It’s been thirteen long years that fans of Benoît Sokal’s Syberia series have had to wait for lawyer-turned-explorer Kate Walker’s third adventure. Thirteen years is a long time between drinks, however the series has somewhat of a cult following thanks to its two quaint point-and-click inspired predecessors, so a third adventure was welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately, despite the game’s striking art style and soundtrack, Kate Walker’s third tale fails to give fans any form of reward for the series’ lengthy hiatus, largely thanks to a slew of technical hitches and an insipid story which is boring to the core.
For those that have never heard of Syberia – and no doubt there are a few of you – it follows the travels of Kate Walker, a former New York lawyer who, after being sent to a remote town to finalise a case, discovers her inner explorer and joins the expedition of eccentric genius inventor Hans Voralberg as he travels across Siberia.
Back from the dead
Kicking off after the events of Syberia 2, Kate Walker nearly perishes in the frozen wildlands of Syberia and awakens in the care of the Youkols – a tribe that inhabits the Syberia region. In order to repay her saviours, she agrees to assist the tribe in their ancient tradition of escorting the snow ostriches on their ritual migration. Furthermore, Kate Walker and the Youkols must elude their government pursuers, who want to bring Kate Walker back to America and rid Syberia of the Youkols.
One of the biggest changes fans will notice is that Syberia 3 is the first game in the series to feature full 3D graphics instead of the previous 2D point and click-esque experiences. While this new modern spin on the series is a refreshing change and gives you more control to interact and explore the world, its implementation is somewhat hit and miss, which is largely due to the game’s clumsy mechanics. While it adds a new layer of immersion being able to interact with objects, often you’ll find yourself having to stand in the right position (in a fiddly way) in order to interact with something, and awkward camera angles can often make this more difficult than it needs to be. All that being said, the new gameplay direction is a welcome change and helps modernise the series to some degree.
Come with me if you want to migrate
Aside from a couple of clever puzzles, they’re generally quite simple to solve (as opposed to its forbearers, which required players to have their wits about them)
I like your gown
The story starts off relatively interesting, as you wake up in a hospital after the events of Syberia 2. The hospital appears to be some form of hospital-cum-asylum-cum-retirement home, with an eclectic array of patients making up the NPCs in the hospice facility. In order to leave you must prove to the nurse on duty that you’re fit enough to be discharged. The nurse (murse) on duty deems you unfit to leave, however he issues you a challenge: if you can get the elevator working then you can you go.
Here we are re-introduced to Syberia’s well-known puzzle system. Most of the puzzles require you to find an item and interact with another object – usually machinery – but rather than lifting the experience they frequently jar the game’s pacing as it often requires Kate to backtrack. Furthermore, aside from a couple of clever puzzles, they’re generally quite simple to solve (as opposed to its forbearers, which required players to have their wits about them). Puzzle solutions are often staring you in the face and it’s often just a matter of turning the handle (sometimes literally) to get the job done. They’re also steeped in a certain tedium that can really drag things out.
The premise as a whole is fairly lacklustre, and the poor dialogue and voice acting does little to capture the sentiments of the player, not to mention the horrendous lip syncing
One puzzle requires Kate to go underwater in order to unlock a gate, however doing so was no easy task because Kate’s walking speed had slowed to a velocity redolent of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and the items I was required to find became a chore to unearth.
Adding to the game’s puzzles is the dialogue’s persuasion system, which depending on how you converse with a character can change the way you are required to approach your next objective (such as convincing a drunk sailor to assist you). It doesn’t change the story in any way but it does add that element of making your choices matter (even if they don’t really).
As Kate and the Youkols make progress on their journey, Syberia 3 is never able to recapture the charm of its predecessors. The premise as a whole is fairly lacklustre, and the poor dialogue and voice acting does little to capture the sentiments of the player, not to mention the horrendous lip syncing. Moreover, the story asks more questions than it answers, and is an overly esoteric affair. Firstly, why is an American leading a tribe that is centuries old on its ritual migration? Further enforcing this confusion is how inept the Yokouls seem without Kate’s western prowess. It makes you wonder how the tribe have survived for so long without the aid of the stars and the stripes. What’s more is that the game’s ending really doesn’t offer any closure to Kate Walker’s adventure, when perhaps after a thirteen-year wait it should have.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as the game’s art style is once again a highlight, despite the slightly dated visuals. Towns such as Valsembor, a seaside harbour town where you’ll spend a fair chunk of time getting your hands dirty, and Baranour, where you explore an abandoned theme park, are all really well designed and bring back fond memories of the fascinating locales from the previous games. Enhancing the towns’ vibes is the game’s soundtrack, which again is a splendour to the ears.
Valsembor is a reminder of better times
Sadly, Kate Walker’s return is a disappointing boondoggle. It is plagued by a litany of technical issues and poor design choices, ranging from constant framerate drops on console, awful lip-synching, awkward camera angles and constant backtracking. This all serves to sap all the fun out of an already tedious adventure, and ends up being a journey not worth taking.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro