A Popular Franchise Ruined By a Sequel
Whether it’s the lack of fresh ideas or the upgraded hardware that enables developers to shed new light on something already made, but we can see that more and more games are brought back to life after a considerable period of time. Unfortunately, not all of them manage to adapt to the new era properly, and that seems to be the case with Syberia 3, the newest installment in the series. When the first game of the franchise appeared in 2002, it was a great hit, so it doesn’t come as strange that a sequel followed two years later.
More than a decade passed since Syberia 2 was published, so when Microids made the decision to revive the series, the gaming public was caught by surprise. The developers, on the other hand, faced the task of transitioning a once-popular game to a new decade where players are increasingly demanding when it comes to the quality of the titles they play. This really is the year of sequels and remakes, with the biggest one being Starcraft Remastered.
Another Adventure of Kate Walker
Being a bit older gamer (who cares about years anyway), I had the luxury of playing the original Syberia and the sequel on PlayStation 2. I was a fan of the game at the time, but if we face facts, 13 years is a period that changes every one of us. In the meantime, some of the players stopped playing games (or, at least video games), while enthusiasts like me completed so many gaming adventures that our expectations grew up. That means that the newest installment couldn’t count much on the popularity of the franchise, but it only had the burden of the success of previous two titles.
Syberia 3 once again puts you in charge of Kate Walker, an American lawyer who loves adventure. She helped Hans Voralberg to live his dream of riding mammoths on the Syberia Island, but once she had left the island, the Youkol tribe found her almost frozen to death. The Asian people of Youkol will sound familiar to players who played previous installments, and you will encounter other known relics, such as Automatons. Those of you who haven’t had any business with Syberia so far…well, tough luck, because the developers didn’t do a single thing to get you into the story or, at least, remind us of Kate a little bit.
The Story is Pretty Messed Up
Your task will be to help the tribe that saved your life make their sacred migration through the Eurasia. They’ve taken their snow ostriches with them, but they are stuck at the moment, and it seems that only a white American female can do what is needed for them to move on and continue their sacred tradition. Another thing that will remind you of the previous installments is the fact that Kate is on the run. Her law sent a private investigator to find her, and the military forces seem to be looking for her as well. If this seems confusing to you, it’s because it is. The plot is only trying to be complex and, more often than not, it doesn’t connect the dots and turns out to be incredibly dull.
All the locations in the game are fictional. You will start from Valsembor, a port village with snowy and cold weather and a local tavern where you can find out relevant information. A long-abandoned theme park that was destroyed by nuclear fallout and still under the influence of radiation is also among the locations you will visit. The park adds to the atmosphere, and the emotions get into play once you realize that the once fun and imaginative place is now completely ruined.
A Step Away from Point and Click…and a Step Back in General
The first two parts of the series were excellent point and click adventures, but Syberia 3 takes a step away from that and puts you directly in charge of Kate. Your objectives are to complete a puzzle or find valuable information to continue the story. Unfortunately, the puzzles are rarely innovative and sometimes even buggy. For example, looking for items needed to fix the broken roller coaster could take ages because you need either sharp eye or dumb luck to find them. The same thing happened with Dawn of War 3, fans are always expecting something better than the last game, not something worse. Some games are better to be kept in development or canceled, as they simply ruin franchises.
The scene where you need to find flares to repel the attacker at sea comes to mind. You can wonder the ship up and down for hours until you discover the room where the flares are located under a bench which can only be seen from a particular angle. It’s not your brain you need to use here; only luck decides whether you will position Kate so that you can see the flares.
While that might be just my complaint about the game mechanics, nobody can ignore the bugs. In some cases, I was able to use objects that I hadn’t previously picked up. Right after that, when I needed that object again in the same puzzle, the game forced me to look for it. At the end of this section, let me be completely honest and say that some of the puzzles are interesting and offer a great combination of logic, physics, and mechanics.
Mind Your Tone…and Your Thoughts
When you are not busy with solving problems, you can interact with various characters that can help you continue the story in the right direction. Unfortunately, you can’t say that NPCs are deep or innovative. In fact, most of them are like you bought them from an NPC store, so prepare to encounter a drunk captain of the ship, a mysterious inventor or evil hypnotist. The only positive thing is that while you talk with other people, you will have the option of choosing Kate’s tone, which can help you manipulate characters and influence the stories. Additionally, you can read inner monologs Kate has to help you make a smart decision.
While the story isn’t cohesive, the dialogues can be kind of interesting. Actually, the discussions could be interesting if the translation made sense. You see, Microids is a French studio, which means that there are some issues with the English used in the game. For example, the captain I mentioned keeps saying that the deck of his ship is a “bridge.” You can only imagine the confusion when I needed to follow the directions from him that I need to get onto the bridge.
Awful Voice Acting and Face Animations
The interactions contain a lot of close-up views of the characters, which enables players to notice that the movement of the lips is often out of sync. While we could tolerate that, the voiceover is simply abysmal, and no one can ignore it. It doesn’t seem that the team hired professional actors, considering that the pace of the speech is often wrong. Aside from that, you can see older characters with the voice of a teenager, and none of the NPCs have any authenticity. Only a few of them have a bit more elaborate background stories, and the same goes for the villains. They want to assimilate Youkol and integrate them with the modern society. While that would make sense as a motive, you just don’t have that feeling of loving how much you hate the villains as you play. Instead, you feel indifferent towards them most of the time.
3D Didn’t Help Syberia 3 but Listen to That Music
The graphics in Syberia 3 are adequate and nothing more than that. The new 3D environments often look plain and lack enough details. The theme park I mentioned does improve things a bit, but it’s nowhere near the beautiful graphics that previous installments offered. Moving Kate around isn’t always and easy job due to wrong camera angles. They are semi-fixed, which leads to experiencing a lot of frustration when trying to make Kate move in the desired direction.
Voice acting might be bad, but music is the best part of the game when it comes to sound. You might have heard of Inon Zur (he worked on soundtracks for Syberia 2, Dragon Age, Fallout, etc.) who might have been the only guy working on this game up to the task. He managed to capture the atmosphere of the Eastern Europe and even make you hum the songs after you finish playing.
There are some places where Syberia 3 does a great job, but it’s pretty far away from being a decent game. The story doesn’t connect the dots in a proper manner, and it doesn’t offer much complexity, while only a portion of puzzles will satisfy experienced players. Brilliant music contributes to the grim atmosphere of the village, but that is ruined by terrible voice acting and the translation issues.
Overall, Syberia 3 is a mystery game that made the transition from the point and click genre to third-person adventure. Aside from that, it looks too much like its predecessors. The problem is that the gaming world changed in more than a decade since the last installment and the series hasn’t evolved at all. We can’t help but feel that Syberia deserved a better sequel than this one, but fans of the franchise and the genre might still find the game attractive. You can play it on Microsoft Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.