Syberia was a point-and-click adventure series that gained quite the cult following when it was released. Developed and published by Microids, together with renowned Belgian comic book and video game developer Benoit Sokal, Syberia 1 and 2 told a heart-warming story about a young woman who is guided through an incredible, surreal journey to ultimately help a friend with his last wish. Thanks to the likeable characters, fun puzzles, and enchanting visual design, both games received high praise, with the first Syberia game winning awards from various gaming sites and even recognition from American news channel CNN, who said that Syberia brought back the adventure genre.
For years fans of the series have been yearning for a new Syberia game and for adventure Queen Kate Walker to continue her journey. Syberia 3 was announced in 2009 but ended up being in development hell, missing deadlines for 2010 and 2015. Finally, after 15 years since the first game was released, Kate Walker is back with her latest adventure Syberia 3, which picks up not too long where Syberia 2 left off. Kate’s latest journey, however, may not be the surreal and enchanting journey as was the case in the first two games.
Kate Walker is found gravely injured by the native Youkol people, who helped her during her journey to the mysterious land of Syberia. As she recovers, Kate learns that the Youkol are facing racial prejudice from the local populace. She even learns of a conspiracy to permanently drive the Youkol tribes out of the towns. Outraged by this discovery, Kate Walker takes it upon herself to help the Youkol in their time of need no matter what the cost.
The game follows the adventure formula of Syberia 1 and 2 and other adventure games in general, only this time you’re controlling Kate in a fully 3D environment, rather than on a 2D plane with 3D characters.
Your task is to gather clues and solve various puzzles to continue the adventure. It could range from arranging a pattern in the correct order to manipulating mechanical objects to initiate the machine’s purpose. Some puzzles require you to find certain objects and combine them with others to form the solution. The solution to puzzles is usually never clear and you may have to go back to a previous area to obtain a missing puzzle piece or to find the correct pattern combination.
The reward comes from successfully cracking puzzles and being able to help Kate continue her journey. It always feels gratifying and fulfilling to know that you’ve cracked a sophisticated puzzle by yourself.
The soundtrack is still as enchanting as it was in the previous games. Composed by award winning music maestro Inon Zur, who worked on tracks for Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon’s Dogma and Syberia 2. Its soothing pieces guide the player through their journey and sets tranquil, lonesome and sinister moods depending on the situation. It truly fits the strange, surreal world of Syberia rather nicely.
There are things to like about Syberia 3. It’s got clever puzzles, a tragic, mysterious and intriguing story and Kate Walker is still one tough, classy lady. The rest of it, however, will either make you facepalm in disbelief or make you want to put a fist through the monitor out of sheer frustration, as this game hasn’t exactly escaped yet from its development hell.
The story only caters to those who are familiar with Syberia. Even if the game is advertised on its Steam page as a standalone story separate from the other 2 games, references to characters and events from the previous games are made numerous times. Anyone starting the series with this as their first game without knowledge of the series will really be at a loss with what’s happening and who’s who.
The visuals are old and dated. This game was intended for a 2010 release and it does, unfortunately, look like a game from 2010. Character models don’t look bad and the game shows some very nice scenic views at times, but low-resolution textures, lack of post-processing effects and the visual color palette of brown-green, brown-grey, brown-blue, brown-white and many other lovely variants of the color brown are what makes the game look like it’s set in a post-apocalyptic scenario, which is a big contrast of the lighter and softer visuals from Syberia 1 and 2.
The English voice syncing is terrible. The characters still lip-sync to the original French language with the English acting dubbed over. It should also be noted that the English speaking actors are not very good. With some exceptions, they concentrate more on translating their scripts from French to English, rather than becoming the characters they play as. The actors literally have zero investment with the events of the game. Some voices don’t even suit NPCs, with young sounding voices for older characters and vice-versa.
It’s actually better to put the original French language option on and use English subtitles, but since this is an adventure game where most of the information delivered to you is through linguistic context rather than dynamic actions, you don’t want to be listening to a foreign language while reading the subtitles at the same time to absorb all that’s happening.
This game literally bleeds technical problems. The game is in dire need of fixing because right now it’s almost unplayable. There’s lag and stuttering when you reach the main menu and during cutscenes. Sometimes the game won’t even launch.
Major conversations between Kate and other characters are locked at 30fps, which doesn’t make for comfortable viewing. The framerate can even drop below 30 at points in the game. When the camera pans while moving Kate she begins to shake and stutter.
You’ll find many recycled NPCs in various parts of the game and sometimes two of the exact NPCs interact with each other. Some sound files when characters speak are repeated again for a few seconds even after the scene is finished. Moving Kate with WASD is like maneuvering a tank. The PC version of the game warns players that this game is best played with a controller, but even with the controller moving Kate feels awkward and stiff. When there are multiple objects to interact with, it’s hard to tell what you can interact with until you move the camera in a specific spot if you use the controller. Wouldn’t have it been simpler to allow players to cycle through all the interactive objects with just the analog sticks?
Fans of the series have waited a long time for the continuation of Kate Walker’s incredible journey. After the amazing story that Syberia 1 and 2 told, one may think that Syberia 3, after such a long wait, would reintroduce Kate Walker as Queen of adventure gaming once again. Some of the puzzles are good and the storyline is rather interesting, but there are far too many issues with the game which are too frustrating to put up with. From poor controls to technical problems to bad voice acting and drab visuals. If the problems are fixed and if the game can somehow be given a facelift, maybe Syberia 3 could be Kate’s big homecoming but right now, this game isn’t ready to take you on an amazing adventure just yet.
This review was based on a digital review code for Syberia 3 on PC, provided by Microïds.