When the first Syberia game was released 15 years ago, its darkness and mystery helped to create a loyal cult following. The follow-up, Syberia 2, was an entertaining adventure that contributed well to the Kate Walker story. After its announcement in 2010, fans waited seven long years for the third game, Syberia 3. Unfortunately, it feels as if Microids should have kept it in development a little longer.
Syberia 3 begins as protagonist Kate Walker is found unresponsive along a coastline by a group of nomads. They do what they can to heal her but eventually bring her to a village for additional assistance. When she wakes up, she finds herself prisoner in the facility, with doctors who are attempting to hold her against her will. Eventually, she finds herself fleeing political enemies and helping the nomads on an important journey.
One of the first things I noticed when sitting down to play the new game was that the traditional keyboard and mouse controls were no longer well-supported. The Steam version highly recommended the use of a gamepad. I expected that maybe with gamepad control there would be better camera manipulation in Syberia 3, but there is little of it. The left joystick would move Kate around, but the right allowed very little camera movement. A missed opportunity here.
The next thing I noticed was that point-and-click mechanic was gone. This was a risky move for a game relying on the nostalgia of the previous games to catapult it forward. Instead, Kate moved around with me as I searched for the next clue. But her movement felt stiff, unnatural. I couldn’t put my finger on what was amiss until I realized that her head and neck remained absolutely still while she walked around the room. The 3D graphics felt outdated, which may have worked fine if the nostalgia of point-and-click had remained, but with the attempted advancement of controls, the graphics needed to follow suit.
It’s another enjoyable Kate Walker story, complete with new friends, old companions, and compelling character development. The story felt as though it meant to teach me real life lessons, but immersiveness was lost on poor voice casting in the English-dubbed version. Within the first few minutes of starting the game, Kate meets the young leader of the nomadic Youkol tribe. She expresses surprise that a person so young could lead a group of people, but his voice sounds like that of a grown man. Many of the voices didn’t seem to belong to the bodies they inhabited, and it was a constant reminder that pulled me out of the game.
I would have appreciated an option to bypass the spoken dialogue completely. I could read the written text and click to the next option when I was done, but this wasn’t available. Instead, I had to wait until a character was completely finished speaking before given the option to move on. However, when it was my turn to speak, if I didn’t choose a dialogue option soon enough, the person I was speaking to would get upset. “I’m beginning to lose my patience,” one doctor would scold me, if I spent one moment too long trying to decide the best response. It was an unnecessary stressor. If I can’t speed them along with what they have to say, they shouldn’t be able to bully me into talking faster.
My inability to skip ahead in dialogue exchanges would discourage me from playing through the game a second or third time. Some of the Steam achievements are gained by simply playing through the game, but others are easily missed. With no manual save points, there’s no built-in way to revert back to a previous save and snag a missed achievement. The only option given is to replay the game, but why replay it and sit through long discussions you’ve already participated in? Sometimes, I wanted to simply read the captions and move ahead, and my patience was heavily tested here.
On a positive note, the Syberia 3 score is beautiful, and the concept art was incredible. The puzzles are just as intriguing as previous games, which almost saves the game. There’s something really cool under there somewhere, but it really needed more time in development.
I don’t think the Syberia fans will give up on this third installment, but it will need some patch work before it’s ready for a broader market. It’s still dark and mysterious, but much of that is lost with the poor voice casting and clunkiness of new controls. With the cult following behind them, the Syberia 3 team could still turn this into a great game. The foundation is there, they just need a few solid patches to bring it up to 2017 standards.