When we dropped by unannounced at the Microïds’ E3 booth, we were immediately drawn to the two screens showing their new graphic adventure Syberia. The stunning visuals, somewhat reminiscent of the critically acclaimed The Longest Journey, almost made us forget to introduce ourselves. We were kindly greeted by PR manager Cédric Orvoine, who was eager to show us Microïds’ two upcoming adventure games.
I will cut right to the good news: both Syberia and Post Mortem are pure adventure games. I am certainly not opposed to action gameplay, but real adventure games have become a rare breed. We applaud Microïds for still producing such excellent story-based games. Cédric told us that they will continue making at least one adventure game every year.
The commercial success of Amerzone convinced Microïds to again collaborate with designer Benoît Sokal. Syberia follows the character of Kate Walker, a New York-based lawyer, who travels to a small alpine village to complete the acquisition of a toy factory. Unfortunately, the owner dies just before Kate’s arrival. Your quest will be to find the only heir and to find out what exactly happened to the factory owner. It is hard to judge the scenario by just a demo, but what we heard sounded very original and somewhat surreal. The game receives a plus in my book for not taking us to Atlantis or Egypt – places we’ve seen far too often.
One only has to look at the screenshots on http://www.syberia.info to recognize the visual splendor of this game. Of special note is how the real-time 3D characters blend in with their pre-rendered surroundings. In fact, it is often unnoticeable that they are superimposed. We can’t be entirely sure yet, but it looks like ‘jaggies’ and clipping problems are now a thing of the past.
Syberia will be released by Microïds in June 2002 in Canada and Europe. Dreamcatcher will publish the game in the United States somewhere around October 2002. Also, a Playstation 2 version will be released by the end of this year.
As I mentioned before though, Syberia wasn’t the only game Microïds had to show us. A little later this year (in the third quarter), they will release another pure adventure game called Post Mortem. While it appeared to be slightly more low-tech compared to Syberia, the dark atmosphere and mysterious storyline should be able to carry Post Mortem on its own.
You will start out as an American private detective on assignment in Paris. He is hired by a mysterious woman, to find out who murdered her sister and her brother-in-law. Cédric Orvoine spoke very keenly of a surprise twist that will take place somewhere in Post Mortem. As the story unfolds you will change perspective and finish the game as a different character.
The gameplay revolves mostly around the familiar detective work. However, Microïds has added a nice touch to the conversation system that promises to make the game more dynamic and open-ended. Besides the usual dialogue options, the gamer can also pick from a number of possible intonations that will greatly affect the response of the NPC. Although only a test demo was available at E3, it seemed to me like a more refined implementation of a similar concept we saw in Access Software’s Tex Murphy games.
Impressed with their E3 lineup, we asked Microïds to respond to critics who say there is no longer a market for adventure games. Cédric agrees with us that there is a vast untapped market for adventures, especially among those people who usually don’t play many computer games. Microïds is especially aiming towards those groups of people, although they admit that is a very difficult target audience. Still, Microïds will push on. Early next year, we will be treated with a sequel to Syberia.
Look for more coverage of these games in the coming weeks, and keep your eyes open for lots more E3 previews at Adventure Gamers!