The original Syberia (2002), captivated audiences through the creation of world founded in both reality and the magical. Throughout the first two games in the Syberia series, players were introduced to a fantastical version of reality full of automatons, mammoths, and characters that resonated with the gaming community. Fifteen years later, Syberia 3 fails to enthral audiences, with a game that seems rushed, despite being announced seven years ago.
Beginning this review with Syberia 3’s messy narrative is fitting, given the adventure is based on a story-driven experience. Players could be justified in expecting an introduction to the protagonist, Kate Walker, and her exploits throughout Syberia and Syberia 2, especially given the thirteen-year gap between the latter game and current installment. However, these expectations are unwarranted, as the game begins with no context and players find themselves imprisoned in a hospital by an unknown villain whose machinations are not revealed until quite late in the game. To anyone who has not played the originals, this confusion may be enough for them to turn off the game, never to be played again.
If players manage to get past this confusion or feeling of being left behind, they are quickly introduced to the Youkol, a nomadic tribe on a journey to a sacred breeding ground of the snow ostriches. Kate, the Youkol’s American saviour, is the only one who can help. A series of uninspired challenges, such as lakes, sea monsters, and hateful townsfolk, threaten the existence of the Youkol as they rely on the snow ostriches for all aspects of their lifestyle. These challenges, faced by the Youkol, do not develop the story and often leave players feeling disappointed at Kate saving the day.
However, this obvious hero-complex of saving the Youkol is not the only problem with Syberia 3’s story. A military force and an American detective chasing Kate create a tangled mess that seems to leave the story without a real purpose. These threads of the story obfuscate the real plot. The writers could have put more effort into character development for the Youkol.
Present throughout Syberia 3 and exacerbated by the lack of cohesion in the story, is the terrible voice acting and lip-synching. The acting lacks any depth or emotions and almost sounds like the text-to-talk feature Windows offers. Furthermore, despite being a French-made game based in the heart of Russia, the characters, except the Youkol, lack an accent. Missing dialogue, the horrible lip-synching (which can almost be forgiven considering the game’s translation into multiple languages), and voice acting combine to make Syberia 3 unbearable.
The most notable part of Syberia 3 is the soundtrack. Created by renowned composer Inon Zur (Fallout, Dragon Age II), the music throughout Syberia 3 invites a sense of mystery when players navigate through the towns of Valsembor and Baranour. The quality of Syberia 3’s soundtrack is lost on the game’s pitfalls, making money better spent buying the soundtrack rather than spending a lucrative $39.99USD on the game.
Another common trait of adventure games is the puzzles players must solve to complete the story. Despite featuring some interesting concepts, the puzzles of Syberia 3 fail to offer any thought-provoking processes, too often relying on obscure items and almost-accidental solutions. Design issues (objects obscured by background items) and glitchy control movements exacerbate the boring puzzles and frustrate players, causing them to give up.
Unfortunately, the rest of the game does not get much better from here on out. Tank controls hinder the gameplay and players are left wondering why Microids decided to forgo the traditional point-and-click of the previous two games. Players must rotate Kate in the direction they wish to move, and then point her forward. This control scheme makes Kate feel encumbered, and the fixed third-person camera angle ensures that simple tasks, such as moving between or around rooms, becomes tedious. Moreover, the camera angle and shoddy controls cause players to stick on hidden or obscured obstacles when maneuvering around rooms.
Benoit Sokal, author and artistic director of Syberia 3, seems to have lost his way with this shamble of an adventure game. Despite his original artworks and sketches for the game being fascinating, the feeling of playing a rushed game is exemplified when walking through the uninspired towns of Valsembor and Baranour. The beauty of Russia in winter is lost, and, although the towns seem interesting at first glance—with automaton shops, a shoddy port, and run-down theme parks providing the opportunity for creative background design—the settings are nondescript and forgettable.
Forgettable also describes many of the characters. Boring facial features and similar character models for every Youkol ensures determining a character’s importance is difficult and cliché villains do not make a mark on players. These design choices are shameful, as the backgrounds for some scenes demonstrate that the game’s potential is squandered. Specifically, the mountains in the heart of winter provide a spectacular vision for the cutscenes and make up for the lack of interesting design.
Overall, Syberia 3 is a sequel that adds nothing of value to the Syberia series. The delays between announcement and release date should have indicated something was wrong, and, for fans of the original games, Syberia 3 is a bitter pill to swallow.