Cyberia was one of those games that caught the CD-ROM wave back in ’94 for PCs by packing in CG sets, articulated CG figures, digitized explosions, and a great soundtrack. It was done by developer, Xatrix Entertainment, who would later go on to become Gray Matter Interactive (Return to Castle Wolfenstein). Gray Matter, in turn, was then merged into Treyarch a few years later.
Cyberia own journey is just as wild. It combined vehicle oriented, on-rails shooting sequences with adventure game elements on foot with brought on puzzles such as finding key cards, passcodes, and going through data entries to find clues.
It took place in a future divided between two major powers – the Free World Alliance and the Cartel. You play as a merc who used BLADES technology to see the world in enhanced vision. Kind of like Google’s virtua glasses, only they looked like Oakley blades back in the day. Anyway, this sci-fi adventure consisted of a lot of cut scenes, shooting, fancy debriefings, and finally a titanic confrontation at the end.
As for why you’re tearing up everything onscreen, it seems that a mysterious weapon is being developed in Siberia by a group of the world’s most brilliant minds and the FWA wants to know what it is. And, of course, take it for themselves. That’s where you come in.
At the time, it pretty much stood out as a poster child for CG and CD-ROM technology with its fancy sets, epic soundtrack, and cinematic action. The challenge was pretty decent although you also had to put up with a brutal checkpoint system that didn’t always give you enough breathing room between activities. Repetition was almost always a threat especially towards the end with the puzzles and exploration bits. There were times when I just had to walk away from the game after dying and having to repeat swaths of gameplay just to get back to where I was, but I was a sucker for sci-fi games and kept at it until the mysterious ending that would segue into the sequel.
Star Wars: Rebel Assault came out a year earlier on PCs in ’93 and was all about the on-rails experience as you blasted your way through a variety of areas to the Death Star. Cyberia wanted to one-up it with its integration of more story-based elements and adventure pieces towards the end, but perhaps more importantly and noted by more than a few previews, with the quality of the CG work lavished on the sets and in building the game itself. The Cyberia complex at the end shows off a lot of the sci-fi oriented trappings that the artists had given life to in lavish style, though today a lot of it can seem somewhat primitive especially when key characters don’t move their lips while “speaking”.
The game proved to be a decent success, if not a critical one, spawning a sequel called Cyberia 2: Resurrection. Unfortunately, that didn’t do as well especially after it eschewed a lot of the puzzles and exploration for action. That the storyline was also sort of terrible also didn’t help along with the rising popularity of FPS oriented gaming alongside the growing market share from consoles.
Cyberia was later ported to systems such as the 3DO, Playstation, and Sega Saturn in ’96 (the FM-Towns got its own version in ’95) where it did okay, but found itself competing against a slew of other action-oriented games that PCs didn’t really have to contend with.
The ad below shows off the game and a few screens which seem relatively unchanged from the DOS version that I had, although the puzzles weren’t exactly “mind bending”. It also makes lofty claims about no two games ever being “the same” and how deep the characters are. While that is definitely stretching things, it still had quite a few fun moments back in the day. I just wish they could have gone deeper with the whole adventure aspect of its sci-fi backdrop. And that the awful checkpoints didn’t as often ruin my fun.