Saturday, 06 May 2017 00:00

Syberia 3 Review

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After more than a decade Kate Walker is back, and this time? She’s comin’ at ya in 3D.

With the creative genius of Benoit Sokal, the prowess of Microids (with additional work from Koalabs), and an exhilarating score by Inon Zur (Fallout, Dragon Age, Prince of Persia, and of course, Syberia 2), Syberia 3 promises to entertain in a new story line featuring the adventures of the great Miss Kate Walker. But, does it deliver?

A 3D adventure with point-and-click, action, logistical, and puzzle elements entwined in an elaborately fantastical story with – yes – SNOW OSTRICHES(!), the title appeals to almost all preferences. Released for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Android, and Mac OS, there are multiple ways to partake in the fun. I have, admittedly, never played a Syberia entry before, so this was an introduction into the world of Kate Walker.

A legacy, rooted in entertainment

I enjoyed it. Immensely. If you are to glean only one thing from this review, let it be this: A series is designed to increase sales. Whether it’s a new title from your favorite developer, or a new book by your favorite author, the point of a series is to generate repeat interest, to provide a legacy, rooted in entertainment. I can happily testify that Syberia 3 has indeed “sold me,” and I will be visiting Steam to find both the first and second Syberia installments.

When I entered the world of Syberia, I found Kate Walker (yet unknown to me) in icicle state, comatose in the snow. The friendly, local Youkols (cute little rollie-pollies) transport the frozen American to a… hospital, wherein were stationed the fabulously stereotypical and stern Dr. Olga and her minions.  Kate has a (for the time being) video counterpart who is very villainous indeed, replete with eyepatch. It gets real, real fast, as Kate realizes that she’s probably not in a hospital-of-the-year, and she very much wants out.  Let your creativity flow as you answer for Kate Walker when she talks to Olga’s henchman -- the ‘right’ answers might not be right after all.

Puzzles begin almost immediately, and they are fun! You are allowed to do everything, from turning screws to digging through boxes. Some answers are relatively straightforward, others are more challenging, requiring multiple returns to the same location.  There is an excellent balance throughout; not too much of the hair-ripping-expletive-yelling-brain-melters -- just enough to keep you from falling asleep. It is recommended that you use a controller for maximum enjoyment; I found the combination of controller and mouse worked the best for me.

Sorry Unicorns. You are now number 2.

Along with puzzles, adventure abounds instantly when you awake. After all, you are Kate. Kate Walker (you will fully understand my need to say her name so often once you play), and you must help the adorable snow ostriches migrate! (And OMG are they adorable. I have now placed snow ostrich at the top of my “Bucket List: Pet version.” Sorry Unicorns. You are now number 2.) From assembling random bits of junk into a usable product (lanterns, torches) in true MacGyver fashion, to breaking numeric codes, all tasks are carried out in this frigid land of snow ostriches, and, as a player, you will peer into every nook and cranny you that can find to complete these puzzles. There is even an opportunity here to switch players and become, for a short time, a very welcome, surprise guest. Note that while no hints are provided, you do have two options for gameplay difficulty.

There’s so much gameplay, sprawling from creepy hospitals to chilling, Chernobyl-esque amusement parks, that I felt as though I played several installments, not just one. I could go on for pages about the world with which I found myself falling in love; about the incredibly textured clothing (not so much with hair), and how very cool it is when you are nearly about to tell the fabulous Kate Walker off, but suddenly stumble upon the elusive seaweed that just so happens to be what you need. To take what handles like a hidden object title, and turn it into a 3D concoction that feels closer to VR (other than actual VR, of course) than most releases that I have had the honor to play, is nearly priceless.  I could also ramble about the myriad puzzles and adventures of Siberia 3, but I’d rather you just play for yourself!

A substantial foray

Some pretty fiery statements have arisen in the various social media and on several fan sites, and the majority live in oppositional territories (the ‘loves’ and the ‘love nots’). Obviously, I can’t speak for the die-hard fans of the first two installments of this series (who have waited for so long) when it comes to emotional attachment; I write merely as a first timer. For their first attempt in the world of 3D, this is a very substantial foray, and I am so excited to see what happens next in the world of Kate Walker. And, after spending many hours in the steam-punk-ish world of Kate, I am confident that we shall meet her again.

Siberia 3 is a very interactive release, moving beyond simple point-and-click and into an engrossing experience. Able to explore, touch, twist, and pull, there were times I felt lost in the world created for me, and became quite attached to the very likable characters with whom I had the pleasure of meeting. The first few hours were rough. The controllers can be a bit painful to navigate, and the camera angles, at some points, quite frankly, suck. Occasionally, vision will simply cut off, and it’s impossible to look down, or side-to-side. It’s also unclear when you are near an item with thich you must interact, so: if you are stuck… hit, bash, and pull anything you can get your hands on (very similar to what I do in real life). Take the items you have discovered from your inventory and try them out. I was mildly surprised a few times (when I thought I was never going to get it) at how incredibly straightforward the answer could be.

Lose myself in play

There is quite a bit of buzz on Steam regarding everything from bugs to the release just not working at all. However, I experienced nothing major, and I’ll reiterate that for a first venture into the world of 3D, Syberia 3 is nicely done.  A key point to acknowledge is that Syberia 3 didn't come about with the intention of following in the footsteps of its predecessors. It was meant to stand alone (key Aladdin: A Whole New World). Were the title not designed this way, I might be more critical.

I had to spend quite a few hours trying to forget how the mouths move (creepily).  It gave off the impression of a poorly dubbed movie, stemming, perhaps, from a desire to make Syberia 3 so realistic, that it went a bit backwards [EN: uncanny valley].  Kate’s eyes look… well, possessed (Hey! There’s an idea!) and she appears very wooden while moving. Her feet sometimes disappear into the floor, and she moves as though her spine were fused. One particularly hefty man, with magnificent jowls so detailed that you can see each hair follicle, loses a bit of the magic when he talks and the entire jiggly-looking mess does not, in fact, jiggle. This lack of wiggly-ness makes the mass look less like fat and more like a giant lump of something painful clogging his trachea.  But, while troublesome, and even accounting for poor controls: Syberia 3 withstands. Once I allowed myself to stop moaning about the tooth/tongue messes, and voices that strangely remind me of my GPS, I was able to lose myself in play and (almost) totally forget about the little nuisances.


The Verdict

At the end of it all, yes. There were quite a few things in this installment that could have driven me batty — had I allowed them to do so. Will I play it again?  Maybe not, but know knows? I might change my mind once I have played the first and second installments. The beautiful reality of Syberia 3 is that I didn’t need to know what happened beforehand in the franchise. If you play for release, for freedom that you don’t have in a normal, boring life — and if you can look past some rough handling --  Syberia 3 is for you..

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Carrie Luna

Having spent her formative years as the only child on a farm full of goats, geese and guinea hens, it should come as no surprise that Carrie Luna is a bit...different. Familiarizing herself with RPG's before she even knew that would ever be a "thing", Carrie spent 6 years of her life flipping between her alter-egos of Spiderman, and Ponch from CHiPS.  When not role-playing alone, Carrie studied physics, convinced she too, could turn into Wonder Woman if only she held her arms at the correct angle while spinning.  Once she made it off the farm and realized chasing geese was definitely NOT the social norm, Carrie immersed herself in fantasy novels and a love of all things Terry Brooks. That love led to the joy of writing, reading, and ultimately gaming.  Carrie now lives in Minneapolis, with her 8 year old daughter, her 12 year old Chihuahua, and her tattoo artist husband.  Rest assured, they are all as strange as her.  She may, on occasion, still chase geese.


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