Syberia: The World Before will feel instantly familiar to those who have played adventure games.
I went into Syberia: The World Before expecting a standalone title that didn’t require knowledge of the games before it. It’s a long-running franchise, so I didn’t expect they would still be connected after all this time. However, this was clearly not the case the first time I jumped into The World Before. As a Syberia rookie, I immediately jumped out of my game session to do a little research before I jumped back in.
Time to research
I am generally a little obsessive about playing or watching media in chronological order and usually refuse to start something unless I’ve already completed what came before it. I had to put this aside this time though, and while I still had less investment into some of these characters than those who played the previous titles (although from what I’ve read, I was lucky to miss Syberia 3), The World Before was worth playing.
Do you care about continuity?
From what I understand, The World Before begins almost immediately where 3 left off. Militants kidnap longtime series protagonist Kate Walker, who is then forced to work in a salt mine. After receiving a letter from an old friend with some upsetting news, Kate must move up the timing of her planned escape.
However, the game is told not just through the viewpoint of one protagonist but two: the other is a woman named Dana Roze. The story takes place in both the early 2000s as well as the 1940s in a fictional setting of Europe during World War II. Throughout Kate’s journey, she’ll uncover and learn more about who Dana Roze is while exploring fictional areas of Europe in her own time.
Syberia: The World Before is a gorgeous game that benefitted from getting delayed last year. The city where Syberia takes place, Vaghen, has intricately detailed set-pieces filled with characters and an almost steampunk aesthetic that brings the world to life. Puzzles are brought to life through highly detailed points of interest that players will engage with in the world.
Characters and environments outside of the city are just as beautiful as the things that will take up the game camera’s interest; I often found myself marveling at just how great it looked. Characters are well animated, with an emphasis on making sure expressiveness is portrayed, and a majority of the performances are just as good as the visuals.
Core gameplay will feel familiar
Those who have played one of the TellTale story-driven games will know what to expect gameplay-wise. Taking control of these two characters, you’ll explore the world around you, learn about the people in it, and solve puzzles. Because the story is told from two perspectives, it’s a bit more intricate than the aforementioned titles, but the understanding of the storytelling design really helps elevate Syberia: The World Before in a way that will likely hook most players. It’s smart game design that we don’t see often. The last game I remember actually playing and enjoying like this was Eternal Darkness all the way back on GameCube.
The thing is, I’m not sure if playing through Syberia: The World Before has done quite enough to make me want to go back and play through the first three games. It’s likely because I’m not fully invested in these characters enough at this point in the Syberia timeline, but it’s an enjoyable 14-hour adventure that deals with character dilemma, war, and sense of self.
There’s some tough subject matter here, handled very delicately, much like the developers of Hellblade did. Things end on a cliffhanger though, so if I do decide that I’m going to play the next entry, I’ll make sure to go back and get through the first three titles before I do. If you’re unsure about whether to pick it up, you can always check out the demo.
Game Freaks 365 received a review copy.