Available on: PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, Windows Mobile, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, OS X
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Graphic Adventure, Puzzle
Official Site: http://www.syberia.microids.com/EN/
Release Date: (for the Switch) October 20, 2017
Where to Buy it: Nintendo eShop, Steam, Google Play, App Store
Over 15 years ago, Syberia, which was developed by Microïds, was first released for the PC. It was received as a success from both critics and players alike, both boasting on the game’s design and script. I’m here to tell you, all these years later, that some games don’t stand the test of time as well as others. Syberia is one of those games. Don’t get me wrong, for the Nintendo Switch, the game is a perfect match. Microïds’ choice to re-release this game and its sequel on the Switch was a great idea. But as a game in general, especially one that’s acclaimed for its script, there must’ve been a case of “lost in translation” when the voice actors came in to voice their characters. Or maybe the script just wasn’t good. Either way, Syberia suffers from it.
My biggest issue with this game, and what I believe to be the deciding factor on my rating, is the script and voice acting. I’m honestly not sure which one’s fault it is, but it doesn’t matter; both aren’t any good. The script feels like it’s written with a shaking hand; there are moments where it works, but for the most part… I think that it could’ve translated much more efficiently off paper. There are so many exclamation points! It all feels off, forcing the voice actors to make do with what they were given. I could feel that awkwardness in the characters’ voices, like their actors weren’t quite sure what to make of the script.
At times, the dialogue was essential in order to fully understand Kate Walker’s decision at the end of the game (i.e. her fight with her fiance, Dan). But the importance of these segments doesn’t change the fact they feel as if they are taken straight out of a B movie. Because of these reasons, I couldn’t become emotionally invested in the game like I had hoped when I first looked up what it was about. The story is intriguing and as unique as anything I’ve seen in a video game–the clockpunk and art nouveau aspects pushing the limits of technology–but the distance that the dialogue and voice acting creates is one that cannot be made up. By the end of the game, as much as I loved the story, I realized that I hadn’t been emotionally invested in it.
For example, there are numerous instances when characters use the word “retard” to describe Hans Voralberg or Momo. As a child, Hans fell on his head and went into a coma for a while, coming out of it a completely different person. But a “retard”? I think not. More like a genius. The usage of the word would’ve made sense if it were used by characters that had showed they had no regard for other people’s feelings, but that isn’t the case. An esteemed professor, Cornillius Pons–whom Kate meets on her journey–at the Barrockstadt University even distinguishes Hans by this title. There’s no point in it, especially since Pons knows that Hans is anything but a “retard.” Syberia throws the word around carelessly, without regard as to who could be playing, and it really weighs the script down with a heavy burden. Maybe it has to do with the time when the game was first released back in 2002, yet I don’t think using that word without reason was ever warranted. Was it?
Sure, there are some elements that disappointed me in Syberia, especially after hearing all the great things about the game when I first discovered it. But the aspect that has stood the test of time, the defining feature of the title, is the graphic adventure style that you are tasked with playing the game in. There’s a certain amount of beauty that the graphic adventure style brings to the table: one with expansive landscapes and aesthetic architecture. The still camera view is reminiscent of Life is Strange, forcing players to focus on the game in order to solve the puzzles that are presented to them. Even better, the Nintendo Switch is a perfect platform for this style of game. So if you’ve been a fan of Syberia for awhile, and you have a Switch, then I suggest the investment.
Focusing is important in Syberia, because you’ll most likely miss a gateway to another area if you don’t look around enough. That’ll be frustrating at first because you’ll have no idea where to go but will teach you to keep your eyes peeled for anything important: keys, documents that shed essential information for solving puzzles, entrances to new areas, and other items. Every item serves its purpose in time, much like every interaction Kate has changes her drastically. It’s too bad, though, that these exchanges don’t resonate on an emotional enough level as they’re meant to.
Verdict: Syberia is a classic that boasts artistic style over a fully developed script. The game is a graphic adventure with a unique and intriguing story, set in a beautiful world perfectly suited for the Nintendo Switch. Although true, the story ends up not resonating on an emotional enough level that is essential for understanding the characters’ decisions, mainly due to the poor script and awkward voice acting. Unfortunately, these problems force players to disconnect with the characters as the game progresses.
- Unique and intriguing story
- Graphic adventure style works well for this game
- Nintendo Switch being a perfect choice of console
- Lacks emotional resonance
- Consistent, unwarranted usage of "retard"
- Voice acting
- Poor script