The Return of Kate, Kate Walker
It’s been 13 years since Syberia 2 brought us the conclusion of Kate Walker’s adventures with Hans Voralberg. Before I continue with my thoughts on the demo I played I’d like to share some cool facts. Hugo Sokal, the son of the series creator, Benoit Sokal, helped write the story for this game and the original voice actress for Kate Walker, Sharon Mann, has reprised her role. In many ways Syberia 3 is literally sticking to the roots of what make it great, the mind of a Sokal and the voice of Sharon Mann. Then there is the greatness of the music which is composed by Inon Zur who has worked on many notable game franchises like Fallout, Prince of Persia, and Dragon Age. Zur was also the composer for Syberia 2.
The story for Syberia 3 picks up only two weeks after the events of the previous game where we find our heroine in a precarious situation. Kate Walker is close to death, stranded in the Syberian wilderness when a tribe of Youkol come to her aid and bring her to the safety of a medical clinic nearby. This is where my glimpse into the newest Syberian tale began earlier this month.
After waking up in an exam room next to a young Youkol boy named, Kurk, it becomes clear that there’s more going on at the medical facility then meets the eye. To begin putting escape plans in motion Kate’s first task is to rewire a nearby door, a job that highlighted the updated investigative techniques Syberia 3 is bringing to the franchise. Each puzzle triggers a unique set of character animations accompanied by the ability to interact directly with mechanisms and objects related to the puzzle or area being searched for clues.
Depending on the puzzle you may need to use any combination of trigger buttons and thumb sticks to correctly solve it. I found that controls added something that a game like Syberia 3 greatly benefits from. Being able to feel like I am handling objects and directly affecting each facet of a puzzle only adds to the immersive nature of each scenario. Need to loosen a screw to gain access to something? Rotate the thumb stick till the screw comes out. Need to connect a write inside a device to a switch? Move the wire till it falls in line.
Once out of the exam room I could confront one of the doctors holding me captive, who insisted on putting Kate through a line of questioning before determining if she can leave. This brings us to another new addition to Syberia 3 gameplay mechanics with the addition of dialog wheel, turning some conversations into puzzles themselves. During the conversation, I was given the choice to have Kate answer truthfully, lie, or simply be difficult.
Despite choosing a few sarcastic options I ultimately convinced my captor to let me go. Had I failed the first line of questioning that would have led to Kate having to see another doctor at the clinic, thus prolonging Kate’s stay at the facility. Although there is the addition of dialog that can change how a certain situation plays out I was assured that the game and pivotal story moments would ultimately have a singular conclusion.
Of course, an interrogation with a devious character isn’t the only obstacle standing between Kate and her escape. In the end the solution to my problem involved stealing a key from a patient napping on a bench and luring an owl to the window of a balcony, totally normal escape plan. I particularly enjoyed the part with the owl as it also included a beautiful cut scene. A benefit from getting a graphical upgrade isn’t just the improvement to how puzzles are solved but also to the look of the game itself. There are even areas where you can hit a button and it will loop the camera in a slow 360 spin so you can enjoy the scenery of specific areas and truly appreciate the artwork at your leisure.
Another part of the game I got to see was part of the hands-off experience, taking place further along on Kate Walker’s journey with the Youkol near the irradiated land of Baranour. Modeled after Chernobyl, Baranour is a beautifully conceptualized setting in Syberia 3, bridging the art style of steampunk splendidly with that of a town scarred by the fallout of a nuclear disaster.
After encountering a roadblock Kate must turn to an old friend to help explore the world outside, thus signaling the re-entry of your friendly neighborhood automaton, Oscar. For one glorious segment of Syberia 3 you get to take control of Oscar and explore the landscape of Baranour for yourself. Think steampunk Fallout 4 but with no guns and much more sarcasm. Of course, it wasn’t revealed how Oscar comes back into the story during Syberia 3 so we should all be looking forward to seeing how that will unfold, I know I am.
Among the dilapidated buildings, you find birds flying overhead and foliage growing through the walls of buildings. I don’t want to give away too much of what happens during the segment where you get to play as Oscar but I will say that it is delightful and very true to his character. There are also automatons who were built to help evacuate the town of Baranour whom you encounter during your brief excursion as the friendly automaton.
Although many of the automatons in the town are effectively dead due to the weather conditions and being left unattended for a long time, some are active and hostile. Syberia being the kind of game franchise where combat isn’t a key game mechanic players aren’t necessarily at a tactical advantage. This leaves the fate of our characters up to ingenuity and quick thinking in these scenarios which, in my mind makes for a far more gratifying pay off.
Syberia 3 will be available on PC, Mac, Xbox One, and PS4 when it releases in North America on April 25th of this year, and eventually it will also be playable on the Nintendo Switch. Even if you haven’t played the previous games I think you’ll more than enjoy hopping into Kate Walker’s newest story. For newcomers it’ll be like tagging along on the journey of a well-seasoned adventurer, and for long time fans it’ll be like returning home.
Checkout our Syberia 3 Screenshot Gallery!