It’s been 13 long years since the release of adventure game Syberia II. After an initial announcement of a third game in 2012, the game went through what appeared to be a rough development cycle, at least on the surface. But all of that is now history – time to find out if the adventure series has kept up with modern gaming developments, or if this is one best left in the past.
A Case of Wanderlust
In case you have never played the original games, the Syberia series follows the laid-back exploits of Kate Walker, a lawyer from New York. She was originally sent to see the transfer of a toy company to a conglomerate, but the allure of adventure beckoned, and she abandons her city life to help an elderly inventor fulfill his lifelong dream of riding on a real-life mammoth.
Syberia II ended on something of a cliffhanger for Kate, and Syberia 3 attempts to wrap up her story. With the inventor long gone, after being rescued in the snow you are tasked with helping the nomadic Youkol people complete their ancestral migration to their snow ostriches’ breeding grounds. Naturally, there are all kinds of obstacles in your way, and a simple journey becomes a more complicated affair as you solve puzzles and talk to the right people in order to proceed.
Syberia 3’s story is eccentric, and if you enjoyed the adventures of the first two games, then you’ll find plenty to like in that regards. It’s a shame then that the rest of the game falls flat. The issues begin with the presentation. Whereas the previous games used prerendered environments, Syberia 3 uses full 3D rendering for everything. Developer Microïds utilized the Unity engine for this, to disappointing effect. Most environments hardly have much going on, effects-wise. Yet even on a PlayStation 4 Pro (with or without Boost mode), the game frequently drops frames, stuttering along for no good reason.
To top things off, there is an unsettling glitch that occurs within the game’s inventory system. If you choose to “observe” an object, you are able to view it in full 3D, and Kate even has something to say about every single item, which is admirable. However, if she is facing the game’s camera, you can then see that her left eye (and only her left eye) has inexplicably pointed upwards and is even popping out of its socket! This is likely due to some camera trick Microids is using to enable the 3D view of the object, but it’s such a disturbing glitch, the game temporarily becomes a horror game more in line with Outlast 2.
A Technical Mess
The technical problems don’t stop there. Lip sync is mediocre during cutscenes, but outright missing when characters talk while waiting on you to make a decision. Syberia 3 includes branching dialog, and they even attempt a Walked Dead-esque notification system that alerts you as to what the person you are talking to noticed or thinks, but it appears to have little to no effect on the story at large.
While Kate Walker is a decently-developed character, a lot of supporting characters are fairly weak in Syberia 3. In particular, one of the game’s main antagonists, a mercenary leader of some sort, is a stereotypical military man who talks in extremely vague terms, and is hunting Kate Walker for seemingly no reason. He and his goons are incredibly inept at their jobs. They feel unnecessary to the story, like a B-rate villain and his squad.
Captioning is often a useful feature to have in a game with plenty of dialogue, which Syberia 3 has. Unfortunately, even this is presented incorrectly. Subtitles frequently do not match up with what the character is actually saying. It seems that during the game’s lengthy development, at some point the script was changed in huge chunks, and the developer never bothered to update the captions to match. To top things off, captions are only shown in a small sliver on the screen, and frequently scroll in a way that makes them hard to read. This lack of effort on something as seemingly inconsequential as captions just compounds the game’s other problems.
No Challenge Here
All adventure games have their share of puzzles to solve, and Syberia 3 is no exception. Most puzzles are incredibly simple, and will pose little to no challenge to anyone who plays. The game has a “difficulty” setting that enables or disables extra hints, but you’ll hardly need them because most everything you’ll need to solve a puzzle will be in your immediate vicinity. There is no fear of failing or dying, so easy puzzles fit right in.
If this is the final Syberia game, perhaps it’s for the best. Pure point-and-click adventure games are becoming rarer and rarer these days, and this entry does nothing to instill confidence in the genre. Between the glaring technical issues, over-the-top antagonists, and even lazy captioning, Syberia 3 is not recommended at its launch price of $39.99. If you absolutely need to complete Kate Walker’s story, then perhaps wait until the price comes down, and play an adventure game that got things right, such as King’s Quest.
Review code for Syberia 3 provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.