||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (September 2013)|
US Syberia cover art
|Engine||Virtools Engine 2.1|
|Distribution||2 CD-ROMs (WIN)
1 DVD (PS2), (Xbox)
Syberia is a 2002 computer adventure game conceived by Benoît Sokal, developed by Microïds and published through The Adventure Company. It follows the protagonist Kate Walker as she attempts to wrap up a sale on the behalf of her law firm. In addition to the main plot, the game contains a dramatic subplot, conducted via calls received on Kate's cell phone, involving Kate's deteriorating relationship with her fiancé.
The game uses elements of art nouveau and steampunk fiction in its story. Most devices and tools, and even a train, are powered by springs and wind-up gears. Syberia was acclaimed by critics for its graphic design and intelligent script, and a sequel, Syberia II, was released in 2004, picking up where the first game leaves off. As of 2013[update] Syberia III is in development; Anuman Interactive will publish it with Benoît Sokal writing the script. The release date is currently set for 2014 or 2015.
Sokal's earlier game Amerzone is located in the same fictional universe, and Syberia contains some references to it. Another of Sokal's adventure games Paradise has no connections to Syberia but does use similar art direction and interface.
Syberia is a third-person, mouse-driven, semi-realistic/semi-surrealistic adventure game in which the player must solve various puzzles and follow certain procedures in order for the linear storyline to proceed. As a pure graphical adventure game, Syberia follows the guidelines first introduced by LucasArts: it is impossible to die or to get stuck at any moment in the game, which allows the user to fully immerse him/herself in Syberia's universe without the fear of making a mistake or the constant need of saving the game.
In the game, the player controls the actions of American lawyer Kate Walker, who is sent to a remote French village in order to finalize the take-over of a toy factory there. Once at the village, Kate learns that the woman who owned the factory has just died, and that she has a brother who must be contacted in order for the takeover to proceed. Her mission takes her across Central and Eastern Europe, gradually leading her to question her own lifestyle. The titular Syberia is a mythical island on which mammoths are said to live.
The game starts with Kate arriving in the fictional French village of Valadilène and witnessing the funeral of Anna Voralberg, the owner of a family-owned spring-automaton toy factory whose takeover by a big American business Kate was supposed to finalize. When visiting the village notary to hopefully finalize the deal, the notary tells Kate that just before her death, the old lady revealed that her brother, officially declared dead and buried in the town cemetery, is in fact alive somewhere in the North-East. Naturally, now that his sister is dead, Hans Voralberg becomes the new owner of the factory, which cannot be sold without his approbation. Kate has no choice: if she wants the takeover to succeed, she will have to find Hans. Kate's research reveals that Hans was injured in his attempt to retrieve a prehistoric doll of a mammoth ridden by a man. It stunted his development, both physically and emotionally, and Hans' one and only goal became to find mammoths to ride them as the doll depicts.
In order to find Hans, Kate must take his train, a clockwork locomotive built by his sister at his request. It is manned by Oscar, a man-like automaton fond of protocol, which Kate must satisfy to depart. Thus, she is forced to delve into Hans' past to retrieve two items of value to him: the mammoth doll, and a clockwork music box.
The first stop is Barrockstadt, a failing university which Hans once visited whose train station also acts as a botanical garden. The train stops short of the winding mechanism, so Kate must barter with a nearby couple with a barge. They insist to be paid $100 for their assistance, so Kate has to fix the university's broken bandstand to get the university's stubborn board of directors to help. Along the way, she gets a lesson on the legend of Syberia and the customs of the mysterious prehistoric Youkol people who lived with mammoths and were able to domesticate them. Before she can leave Barrockstadt entirely she must pass the large wall keeping her train from exiting.
The next stop is Komkolzgrad, a dusty Communist-era industrial mining complex with two giant metallic worker-automata overlooking the tracks. The place is run by the eccentric and somewhat crazy Serguei Borodine, who steals Oscar's hands to make his automaton organist work. He intends to construct the biggest stage possible for Helena Romanski, a washed up opera singer with whom he is obsessed. Kate has little choice but to fetch her from a nearby spa in Aralbad on his behalf. Serguei directs Kate to the adjacent cosmodrome for transportation.
