Review – Syberia: The World Before
The Syberia series is a beloved classic and has been around for quite a long time. Developed by the Belgian comic book artist and video game designer, Benoît Sokal, the first Syberia game was released in 2002 and was met with critical and commercial success. Syberia II came out two years later, and was also successful. Then in 2017, Syberia 3 made its debut, and was panned by fans and critics alike. People were surprised to hear that another entry to the Syberia franchise, Syberia: The World Before, was in the works a few years later. Most were cautiously curious, especially after the passing of Benoît Sokal during its production. Would it fall further into decline, or would it be the perfect wrap up for the series?
A word of warning to anyone who hasn’t played the other Syberia titles: you will have no idea what is happening if you haven’t played the other games first. Syberia: The World Before picks up right where the events of Syberia 3 let off, with only a minor and vague recap of what’s transpired before. If you’ve never played any of the other games before trying Syberia: The World Before, I highly recommend either reading up on them or watching a YouTube video covering the major plot points from each game. If you’re a long-time fan on the other hand, get ready to dive into a thought-provoking adventure.
As previously stated, Syberia: The World Before picks up right where Syberia 3 left off. Kate Walker is being held prisoner in a salt mine in the fictional land of Taiga. Fortunately, she’s eventually able to make her escape, but it comes at a heavy cost. The unexpected events set her on a new path to discover more about her identity.
However, Syberia: The World Before isn’t solely centered around Kate Walker. You’ll also be introduced to Dana Roze, a young girl living in Vaghen in 1937, trying to make name for herself as a pianist. Her world is thrown into chaos with the Brown Shadow’s presence taking over Europe at the onset of the Second World War.
This is one of the major ways that Syberia: The World Before strays from the classic Syberia formula. Kate Walker’s story shares equal time with Dana Roze’s. Each chapter will have you flipping back and forth between timelines (and/or characters), and occasionally even within the same chapter. It’s a fun twist which leads to a few amusing puzzles that can only be solved by interacting with specific objects in each timeline. None of the puzzles in this game are difficult by any stretch, but some of them were at least creative enough to make them enjoyable.
That being said, the gameplay is what is going to be the most divisive among fans of the series. The Syberia games have long been praised for their creative and complex puzzles. Syberia: The World Before is a big departure from the other games in this aspect. This is very much a leisurely journey through the lives of our main characters, and there’s almost no real gameplay to be had along the way. Syberia: The World Before is more of an interactive movie, with a few casual puzzles sprinkled in. None of the puzzles will stump you, by any means. Some hardcore fans will dislike this new direction, while others (like myself) will appreciate the more organic feel of the puzzles and the way they’re integrated into the main narrative.
Syberia: The World Before is not without its flaws though. An inconvenience that’s persistent from the other games is the use of fixed camera angles. It’s not always an issue, mainly due to the linear nature of the game, but there were several times I missed a key item or focal point because the camera wasn’t pointed in the right direction to show it. Usually entering and exiting from a different spot fixed this problem, but it was still quite a hassle on numerous occasions. There’s also no option to skip any dialogue or cutscenes. This was my biggest annoyance with the game. I can’t tell you how many times I would accidentally click on something I had already looked at, only to have to sit through the character’s entire inner monologue again. In a game that’s so focused on its narrative, these instances really affected the pacing at times.
Gameplay issues aside, Syberia: The World Before does a lot right. It’s an absolutely gorgeous game. Each area feels authentic and lived-in, the character animations are natural, and the facial animations are particularly impressive. The sound design is outstanding as well. Nearly every vocal performance is genuine and believable, and the soundtrack is brilliant. Composer Inon Zur once again knocks it out of the park with yet another remarkable and memorable original score.
Even though Syberia: The World Before was so different than the other entries in the franchise in some ways, it was also a return to form in others. The puzzles might not be as bizarre or outside the box as other games, but they also felt more natural to the story. Similarly, the other entries had more whimsical and fantastical elements to them, whereas this game is far more grounded in reality. Although, considering the laughably audacious directions Syberia 3 ventured into, I would definitely count this as a big plus. Syberia: The World Before might not be a perfect game, but I feel it’s the perfect send-off for the Kate Walker saga.
An absolutely beautiful game with only a few minor lighting and framerate issues.
Mostly a point-and-click adventure, but with occasional simple puzzles thrown into the mix. The fixed camera angles can be problematic and there’s no option to skip dialogue or cutscenes.
The sound design design is incredible, with strong vocal performances and a mesmerizing soundtrack.
Fun Factor: 7.0
Syberia: The World Before is a bit of a departure from the rest of the series, focusing less on puzzles and exploration, and more on the narrative. That being said, it is a beautiful send-off to the Kate Walker saga.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Syberia: The World Before is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Reviewed on PC with an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb of RAM.
A copy of Syberia: The World Before was provided by the publisher.