There is a distinct lack of truly great mystery adventure games in the video game market today, but this wasn’t the case back in 2002. Syberia was originally released over a decade ago; the Steampunk and Art Nouveau inspired epic has since become a cult classic amongst gamers and has spawned a released sequel and another in the works as we speak. Jump forward over ten years to 2015 and Syberia has been released to PlayStation 3 owners world-wide. The only question left to ask is: will the PS3 port capture the wonderful atmosphere and engrossing story of the original release?
Syberia begins with our protagonist, Kate Walker, arriving in Valadilène and observing the funeral procession of Anna Voralberg. Anna Voralberg is the sole owner of Voralberg Manufacturing, the company that Kate is in town to finalize the takeover of. Immediately, we are introduced to some of the automatons made by the recently deceased’s company. As the story proceeds, we are told the story of Valadilène’s crown jewel, Voralberg Manufacturing. Voralberg Manufacturing is known world-wide for their amazingly advanced automatons.
We soon learn that, in recent years, it seems that Voralberg Manufacturing has had its fair share of financial difficulties, due at least in part, to the automatons that were created there becoming dated and obsolete. Valadilène itself has become much of a ghost town, as the town seemed to revolve around the toy company. As the toy company became less and less successful, the town became less and less alive. As Ms. Walker proceeds to the notary’s office, it is revealed that there is an additional heir to the toy company. Hans Voralberg, Anna’s brother who was long-presumed dead, is actually alive and well in Siberia. To finalize the deal, Walker will have to track down Hans and have him sign over the company. So begins Kate Walker’s fantastical adventure across many intriguing towns throughout Europe to find the mysterious black sheep of the Voralberg family.
Syberia is a third person point-and-click adventure game, relying on puzzles and small fetch quests to propel the game. There is no way to die or permanently become stuck in any part of the game, and there is no time limit for any events, which allows players to fully immerse themselves in the adventure’s story. The game utilizes a static camera which at times makes controlling your character difficult, but no more so than any other game with the same restrictions. Also, when switching from one scene to another, sometimes your character will stop running even though you have not let go of the R2 button. There are occasions that getting your character to look at and interact with what you want her to is finicky and difficult. I did read that in the original PC version of the game, you did not control Kate, but she moved by clicking on items that you could interact with. Since the game was originally not intended to give the player control of Kate, this could explain why the controls feel clunky.
Visually, the game is certainly dated, but nothing that goes so far as to ruin the experience. It should be noted that I did not play the game during the initial release in 2002, so my opinions on the visuals will be based more on today’s standards, rather than the standards of over a decade ago. Most of the scenes are filled with static backgrounds, reminiscent to the original Resident Evil titles that your character runs through, leaving the effect of living in a painting. This is especially noticeable in scenes with water, where there will be the sound of a babbling stream, however the surface of the water has ripples permanently frozen in time rather than actively moving. Cutscenes are pre-rendered CGI, which obviously shows its age. This being said, the visuals are still lovely and captivating. Some areas you venture to have a vast openness which really lends itself to a feeling of insecurity and being out of place. Every city you stop in also has a definite feeling of isolation and being abandoned; forgotten in time. Valadilène’s scenery feels more cozy and pleasant, and offers a stark contrast to some of the areas further on in the game.
Voice acting is good, but nothing extraordinary or stand-out comes to mind. Characters sound as they should and there are no parts which feel out of place or strange. The audio design, however, is particularly immersive and well done. Sounds effects like the spattering of raindrops against the windows and roof, whirring motors and gears, echoing bird calls, and reverberating winds make for an atmosphere that completely envelops the player. The soundtrack of Syberia consists mostly of powerful orchestral melodies with a distinct Eastern European influence. The composition of sound effects and music throughout the game is truly beautiful. My only complaint, although minor, is that in the beginning of the game, the audio seems to have issues with stuttering. I really only noticed this in the first few minutes of the game, however.
If I was to name my biggest complaint about the release, it would be the way the port itself was handled. While it still remains more or less true to its original release, I would have loved more. As with most recent HD re-releases and ‘remasters’, we usually see enhanced visuals at the very least. And while I know this isn’t titled ‘Syberia HD’, I can’t help but be disappointed with the lack of any sort of restoration work involved in the PS3 release.
Overall, Syberia is a wonderful, engaging game that takes its players on a journey that I, for one, won’t soon forget. Being that Syberia was released over ten years ago, it does feel and show its age at times, but that doesn’t detract from the game. Had I played and reviewed this game during its original release, I would be hard pressed to find many negatives of which to speak.