The weather hasn’t treated me right the past few days. Let’s just say I’ve spent them frozen almost 24 hours a day, always seeking a warmth I just couldn’t have. Although I couldn’t warm up my body, I did manage to warm up my heart though, with the ultimate blast from the past: Syberia.
Now, I know it kind of defeats the purpose to play a game about a frozen, cold place while I’m in a frozen, cold place, but Syberia’s one of those games I used to play when I was younger that transported me to a time and place where I forgot about myself and just enjoyed the story. Exactly what I needed, especially with the added nostalgia.
Syberia centers around Kate Walker, a wonderful, badass lawyer from New York who is sent to Europe (Valadilene, to be precise) to get a contract signed so her company can purchase a factory. Kate learns that Anna Voralberg, the owner of the factory, has passed away, so Kate must find Anna’s brother and factory heir, Hans, to complete the deal. The only problem is, Hans was presumed dead, discovered to be alive, and then disappeared off the face of the earth.
Already exciting, eh? Another really catchy and unique thing in this game is that Kate’s not alone, for most part. As she sets out on the journey of finding Hans, she’s accompanied by an automaton (not a robot), the sassy, uptight Oscar. Automatons are to be found all throughout the game, and the ones with personalities are just so much fun to interact with.
The main thing in this game is the train with which Kate and Oscar travel. It stops at certain places because it needs winding again (think toy cars), which annoys Kate to no end at first (and possibly the player), but which forces you to explore the stations where you’ve stopped. Each one is more wonderful than the next, although don’t think that means they’re always going to be pretty. Wink wink, nudge nudge. To convince you of this with more than my words, see for yourself:
I’ve found myself in awe of the art style once every 2 seconds as I traveled around in search for Hans, and despite the game being so old (2002), you really can’t tell.
The gameplay is easy, as you only really ever need your mouse, your brains and a lot of patience as you click to where Kate needs to go, what she needs to interact with, and who she needs to speak to. It did test my patience at times as I had to walk around and it took quite a while for Kate to get to where I wanted her to be, but in all it gave me more time to appreciate the scenery and see if there’s anything I might’ve missed when it comes to picking things up or interacting with them, so by the time I got to my second train stop, I was no longer desperate for it to move faster. I do warn you though, patience is key here.
At times things did get a bit confusing for me, so I did have to refer to a walkthrough, but that was mostly because I didn’t want to spend the time walking around aimlessly (again, time and patience) so I elected to consult the walkthrough and save myself some stress. Obviously you can roam around as much as you want, there are no time sensitive missions here. You can also save whenever you want, so if you want to check something out and come up with nothing, you can just load an earlier save and spare yourself having to make the trek back.
Don’t think that this is just another game where you point to things, solve puzzles, and that’s it. Syberia has a rich story, and the ups and downs and twists of it will make playing the game that much more entertaining. You find out Hans likes to communicate using these musical cylinders that you must find scattered throughout, which give you context to his backstory and his relationship with his sister (and his obsession with going to Syberia to see the mammoths, which by the way are not dead). Kate is constantly called by people back home like her mother, her very annoying boss, her friend Olivia, and her fiancé Dan. Those calls aren’t worthless, as Mrs. Walker helps out with a task while Olivia and Dan provide a ton of character development for Kate.
From that, seeing a tangible evolution in the character you play is such a joy. Kate starts out dreading her presence in Valadilene and trying to leave as fast as possible, while also not caring very much about respecting automatons or the wonders of the train and landscape. As she travels through Europe with Oscar though, she not only grows attached to him, but learns that this adventure is a lot more significant and rewarding than talking about fashion with your superficial friend or babying your horrible fiancé. When Olivia confesses she and Dan had a drunken “sleepover”, you can tell it’s the last thing Kate needed to make her final decision.
After finding Hans and getting the contract signed, Kate is offered a ride back to New York, but at the last moment, decides to screw it all. She sprints towards the train and jumps on it as it exits the final station, leaving for Syberia with Hans and Oscar. This in turn prompts the player to decide if they would like to play Syberia 2 or not.
Of course, I felt a little disappointed that I played Syberia and never made it to Syberia, but fortunately I just happen to have the 2nd game installed as well, so my journey continues.
As I write this, I have the soundtrack playing in the background, which makes me feel like I’m in some far away, fictional European town, freezing my peaches off while getting ready to set off to Russia. If anything, do give the soundtrack a listen, have it on when you write or just as background noise, it’s sure to transport you to a different world. Or at least elevate your mood.
With all this said, I hope you give Syberia a try. It’s up on Big Fish in 3 parts, but Syberia II is one full game, and they're all cheap as hell. To me, it's totally worth it.
As always, thank you for your time. See you next week!