Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Rating: T for Teen
Syberia was released in 2002 and became one of the most critically acclaimed point-and-click adventure titles. Its success came due to the blending of Art Nouveau and steampunk elements with a well written script. Since then, it has been ported to many platforms and mobile devices—even the Nintendo DS. Two years later, Microids and lead designer Benoit Sokal followed up with a sequel simply titled Syberia II. The sequel saw great success as well, and again got multiple ports to other platforms as a result.
Way back on April 1st in 2009, we learned that Syberia 3 was in production. It turns out that was no April Fool’s prank. Fans have been waiting over ten years for the next entry, and they have it now. I was only in middle school when the first Syberia was released, but I didn’t have the attention span for a point-and-click adventure game. I took on this review with knowledge of the critical acclaim that this series is known for; I was also curious to see if it had evolved with the genre since Telltale Games has literally been a game-changer in this area of the gaming industry.
Spiritual Content: The plot of Syberia 3 is set around a tribe called the Youkol and a traditional spiritual migration. The player-character Kate Walker wishes to help them make the journey after their Shaman helps Kate return to consciousness in the first moments of the game.
Violence: A very minimal amount of violence is depicted in Syberia 3. One of the characters trips another as they are chasing an ally. A scene takes place in which armed gunmen are chasing after one of the characters. In another, a character is shown shooting a giant squid with a shotgun.
Language/Crude Humor: The word “bastard” is used once. That is the only foul language to be found.
Drug/Alcohol references: One character in particular is first seen very intoxicated walking the streets and slurring his words with a bottle of alcohol in hand. This character eventually sobers up to aid the player on their quest. Some scenes also take place inside a bar.
Sexual Themes: None
Positive Content: The Youkal tribe that the story focuses on are treated by others on a racially negative level by residents of the region in which things take place. Characters tell the player multiple times that her efforts are fruitless because of that, but she has befriended the tribe and continues her efforts despite the negative things that the other people tell her.
The developers make a good effort in trying to immerse the player into their world and dive into the story of Kate Walker and the Youkals, but there are a number of things that have taken me out of the experience all together. The first and biggest culprit of this is the terrible optimization. The only options are a few resolution settings and options for “fast,” “good,” and “beautiful.” Seeing that told me that this wasn’t going to be exactly like the standard of low, mid, or high settings that the industry has adopted. For me, this all came down to how much load time I wanted. Fast provided a lower graphics setting and shorter load times, but it still felt slow. The “good” setting did take slightly longer for things to load, but ran generally smoother as a result. Without a variety of settings to turn certain things on and off, I could not quite find the perfect balance to create the best experience possible.
What made me want to play Syberia 3 was to see if it had evolved as its genre has done so over the years. To my surprise, I was able to adapt to the format thanks to my experience with the Telltale adventure games, so it was nice to see that the evolution occurred. Where Microids did miss the mark, they do at least recommend that players use a controller. I was stuck on a puzzle for two days where I had to pull a lever within a certain time limit; as a last resort, I switched to mouse and keyboard. At that point, I discovered that I was just too slow on the draw while using my controller and stuck to mouse and keyboard from that point on. Though their first two games did also come to consoles, the heart and soul of the series lives on the mouse and keyboard.
On a positive note, the setting and characters did draw me in, and this is what the series has been known for in the past. What kept me going was the endeavors of the Youkals, a tribe that Kate Walker promises to aid after she is rescued by their Shaman. They were the characters with the most personality, and even provided a bit of comic relief in some cases. The villains of the story are a few creepy doctors and an evil general; they don’t provide much element to the story besides being a common enemy of Kate and the Youkols and a reason for everyone to get the heck out of dodge. My driving force was the same as Kate’s: I wanted to help the Youkol make their spiritual journey.
Unfortunately, that brings us into the next problem on the laundry list: the American voice acting is terrible. First of all, I understand that the series comes from European developers with French as their native language. However, we live in a time period where localization is hardly an issue. Many of the voices just don’t fit the characters, especially when the characters are much older than their voice actors. The only voices that seem to fit are the people of the Youkals, which is actually quite strange. Everything sounds as if you’re watching a dubbed foreign film, which has me questioning if it was done that way to some odd authenticity, or the VA is simply done terribly.
Syberia 3 stays true to the same themes that the series is known for. The visual tone continues to look white and cold in the snowy lands that fans have become familiar with. On the lowest setting, the visuals do decline but still don’t look terrible—it is on the higher settings where we get to see some nice detail on the characters and environments. My personal favorite part of the overall presentation is the soundtrack, scored by Inon Zur. His work has been heard throughout some notable titles such as Dragon Age, Fallout, and Prince of Persia. In all brutal honesty, I enjoyed listening to the soundtrack more than I enjoyed playing the game itself.
The gameplay is just fairly basic for the genre, and takes notes from modern adventure titles. The puzzles are all generally simple to figure out. The key is to find all the items you’re going to need when completing them. Microids has taken the conversation tree that every video game has decided to use and abuse, but put a clever spin on it. In a handful of conversations where you need to lie to or persuade someone, there will be a lightbulb by each dialogue choice. This reveals Kate’s thoughts on what Kate thinks about the situation; it is up to the player to make the right choice based on those thoughts rather than choose your own response.
Syberia 3 could have been an outstanding addition to the series, but ended up as a mish mash of good ideas and terrible execution. The journey through Syberia 3 is definitely not smooth, and I’m not just talking about story events—it is a grueling experience. There are many references to Syberia I and II that actually helped me figure out the events that took place before Syberia 3, but it feels that the game was telling me “Hey this game is good, but you should really go check out the other two.” This makes the story feel way less important than the other two. Unfortunately, this is what fans will receive after waiting over a decade for the next entry.
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