The Adventure Company (North America, Windows)
XS Games (Xbox, North America)
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Windows Mobile, Nintendo DS, Android, OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, Nintendo Switch|
Syberia is a graphic adventure developed and published by Microïds. It follows protagonist Kate Walker as she attempts to wrap up a sale on behalf of her law firm and travels across Europe and Russia. In addition to the main plot, the game contains a subplot conducted via calls received on Kate's cell phone. It involves Kate's deteriorating relationship with her fiancé.
Syberia was a commercial success, with sales above 500,000 units worldwide by 2005. It was acclaimed by critics for its graphic design and intelligent script. The game contains elements of art nouveau and clockpunk fiction. Most devices and tools within the game's world are powered by springs and wind-up gears.
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 story line to proceed. As a pure graphical adventure game, Syberia follows the guidelines introduced by Broken Sword.
In the game, the player controls the actions of American lawyer Kate Walker (voiced by Sharon Mann), who is sent to a remote French village in order to finalize the take-over of a toy factory. Once at the village, Kate learns that the woman who owned the factory has just died, and she has a brother who must be contacted in order for the takeover to proceed. Her mission takes her across Central and Eastern Europe, which gradually leads her to question her own life. The titular Syberia is a mythical island on which mammoths are said to live (inspiration could be Wrangel Island in Siberia, the last place on earth where mammoths survived).
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. When Kate visits the village notary to finalize the deal, the notary tells her that just before Anna's death, the old lady revealed that her brother is not dead and buried, but alive somewhere in the North-East. Now that his sister is dead, Hans Voralberg becomes the new owner of the factory, which cannot be sold without his approval. 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 man riding a mammoth. It stunted his development, leaving him mentally handicapped, and Hans' sole goal became to find mammoths to ride 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, an animatronic man fond of protocol whom Kate must satisfy to depart. She is forced to dive into Hans' past to retrieve two items of value to him: the mammoth doll and a clockwork music box.
As she follows Hans' path, Kate makes her way to Barrockstadt, a failing university whose train station 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 on being 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 that keeps 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 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, Kate convinces Helena that she can still sing. Helena 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 by 35 people under the direction of Benoît Sokal on a budget of €2 million using Virtools Development Environment 2.1. Its budget was the highest of any Microïds game by that time. 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.
Sokal's earlier game, Amerzone, is located in the same fictional universe and Syberia contains some references to it. Paradise, another of Sokal's adventure games, has no connections to Syberia. It does, however, use a similar interface and art direction.
Syberia was a commercial success. According to Cedric Orvoine of Microïds, the game surpassed 225,000 units in sales by February 2003, and had achieved nearly 350,000 global sales across its Xbox and computer versions by September. In North America, its computer version sold 60,158 retail copies during 2003 alone, and Orvoine noted in early 2004 that its Xbox version was "selling way over our initial expectations" in the region. Michel Bams of Benoît Sokal's White Birds Productions said that Syberia had reached "nearly 500,000 copies" in global sales that February, a number it surpassed by late 2005, according to Ubisoft. Worldwide sales of the overall Syberia series had topped 1 million units by 2008, and rose to 3 million by 2016, before the release of Syberia 3.
According to The New York Times, Syberia "received euphoric reviews" from critics. Based on 26 reviews, review aggregation site Metacritic estimated the game's critical reception as "generally favorable".
USA Today called the game "a solid pick", and CNN noted that "Syberia brings back adventure genre impressive graphics." Just Adventure called it the "Best Adventure Game at E3". However, it received a negative review from Charles Herold of The New York Times, who wrote that his "faith [in adventure games] is hanging by a thread, because I have been playing Microid's Syberia, the best adventure game of the year, and it's not very good.
Syberia was named the best computer adventure game of 2002 by PC Gamer US, Computer Gaming World, GameSpot, GameSpy and—tied with Silent Hill 2—The Electric Playground. It likewise won IGN's "Reader's Choice Award for Adventure Games" (2002). Computer Games Magazine declared it the tenth-best computer game of 2002, and presented it with an award for outstanding art direction. Similarly, the game won GameSpot's "Best Graphics (Artistic) on PC" prize. Syberia was also nominated for the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' "Story or Character Development" and "PC Action/Adventure Game" awards; the Game Developers Choice Awards' "Excellence in Visual Arts" prize; and GameSpot's "Best Story on PC" and "Best Game No One Played on PC" awards.
While awarding the game, the editors of Computer Gaming World called Syberia "the most emotionally rich adventure game since the great Sanitarium and a worthy reminder of how rewarding this struggling genre can be when put in the right hands." PC Gamer's Chuck Osborne praised its visuals and "epic story"; he concluded, "As Kate Walker, not only are you searching for the missing heir to an automaton factory in France, but you're also embarking on a feminist journey of self-discovery."
In 2012, Microïds revealed that Benoit Sokal had officially signed a contract with Anuman to write the story of Syberia III and that official development had started. Additionally the project was overseen by Elliot Grassiano, the original founder of Microïds. Syberia III was released in April 2017.
In 2006, MC2 France announced that a version of Syberia adapted by Tetraedge Games was released for smartphones using Symbian and Windows Mobile. In 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 they announced that DreamCatcher Games would be publishing the Nintendo DS version of Syberia in North America, for release in December 2008. An iOS version of the game was released in December 2014.
The Nintendo DS port took heavy criticism, receiving a 3.5/10 from GameSpot: most of the voice acting was stripped out and the graphics were simply shrunk down from the PC version which rendered many small plot-necessary objects almost impossible to locate.
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Until recently Eastern Europe and Russia were closed off from the outside world and we heard very little about them. That's what fascinated me and inspired me to create this journey.
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