FACEPALM – THE VIDEO GAME
One of the many pleasures of gaming is discovering something new. Be it a new game, series, genre etc. Something that catches your eye that you can invest your time into is something I love and when Syberia 3 which is made by French developers Microids and written by Belgian comic book artist Benoit Sokal was brought to my attention, I was intrigued. First announced in 2009 and originally scheduled to be released in 2010 leaving its cult followers chomping at the bit for its eventual distribution. This series is news to me (my apologies to the fans) and from what I saw from the trailer it had the look of the new Tomb Raider games which I love, and my fondness of point and click like style game made it catch my eye, maybe this could be a series who’s earlier entries I could possibly revisit. Sadly upon playing I was met with an adventure with minimal highs, several mechanical issues, bad voice acting and a forgettable lead character.
The 3rd entry to the Syberia franchise starts with protagonist Kate Walker found unconscious, adrift on a makeshift boat by a tribe of local nomads known as the Youkals. After awaking from her coma in a medical clinic, she soon discovers there are SHENANIGANS AFOOT!!! As two of the attendants, Dr Mangoling and Dr Olga Efimova hold a serious disdain for the Youkals and wish to sabotage their migration ritual. Feeling she owes the Youkals an obligation of loyalty for saving her life, Ms Walker sets out to help the tribe complete their migration with their trusty Snow Ostriches (I’m still not sure if they’re a real species).
Syberia’s surroundings and environment are unimaginative and for the most part lacks life even with its emphasis on nature and wildlife with drab colour palettes and dull texturing, but does a passable job in capturing the unforgiving terrain of the arctic tundra and the perilous sea. Character models look outdated and void of emotion, are lip synced poorly and look like the ol’ dog eating peanut butter when they talk. The voice acting is executed with little grace with some characters bringing to mind the work of William Shatner (and not in a good way!), the cast consistently addressing Kate by her full name time and time again is both comical and tiring at the same time (seriously I’m thinking of making a drinking game out of it). Some characters seem to be cast with actors and actresses sounding much younger than the characters they are portraying and a couple of times I experienced the sound cutting out completely mid-sentence. Series protagonist Kate Walker is the kind of character that I can see why some gamers would like; Sassy, courageous and always willing to help people in need and that’s all presented in the game, however, the rest of the time can seem one dimensional and somewhat preachy and at the beginning reminded me of a middle aged woman that can’t go anywhere without asking to see a manager (she even does that). Those that wish to stand in her way aren’t exactly maniacal and scheming but they feel more foolish and unthreatening, more Dick Dastardly than Ganon if you will. However amongst all this one of the high points during your journey is the music, the charming, captivating soundtrack sets the mood perfectly to whatever your surroundings and situation may be and helps bring an essence to the game where the graphics fall short.
Syberia 3 is further let down by some of the mechanics in its gameplay, with an unstable camera, awkward controls and constant frame rate issues. Kate’s movements are rigged and robotic walking and running and give the impression that there is a metal rod up her spine. The minor glitches that are present make you feel that this game was crafted carelessly and in the puzzles where you are moving wires and rummaging through items in the draw they move in a way that makes you feel like you are playing Octodad. Conversing with other characters gives you several options for responses and answer as well as different actions to take which can sometimes lead to different outcomes, a way of gameplay not unfamiliar to gamers today but the option to hear Kate’s thoughts on each option with a press of the shoulder button is a good touch. Syberia’s point and click adventure style, as well as its use of clue finding and item hoarding, makes for good gaming and the accompanying puzzles can at times be unique, fun and get your brain thinking in weird ways in order to progress. There were a couple of times where I had to think out of the box and sometimes it was the items in my inventory that I wouldn’t expect to work that were exactly the tools I needed. Syberia 3 is also backed up with an appealing plot and a sturdy back story which has been set well from the other two games. Its goal of completing a migration really gives the feel of adventure and even though its cast of characters seem colourful and diverse on paper they are let down by poor voice acting and cookie cutter scripting.
A PlayStation 4 Review code was provided by PQube