People like you, Miss Walker, end up never going home…
There is a place called Syberia. It is filled with sympathetic
characters, who live within a world of moody imagery, lilting music and
intricate mechanisms. Most of all, it has such a quiet and touching
story. When I wandered through its pathways, I was so charmed. As it
faded from my screen, I was happy that this game had been made with such
tenderness. Then I turned my mind to the future and the conclusion of
Kate’s journeys with Hans and her Oscar. Finally, spring came even to
Syberia, and the sequel was here.
Where does this train go…?
This journey began in the quiet village of Valadilene and led Kate
far away from all she had known. She now finds herself in a town on the
edge of a vast wilderness of ice and storm. There is a layer of gritty
snow settled into the nooks and crannies of the buildings below. It
seems that cast off people, places and things dwell here. Perhaps this
is where dreams and people go, when they step off a train and find to
their dismay, this is indeed the end of the line. This sense of futility
is enhanced by the presence of a monastery, perched high atop a nearby
peak. It hints of darker views on this world and the next. It is indeed
the home of retribution and superstition. All of which offers scant hope
to the residents of the patch worked town. However, Kate is not one to
let any obstacles keep her from her appointed tasks and she eventually
makes her way further along the rails. As she draws closer to the
possibility of Syberia, the mood and scenery lightens. After some
precarious moments, the scene is of a vast wilderness. All is alive and
in motion as you walk along with Kate. Glimpses of animals and other
touches create a gentle mood. There will be further stops along the way
before Kate has reason to cease her wanderings. But it is good to leave
these details for future discovery. Even Syberia reveals her secrets as
Ahhh the people you will meet and remembrance of things past…
As in Syberia 1, you will once again encounter a diverse group of
characters. Among the more memorable is Malka a child unclaimed by any
except an aging cabaret owner. As with Momo, I mused that perhaps Kate
could add one more companion to her little group. I would have liked to
see more of her in the story. There is Colonel Emiliov, who seemed bound
by the prejudices of those who seek safety in the idea that they live
above those trapped below, in that first town of up and down – ins and
outs. However, he does later reveal a kind heart and perhaps his
melancholy stems from his life weary step. The stark and unyielding ways
of an angry cleric does much to impede Kate’s progress and caused me to
muse over what or whom this cleric served. You will meet others who
until now had been nothing more than faded depictions in dusty books.
Of course we have our main companions; Hans, Oscar and the little
half dog/half seal creature, Youki. Acquired by Kate at her first stop,
he plays an integral part in a few of the challenges. More than that, he
is an engaging character and I have to admit I wouldn’t mind if such a
creature actually existed.
I expected to see more deeply into the inner workings of Hans in this
game. After all, it was his dream and persona that drew Kate deeper into
this adventure and whose quest is the pivot point for Syberia 2. However
other than one small chapter that reveals some salient clues into his
past, Hans was largely a wooden figure in this game. This disappointed,
but I settled in and moved into all the areas that were, in contrast,
more richly defined.
Though, I have a particular fondness for Oscar with his delicate
mechanisms and finicky ways, I found him to be more personable in this
game. He seems even closer to Kate and they have such ease about their
give and take. There is detectable warmth to their exchanges. Not merely
a tin man, his decisions and changes will show how much it can mean to
be human. Or perhaps, that our definition of humanity is sadly shallow.
Regardless, you will feel a pull on your heart in many places in this
game, with Oscar figuring in many of these moments.
There is also closure to many incidents and encounters from the first
part of this story and that was a nice touch to the storyline. There is
an oddly placed side story that centers on Kate’s rapidly receding
former life. I think perhaps a clean break would have been acceptable
and Kate could have discarded this life and its reminders easily enough.
However, it is interesting at times, did present some fascinating visual
and graphical contrast and doesn’t distract much from the flow of this
tale. As with part one, I think character depiction was an overall
strength in this game.
Fly me away on the wings of a song and all those little things
Lush musical passages were a highly attractive feature of the first
game. However, they were largely limited to the phenomenal cinematics. I
can’t praise these elements enough in the first part of Kate’s story –
but I did wish the music had more of a presence within the general game
world. I was very happy to find that this occurred in Syberia 2. There
were several locations where I loved the music so much, that I would not
only stand there for quite a while, but later would preserve specific
saves so that I could re-visit these places at will. It was that
pleasurable to just stand there and soak in the music one more time.
