After 13 years of waiting, this game was finally released and much like Kingdom Hearts fans waiting for number 3, fans rejoiced. Compared to the original 2, Syberia 3 was eager to give back to fans by not only being available on PC, X-box One, Nintendo Switch, and PS4, but by also selling premium editions which included artwork, an art book, the game’s soundtrack, a 23 page comic book (which is also sold on comixology), a poster and a small figurine of the main character, Kate Walker. At £100 for the console versions and £40 for the PC version (which excluded the figurine and had everything else in a digital form) on release date, I chose to get the PC/Mac version, simply because I didn’t have the money. Anyway. Lets read about it.
Our story begins sometime after the events of Syberia 2. Hans Voralberg, the last heir of the Voralberg automaton factory, has finally accomplished his goal by finding Syberia with Kate Walker, and then riding on the back of a large, wooly mammoth into the arctic sunset. Such an ending then brought up the question – What happened to Kate Walker? Well, in Syberia 3 we see this; Kate ends up travelling (by foot) through the vast snowscape, until she collapses . She is then found by a tribe of Youkols, natives to Syberia who haven’t changed with the times of the world around them. The Youkols are on a pilgrimage, a long path to a land where their Snow Ostriches can partake in their mating season (or go extinct). Kate wakes up in a hospital, where she is sharing the room with Kurk, the young guide of the Youkols, who lost his leg and needs a prosthetic. After finding out that there are people who are not only trying to stop the Youkol Migration, but also aiding the New York Detective, Nic Cantin, who was sent by Kate’s ex-law firm employers to find her and place her under arrest for various charges – Kate makes it her goal to not only avoid capture, but also to help the Youkols (and their ostriches) finish their pilgrimage.
Now to discuss components:
First of all, this game really nailed the artwork! Benoit Sokal, a comic artist himself, worked as both author and art director, and contributed in the concept art. The art itself was mostly done by Amanda Goengrich and Sebastien Bousquet. I love how everything is presented with tons of quirks, much atmosphere, evident steampunk mixed with 20th century Russian stylisations and a very european charm that’s either found in european cinema or Wes Anderson movies. The art book was a lovely addition to this also.
The graphics are…almost understandable, since this game was in development hell for so long and visuals in video games have grown so much since then – It’s safe to say the graphics are a mixed bag. When I first bought the game, I was presented with the option of “beautiful but with fewer frames per second” or less detailed and faster. I close detailed and slower – and I did rather enjoy the graphics around this time, despite the cinematic lag in framework. However, about 3/4 of the way in, a patch was created on the PC/Mac version, and when I played the game afterwards, I could no longer choose my presentation. In the end, the game did play a lot faster, but the textures were evidently worse.
The gameplay animation for this game, much like its previous chapters, is terrible. It’s made even worse when you consider it’s 2017 when you look at it. I can compare it to the animations in Frogware’s Sherlock Holmes PC game series, which were as stiff as the Tin Man in the middle of a good oiling – but I guess it has become a running trend – that while Sokal gets amazing artists, his renders, animators and possibly his choice in software, leave a lot to be desired.
The cutscene animation is better than the gameplay animation by a long shot – but when compared to its contemporaries, it’s pretty ordinary at best.
The gameplay has an inconsistent quality with a number of curveballs thrown in. Several puzzles were very easy, others had me wandering around lost for 20 minutes. But many-a-times you need to think outside the box. Such as 1 particular puzzle that seemed to require a code, when in actuality, I just needed to smash it with something. Little things like that which can go over your head.
The voice acting seems to vary in quality, depending on the character. I played it in english, but when I watched the cutscenes again in French it sounded (and looked) so much better! Much, much more endearing. Makes me feel like I’m watching a Jean Pierre Jeunet film in places. But since my ear to the quality of french voice acting is limited, I can only talk about the english version. The voice for Kate Walker (Sharon Mann) is by far the best, while many other voices don’t seem to match the characters, especially Mr Steiner the Clockmaker (who sounds like a bank clerk than a grizzled artist) and Olga the evil doctor (who sounds 30 years younger than she looks). They sound so much more in character in the french voiceover.
The characters are what you would expect from the series. With the exception of Kate herself, many are there for a short time. Full of character? Yes. But their time in-game doesn’t always last, as the story likes to progress rather quickly (depending on how good you are at this sort of game). During their short stints, you basically know who they are in their appearance, the environment and their dialogue by the end of it. Which, to be honest, can take great skill. Enjoyable, and 1 of the better aspects of the game.
The Story’s actually very good when you’ve been following the rest of the series and manages to maintain a consistency. It’s like the series has been able to continue without much time gone past. It’s colourful, funny, and full of twists and turns to the point of finding its 1 problem after another as an amusing wink to the audience.
The music by Inon Zur is 1 of the best parts of the game. A mixture of Tribal music, chanting, wooden instruments, brass and some strings, it manages to provide an oddly magical sound to the game that would have otherwise suffered without it. You feel the adventure, the mystery, the danger (in a quirky, theatrical way), the struggle, the sadness, the longing, and the hope, which are just some things I love about it. Even when the game’s over, I’ll be sticking this on for some ambience or pondering. Really, really great stuff!
Would I recommend Syberia 3? Maybe. It depends. As a whole, and within context of the times in which it came out, it’s safe to say that Syberia 3 is not as good as its previous chapters. It struggles to make any impact on the modern market, the attempts to give back to fans have possibly been thrown back at them (with their broken statues in £100 premium editions) and at times it feels like the world has very much moved on without it. It’s the little fishing boat chasing the large cruise liner containing the Triple-A developers. As someone who creates things without “going through the system” – I actually feel for this game and its developers. It’s created by people who tried, and wanted it to succeed. They had hopes of it doing well and putting the franchise back on the map, and it ended up being disappointing, even when I was willing to accept all of the things that they would have been ashamed of themselves (which was usually in the animation department more than anything else). Fair play to them, they managed to get the game out there after 13 years with some wonderful qualities to it. But the whole thing feels bittersweet. If they release Syberia 4, I’ll be ready for it. Whether it’s an actual game or a Comic-book-continuation that’s similar to how Buffy, Angel and Firefly are still going in comic form, even when the show has finished or been cancelled. Either way, as someone who enjoys Sokal’s work, may this story keep going somehow.
Art Style: *****
Gameplay Animation: *1/4
Cutscene animation: ***1/2
Voice Acting: **1/2 (**** in French)