Lucas Lagravette from Microids on Syberia and adventure games today

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How does a 20-year-old adventure game franchise survive and adapt to the modern age? Syberia, a series that launched during the dark age of adventure games in the early 2000s, has managed to hold its own and expand into the modern era. Originally released earlier this year, Syberia: The World Before launches on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S on November 15.

Adventure games have evolved in the modern age, thanks to adaptations from developers like Telltale. Most adventure games can be divided into those that resemble the original adventure games of the 1980s and 1990s, such as Ron Gilbert’s Return to Monkey Island (literally); and those that incorporate more popular mechanics, such as Telltale’s or Supermassive’s built-in choice mechanics. In those respects, Syberia, which closely resembles how the first game launched in 2002, is a bit of an outlier.

GamesBeat spoke with Lucas Lagravette, the director of Syberia: The World Before, about the long history of the series and its survival in the modern video game market. Here is an edited transcript of our interview.

GamesBeat: Regarding The World Before, what was it like adapting that franchise, that story, and that gameplay for a modern audience?

Lucas Lagravette: As you know, when we started working on the third episode, it was all the start of the Telltale mania, if I may say so. It was a revival of point and click, but in a different way. We wanted to be part of that. In The World Before, with the experience of what we tried to do in the third episode, other games came, games like Quantic Dream, or even Supermassive games. Until Dawn was a big reference for us in terms of game controls, actually.

GamesBeat: So that was the type of game 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.

Lagravette: Yes, exactly. It was very important to us that the fourth episode be fully playable with just a mouse. But it was also a big challenge to make it fully playable with a controller. 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, which is not something that many modern adventure games or narrative games do. That’s our thing.

GamesBeat: How do you think Syberia, and also the adventure game genre in general, has changed since the first Syberia came out in 2002?

Lagravette: The modern formula is more of an immersive triple-A story-driven narrative game, like Quantic Dream, or even Supermassive. That’s a point-and-click address. You also have a very old school style, I mean that in a positive way, like what they’ve done with the latest Monkey Island, which is really aimed at the hardcore fans of the series. I guess we are trying to be between those two shores.

GamesBeat: How do you think adventure games have stayed the same since the turn of the millennium?

Lagravette: The triple-A games, perhaps left out the puzzles and brain teasers a bit to make sequences more action-oriented. Although they are very simple to play. Very action oriented. We tried to keep the puzzle dimension, which for us is a mainstay of Syberia’s gameplay. But once again, taking inspiration from more modern games by making puzzles. Fourth [the video game series] is one of our references. It’s not the only one, but it’s one of our references for puzzle sequences.

GamesBeat: Now that you’ve done The World Before, what was it like continuing Kate’s story?

Lagravette: When I played the first two games, just before my interview for my internship on Syberia 3, it had been 10 years since its release. I was amazed at how modern Kate was treated and her psychological evolution. He really wanted us to get on with it. It coincided with Benoit Sokal’s vision of The World Before, which had a lot to do with Dana Roze. [the deuteragonist of The World Before] and how her story connected to her own story and her family’s story. We thought it was really interesting that Kate was asking questions about herself, who she is and why she’s running for herself. In the third, Benoit found that formula that seemed incredible to me, saying that Kate was acting like a traveler with no destination. It’s something we wanted to ask about in the fourth game, and how we could connect that with exploring Dana’s history in the past.

GamesBeat: Was Dana inspired by real people? I remembered several while she was playing.

Lagravette: It’s actually inspired by Benoit’s own family history. I think his grandfather was selling art in Vienna at the time of World War II and the fascists. 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 going for so long? What do you think it is about her that resonates with players?

Lagravette: Kate Walker’s story could be summed up as emancipation, I suppose. She was alienated from her work, from her friends, from her family, from New York. I guess her life was too much for her. When she had this opportunity to break free, she did not ask for permission to do so. You can see in the first game how everyone doesn’t understand what’s going on with her. She’s like, she’s fine, but that’s too bad. I’m still going to do it. I’m still going. I guess it’s something that still resonates a lot today. It is something I can admire.

GamesBeat: Do you think the gameplay would change in any way in the future? We are now in the post-Telltale era of adventure games. Do you think the gameplay will become more modern or will it go back to nostalgia trips like you said? Or will you be trying to maintain a balance?

Lagravette: I guess there will always be balance – we saw it with Syberia 3. We tried things out and I think we had gone too far for the fans in some ways. I hope we can identify some points that are non-negotiable for fans, like point and click. I think it will be very difficult to have a Syberia without point and click. But you can invent more modern ways to point and click. I hope that’s what we’ve achieved with The World Before. If we make a sequel, we will continue this evolution.

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