Maestro Sokal did not live to see the release of his last project: at the time of his departure, work on Syberia: The World Before game is was in full swing. We will never know if he was calm that the new game would be a worthy successor to the first, cult parts. However, the developers from the Microids studio did not in vain devote their work to the legendary designer: almost everything in it bears the imprint of the vision and talent of Benoit Sokal.
Music has tied us
1937, the best student of the music academy, Dana Rose, prepares for her most important concert: a performance on the main square of the city of Wagen, accompanied by a mechanical orchestra. Her future looks bright and wonderful, a talented student is waiting for her studies in Paris and a musical career. But one nuance overshadows the joyful day: Dana is a warden, one of those who live in the ghetto and are bullied by the thugs from the Brown Shadows. Fortunately, this can be forgotten for a while. Dana goes to work during the summer holidays in a mountain camp and meets her first love there. From that moment on, everything changes for her.
2004, Kate Walker languishes in captivity in a salt mine: it seems that in the third part they chased her the whole game “just like that” to be sold into slavery. Her cellmate, Katyusha, helps her not to lose heart. The girls have a very close relationship, and the authors insistently point out this fact several times – special, you understand, special relationship!
From the writers’ point of view, beloved Katyusha is needed to make sense of Kate Walker’s next mirage chase. It is she who draws attention to the fact that the girl from the drawing found in the depths of the mine is like two drops similar to Kate, and insistently demands that she find out everything about her. But it is easy to see that by the time Kate decides to set off in search of a mysterious model, she does not have a single intelligible life goal left. You can’t return home, there she is waiting for a lawsuit from her former employers. Relations with friends are lost, relatives are no more. Involuntarily, you will grasp at the illusory hope that there is still at least some kind of connection. And, after all, did Miss Walker ever need a good reason to travel?
If the previous parts of Syberia were full-fledged adventures, now a real detective awaits us. We gradually unravel the story of Dana Rose by finding documents, talking to witnesses and solving familiar puzzles. Everything important is shown in the first person: not only Dana, but also a number of other characters will have to manage. No matter how dear Kate Walker is to anyone, this time she is not the main character. The story of the young pianist develops into an epic saga of good and evil, loyalty and betrayal, love and hate.
Failure of Syberia 3did not pass without a trace for the studio. This time, the technical side of the game was given maximum attention. Not everything turned out as planned, but the result is already noticeable: there are practically no problems with control throughout the game. Moreover, both with a gamepad and with a mouse, although, of course, it is more convenient to move around with a stick, and digging into mechanisms with a mouse is much easier. The camera remained pinned to one point, but now it changes angles more meaningfully. The authors have once again reworked the inventory, now it is much more convenient to use items. And at the same time, they took into account that the heroine now and then has to throw coins into different machines (telephone and vending). Contrary to tradition, the player is not forced to hunt for everyone in the corners: Kate has a wallet with her, and there is always the right penny in it.
But the animation turned out to be the weakest side of the project along with the character models. The developers tried to get away from excessive caricature, which looked ridiculous in the three-dimensional third part. Basically, they coped with this task, but the points earned were eaten by the clumsiness of the movements of secondary characters: many suddenly began to suffer from excessively narrow shoulder girdle, which makes the actors look like tadpoles from the side. This is especially annoying in the case of Leon. The plot does its best to portray him as the ideal lover, but the charm dissipates when you look at his ridiculous postures and grimaces. Katyusha was also unlucky: for the girl, they came up with an excellent backstory of the soloist of the children’s choir, who grew up and founded a punk band. But before the player, the rebel libertarian appears with a sheep’s eye and a sticky stupid grin.
If the character designers and animators could not find a common language with the Unity engine, then the environment artists and directors squeezed every last drop out of it. The game is emphatically unhurried, the narration develops slowly, each dialogue is rich in MKhAT pauses, each trip or trip turns into a “Cinema Travel Club”. Sometimes such a presentation feels a little intrusive, making the already unhurried gameplay protracted: you don’t have to look for the dialogue skip button, it’s not here. But every hesitation is another reason to note how beautiful the world of Sokal’s Siberia is. It is no coincidence that most side quests send heroes to explore the location, chat with passers-by, explore the surroundings, admire the views and explore the premises. Every map (with the possible exception of the notorious salt mine) is full of “useless” corners.
In previous episodes
The writers of “The Memory of the Past” did not develop the clues given in the finale of the third part, and pretended that they did not really remember what happened there at all. The authors began to tell a new story as if nothing had happened: Oscar’s heart still serves as Kate Walker’s medallion, and the mysterious pursuers have dispersed without a trace. But the creators did not stop there and along the way rewrote the plot details familiar from the first parts.
You can forget about the reclusive and crippled Hans Voralberg, whose main inventions were the train and the Oscar automaton: in the fourth part, all of Europe is full of Hans’s achievements. It turns out that in the thirties, while still a student, he invented and helped build a magnificent mechanical orchestra in Wagen. After the Second World War, he invented an automatic wheelchair, and not only: Hans, now the founder of Voralberg Manufacturing, directed the products of his factories to the restoration and modernization of the city. From the workbenches of Voralberg came not only mechanical toys, but also automaton-controlled amphibious trams, trains, vending machines and other technical achievements. Although we remember that Hans, whom we knew, went missing in 1938, don’t we?
Ostertal, the country in whose capital the main action of the fourth “Siberia” takes place, is located at the intersection of reality and fiction. According to geographical and historical signs, it takes the place of Austria – but the real Austria also exists in this world. Wagen suffers from the Jewish pogroms of World War II – but here they are called Vageran. Instead of disparate locations where the events of previous games took place, Sokal created a whole state – and it, pushing the fabric of reality, firmly settled on the position of the victorious steampunk. The share of traditional mystical miracles very naturally fits into the Ostertal, and one does not want to leave it. The player is encouraged to linger at every step: it is worth taking a tram or doing introspection (new mechanics), as after a short video the game turns into a looped admiration of the surroundings.
But maybe not all the familiar moments were worth rewriting? Take at least an Oscar: the authors announced in the announcements that he would return to history, so this is not a spoiler. Undoubtedly, the sarcastic and absurd robot is one of the best characters in the game. But remember how we wept over the scene in Syberia II where the poor automaton sacrificed himself to support the dying Hans? This touching sacrifice cost him nothing: if the heart remained intact, then it can be transferred to any suitable body. This deheroization of the image occurred in the previous part, but this time the first meeting with the “resurrected” Oscar came out somehow stupid.
By the end of the restless Kate will have the opportunity to think about real life and their own place. She could return home, deal with her problems and even reconcile with her sworn friend … But one careless glance, one random memory – and now she is already flying towards a new destiny. Will we find out what awaits her in the future, or will Microids not dare to continue the story of their beloved heroine without the participation of Benoit Sokal?
The end, of course, always comes. And maybe it’s even better that Kate will remain forever leaving somewhere to unknown lands, to unknown meetings and discoveries. Both in the first game and in the last.