Syberia 3 Review
Syberia 3 Review
Despite the (sometimes) arduous process of getting through the game, I would not have missed Syberia 3 for anything
Posted: 05/01/17 | Category: Review | Developer: Microids | Publisher: Microids | Platform: Xbox one, Playstation 4, Windows, Mac, Nintendo switch

Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
Release date: April 20, 2017

Patience is a Virtue  

Benoît Sokal is a Belgian video game developer who is best known for Amerzone (1999), Syberia (2002), and Syberia II (2004). I also discovered that he developed two other games that I have not played: Paradise (2006) and Sinking Island (2007; released for Nintendo DS in 2008 under the title Last King of Africa). He is an incredibly talented artist, writer, and game designer who holds demigod status to those who favor the adventure genre.

Originally due out in 2010, Syberia 3 was delayed by a series of business challenges. When a 2016 completion date was announced, I pre-purchased the game (from the JustAdventure store) and have been eagerly awaiting delivery. The arrival of my download key last week was a thrilling moment and I began to play immediately.

Although Syberia 3 is a stand-alone game, it is closely tied to Syberia and Syberia II and draws upon people, places, and events introduced in these earlier stories. I had replayed both in preparation for this new release and I was glad to have recent memories of Syberian history.

In a Word, WOW! 

The game opens with Kate Walker lying frozen and half dead on a river bank. She is revived by the Youkols – a nomadic tribe that is on a spiritual pilgrimage with their snow ostriches. They deliver Kate and their own injured guide, Kurk, to a hospital in the city of Valsenbor where the adventure begins. Kate soon discovers that there is a sinister plot afoot to block the Youkol’s progress and to imprison her. She befriends Kurk and becomes an advocate for the Youkols, evading capture and facilitating their trek to the snow ostrich breeding grounds. The journey is fraught with obstacles to overcome and puzzles to solve. As before, Kate is a true heroine…beautiful, smart, compassionate, indefatigable, and possessing ad-hoc mechanical abilities that put MacGyver to shame.

Thus, Syberia 3 has all the elements that made me fall in love with the adventure genre. It is a stunningly beautiful 3D game with scenery and object detail that takes your breath away. The cut-scenes are seamlessly integrated with gameplay and I continue to marvel at the time and effort that went into creating such an imaginative game world. This is complemented by one of the most effective sound tracks I’ve experienced. The music by Inon Zur is complex and amazing…from orchestra, to vocals that rise and fall with the mood of each scene, to tribal music that feels authentic. In terms of graphics and sound, the game is truly magical.

The story includes a diverse and interesting cast of characters that are created in exquisite detail. Each is uniquely crafted in terms of appearance, countenance, and costume. There is a lot of dialog with professional voiceovers. Some sections of the game had intermittent issues with lip synching, but Microids just released a patch to address this. Subtitles do not always mirror spoken dialog but this was more of a distraction than a true flaw.

As with most adventures, there is quite a bit of “find-and-use” with two types of inventory: (1) physical items such as a knife, a flask, a scarf, etc. and (2) documents such as journals, photo albums, and notes. These two groups are maintained and accessed separately and both play key roles in your quest. Inventory is displayed with a key stroke and cycled through to select a specific object to examine or use.

I appreciate the fact that there were no nonsensical puzzles and none that felt forced. Tasks are realistic such as finding a cog to repair a machine, finding a lighter to ignite a fire, retrieving a key to open a lock, etc. Each is a practical activity that occurs in life. Other puzzles are mechanical in nature and are a natural extension of the story. Most involve manipulating mechanical devices or other physical items to achieve a result such as starting equipment, operating machinery, or positioning objects.  Some were more difficult than others but all can be solved by paying close attention to clues and persevering. I did not find any conundrums or challenges that sent me running for a walkthrough.

Trouble in Paradise 

“So,” you say…“sounds like a perfect game!” Unfortunately, there are some issues with game mechanics that made my journey through Syberia 3 less than perfect. I should note that Microids has just released a patch which may address some of the items I’ll mention. I should also add that their support team responded to my service ticket in less than 24 hours which indicates that they are committed to making things right.

Making it through Syberia 3 with a keyboard and mouse was my biggest challenge. To be fair, the game warns you up front that it is “best experienced with a controller.” When I plugged in my Steam Controller, I received a Steam warning that the game was not designed for it. Hmm…  With 20/20 hindsight, I should have tried harder to get my controller working but, at the time, it was easier to proceed with my keyboard and mouse. I immediately found that it was easier to use the directional arrow keys in lieu of the “WASD” for movement.

