For any adventure fan who longed for some good old point-and-click action Syberia was truly a pleasant surprise. It was by many considered as the best adventure game of 2002, and proved that the genre was still alive. The story revolved around a female lawyer by the name of Kate Walker, who was sent to negotiate the takeover of an old toy factory. Once there she quickly realized that this place had a long history of making intricate automatons; robotic toys and servants who would both entertain and work in factories. Even though the owner of the factory recently died you soon find out that her brother, the genius behind the inventions, is still alive. Kate needed his signature to finish the deal, but that proved to be more difficult than she’d imagine. Hans - the brother - has had a long fascination with mammoths and a “make-believe” land of Syberia. Maybe there’s actually something to it?
Syberia 2 starts where the first game ended. You, Hans and your automaton servant Oscar have gone by train to the Siberian tundra. The train eventually runs out of coal, and your next adventure begins. During the game you’ll meet a number of more or less odd characters, ranging from monks, to a curious little girl, poor jobless people, criminals with motives of their own and of course, plenty more. The company who sent you on your original mission, and of course your relatives, are quite worried about you and do their very best to try and get you home. This’ll be a good test of your determination.
Since the game takes place in fairly desolate places you won’t be conversing all that much but instead, you’ll be solving puzzles and trying your best to progress the story. Syberia wasn’t a very hard game, but by no means was it easy. To me, not all the puzzles you face are all that logical, and involve a lot of trial and error. In some cases you can derive a solution by reading books and such, but not always. Whether this is a good thing or not probably depends on who’s playing the game, but I can promise you that you won’t be flying through the entire storyline without getting stuck a few times.
The actual gameplay is for the most part identical with the first game. You control Kate using the mouse, left clicking wherever you want her to go. The cursor is also context sensitive, so when it’s over something interesting it’ll change, letting you know that something can be observed more closely, or be interacted with. This way when you’re stuck you won’t have to try a gazillion odd interactions, just to hope you find the right one.
The graphics were another of Syberia’s strongest points. By mixing pre-rendered background with real-time rendered effects and characters the game looked very good. In Syberia 2 the attention to detail is possibly even more impressive, but beyond that the environments have also come much more to life. When playing the game you’ll see things like birds flying in the distance, squirrels running across railings, see snow fall down from the roofs of houses, very nice looking rivers, and people occupying themselves with whatever they have. The game also features a few other neat effects, like reflective puddles.
The advantage with combining pre-rendered background and real-time rendered characters and effects is that you don’t need a particularly fast PC. You should be able to play this game on just about any non-ancient PC, and even though you can’t adjust a lot graphics-wise in the options you can turn on anti-aliasing, which makes the characters blend in more with the rest of the game.
Syberia’s audio compliments the graphics in a very nice way. With all the ambient graphical effects it’s quite nice that an equal amount of attention has been put in the sounds. The game also has an excellent musical score, composed and directed by Inon Zur, the award-winning composer who also worked on games like Icewind Dale 2, Lionheart, and Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal. The music is quite emotional, and largely orchestra based. The music is used mostly to make a certain scene more stirring, such as the many cut-scenes, so you won’t be hearing a recurring theme song that gets annoying after the first hour.
Obviously, the characters from the first game still have the same voice overs, but there is also a decent selection of voice talents contributing on the rest of the game’s characters. I do wish they used a few more, because in some cases it’s quite easy to notice characters sounding A LOT like someone you spoke to an hour or two ago. The credits list thirteen voice talents for the English voices, but it’s also important to mention that French, German, Italian, AND Spanish voice-overs are included. The sound effects are also just as good as you would expect, leaving very little that could be improved on; perhaps only surround encoding.
In 2002 Syberia was exactly what the adventure genre needed. It was a superb game in many ways, and while Syberia 2 may not be as innovative today as Syberia was back then, it’s still a very solid sequel. The storyline isn’t entirely as interesting as it was in the previous incarnation, and not all the characters may be as fleshed out as they could be but it still does a good job of concluding the story. Syberia 2’s presentation is also very, very good. The game-world truly comes to life, more so than ever. The audio is also no less than great, even though there’s still some room for improvement.
I should warn you that the game is much more fulfilling if you’ve played and finished the first game, so if you haven’t done just that then you’ll have a lot of interesting hours ahead.