At the cosmodrome, Kate meets former test pilot Boris, a drunk who dreams of flying into space on a "flying wing" invented by Hans. After some sobering up, he teaches Kate how to operate an old airship in exchange for her help in making the flying wing functional. He also warns Kate not to trust Serguei. Once Boris is launched, she uses his advice to launch the airship and leaves for Aralbad.
At the Aralbad spa, Kate meets Helena after some trouble getting past the manager. The elderly lady believes she is too old to sing, having lost her legendary voice which could break glass. With a special cocktail mixed at the bar and a wine glass, Helena is convinced that she can still sing and agrees to go with Kate.
The performance in Komkolzgrad does not go quite as planned: beautiful though Helena's voice may be (she sings "Dark Eyes"), it doesn't stop Serguei from imprisoning her, as he wants to keep Helena at his side as his personal opera singer. Kate is able to free Helena and take back Oscar's hands, but Serguei isn't quite willing to give up without a fight, using the worker-automata to block the train. Some spare dynamite dispatches that problem, and Kate brings Helena back to Aralbad. Surprisingly, none other than Hans Voralberg is waiting there at the spa, delighted that Kate brought him his train and Oscar. Hans shows little concern for his sister's death and signs the factory release papers without even reading them. He offers to take Kate along, but she initially refuses. However, as she is about to board a plane to fly back to New York, she changes her mind and hops on board the train at the last second, abandoning her job and her unfaithful fiancé back home to help an old man realize his dream.
The game was produced entirely in Montreal, Canada by 35 people under the direction of Sokal on a budget of €2 million using Virtools Development Environment 2.1. Benoît Sokal indicated in an interview that at one time the development team were considering to create one single game for the Syberia story, but decided not to as it was so large.
Syberia was generally well received and won awards including GameSpy's "Adventure Game of the Year" (2002) and IGN's "Reader's Choice Award for Adventure Games" (2002). Based on 27 reviews, Metacritic gave the game an aggregate score of 82% ("generally favorable reviews").
Syberia was followed by a sequel, Syberia II, which continued Kate Walker's voyage to Syberia. In 2008 the Syberia series website was relaunched.
On 1 April 2009 Microïds announced that Syberia III would be released on PC and PlayStation 3. A further press release on 2 April noted that Syberia would be one of the series of games to be released in the "Ultimate Adventures" tri-packs. Benoît Sokal mentioned in the press a number of times that he would only participate in a Syberia sequel if there was sufficient financial means to design and develop it properly. In 2009 Microïds decided to invest in the Syberia franchise.
On 26 November 2012 Microïds revealed on their Facebook page that Benoit Sokal had officially signed a contract with Anuman to write the story of Syberia III and that official development had started. The game is scheduled for release in 2014 or 2015. Additionally the project is to be overseen by Elliot Grassiano, the original founder of Microïds.
Smartphone/Nintendo DS version
On 15 April 2008 Microïds announced that with Mindscape they would be releasing the mobile version of Syberia for the Nintendo DS in October 2008. On 30 October 2008 Microïds announced that DreamCatcher Games would be publishing the Nintendo DS version of Syberia in North America, for its release in December 2008.
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- "Syberia II review". Adventure Gamers. Retrieved 2013-03-30.
- "Syberia II review". Gamespot. Retrieved 2013-03-30.
- "Syberia II review". Gamezone. Retrieved 2013-03-30.
- "Syberia II review". IGN. Retrieved 2013-03-30.
- "Adventure Game of the Year 2002". GameSpy. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
- "Best of 2002: Adventure". IGN. 2003-01-14. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
- "Syberia (PC) Review". Metacritic. 2002. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
- "Microïds launches Syberia 3 on PS3". Microïds. 2009-04-01. Retrieved 2009-04-01.
- "Microïds confie à CDV MDARICS MEDIA la distribution de ses jeux en France" (in French). Microïds. 2009-04-02. Retrieved 2009-04-02.
- "Microids confirm that production of Syberia III has started". 2011-11-26. Retrieved 2012-11-26.
- "Microids and Mindscape announce Syberia on the Nintendo DS for October 2008". Microïds. 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
- "Microïds and Dreamcatcher Announce Syberia on Nintendo DS in North America". Just Adventure. 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-11-26.
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