Navigating Kate through the 3D environment was not pretty. Under my control, she careened through the game like someone who has had far too many cocktails. She bumped into walls, missed turns, went up and down the same stairs multiple times, and constantly got “stuck” on the edges of 3D objects. Moving her from “point A” to “point B” was much harder than I’ve experienced in other games with similar controls.

Some inventory actions and all dialog choices are made using the numeric keys 1 through 4. Using the ‘1’ key did not always work as indicated by the on-screen instructions and I soon learned to click the mouse when all else failed. Across the game, the steps to “use” an inventory item did not seem consistent and I often found myself in the right place with the right object but unable to connect the two on my first few attempts.

Many of the mechanical puzzles require turning knobs, shifting gears, moving levers, opening panels, or assembling components. The mouse control for these activities was extremely frustrating. Often, I could not get the mouse to “grab” the object and move it as I intended. This was especially true when an object had to be turned in a specific direction or required precise placement.

“Hot spot” indicators in the environment appear only when Kate is in the proper position. Thus, if you traverse an area but do not pass close enough to objects of interest, you will never see that they are active. Combine this with imprecise navigation and you have a lot of running around trying to circle every object on the screen, just in case.

My biggest complaint is the lack of an explicit save or an automatic save upon exit. Instead, the game saves at predetermined points. This means that if you do not reach a save point before retiring for the night, progress may be lost. Combine this with long load times between scenes and the fact that you can’t skip through dialog or cut scenes, and the repetition required to get back to where you were can be tedious. I am a late-night gamer with a day job. At 2:30 AM, when my need for sleep could no longer be ignored, I felt like I was playing Russian Roulette when I exited Syberia 3. Would my progress be saved or not? How much was I going to have to repeat? OR…would (yet) another cup of coffee get me to the next save point?

I accept that a new software release is likely to have issues and Syberia 3 is no exception.  There were a handful of bugs I encountered that caused me moments of pure panic. One item remained in my inventory which implied that I had not performed a critical task that was no longer accessible. Another item could not be used until I re-retrieved it, resulting in a lengthy search for an alternate tool that did not exist.  On several occasions, stairwells or pathways became inaccessible and I found myself trapped.  This was solved by circling back through the area and clicking on various hot spots until the missing exit point reactivated.

The Bottom Line 

As crazy as it sounds, I absolutely love Syberia 3 but I cannot say that I enjoyed playing it. Benoît Sokal did not disappoint me and the story, graphics, and audio were more than I could have hoped for. But my sense of wonder was marred by my constant battle with the mechanics of the game. At times, I wanted to quit but I could not bear to leave Syberia 3 without experiencing Kate’s full story. I will say that my last few hours of gameplay seemed easier and, at the time, I assumed that I had finally acclimated to the quirks of the interface. As it turns out, Microids released a patch that day which may have been the reason for my improvement. It is my hope that Microids will continue to tweak the interface so that playing Syberia 3 can be the amazing experience that the developers intended.

As it stands, I would give the game an “A+” for design/story/graphics/music and a “C+“ for mechanics. Despite the (sometimes) arduous process of getting through the game, I would not have missed Syberia 3 for anything. The cliffhanger ending hints that there is room for another chapter in Kate Walker’s story, and I would love a chance to spend time with her again.

Grade: B+
Stunning game with all the magic of the original titles, and more
+ Compelling new story that reunites us with Kate Walker and Oscar
Original game score is much more than background music and sound effects – it rocks!
Puzzles and obstacles are “real world” and use traditional logic to solve
Worthy investment that should provide 20+ hours of play time
- Keyboard and mouse interface is a real challenge and can be very frustrating (note to self: If a controller is recommended, take heed)
- AutoSave at predefined points is not gamer friendly and can result in lost progress and repetitive gameplay



System Requirements

OS: Windows 7+ 64 bit
Processor: Intel Core i3
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: AMD R7 260X - Nvidia GTX 550 Ti 2GB
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 45 GB available space
Sound Card: Any
Additional Notes: A Controller is STRONGLY recommended to play this game
OS: Mac OS X 10.8+
Processor: Intel Core i5
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: AMD R7 260X - Nvidia GTX 550 Ti 2go
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 45 GB available space
Sound Card: Any
Additional Notes: A Controller is STRONGLY recommended to play this game. Resolution max is 1920x1080. 
Specials from Digital Download
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