Released in 2004 by Microids, Syberia II was the highly anticipated continuation of the wondrous tale that took our breath away in Syberia. Benoit Sokal has crafted the second half of the story with even more twists and turns to capture our imagination once more.
When we last saw Kate Walker, we were in Aralbad where she finally located the elusive and quirky Hans Voralberg. As the true and living heir to the Voralberg estate and factory, Kate gets Hans to sign the paperwork that will seal the deal to the sale of the Voralberg factory. After learning so much about Hans on the way, Kate is stuck in a moment of indecision. She sees in Hans his undying dream of the existence of mammoths in Syberia. This could be her last chance to continue this journey of a lifetime. What would she be leaving behind? Having discovered he committed the ultimate betrayal, Kate’s relationship with her fiancé is over. Her job is run by those who only care about business, not people. What should Kate do? At the very last moment, we see Kate running to catch the departing automaton train and confirming her decision.
If it’s been a while since you the last time you played Syberia, never fear. Microids graciously included a “Syberia Recap” right at the main menu to catch you up to speed. Syberia II comes packaged with 2 CD’s. The game loads quite easily and is technically sound.
The game begins with a cut scene of shadowy figures in a far away law office. They have been trying desperately to locate Kate. They have gone as far as hiring a private investigator to tail her who, unfortunately for them, always remains a few steps behind. Right now, Kate is on the train with Hans in route to the ultimate destination; Syberia. Oscar, our trusty automaton, is manning the helm as usual. So, does the addition of Hans to the team lessen Kate’s workload? No, of course it doesn’t. Kate still has to handle everything. As with Syberia, the journey is never a straight shot. There will be multiple stopovers filled with multiple problems which are enough to keep any gamer sufficiently busy.
Romansburg: A small working town below the train tracks. Curiously, a Colonel who mans the train station also wields control over a locked gate to the town below. The gate is meant to keep the undesirables (basically the whole town) from ever mingling with those who reside above. The town also provides the gateway to an isolated monastery high up on the mountain.
Much to Kate’s dismay, these monks aren’t a very welcoming group of men.
Wilderness & Tundra: Two equally beautiful locations filled with peril. Blistering cold weather, monumental snow drifts and unending amounts of snowfall await Kate. There are quite a few interesting surprises in both locations. Kate will need to utilize a ton of brain power here to escape from these two winter wonderlands. And, it’s very cool to see Kate’s footprints in the snow behind her which gently fade away as the continuing snow fills them in.
Youkal Village: A vast network of caves created underground within the confines of the icy tundra. The Youkals are a highly spiritual people shrouded in mystery and legend who followed the migration of the mammoth to the most north region eons ago. The Youkals are believed to have domesticated the mammoth which would seem to be an impossible task. As they are the key to Hans’ dream, Kate will have to open her mind to this ancient culture and be prepared for anything.
And, of course there is the final destination of Syberia. Or is there? You’ll have to play the game to see if Hans’ dream comes true.
Kate meets quite a few unusual characters. The most adorable addition is the Youki. A Youki is an animal that is related to both seals and dogs. It certainly looks like a combination of the two. The Youki’s sole motivation is food. He (“he” being an assumption) is such a funny animal and should evoke some smiles. But, with any good Benoit Sokal story, there must be a villain. Therefore, we have the dubious introduction of Ivan and Igor Bourgoff into the story. Their very appearance brings up memories of about 20 Disney movies. We have the tall brother (Igor) who is not exceptionally bright and we have the short, rather dumpy brother (Ivan) who is the nasty brains of the operations. The encounters with the contemptuous Ivan are numerous and most unpleasant. He truly becomes Kate’s arch nemesis and will annoy her to no end.
There are a multitude of other NPC’s to interact with. As with Syberia, lengthy dialog is a vital part of the game. The voice acting is outstanding and even better than the first game. Although the accents are still sporadic, the ones that are incorporated into the characters are appropriate. The dialog trees have been modified for Syberia II. Now, once a topic has been fully covered, it disappears from the conversation notepad. This discourages repeated conversations. Although this was a great improvement, some of the dialog trees were a bit odd even when systematically using the order provided. At times, Kate ends up regurgitating the same information using different wording which is totally unnecessary and a bit annoying.
Getting around is quite simple. Locations exits are clearly marked. Cursors are pretty standard for an adventure game. Inventory can be readily accessed during game play with a right click of the mouse. Double clicking will induce Kate to run. As with the first game, this is a welcome feature as there is a lot of ground to cover by foot. There is no in-game map to transfer you to another location quickly. Rushing is not an option. But then again, you may not want to rush in the first place. Microids flexed their beauty muscles again and brought us surroundings that are so lush and rich with detail. Each location is a sight to behold. You will want to behold, behold, behold. Beauty like this will be remembered. The cinematography can be covered in one word: WOW! Microids has done it again. The option to view cinematic scenes is still included in the menu and is worth viewing a second time (or third, fourth etc…). The soundtrack could rival any Hollywood movie.
The puzzles have increased a bit in difficulty. While Kate is still running around fetching items in order to get the train on its way, she also gets to flex a little more brain power. Of course, fixing Hans’ numerous automaton creations is a given. But, Kate has some new challenges like figuring out geographical coordinates transmitted from a plane crash site. There are quite a few puzzles involving deciphering ancient symbols in order to determine placement of items. You can also add in the challenge of dealing with some of the local wildlife. The improvements are a welcome upgrade.
The ending of the story is quite emotional and may spark a tear in your eye. But, it will have to be played in order to know if this is a tear of happiness or of sadness. This reviewer will never tell. Overall, Syberia II is an enchanting story brought to completion (although you may wish there was more). Syberia can easily be enjoyed by the novice and seasoned gamer alike. Even if you’re not into games heavy in dialog, the beauty alone is worth the purchase.
Final grade: 96/100