I have to admit, I’m not the most familiar with the Syberia game series. In fact, until now, the most experience I have had with one is seeing the ill-received Syberia 3 in the coming soon section at my local Games store. Therefore, I went into the preview of the fourth instalment of the late Benoît Sokal’s adventure series, Syberia: the World Before, with little to no context, and I can say with definite certainty that I should have read up on the franchise before starting a new save file.
“The beginning of the story is compelling.”
Syberia: The World before is both a sequel and a prequel to Syberia 3. The player jumps between time periods, starting in 1937 and following music student, Dana Roze, who lives in the fictional location of German-speaking, Vaghen. The second World War is just beginning and Dana and her family are facing threat by the extremist political group, the Brown Shadow.
Alongside Dana’s journey, the player jumps forward to 2004, and also plays as the long-time protagonist of the series, Kate Walker, who is imprisoned in a Salt Mine with presumably – although this isn’t explicitly stated – her girlfriend Katyusha. After tragedy strikes, Kate escapes and sets out to unravel the mystery of Dana and why she apparently looks just like her.
The beginning of the story is compelling, and I must say that I was interested in figuring out what Kate’s connection to Dana was. That being said, I had to jump on google at several points throughout my preview playthrough to get some context to who Kate was and why she was imprisoned in an underground mine.
The game is an immediate sequel to Syberia 3 and provides little information as to who Kate is and why the player should care about her and the plight she’s found herself in. It doesn’t feel as if her imprisonment is something we’ll find out about as we progress, but rather just the next part of an already existing story. It’s not newbie-friendly in the slightest and while I’m happy to do some research, it may turn off more casual players.
“The graphics are absolutely phenomenal.”
Syberia: The World Before is a point and click 3D puzzle game and plays just as you’d expect. If playing on PC, the player uses their mouse to guide Kate and Dana around the world and clicks on highlighted objects to interact with them and solve puzzles. It doesn’t do anything particularly innovative within the genre but it plays solidly and is easy enough to get a hang of.
While mostly a smooth experience, the gameplay is sometimes slowed down by unnecessary clicks. Having to manually close a drawer or cupboard every single time I finished investigating was irritating, particularly when I have played point and click games in the past that auto-completed these small tasks. It’s a quality of life feature that makes the experience more seamless and brings players back to replay through the game. Fortunately, the narrative did enough for me to look past this, and the graphics are absolutely phenomenal.
Vaghen is beautiful and as Dana wandered the streets of the city, I felt like I was right there with her. The small cafes and antique stores were lively and perfectly captured what I imagine European streets were like in that part of the century. The world has a steampunk feel, with things like brass robot conductors driving the trams and Dana’s piano having large brass fittings on the outside. Her portion of the story is coloured with a slight sepia tone, giving a historical feeling to her world.
“Syberia: The World Before seems to be a solid entry to the franchise”
The game is fully voiced, adding to the immersion. This helped me form an emotional connection with these characters that I was meeting for the first time. The acting is done well, and I was sucked into the emotional state of each character, experiencing their stress and joy alongside them. This is an important addition as point-and-click games can become quite monotonous if there isn’t any vocal interaction by the characters.
Syberia: The World Before seems to be a solid entry to the franchise and from what I experienced in the preview, will make up for the disappointment of Syberia 3. The story, while not groundbreaking, was compelling enough that as a new player to the series I was interested in continuing to figure out the mystery surrounding the dual protagonists. It does require pre-existing knowledge of the characters and world to be enjoyed completely. Therefore, either playing through the previous titles or doing some reading up on them is recommended. Nonetheless, I am definitely interested to continue the story when the game releases next month.
Syberia: The World Before will on March 18, 2022, for PC via Steam. You can wishlist the game now.
*Disclaimer: Previewed on PC, code was provided by the publisher.