Baby, it’s cold outside. Or I should say, oi, fish face, it’s cold enough to freeze your unmentionables off. Set in a snowy steampunk landscape, Syberia 3 is a point and click adventure that feels deliciously old school in its design. Kate Walker wakes to find herself in a rather backwards clinic. The staff are scary, their idea of treatments scarier and, worst of all, they don’t seem to want her to leave. From the very start, everything is extremely intriguing. What is this place and who is this Kate Walker? The number three tacked on the end of the game title has probably clued you into the fact that this is part of a series. Although it’s a standalone game with its own unique story, I’m of the opinion that background never hurt anyone, so it’s worth looking up the plots of the first two games to gain some additional context and to enrich Syberia 3’s storyline.
I don’t know how I ever missed the first two games, but I’m told they were incredibly popular and fans have been waiting quite some time for the next instalment. I can’t tell you if 3 measures up the very high standard the first two games apparently set, but I can tell you what it’s like from a newcomer’s point of view.
Before we get into the exciting stuff, however, there are a few things I’d like to quickly get out of the way. Yes, there are some technical issues. The framerate quite often does a decent impression of an army cadet (drop and give me 20), there’s a small section that is missing some graphics if you enter it before the game expects you to, and control of Miss Walker can occasionally go awry when the camera angle suddenly changes. There’s no doubt that it all needs a bit of spit and polish in the form of a big fat patch, but there’s nothing game-breaking and actually I wasn’t put off. I do indeed have a high tolerance for technical hiccups, but it’s important to note that Syberia 3 does have plenty to offer.
If you ever pointed and clicked ‘back in the day’ you’ll feel right at home the moment you take control of Kate and begin job number one of getting out of the clinic. By walking her around with the left stick you’ll find objects that are highlighted by a little white dot. The right stick can be used to change between multiple objects or multiple points on an object. Some items of interest can be looked at, some can be interacted with and some require you to combine it with another object. it’s not fast and it’s not frantic but it is good old fashioned Gabriel Knight, Broken Sword, Tex Murphy, Beneath a Steel Sky goodness.
You have separate inventories for documents and objects and accessing them is quick and easy. Kate, bless her thigh high snow booties, is a bit of a plodder, but you can light a small fire (not literally, although I would enjoy that) under her backside by pressing the right trigger button to transition her into a casual jog. Puzzles are generally logical and there are a few, such a hunt for someone’s medication, that are beautifully bizarre. In addition to the standard puzzling, there are quite a few pieces of machinery that need to be operated and, bearing in mind that you’re in a steampunk clockwork fantasy world, you’re going to have to experiment.
There is a great cast of secondary characters to get to know, not least the Youkols, the nomad tribe you’re also trying to help. You see, they are on a very important pilgrimage. It’s the snow ostrich migration and no matter what villainous cretins want to stop them, they are determined to finish their remarkable journey. So, snow ostriches. Yup. Cute-As-F*%k. I want toys, I want a statue and I want them on a damn skinny-tee. Immediately.
While you’re chatting to the folks around you, you’ll often be given dialogue choices which can affect how the characters react to you and whether or not they’ll give you what you want. Although it’s no Tides of Numenera, it is a nice touch that adds a little something extra to the game and gives you the opportunity for a couple of extra sneaky trophies. Talking of trophies, there are 41 of them including what seems to be a very achievable Platinum. In fact, the great majority of trophies are easily earned and you’ll be popping them off like farts after a spicy Bhuna Gosht.
This the bit where I’m supposed to tell you how long the game takes to complete. Well, I’m sorry but that’s not how I roll. Translation: I forgot to time it. Put it this way, I played every evening, all evening for six days (I had to help the snow ostriches!). It’s not a short game and there’s plenty to keep you immersed in Kate Walker’s world.
As a newcomer to the series, I was glad I took the time to look up the previous games. Being a newbie did not hinder my progress but I do think a little re-cap at the beginning of the game would have been awesome. It’s a unique and endearing world and I would love to know more about it. Remastered versions of the first two games would certainly be welcomed and judging by the game’s ending there seems to be plans for another sequel. The story of the Youkols and the migration comes to a satisfying conclusion, but Kate Walker’s story clearly goes on.
While there are technical issues and there’s no doubt this release could have been baked in its steam-powered oven for a little longer, fans of the point and click genre should still feel at home in Syberia 3’s chilly clockwork landscape. There are plenty of puzzles to solve and steam engines to ignite. An endearing adventure game despite its faults. Took took, Kate Walker!
S J Hollis Rating – 7/10
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