An adventure 10 years too late.
The last Syberia game released in 2004 to critical acclaim. It was a gold standard of which adventure games would be measured for years to come. Since then, Tell Tale has released the award winning Walking Dead series among many others. Supermassive released the critical darling Until Dawn, and Quantic Dream has released the notable Heavy Rain. Needless to say, the bar has been raised since 2004. Can Syberia keep up with the genre? Sadly, the answer is no, but that is not to say that we don’t have a good game on our hands with something to offer fans of the genre.
Full disclosure: I have not played previous Syberia games. I did minor research on the cult following of the series and have come to understand that the previous two games are held to a very high regard. With that in mind I was excited to see what Microïds has been up to since Siberia II released in 2004. Since its announcement in 2009 that it was in development for PS3 and PC, its production was quite slow to say the least. Here we are in 2017 with a finished product. With Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian taking a decade to make, I will not hold development time against Syberia III.
The story picks up moments after Siberia II’s ending. Our hero Kate Walker (whose name you will never forget as it is repeated by every character about 40 times per conversation) is in a dire situation. She revives in the psychiatric ward of a mysterious hospital while the Youkol people, a primitive but peaceful tribe, waits for their guide, Kurk (who is Kate’s bunk mate in the institution) so that they can complete their great ostrich migration. This is apparently important to the tribe’s survival as the ostriches provide food and mounts, among other tasks.
Our hero – Kate Walker. Katewalk. Katewalker. Miss Kate Walker. Etc etc…
The Youkol are basically human Ewoks here. Even their native language sounds like Ewok dialect. The Youkol people, however, are not liked by the locals of Valsembor village and this sets the tone for our adventure. Kate and the Youkol’s must find their way to continue the migration to assure the survival of the Youkol people. It is not known to the player (unless perhaps you played Syberia I or II) as to why Kate cares about these people and their mission, but I digress. You have your goal and set forth on your adventure. Don’t worry, I won’t be speaking too much on story as I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody.
The game is a series of conversations with NPCs and Puzzle solving to move the story along. The dialog choices are plentiful, but don’t really have many consequences. There are some conversations that will lead to a character reacting differently to you, but I cannot tell if that has a direct relationship to the actual story, even several hours in. That could be disappointing to Tell Tale games veterans, but it didn’t really turn me off in any way. I actually prefer to trudge on without wondering if I made the right choice. (I’m looking at YOU Until Dawn).
The moment to moment game play can be a bit dry but when you get a puzzle to solve, that’s where the game can be fun. The puzzles largely feel rewarding when completed and really help move the action forward. They vary from incredibly easy to laughably obtuse. One puzzle had me organize a key to fit a key hole, while another had me messing with a dam. The key was as simple as turning to line up on the holes, but the dam was difficult in that it was totally unclear what I needed to actually do. Some other puzzles need you to speak to certain people in order to gather the next important piece of information, but the game doesn’t do anything to tell you that. Sometimes the person could be three load screens back, which is frustrating. One puzzle early on has you needing an item to attract an owl to your location. I knew what that item was, but I couldn’t get it because the game wanted me to talk to Kurk first. Then he tells me I need the item that I already figured out I needed. Only then was I allowed to obtain the item. It is stuff like that that takes me out of the narrative and swearing at my television.
Speaking of the narrative; the game has some impressive ambiance, but completely ruins it with horrendous voice acting and syncing. The impressive snowy landscape is haunting. The music sets a truly creepy tone. Adding an air of mystery that follows you at every turn. I don’t get a horror game vibe, but rather just an unsettling feeling. The game does this masterfully. Then somebody opens their mouth and sucks the air right out of the room. Terrible acting, audio hiccups, and laughable lip syncing are in the forefront of the offenses.
Audio hiccups aren’t the only issues here, though. I am playing this game on a PS4Pro, yet the frame dips often and in some cases load times can be 10-15 seconds. Not only are load times long in spots, but the load screen pops in at seemingly random times. For example: I was in the middle of figuring out a puzzle when I took an item to the solution and when I clicked to interact, it went to a load screen. The scene didn’t change, it just went on as if it never happened. It was weird and I was left wondering if the game had crashed for a moment. As I continued to play, this continued to happen. Sometimes even moving Kate Walker around the environment can be a chore as it is not clear where you can and can’t walk. Sometimes a small rock will block you from being able to walk in a straight line. Moments like that can make a simple task take an extra few minutes. I can’t help but wonder if the game would have benefited from a couple more months of polish.
Get used to this screen
Even with all the audio and visual hiccups, I have to say the team at Microids creates a very inspiring story with some really fun characters. Bad acting aside – the characters were cliché, but fun to interact with. Familiar, but strange enough to be different. While I don’t have the background to care too much about our hero, I still find myself pushing forward wanting to know what’s going on in her bizarre adventure.
Adventure games have evolved past the Syberia formula. Tell Tale, Quantic Dream, and Supermassive have outperformed Syberia 3 in nearly every tangible way. With that being said, this does not take away from Syberia’s charm. Even with all its technical flaws, I still find myself wanting to move forward. Fans of the series will find something to love here, but should probably wait for a few patches to fix those technical issues. Fans of the genre have many superior options at their disposal.
Played on a PS4Pro.
Proven Gamer received a review copy for this title.