While this may well be the fourth and final chapter of Syberia, Benoit Sokal has somehow managed to make it the best in the series.
Releasing to critical acclaim earlier this year following his untimely, unfortunate death, Microids have now brought Kate Walker’s stunning new adventure to consoles and I’ve been immersing myself in its charms on Xbox Series X.
And while I enjoyed the original Syberia games when they released during the Adventure Game rush, I would always go back to the Lucasarts or Sierra titles. This, however, is my favourite journey to this fascinating world yet and a stunning cinematic recreation that grips you from the word go.
Rather than pointing and clicking, this time Microids have opted for a more Life is Strange esque approach where you can roam freely on the left stick with a handful of interaction points found around the home. That said, decisions don’t weigh too heavily on the main story arc.
There are optional objectives to find, uncover and pursue, and there are certain things you can say and do in various situations that will elicit different responses from characters, but there’s no clear relationship builder or flow that’s retained through the game.
That’s because you will move quite freely through time throughout the game, jumping from the 1930s, to the 80s and onto the modern day as you play, once again, as a returning Kate Walker but also a new face to the series, Dana Roze.
Dana is an aspiring, promising pianist who tries to fulfil her potential in a world overshadowed by the threat of World War 2. Yet, somehow, her fate is deeply intertwined with Kate Walker, a New York lawyer, who is trying to escape a Salt Mine in 2004.
As such, this story is quite self contained. There are, of course, plenty of references to Kate’s previous journies and the fact she’s even in the Salt Mines to begin with is the result of what happened in prior adventures, but you don’t need to have played Syberia before to enjoy this game.
There is a Recap on the Menu Screen and it’s comprehensive enough, but it essentially covers the basics and doesn’t go too deeply into some of the details Kate eludes to from time to time. Introspection at certain points in the game does also give you some relevant context but ultimately this is its own adventure.
This is an emotional journey that sees both Kate and Dana go through some turbulent circumstances. Dana and her family are often persecuted in Vaghan despite trying to get on with their lives. Kate, meanwhile, is dealing with the death of her mother and a loss of friendships due to an obsession that has seen her travel all over the world in search of answers and automatons.
The World Before moves quickly between scenes, logically tying up its journey through time without leaving the player confused, and sometimes enabling you to alternate between two different time periods in the same place to see it from different perspectives. It’s a really clever, fun way to solve puzzles that more than passes a resemblance to the great Day of the Tentacle.
In fact, the entire game feels like the natural evolution of the Point and Click Adventure. The engine, while not the best on the market, is beautiful, allowing Vaghan to come to life through its stunning flower arrangements and architecture. And the lighting really helps the place shine and radiate.
With its use of automatons and its journeys to mountain tops, differing districts and remote houses, the setting feels unlike anywhere else you’ve explored while still exuding a distinct European charm.
Minor gripes aside like some frame rate hiccups and texture breakup, this has been an absolute delight to play. The World Before is an adventure I was desperate to see unfold, fascinated to see what came next, and invested in its two leads to see how they come together.
It is a fitting tribute to the beautiful world Benoit Sokal created all those years ago and a great way for players to take one last trip with Kate Walker, peeling back some unexpected, welcome layers of a complex character we already know so much about.
Syberia – The World Before is a wonderfully directed, well-flowing story that keeps you guessing and invested through developing mechanics, varied puzzle solving and well written characters. There are some minor performance issues but nothing that holds the adventure back from being a fitting, apt conclusion and the best installment in a series that began nearly 20 years ago.
+A beautifully realised world
+Well-paced and directed
+Smart puzzle solving
+Great writing and acting
– Some minor performance issues
– You will occasionally have a battle with the controls
Syberia – The World Before is out now on PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Switch
Played on Xbox Series X
Code Kindly Provided by Microids
You must be logged in to post a comment.