Syberia: Reaching Komkolzgrad

Socialist realismKate proceeds to Russia, where Hans’ miraculous wind-up train winds down again. I call the train “miraculous” because it takes only about a second and a half to wind up, and this apparently stores up enough energy to propel a few dozen tons of steel halfway across Europe. But this is a story told in a world that hasn’t quite grown up yet. Kate, a corporate lawyer pursuing a sale resulting from bankruptcy due to unpaid bills, is the personification of its adult side. Hans Voralberg, a toymaker who’s described as both physically and emotionally stunted, is destined to remain a child forever. And it’s Hans who made the train, so it conforms to childish expectations. It’s only the adult world that knows about limitations like conservation of energy, or financial hardship, or death.

This contrast is really central to the game’s mise en scène, from the opening shot of a wind-up automaton leading a funeral procession. Barrockstadt University is ruled by ridiculous fussy men in gowns and mortarboards, caricatures of the learned out of old storybooks; what little you can glimpse of the town outside the university walls shows it to be a crumbling ruin. Kate’s quest to find Hans can be seen either as her pursuit of renewal, trying to rediscover the childlike vitality she’s missing, or as the inexorable hounding of youth by grim reality, as she seeks to bring him news of his sister’s death and to make him sign away the toy factory to a soulless corporation.

Note the window at the statue's waist. There's a room in there. Kate is currently inside it, operating the controls.At the moment, it’s getting grimmer. The latest stop is at an abandoned mine, which is to say, it’s industrial without the industriousness. Only a few rooms are available from the beginning, giving it a more claustrophobic feel. The previous two chapters had people hanging around just to make it clear that the place really was inhabited, but the only human being I’ve seen in this new place was a glimpse of someone furtively running away, possibly after abducting the train’s automaton driver. When Hans passed through here, a magical boy leaving wonders in his wake, it was ruled by Stalin. Hans left behind a couple of mechanized colossi wielding hammers and sickles.

I haven’t got far in this chapter yet, and seem to be stuck again. More unnoticed hotspots? Probably. I’ll say this for it: Remember how I said that the fanciful machines in this game were essentially just glorified lock-and-key puzzles? That’s not the case any more. There’s at least a little bit of Myst-style reversible environment manipulation going on.

3 Comments so far

  1. Jason Dyer on 22 Jul 2011

    Usually I’m fine with just the text, but your description of Stalin-Mine is intriguing enough I was wondering if you could get a screenshot.

  2. Eytan Zweig on 22 Jul 2011

    The official Syberia website has some stunning imagery from the game:

    http://www.syberia-series.com/en/screenshots-syberia-les-aventures-de-kate-walker.html

  3. Carl Muckenhoupt on 23 Jul 2011

    As requested, I’ve added a couple of screenshots.

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