A MAGNIFICENT MIGRATION
Stepping back into the shoes of Kate Walker was a refreshing experience. As we get more and more caught up in the most advanced age of video game production it’s easy to lose sight of games that helped build the foundation the industry sits upon. The Syberia series is one of those games. First released during a time when puzzle solving adventure games were at their peak it cemented its lasting power with a unique story, world, and a pragmatic protagonist. Although Kate Walker isn’t a pistol toting Lara Croft she still manages to be a strong-willed explorer, which is not lost in this third installment of her story.
You begin your journey after Kate is discovered, nearly dead, by the Youkol tribe. This sets off her journey to aid them in continuing their migration. Of course, this being a Benoit Sokal creation, that task is never truly as easy as it seems. Kate and her new friends find themselves having to out maneuver a trio of antagonist that look like they’ve just escaped a Saturday morning cartoon marathon. It’s during the first leg of the story that one of the newest features integrated into Syberia 3 is made available to the player, the dialog wheel.
Although the overall story is linear and has a set conclusion there are several points in Syberia 3 where you can divert Kate Walker’s journey simply by the way you answer a question which can lead to you having to find an entirely new way to get out of a predicament. For instance, in the hospital during the beginning of the game, if you fail a lie detector test you’re sent to another doctor triggering an extra phase for that particular objective. If you pass the test the first time you go straight through to the next leg of the mission. I really like that there is an element of variety in storytelling during certain quests as it can make for different experiences on a replay of the game.
Along with the upgrade for NPC interaction there were significant improvements to the puzzle mechanics that really made Syberia 3 feel more immersive. Whether I played it with a mouse or a controller moving the modular pieces within a puzzle was fluid and fun. It is nice to not just pick up items and see them disappear when you’ve guessed the solution. When playing with a mouse the circular movements needed to turn an object or mechanism don’t come quite as easily as when playing with a controller though. Some puzzle requires you to hold down a button and move the camera at the same time and a controller can aid in making this process more fluid. Sometimes while solving puzzles that required circling around an object I found my trajectory to go a little off-kilter causing me to take a little bit more time to get things right.
For PC players, I feel the delay in implementing the point-and-click functionality was a disservice to longtime fans. While I personally play with a controller and did not have issues moving around the new world of Syberia 3, I know that was not the case for all PC players. Once the patch was implemented I did feel like the point and click gameplay was essential so whose idea it was to leave it out initially we’ll never really know. All we know for sure is that it is a key feature for a game that’s part of one of the most well-known point-and-click adventure franchises in gaming history.
Core mechanic hang-up’s I can let go pretty easily but for me the most obvious issue with the game was the lip syncing, particularly the English dub. It’s never fun when a narrative based game with a compelling story and vivid world has issues with animation. Life is Strange is a good example of a successful narrative based game with notorious issues with lip syncing facial animations. These failures to communicate the story visually can have an impact on how immersive the experience is. I love the world of Syberia but I found it unfortunate that the facial cues that accompanied the English dub of the game left a lot to be desired, especially with the return of Sharon Mann as the voice of Kate Walker. Of course, this isn’t something that was a huge priority of the first two games due to the technology of the times but these days those kinds of things do not go unnoticed.
Anybody looking for a smooth execution of facial animation and dialog in Syberia 3 will have better luck with the non-English dubs of the game. During my comparisons, the difference between English and any other language was pretty severe. In one particular scene, it was the difference of a character looking like they were hastily chewing an invisible corn cob during the English dub, to them looking like they were actually speaking the words I was hearing with the French dubbing enabled.
Lip syncing aside, I did enjoy my time with Syberia 3 and loved how seamlessly the story integrated with previous games. For longtime fans Syberia 3 will be an enjoyable experience with plenty of familiar and new intriguing faces. The puzzles are as challenging as always and the story has Benoit Sokal’s unique flare at every turn, capable of surprising you when you least expect it. Syberia 3 is currently available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, Mac iOS and eventually you’ll be able to purchase it on Android, and Nintendo Switch.