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SummaryBigger and bolder than the original, though not always for the better
The Good* Much more exciting storyline than the first
* Improved visuals
The Bad* Frustrating puzzles
* Environments lack variety compared to the first game.
* May be too far-out for some
The Bottom LineSyberia II was released in 2004, 2 years after its predecessor. Originally planned to be a part of the first game, the story was eventually split into two installments. As a result of this, Syberia II picks up exactly where the original left off.
After the events of the first game, Kate Walker, Oscar, and Hans Voralberg are traveling on the clockwork train towards the farthest reaches of Siberia in the hopes of finding Syberia (no, that’s not a typo), an island which is said to contain the last living population of wooly mammoths. After stopping in the last village in Siberia, Hans falls sick to an illness, and things just go from bad to insane from there on out. Meanwhile, Kate’s law firm have hired a detective to follow Kate into Siberia in the hopes of bringing her back to New York.
Compared to the first game, which was much more subdued and mysterious, Syberia II is far more action-packed and episodic. There are a lot of coincidences which take place over the course of the game, bumbling villains, daring escapes, noble sacrifices, absurd deaths, and even a dash of the supernatural. Personally, I think this is a much-needed change, but it also highlights the fact that this story was really split into two games. If Syberia was all buildup, then Syberia II is the payoff. At the same time, though, this approach will understandably turn off some fans of the first Syberia. That game was unusually grounded and subtle in its implementation of fantasy elements, and arguably more mature in its themes. By contrast, some of the things that happen during Syberia II require some extremely high suspension of disbelief. Imagine watching a Hollywood blockbuster sequel to a small independent film and you have a sense of just how big of a shift this is in tone.
It’s also a far harder game than the first one. The developers seriously cranked up the difficulty compared to the original game, and I think they might have went too far in some regards. A number of the puzzles suffer from poor visual design. There were a few times where it was impossible to accurately read a necessary clue for solving a puzzle. Some objects are so hard to see because they blend in so well with the backgrounds. The puzzles themselves seem to rely more on moon logic compared to the original game. Unlike the first game, the interactive objects aren’t highlighted, adding to the frustration. On top of that, some of the devices you have to manipulate in Syberia II are much more difficult to operate in general.
The worst offender is the size of some of the areas which separate the puzzles, which means minutes, potentially hours, of slow, aimless wandering until you either find what you’re looking for or just look at a walkthrough. I might have criticized the lacking puzzle difficulty in the original Syberia, but Syberia II only reinforces Microids’ decision to make the puzzles in that game so easy. When you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for the next story beat, the last thing you want to do is to get stuck on a puzzle about overcoming an arbitrary obstacle.
With the exception of the final section, the entire game takes place in an icy landscape, so the variety that was present in the first Syberia isn’t here. Nevertheless, this is undeniably a better-looking game than the first, and it ultimately ends up being a worthy tradeoff from scope to detail. The backgrounds are more alive, and there is a greater use of lighting and particle effects. Even the quality of the FMV’s has been punched up a notch. However, the 3D character animations look a bit jerky at times, and seem to get choppy whenever text appears on-screen, though this could be an issue with the Mac port. Overall, though, it’s hard not to be impressed with the improvements in the visuals between the two games.
If you played the first game, then Syberia II is essential. If you’re getting into the series for the first time, this isn’t where you want to start. That being said, I could understand why some will prefer the first game. The difficulty is cranked up far too much and the story is much more cartoonish and unbelievable. I personally enjoyed this crazy ride from beginning to end, even if the puzzles were extremely frustrating at times.