There was one selection in particular at the monastery that drew me back
time after time. There was a different composer employed for the sequel,
but once again team Syberia has excelled.
Are the graphics as good as anticipated? No – they are even better. I
found them to be so delectable. You could roll around in them or plaster
your office with them. Benoit had made mention of the subtle tweakings
achieved with the graphics engine and they were well appreciated. No
matter what I write, you will have to see them to really appreciate how
much can be achieved by the simplest gesture, expression or falling
snowflake. And it was not just in the delicate touches that the graphics
excelled. There is a place within the monastery compound where you will
enter a room where the perspective is such that is quite difficult to
consistently maintain proper perspective and proportions within an
interactive challenge. It is executed brilliantly. This amazing
attention to scale and dimension is featured over and again. I found
myself often just standing and watching all around me, to lay aside what
task or mission I was to finish and revel in this world apart.
Of sealing wax, clock work tracks, of ships and many things…
In the first game, the puzzles were extremely locked into the game
environment and were of a more practical nature. It wouldn’t be
unreasonable to regard them as challenges rather than actual “figure
this out” puzzles. I didn’t find this to be a flaw. To me, a large part
of evaluating a game is not so much whether it conforms to some
artificial shopping list of ingredients, but rather how well it achieves
the game play and structure chosen by the developers. Syberia is a story
driven game that is intended to absorb the player and not let them go
til the last credit appears. Difficult puzzles may absorb you in the
process, but they also tend to take you away from the story, the
characters and the mood of the game.
There were many more actual puzzles layered into the game play in
Syberia 2. Some are fairly simple to get through, but others are quite
intricate and even may involve securing items in multiple locations.
The variety of challenges has also been enhanced. Do you like to use
your inventory? That is good, as you will get your chance. Do intricate
mechanical enigmas get your puzzlers heart racing? Rest easy – they are
in here too. And last, but never least, there are the various train
related puzzles. Some of these challenges may seem elusive, but always
heed clues both passive and dialogue driven and you will fare well.
There are many more than you would think. It would seem that the Syberia
team did listen to gamers and although they term it mere “tweaking”
Syberia 2 steps many things up a notch from the first game.
Bridging the gap…
Although originally this game was scripted as one long continuous
story, many factors pushed the decision to divide the game into two
parts. It would be easy to assume that based on this early continuity,
there would be little contrast between the two games. But, that is not
the case. With the enhancements, subtle changes and varied plot basis,
Syberia 2 is in some ways extremely different. So is this good or bad?
This caused me a lot of indecision when writing this review. I truly
adored the first game. So much so, that I wrote an editorial about the
game and it’s impact rather than do a standard critique.
That game was slightly fuzzy around the edges. It wasn't perfect and
there were even a few glitchy places here and there. But to me, it was
so fresh, unique and achieved a rare emotional pull. In comparison,
Syberia 2 is a much more finely crafted game. I thought long and hard
about the puzzles, the characters, the graphics and game play. It is
hands down one of the more flawless games I have played in every
technical sense. So why do I still like the first game just a bit
better? After musing for some time it came down to a matter of
perspective. One, the first game was new, unusual. So some of the let
down comes from that newness not being a factor. The other is that the
two games come from entirely different places and perspectives. The
first is designed to wrap us up in the conversion and liberation of Kate
Walker. It is really her story and how she comes to end up on a
northbound train - instead of happily encamped in her ivory tower in
The second part of the story is the dream of Hans. It is not focused
on Kate or even Hans. It is instead focused on the great adventure, the
quest for mammoths and pursuit of myths. So rather than weigh one
against the other I decided which game was preferred would largely turn
on whether the gamer was more drawn to Kate Walker or the dream quest.
Both are amazing, both are beautifully made and both are worthy of high
So that is where I stand. I cannot give the sequel anything but the
high grade it so well deserves, yet I will always hold a special place
in my heart for the game that began it all.
And what about the mammoths you may ask. Will we see Mammoths! Hmmmm,
I did mention the mammoths at the beginning of this review, didn’t I?
Well…the answer to that riddle lies only in the wilds of Syberia, where
you must journey and find out for yourself.
Final Grade: A+
I played this game on the following system: