Syberia 3 review: Left out in the cold
In the early 2000s, French developer Microids released Syberia and Syberia II to much acclaim. Long before the resurgence of adventure games that we’ve seen in the last 5-odd years, here was a pair of games that combined that old point-and-click cell with graphics that were state-of-the-art (for their time), excellent voice acting, and a captivating story. The series was always envisioned as a trilogy, a fact driven home by the major cliffhanger ending to Syberia II.
Then fans waited for the concluding chapter. And waited. And waited some more. Syberia 2, with its tease of an ending, came out in 2004; there was no word on the next chapter until 2009. It then got delayed, and delayed again, and again. Finally, in April this year, the third (and final?) game saw its long-awaited release.
Sadly, Syberia 3 wears the scars of its troubled development on its sleeve. It feels like it was made out of strained obligation to the series and fans, rather than a genuine desire to finish the story that Microids started 15 years ago. Put bluntly, this game is no good, whether you’re an old Syberia fan looking for closure, or a newcomer looking to dive into this once-great series.
Syberia 3 picks up not long after the end of Syberia II, without so much any sort of recap of the previous two games. It’s been a long time since I played the earlier games and my memory of details is fuzzy, which was enough for Syberia 3 to leave me completely lost before long. I can’t even imagine what it’d be like for a someone entirely new. Even a simple text-based summary, like Syberia II had for Syberia, would have gone a long way. After so many years, and with Syberia 3 being the first game in the series to release on consoles, this was a great opportunity to introduce new players. Instead, it squandered that opportunity.
Notwithstanding how heavily it depends on the previous games, Syberia 3 tells an fairly interesting story. After being stranded and saved by the nomadic Youkol people, series protagonist Kate Walker decides to assist them. The Youkol are a people with close ties to snow ostriches, and live their lives by following the birds’ migration patterns, wherever they go. The Youkol people have their enemies, though, as does Kate, and when they catch up with the pilgrimage, things take a turn for the worse, opening the door for a tale of intrigue, as the old world collides with the new and different ideologies collide.
Unfortunately, the game undermines its own story at every turn, turning something that should be quite engrossing into an ordeal to slog through. The biggest offender here is the voice acting. Sharon Mann reprises her role as Kate, and does her typically great job, but every other performance, from key characters to minor acquaintances, sounds completely phoned in – there’s no emotion whatsoever, and delivery is stilted and awkward. In a game as dialogue-heavy as this, acting should be one of the highest priorities, but in Syberia 3 it feels like an afterthought.
The other problem is that the story’s pacing is frequently thrown out the window in order to shoehorn in unnecessary “gameplay”. Puzzles are a staple of adventure games, but the best games have well-designed puzzles that enhance the story; in Syberia 3, it feels like the whole game was made as a purely narrative game, and then puzzles thrown in haphazardly at the end to make the game more “gamey”. They add nothing but tedium, and completely ruin the story’s pacing by forcing you into bouts of meaningless running around. Worse still, the gameplay feels incredibly dated – this is like an adventure game right out of the ‘90s in the worst possible ways, full of moon logic and clunky interfaces.
It’s also a technical nightmare. I’m not normally one to care about frame rate, but Syberia 3 is so full of dropped frames and screen lag that it actually hurt my eyes and made the game even more tiresome to play. To round that all out, I experienced numerous crashes.
After Syberia and Syberia II, a lot of people were very much looking forward to Sybera 3, myself included. Sadly, between its storytelling woes, dated gameplay, and technical struggles, it’s a game that isn’t nearly the conclusion that this series deserved.
Syberia 3 is developed by Microids and published by Anuman. It’s available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
A PS4 press copy was supplied by the publisher for this review.