Reviews - Updated on March 24, 2022

Actual for the platform: PC

Brilliant French artist, screenwriter and game designer Benoit Sokal passed away last May. Syberia: The World Before was his last game, a swan song. And this farewell turned out with tears in his eyes, and also – with a smile, a grin, sometimes with surprise or even bewilderment – in general, with a full range of feelings that Sokal’s games always evoked.

Looking for a girl

At first there was surprise. Kate Walker, the heroine of the cult series of quests Syberia, at the very beginning of the new game, he looks like a real cool rock star and punk – I love those! True, she herself adores her cellmate, already a real punk rocker Katyusha, but in her hands she does not have a guitar, but a pickaxe. After the events of the third part, Kate found herself imprisoned in some kind of mine, where she works in the mines with Katyusha.

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

Can you guess which one is Kate?

Then there was bewilderment and even a feeling of embarrassment for the developers. When the girls had a chance to run away, Kate decided… no, not to finally return home to New York, from where she had just received a letter about the fate of her mother, but to go in search of an unknown girl from a newly found pre-war drawing. Why? Well, simply because Katyusha asked her to, who thinks that that girl looks like Kate.

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

Is it really similar?

It is clear that the former New York lawyer is always chasing mirages, and it seems that she does not care who she is looking for – mammoths in the far northern islands or an unknown girl from an old drawing. She and other characters often remind us of this later, and this generally becomes one of the main themes of the game. But in the prologue, such a plot of new adventures looks frankly strained and ridiculous. As well as the fact that Kate went in search of a motorcycle that has stood stalled for almost 60 years. Katyusha tweaked something there, and off we went. Oh well…

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

In the mine they dress like a punk concert.

Unfinished piece for mechanical piano

Then there was pure delight. The action will switch to Dana Rose, the same girl from the drawing (yes, now we have two main characters, and the story constantly jumps from the present to the past and back), we find ourselves in 1937, in the city of Wagen, the capital of the fictional state of Ostertal. And we more than get what was so lacking in Syberia 3 – insanely beautiful “Sokalev” landscapes that immediately return us to the atmosphere of the first and second parts.

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

I would live in this city.

Here, every little street, every house, every room, every mechanism and automaton, every wheel on the tram are written down to the smallest detail. What a delicious mix of art nouveau and steampunk – pure aesthetic orgasm! Yes, in some places there are problems with textures and facial animation, but this does not spoil the overall picture. And from this point of view, it seems completely appropriate to be able to just sit in a tram and enjoy the views until we decide to get out ourselves.

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

Yes, the tram is controlled by an automaton and walks, including on water.

And Syberia: The World Before It is a pleasure not only for the eyes, but also for the ears. Music has always played a big role in the series, but here it sets the tone and mood of the whole story already at the very beginning, when Dana Rose plays the Wagen anthem on the music square, and she is accompanied by an automaton orchestra. The eminent Inon Zur wrote one of his best soundtracks specifically for the latest game by Benoit Sokal – many thanks to him for this. And special thanks for my favorite Chopin, who also sounds here.

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

Pure Falcon.

What was it?

The story itself is already more complex and sometimes ambiguous feelings. On the one hand, almost all of it is “pulling an owl on a globe”, which in general often happened with Sokal – here, as I already mentioned, there are a lot of far-fetched and even ridiculous moments. Well, imagine: Dana Rose, the first day working as a waitress, meets a famous woman photographer in a mountain camp (a local analogue of Leni Riefenstahl), and she calls her, asks to put expensive equipment in a chest, close it and hide the key in a cache, motivating this the fact that, they say, the owner’s daughter can steal. Although she herself, in fact, sees Dana for the first time, she could not help but notice how she communicates with this very daughter …

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

We can then see what the photographer took.

It is clear that the authors needed this situation to illustrate the mechanics of switching between Dana and Kate, so that in 2005 we could see where the key was hidden in 1937. But it turns out that the story follows the riddles, and not vice versa – this is not entirely correct.

In another situation, when Kate comes to the music academy where Dana studied and asks for her dossier, the rector in response asks to fix the complex mechanical orchestra and play the Wagen anthem. Yes, he wants an ordinary tourist, whom he sees for the first time, to do this. To a reasonable question about how Kate will play, if the last time she sat at the piano in her school years, the rector replies that there is nothing complicated, you just need to know the notes and play them correctly. Although in 1937, in the very first scene where Dana sang the anthem, she was worried because she understood (and the teacher emphasized this!) that she needed to play professionally and cool – only then the automatons would start working and enter. So is it enough just to know the notes or do you still need to be the best student of the music academy?

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

Much is connected with this square and the mechanical orchestra.

And finally, the story of Ludwig completely jarred me (at least at first). I will not go into details and will only say that the plot features … Bigfoot (they are called Goruns here), who became a Resistance fighter during the Second World War. Again, it is clear that Sokal always bizarrely mixes reality with fiction, and in this series we have already seen live mammoths and accompanied a herd of snow ostriches. And yet, in this case, the yeti-superpartisan seems like overkill …

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

Resistance fighters…

On emotions

On the other hand, these are all details that may raise questions, but still are not able to spoil the overall impression. And even with the yeti-superpartisan in the end you reconcile – everything falls into place. After all, in general, we got one of the most emotional and touching stories in games in recent times, which also evokes many different feelings. There is also nostalgia from the number of references to past parts of the series. And the joy associated, of course, with Kate’s old friend, the automaton Oscar, who now lives in the body of a funny little armadillo and is very worried about this.

