It’s been five years since the last incarnation and an astonishing twenty years since the first, but Syberia is back. Sokal and the team at Microïds recently released Syberia – The World Before (Syberia 4) and what a return to triumph it is!
Syberia – The World Before is a point-and-click adventure game with stunning visuals. During my playthrough, I didn’t encounter any bugs which already put this a step ahead of the third installment! It is important to note though that if you haven’t played the trilogy that came before you will have no idea what’s going on, or why. The recap the game provides really isn’t enough.
The UI builds upon what was envisaged for Syberia 3 and I can’t help but think this is what they intended for the game’s predecessor. The whole interface is immaculate and intuitive and nothing felt like it got in the way of playing the actual game. In that respect, it’s nice and simple.
Each section of the game will see you flipping between the two central characters as the story unfolds. This allows effectively two stories to be told until the paths entwine. This feels natural and never gets confusing between the different sets of characters.
If I was going to fault this game for anything, it would be the use of fixed camera angles. While this was ok in the first two games due to the 2D nature of the backgrounds, Syberia – The World Before is graphically far more advanced and on more than one occasion I missed something or struggled to get into a building because of the fixed camera making it very difficult to see.
In Syberia – The World Before the story is told from two perspectives. Firstly, that of Dana Roze, a young musically talented teenager in a fictional European country during the 1930s. Then, of course, Kate Walker returns from the previous three games in the present day.
Our new character offers us as players an interesting insight into, as the title suggests, the world before. Specifically, in the lead-up to the second world war and her family’s persecution for being an ethnic minority.
Meanwhile, in the present-day Kate Walker has been imprisoned in a mine and soon learns of her mother’s death. During the day’s work, she stumbles onto a forgotten wartime train in a side cave and finds a painting of Dana. The woman she’s with can’t help but point out the similarities and, after narrowly escaping Kate goes on a journey to discover more.
What follows is an intriguing tale of love, loss, family, and wartime action and mystery. It’s beautifully written and very well crafted. I really enjoyed seeing a new perspective on the world Sokal has created with his team and a different era.
The puzzles in Syberia – The World Before are by far and away from the most detailed, thought-provoking, and enjoyable in the franchise so far. While in places they can be a little easy, for the most part, they are stimulating and visually pleasing.
Relatively early on, for example, you come across a creation by Hans Voralberg and must open it up. This effectively works as a digital multi-step puzzle box and it’s fantastic.
There’s also a good mix of puzzles and actions that need completing before the next part of the story will take place. Some fans may find them to be too simplistic, but I didn’t once feel like I was missing anything.
Syberia – The World Before is a return to triumph after the disappointing Syberia 3. Visually stunning to look at, engaging puzzles and a sensible control system make this game a joy to play. Combine that with a good storyline and you have probably the best entry in the franchise yet. The perfect swansong for Benoît Sokal who tragically passed away in 2021.