Youkol people of Siberia. Yes, this time it’s the real “Siberia”, and not Syberia. It turns out, the Youkol lived on the island of Syberia, off the tailspin of Siberia. Got all that? Unnecessarily complicated for a work of fiction, if you ask me…
The Youkol domesticated mammoths, which no doubt interested Hans, and remoter encouraged him to protract his journey east.
Of course, all this information isn’t free—this is a point-and-click without all. It turns out there are a lot of errands Kate needs to run for the university staff surpassing she can wind her train up and follow in Hans’ footsteps, er…train tracks.
Throughout Syberia, you find music boxes, which Hans had built to communicate with Anna. Kate discovers these, and the responses Anna would send to Hans.
Syberia is a game well-nigh relationships. As we know, Kate has her own issues with those when home. But the relationship between brother and sister, Hans and Anna, is inside to the story.
But how will this play out, now that Anna has died, and unable to take her journey to Hans? It seems Kate is now serving two purposes. She still has to unhook the sale of Voralberg Manufacturing. But she’s now trying to well-constructed Anna’s journey to Hans, albeit a sad one bringing news of her death.
The next stop is Komkolzgrad, an old Communist-era mining town. It’s yet flipside relic from the past, and has been all but abandoned.
Hans has moreover had an impact on this place, though it did rationalization Anna to worry what he might have been involved in.
The story takes a strange turn here, and the focus moves from Kate’s journey, to the eccentric director of Komkolzgrad. Serguei Borodine is the oppugnant in Syberia, in a story that I didn’t think would have one. All of a sudden, an venture of discovery turns into a thriller involving theft, a ransom, and kidnapping.
Where did this all come from? Well, Oscar’s hands have been stolen.
Borodine is overdue this, and he’s got something he wants surpassing he gives them back.
Kate finds Oscar’s hands locked to an automaton pianist, and Borodine wants a special performance. You see, Borodine has a rather unhealthy obsession with Helena Romanski, an old opera singer who once performed in Komkolzgrad.
All Kate needs to do is locate Helena Romanski, and bring her when to perform in Komkolzgrad. What could be simpler?
After Kate finds that the elderly Romanski is staying at a seaside spa in Russia, she just needs a ride there, given that the train is out of whoopee for the moment.
Enter Boris Charow, a drunk ex-cosmonaut (who, for those familiar, reminded me of Cid Highwind from Final Fantasy VII, as when we first meet both Boris and Cid, they’re trying to launch something).
Boris was excited to wilt a rocket test pilot for the Red Army, thanks to Hans. But when Hans disappeared, Boris turned to the bottle.
As Kate’s fate would have it, Boris can help Kate operate an zeppelin so she can fly to the spa, if she can finish what Hans started.
With Kate successfully launching Boris on his way to who knows where, she turns her sustentation to the airship. It’s at this point I had to suspend my disbelief, as Kate manages to pilot the zeppelin herself.
It was moreover during this section in Syberia that Kate’s personal life had its most significant impact. Kate’s partner and her weightier friend had begun an affair. At first it was emotional, but ended in a one-night stand. Kate substantially just shuts it out, as she’s by now so invested in her mission to find Hans that she can barely think of anything else. In the end, this part of Syberia just left me wondering why it was included at all.
The end of the story in Syberia comes fast once Kate arrives in Aralbad, the spa where Romanski is staying. It’s a trappy setting, but then a place that is past its heyday.
Unsurprisingly, Hans has moreover made a visit to Aralbad.
Kate, ulterior motive in mind, meets with Romanski and manages to convince her to come out of retirement for one last show.
Convincing Romanski came lanugo to mixing a cocktail she used to drink to bring out her voice. This was one of the increasingly enjoyable puzzles in Syberia.
I have to admit, this all felt a lot like kidnapping, but the show must go on.
As it turned out, it was kidnapping, as Borodine wants to alimony Romanski forever.
