By Dave Hill
Syberia 3 is Microids latest installment in the Syberia game series. For those unfamiliar with Syberia it’s a point-and-click adventure game where you follow the exploits of Kate Walker. A New York City lawyer turned adventurer by the strange twists of fate.
Syberia 3 continues Kate’s adventures. But is a somewhat stand-alone story. However, he game has many strings still tied to the older games, which makes it a poor installment to start the series with. This game has a lot of charm for a point and click, but it has a myriad of problems that really have held it back from feeling like a finished product.
Visually speaking, Syberia graces the eye with beautiful back drops that look like paintings. Steampunk styling is bolted in seamlessly a long side a modern world with cell phones, cars, and computers. The effect is akin to seeing a post-steampunk era which gives this world its own quirky and unique flare. The beautiful marriage of art styles begins and ends with the settings sadly. While Kate looks like a normal human, nearly every supporting character is a caricature. Many of the male characters look like they share Droopey Dog as a common ancestor with giant noses and jowls and an insulting lack of wit. I would hazard a theory that these depictions are just how Kate sees these people, and not their actual characteristics, but I don’t think the game dives that deep.
Despite this juxtaposition, the character designs are extremely well done. Evil doctors look evil, and shifty nurses look mean and belligerent. There is a lot of care that went into the art of Syberia 3. But the unions were at times not the best direction the game could have gone in.
Things start to fall apart pretty quickly for the rest of this game. Starting with the animations. In a world filled with steampunk style “automatons,” Kate seems to be one from the way she walks. The fluid controls you might expect from a game with controller support are simply not there. It’s the first time the franchise has had official controller support to move Kate around the environments. Unfortunately, when she moves it looks totally unnatural and wooden. NPC’s suffer some similar fates; gliding along the ground like detailed mannequins brought to life.
The animation woes continue since I don’t think lip syncing was a concern for the developers of Syberia 3. Character’s move their jaws when they are talking, but they might as well just be chewing gum for how poorly it matches their speech. Any accidental lip syncing is negated by the voice acting and casting. The young leader of the Youkals is voiced by a rather deep voiced man which does not fit the character’s tiny, round stature. Everytime he speaks its off putting. Conversely, the old clockmaker sounds like a young man with a clear and powerful voice, even though he is feeble and sickly.
I even did an experiment where I had a friend listen to the voices of one of the character without looking at the screen and then asked for a vague description of what that character might look like. In the case of the young Youkals leader, he was convinced that it was a wiry, older man. But he could not have been more wrong.
The voice acting was uninspired, as was the writing. I had a hard time not thinking of the dialogue and story as a rough draft to a David Lynch film. Unfortunately for me, the story never got as interesting or weird as a David Lynch story does. Nearly everyone in the game refers to Kate as “Kate Walker,” not “Kate” not “Ms. Walker”, but “Kate Wallker.” It was just the first signs of the awkward dialogue that was somehow deemed acceptable. Dialogues run and characters rephrase things often. Combined with the bad acting, I can’t tell if it’s the bad writing or if everyone in the world of Syberia needs things said explicitly or everyone is just salty with each other.
In Syberia 3, Kate fumbles her way into helping the Youkals with a migration of Snow Osteridges across a lake that no longer freezes in the winter thanks to global warming. There is some personal threat to Kate as well but the voice acting was so boring and the pacing of the story so tedious that it was hard to stay invested or even care. It was clear that the writers and voice actors didn’t care, so asking me as the player to, became a tall order.
Syberia 3 feels like a half-finished game. Clunky animations and mechanics, poor voice acting, and a story that fails to grab the player’s attention plague the game from feeling like anything more than shovelware. There is a fascinating world inside Syberia 3, but it felt like what we got was just the first draft with no edits and no rewrites. Syberia 3 is a mediocre game and certainly has not motivated me to explore point and click adventures any further.