Syberia is an interesting pick for the first game we will be featuring on the Backlog Odyssey. I’m a fan of adventure games and from what I’ve heard from those who have played the series, Syberia is fun, has a great story and challenging puzzles. And that’s about all I know about it.
The sole reason I picked this and the second game up when I seen them tragically orphaned at one of the local thrift stores was due to their praises. That and they were only a few dollars a piece. My Xbox collection needed to be fleshed out anyways!
This was actually a very recent pick up so it hasn’t been in my backlog for long but I’m excited to start playing it. I’m also looking forward to seeing if it lives up to what I’ve been hearing about it.
Before we do that though, let’s take a look at the physical game and everything it came with. First impressions are everything and can ultimately determine if you pick up a game and play it or if it just collects dust on your game shelf.
Looking at the front cover of Syberia it reminds me of many early Xbox and late 90’s or early 2000’s PC games. If I didn’t know any better, and in truth I don’t, Syberia looks like a port of a PC game you may find in a bargain bin.
The stiff character models displayed in full force on the cover, elegantly floating above a fancy steam powered train certainly don’t inspire. And if crediting Mr. B. Sokal above the title was supposed to be a selling point that was lost on me as well.
So what is this game about? I have no idea, but based on the cover I’d say a European woman and her robot companion riding their train to Syberia (Siberia?) in the early 1900s. Riveting!!
Honestly, at this point Syberia feels like a definite “would not play”. That’s probably why it got instantly shelved after I bought it. But I’m hoping to give XS Games and Microids the benefit of the doubt while I turn to the back cover.
One look at the back cover of Syberia and we start getting a glimpse of what we are getting ourselves into. Am I ready for a journey of discovery and intrigue? I want to say yes but the screenshots of the game haven’t sparked my interest yet. The graphics do look impressive though, especially for the time.
The background art seems detailed and the environments seem varied. At least we won’t be stuck on a train the entire time!
I can now revise my initial hypothesis on what the game is about. We discover that the lady found on the front cover is Kate Walker and she is tasked with caring for the sale of an old factory that manufactured automatons (kind of like robots right?). But it doesn’t stop there, little does she know she will be whisked away on a journey across Europe (ding), time (what?) and the supernatural?? I didn’t see that one coming.
We are also given a list of stellar features found in the game. Which I can and will verify based purely on the bullet-ed feature list I was given:
- A gripping script?! Check
- Rich and intriguing characters with realistic 3D environments??!! Check
- Film like camera angles?! Double check!!
- Creative puzzles (completely integrated into the environments!!!)?! Check and check
Color me intrigued. But we can’t criticize a game based on what we are given on the surface. We must dig deeper and gaze upon what they provide to us on the inside. Of the package that is.
I crack the case open and inside I find a disc! But most importantly something that is a rarity in modern games these days, a manual!! A twelve page manual to be precise.
Now you may get excited to see such literature grace the inside of your game case. But don’t expect it to entertain you while you go about whatever business you need to attend to. Unfortunately this manual is exactly that. An instruction booklet featuring standard operations instructions, controls and warranty information.
It does have some pictures of icons and various menus but they are all in black and white and overall pretty uninteresting.
One thing I can take away from reading the manual though is there seems to be a whole lot of documents to collect in the game. And a whole lot of reading.
Final thoughts and the first hour
After the first hour or so of the game I want to say that it’s exactly what I expected. Whether that’s good or bad is yet to be seen but I will leave you will some of my impressions.
Firstly, the controls in the game leave something to be desired. Many times will I try to move Kate and she will either not move at all or spin in the opposite direction but only occasionally will she move in the desired direction. Interaction with the environment can also be slow, trying to pick up or examine an item is not always responsive.
The graphics on the other hand can be impressive and the environmental puzzles are fun. Not necessarily challenging (at least not yet) but more obtuse or ill explained. The one glaring problem I have with the presentation though is pathways and interactable objects are not always apparent and easily missed. To be fair this is also a problem in many other adventure games.
Finally, the story does seem interesting, and I’m curious to see how it all pans out. The dialog is written well and the voice acting is certainly good but there is something about the writing that seems a bit off to me. Like it’s too staged or theatrical.
Overall I am excited to play more Syberia, cautiously so, but still excited. I don’t have false pretenses that this game will blow my socks off but I’m hoping that it surprises me. I get a very Longest Journey vibe from the art work, synopsis and overall aesthetic and I did enjoy those games.
So what is the game actually like and how does it play? Well that’s really what we’re here for! You can following the link below for a playlist of my long play of the game. The first episode is available now!!
Let me know if you’ve played Syberia and your thoughts on the game. Would you recommend it to others?