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How does a 20-year-old adventure game franchise survive and adapt to the modern age? Syberia, a series launched during the early 2000s adventure game Dark Age, managed to hold onto and expand into the modern era. Syberia: The World Before, originally released earlier this year, will be released on November 15 for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.
Adventure games have evolved in modern times thanks to the adaptations of developers like Telltale. Most adventure games can be broken down into games that resemble the original adventure games from the 80s and 90s, such as Ron Gilbert’s Return to Monkey Island, and games that have built-in selectors, such as Telltale or Supermassive titles. In those respects, Syberia, which is very similar to how the first game launched in 2002, is a bit of an outlier.
GamesBeat spoke with Lucas Lagravevette, the director of Syberia: The World Before, about the series’ long-running history and survival in the modern video game market. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: In regards to The World Before, what was it like adapting that franchise, story and gameplay for a modern audience?
Luke Lagrave: As you know, when we started working on the third installment, it was all the beginning of the Telltale mania, if I may say so. It was a point-and-click revival, but in a different way. We wanted to be part of that. On The World Before, with the experience of what we were trying to make in the third installment – other games were coming up, games like Quantic Dream’s, or even Supermassive games. Until Dawn was actually a great reference for us regarding the controls of the game.
GamesBeat: So that was the kind of gameplay you worked for [Syberia: The World Before]? Because it’s not exactly the same as the original point-and-click style, but it still has that point-and-click feel.
Lagrave: Yes, exactly. It was very important to us that the fourth episode was fully playable with just a mouse. But it was also a big challenge to make it fully playable with a controller as well. For our level design team, it was like designing each level twice. It had to work with a mouse and it had to work with a controller. We also had the puzzle dimension, something not many modern adventure games or story games do. That’s our thing.
GamesBeat: How do you think Syberia, and the genre of adventure games in general, has changed since the first Syberia came out in 2002?
Lagrave: The modern formula is more of a story-driven triple-A narrative immersive game, like Quantic Dream or even Supermassive. That’s one direction and one click took. You also have the very old-fashioned style – I say this in a positive way – like what they did with the last Monkey Island, which is really aimed at hardcore fans of the series. I think we’re trying to be between those two coasts.
GamesBeat: In what ways do you think adventure gaming has stayed the same since the turn of the millennium?
Lagrave: The triple-A games, maybe they put the puzzles and riddles aside a bit to do more action-oriented sequences. Even though they are very easy to play. Very action oriented. We tried to keep the puzzle dimension, which for us is a pillar of Syberia’s gameplay. But again, be inspired by more modern games that make puzzles. The room [the video game series] is one of our references. It’s not the only one, but it’s one of our references for the puzzle sequences.
GamesBeat: Now that you’ve done The World Before, what was it like continuing Kate’s story?
Lagrave: When I played the first two games, just before my interview for my internship for Syberia 3, it was 10 years after they were released. I was amazed at how modern Kate’s treatment and her psychological evolution was. I really wanted us to move on with that. It matched Benoit Sokal’s vision of The World Before, which was very much about Dana Roze [the deuteragonist of The World Before] and the way her story connected with his own story and the story of his family. We thought it would be really interesting to have Kate ask questions about herself, who she is and why she runs. In the third, Benoit found that formula that I loved, of saying Kate acted like a traveler with no destination. It’s something we wanted to ask about in the fourth game and how we could connect that to the exploration of Dana’s story in the past.
GamesBeat: Was Dana inspired by real people? I had to think about several things while I was playing.
Lagrave: Actually, it’s inspired by Benoit’s own family story. I think his grandfather sold art in Vienna when the Second World War and the fascists came into being. He had to flee. That’s what Benoit wanted to talk about.
GamesBeat: What do you think it is about Kate Walker that has kept her close for so long? What do you think it is about hair that resonates with gamers?
Lagrave: Kate Walker’s story can be summed up as an emancipation, I think. She was estranged from her job, from her friends, from her family, from New York. Her life was a little too much, I guess, for her. When she got the chance to free herself, she didn’t ask permission. You see in the first game how not everyone understands what is going on with her. She’s like, okay, but that’s too bad. I’m still going to do it. I’m still leaving. I think it’s something that still resonates very much today. It’s something I can admire.
GamesBeat: Do you think the gameplay will change somehow in the future? We are now in the post-Telltale era of adventure games. Do you think the gameplay is going to be more modern, or will it go back to the nostalgic trips, as you said? Or are you trying to keep a balance?
Lagrave: I think balance will always be – we’ve seen it with Syberia 3. We’ve tried things and in some ways we had gone too far, I think, for the fans. I hope we can identify some points that the fans can’t negotiate, such as point and click. I think it will be very difficult to have a Syberia without point and click. But you can come up with more modern ways to point and click. I hope that’s what we accomplished with The World Before. If we make a sequel, we will continue this evolution.
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