I didn’t really enjoy this diversion, but thankfully it was short. It was quick and easy to rescue Romanski, and escape with Oscar’s hands. In an out-of-place Hollywood blockbuster style exit, the trio depart Komkolzgrad on the train.
The train takes them when to Aralbad, where a mysterious package is pensile Kate.
And just like that, Kate finds Hans at Aralbad. Not quite sure how or why Hans appeared here, Kate wastes little time getting the deal signed.
Hans has little interest in the deal, and is only concerned with taking his train to Syberia and sending Kate home.
And that’s it for Syberia. Job’s washed-up right? Time to go home.
Well, not quite. And this is why I remember the ending so well. Kate decides not to go home, but to join Hans and protract the journey.
A cliffhanger! Memorable, yes. Abrupt, yes. Satisfying? Hmm.
I said it was a memorable ending in the introduction. Now that we’ve got to the end of the journey (kind of), what did I make of Syberia overall? Was it memorable for the right reasons?
It’s time for the verdict.
Let’s start with the ending, and work back. I unmistakably remember Kate jumping on the train at the end of Syberia, and riding off to Syberia. It was obvious that Syberia was unmistakably designed as part one of an ongoing series.
You could get some satisfaction from the ending here, thesping Kate goes off to Syberia and lives happily overly after, throwing her previous life away. But in order to finish this story, you really need to play Syberia II (2004) which continues the story right where Syberia left off.
I have played Syberia II, but I can’t recall how the story ends. All I remembered from this series was the cliffhanger ending to Syberia. I did say in the whence though, this is a game well-nigh the journey and not the destination. I guess I shouldn’t focus so much on my thwarting at not getting to Syberia…
What of the journey then?
In short, I enjoyed the premise, but not so much the execution. I squint at the journey in three parts.
The first is the physical journey Kate takes wideness Europe. All of the stops Kate makes withal the way show places that were once successful, but that have long since been left overdue by the progress of the twentieth century. It’s ironic that Valadilène ripened automatons, yet likely declined due to the increasing reliance on technology and automation in the second half of the century.
Syberia is well-nigh change, and what is left behind. Which brings me to the second part of the journey, Kate’s personal story. I found this a lark while playing the game, but I can understand its place. If Kate is to requite up her life when home and protract to Syberia, there has to be something to leave behind. I just felt it was too obnoxious. There’s the self-absorbed mother, the wiseacre boss, and a selfish partner and weightier friend falling into an affair. No wonder she gave them all up—they’re all very easy to dislike!
The third part of the journey is exploring the relationship between Anna and Hans. And like Kate visiting places unauthentic by change, and Kate’s waffly personal relationships impacting her visualization to stay with Hans, the relationship between Anna and Hans is well-nigh transpiration too. They were unchangingly tropical siblings, but without Hans had his accident, their lives were reverted forever.
I enjoyed exploring these journeys and themes in Syberia. But it does require an investment. You have to spend the time reading the material you pick up, listening to the conversations you engage in, and exploring the locations.
And speaking of locations, Syberia is a trappy looking game. I moreover enjoy Steampunk-themed games, so this “Clockpunk” variation on the theme appealed to me. I moreover enjoyed the historical scenery of Anna and Hans’ story, post-World War II and Stalinist Russia.
The locations themselves are very picturesque, but if there’s one criticism, there are a lot of screens that serve no purpose other than to walk from one place to another.
The execution in-game of the journeys is what lets Syberia down. As mentioned, Kate’s personal relationships are not well explored. They’re superficial and one dimensional. They felt like a distraction, and unnecessary.
I moreover didn’t like the unreticent transpiration of pace that came with Kate’s inrush in Komkolzgrad. It felt out of place to introduce an oppugnant late in the game and transpiration the focus from Kate onto someone else.
It’s moreover difficult to end my journey with Syberia, as it feels incomplete. I’m not at the end of this story. I think I’d rather have played both games and looked at them as the sum of their parts.
But that’s a journey for flipside day. I’ve reached my stop, and it’s time to jump off this train.
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