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But he is not quite happy with his new body.

And a lot of sadness. If in the third part Sokal considered the topic of totalitarianism, then here he talks about fascism, from which Dana and her family suffered – like the whole Vagen. Although the stories of people still remain in the first place – the drama of Dana, the search for herself by Kate, who does not know whether she should return and come to terms with her former life or continue running after the next mirages.

There was, of course, a place for sincere surprise and even amazement. There is enough intrigue, unexpected meetings and twists in history. And she herself is staged like an exciting movie – skillfully, pointwise, with different locations, eras and characters between which we are thrown. It’s especially great when people from different times are on the same screen and Dana hugs next to Kate, sitting in an empty car, and … However, you will find out for yourself. Yes, it is also a love story – very beautiful and sad.

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

These are characters from different time periods.

And it’s actually a very symbolic scene. Because the seemingly far-fetched search for the unknown girl in the drawing ends up getting hung up on the story of Kate herself (another ridiculous accident!). And in the finale, we get one of the most powerful and heartbreaking scenes in recent times, which for me can only be compared with the final dialogue of Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us Part II. Yes, Syberia: The World Before – these are also tears, but bright, one might say cleansing …

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This is a linear adventure – it does not change from our choice.

Comfort Adventure

It is also an exciting adventure game that blends the tradition of the series with modern standards of convenience and comfort. Syberia 3 also tried to be like this, but it didn’t succeed by far. And here you can see that the authors have worked on the bugs and fixed almost everything. This applies to movement, the camera (there are still problems, but everything is much better) and hotspots – the latter are now visible on the screen by default, which eliminates tedious pixel hunting. There are fewer items in the inventory, and there is no need to delve into it at all – everything is used in the case and is appropriate, even if you have to throw Oscar like a stone out the window. There is also a very handy hint system, which can be turned off if desired.

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

Hints do not appear immediately, but active points are already visible at the entrance to the location.

And at the same time it’s still the same Syberia, where you have to fiddle a lot with the mechanisms and set up the amazing automatons of Hans Voralberg. Somewhere this is done quickly – you need to open the door, replace the part, scroll the lever and the like. Somewhere, the logic is no longer everyday, but very funny – it was funny to launch Oscar the battleship into the mechanism to the indignant cries of the latter.

True, first it was necessary to catch Oscar himself.

And somewhere you have to connect the gray matter and solve a more complex problem. There are exercises on deciphering a digital code, setting up a radio transmitter using Morse code, wandering through a maze, looking for the right place on the map, selecting codes from coordinates in photographs that we ourselves took, and much more. In general, the riddles, perhaps, have become a little easier, but they still make you strain your brains. Although this time the hint system already mentioned is always at the service – the authors do not hide the fact that history and atmosphere are in the first place.

Syberia: The World Before: Обзор

Automatons and related mysteries are everywhere.

And to this they added the mentioned mechanics of switching between characters. You already understood how it works in the case of jumping from Kate’s body to Dana and back – we are transported to the past, we look at what code was set on the automaton in 1937, we return and set the same one in 2005. This is a simple example, but there are more interesting situations.

This is how it looks.

In addition, a couple of times we need to switch between Oscar and Kate, when, for example, as an animal, we crawl where the heroine cannot reach, collide with an obstacle and turn Kate back on to help the stuck armadillo. This gameplay is refreshing, and allows you to slightly relieve tension in this dramatic story.

Feeling yourself in the body of an armadillo is not very comfortable.

Of course, in the quest part there are conventions and situations when the story follows the puzzles, and not vice versa. Seeing a flimsy padlock in a shed in a cemetery, Kate will not take one of the stones to hit it, but will look for a pickaxe hidden somewhere behind the fence. And only the presence of psychic abilities will be able to explain the fact that Kate can switch to Dana and understand what she saw on the combination lock and where she found the elevator in 1937.

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Here’s some more beauty for you.

Syberia For many, this is not just a game, but love for life. And for them, the main feeling that The World Before broadcasts, especially its final scene, which directly refers to the ending of the first part, which came out exactly 20 years ago, is light sadness. Because it doesn’t matter if there will be a fifth part or not (and the hint of a sequel is being read), the main thing is that we understand that Kate has finally found herself, new adventures await her. Which means everything will be fine with her. Goodbye (hopefully), Kate Walker. Farewell, dear Benoit Sokal, and thank you for everything.

Pros: rich in a variety of emotions, a finely staged story that reconciles Kate Walker with herself and leaves hope for a sequel; now we have two charismatic heroines at once; well-written characters; Oscar is back with us; many interesting puzzles and situations; the mechanics of switching between heroines (and sometimes you can play as Oscar!) well fit into the gameplay; recognizable atmosphere of the first two games in the series; incomparable design and landscapes; amazing soundtrack; extremely successful full Russian localization (although rare errors happen).

Minuses: there are enough moments in the story and gameplay that can be called far-fetched; technical implementation is still imperfect.

5/5 - (1 vote)
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