When you’re out in freezing temperatures, sometimes it’s not really the cold that bothers you so much as the wind.
Unquenchable by its very nature, the wind surrounds you and attacks head on from every direction. Like a fan of infinite knives, it cuts you down to your core where only your resolve will determine what is left. The cold may kill you after a long enough period of time, but it’s the wind that may just well make you embrace it.
The winds of change can often be just as cruel, especially when it comes to video games. Technology doesn’t always age well, and while I’ve personally always chose to focus on the artistic side of gaming, the truth remains that gaming is based on technology, and Syberia II just goes to show that artistry can only cover those limits so much.
Syberia II is a pure point and click adventure game, built very much in the style of Myst. Like that adventure classic, Syberia II’s greatest strengths are story and environment. The environment of the game in particular is worth dwelling on for a while, as it mixes both an old and simple land with the clockwork toy inventions of an eccentric…well genius or mad man based on who you ask. It’s an incredible dynamic and leads to a world that really is unlike any other.
The story is a bit more of a mixed bag. On the outset, it’s an intriguing little yarn centered around a specific story of a woman helping a crazed inventor find some mythical mammoths, and a grander story of the perils and triumphs that come when we truly decide to plunge into the darkness and chase our dreams, as well as an interesting examination of machinery vs. spirituality.
Unfortunately it’s not told very well. The voice acting was always somewhat sketchy and certainly hasn’t aged very well over the years, but the bigger offender is the writing. The dialogue in this game is incredibly stilted, and hurts what is actually a very good overall tale with its inability to really compel or excite the player moment to moment as it unfolds.
The nail in the coffin, though, would be the gameplay. The first Syberia received quite a bit of flak for its uninspired puzzles, and while those are much improved in the sequel, what hasn’t changed is the general lack of excitement the game inspires. By their very nature, titles in the point and click genre aren’t exactly action-packed, but the failing of Syberia II is that it doesn’t really make the effort to add any further entertainment value.
Compare Syberia II to the adventure games of the golden age of LucasArts, or the works of Tim Schafer, and you’ll find the difference is the effort those games made to create entertainment value out of otherwise dull moments, largely through humor or sudden occurrences. Syberia II, on the other hand, relies too heavily on its gorgeous design and grand story. To be perfectly frank, neither of those elements have aged particularly well in comparison to modern gaming.
It’s that lack of entertainment value that holds Syberia II back from the upper echelons of this genre. Is it a grand adventure with ambition and scope that almost any gamer can admire? Most certainly. Is it fun to play? Not particularly.
The winds of change can be cruel indeed. With Syberia II, they have turned a once mighty testament to the narrative and cinematic possibilities of gaming, into a relic of an era gone by.
A grand adventure that is ultimately hindered by its lack of entertainment value, Syberia II is for point and click purists only.