Benoît Sokal’s Syberia 3 is here
Video game revivals are all the rage these days, and Syberia 3 is the latest to be given new life. If you haven’t heard of Syberia before, the franchise started in 2002 by acclaimed Belgian video game developer Benoît Sokal. A sequel came out two years later, but then the franchise went dormant for a long 13 years.
While the original games never lit up the sales charts, they did develop a passionate fan base. With that in mind, Sokal has once again partnered with French developer Microids to produce a full-fledged third entry. The question is, does the new game enhance this franchise’s storied history, or does it fall short? Let’s take a look.
New, original adventure
It’s important to know that while Syberia 3 continues where the last game ended, the story is completely stand-alone. That means you can come into this game fresh and enjoy the experience. With that said, there are some nice easter eggs for those who have played Syberia and Syberia 2.
Hello again, Kate Walker
The game opens with familiar protagonist Kate Walker lying frozen and nearly dead along a river bank. Fortunately, she gets rescue by a nomadic tribe called the Youkols on their annual pilgrimage with snow ostriches. They transport Kate, and their own injured guide Kurk, to a hospital in the city of Valsenbor.
As it turns out, this particular hospital is full of shady wardens who imprison Kate (and Kurk) within its walls. She soon discovers there’s a sinister plot unfolding aimed at halting the Youkols’ progress and integrating them into modern society. As Kate, it’s your job to dig deeper into this conspiracy and help the Youkols complete their journey.
A point-and-click adventure
Similar to previous Syberia games, the third entry is a traditional point-and-click adventure. As such, the game features key traits that tend to define this genre. These include the need to scan environments for points of interests, and solving numerous environmental puzzles. This once popular gaming genre is almost unheard of these days, so playing the game felt quite nostalgic.
There is one significant change however, and that is you now control Kate directly. This evolution needed to happen in order to modernize the controls for home consoles. Unfortunately though, the transition to 3D movement was rough as Kate’s movement is incredibly fidgety and stiff. Compounding the issue are awkward fixed camera angles reminiscent of early 3D games during the ’90s. Compared to the smooth controls and free-moving camera of most modern games, Syberia can feel quite jarring.
A silver lining
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Underneath the game’s technical faults lies an interesting story full of challenging puzzles. The adventure takes you through several fascinating locations like the aforementioned corrupt hospital, as well a creepy amusement park, a port town, and even underwater. Along the way you’ll meet unique characters with their own appearance, mannerisms, and motivations.
As well, Sharon Mann, the longtime voice actress for Kate Walker, returns and again does an excellent job. However, the same can’t be said for the rest of the voice acting. Most characters speak rather flat and monotone, even during times of urgency. Also, the game suffers from such bad lip syncing that characters’ mouths appear to move at random. On the bright side, it’s just the delivery that’s poor—the dialogue itself tells a great story.
As mentioned, Syberia is all about solving unique environmental puzzles. This could involve walking around different zones to find objects hidden in the scenery. Or, it could entail speaking to specific characters in order to get clues on how to proceed next.
For instance, in one scenario I needed to present a pass to an officer to gain entry to the city. To do this, first I needed to ask for help from certain characters. Then, using various mechanical parts, I had to repair a stamping machine. The puzzles are never overly complex, but usually challenging enough to make you think.
Another neat aspect of Syberia is its dialogue system where characters “remember” what you say. Clearly inspired by Telltale Games, this system alters certain elements of the story based on your choices.
In one example, I had to butter up a specific character in order to gain access to his boat. Picking the right responses builds trust, but say the wrong things and the conversation goes sour quick. Both routes result in different outcomes, which changes your story in tangible ways. With that said, all twists and turns will eventually fall in line with the story’s “main” path.
Graphics and sound
Graphically, Syberia 3 is satisfying but not stunning. Levels, though compact, have a clear charm to them, despite being light years away from games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Horizon Zero Dawn.
While the visuals are average, the same cannot be said for the incredible soundtrack. Inon Zur, the composer of the second game, returns and delivers his best music yet. The tunes are melodic and complex, consisting of beautiful orchestra sounds and powerful vocals. Easily it’s among the most beautiful soundtracks of 2017 thus far.
Syberia 3 is an uneven, yet enjoyable adventure game that will surely please most fans of the series and genre. Despite its cumbersome controls, it’s a fairly accessible game that channels the charm of its point-and-click roots. With that said, purists may find the puzzles overly simple, and the unruly camera too much to handle. Look past its surface flaws though and you’ll discover a rich story worth experiencing for yourself.
+ Good story
+ Engaging heroine
+ Breathtaking soundtrack
+ Satisfying puzzles
– Camera issues
– Awkward controls
– Environments a bit bland
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3.5/5