It should be no secret to anyone that adventure games have played a significant part in my gaming career. Although I’ve had my up and downs with the genre, I could always count on European developers for their unique takes, such as Microids’ Syberia series. Even though it’s been well over ten years since I’ve played Syberia 2, Kate Walker’s story resonated so strongly with me back then that I’ve always clung onto hope that some day a sequel would pick up the story from where it stopped.
That hope paid off. Having just found out a couple months ago that Syberia 3 was in development, I was surprised discover that it was really close to being finished. To my shock, it had been three or so years since the project began under the watchful eyes of series’ creator Benoit Sokal, and that Microids would be showing it off at E3. And so the appointment was made.
I sat in for a hands-off demo of the alpha version of the game with Microids’ producer and communication manager Cyril Berrebi, who took me through an early section of the game. For the uninitiated, a brief refresher for the story so far in Syberia: protagonist Kate Walker, an American lawyer, is sent to a remote village french village in order to close the deal on a toy factory owned by a very peculiar man. Things go awry, as they usually do, and over the course of the two Syberia games, Kate gets way more than she bargained for. She ends up in a hospital facility, where Syberia 3 picks up from and the E3 demo began.
From the get go, I was pretty impressed by the visuals. The older games were already pretty visually striking back when they were released, but Syberia 3 really benefits from modern technology, which really pops the beautiful style from the concept illustrations and paintings Microids shows off in their development videos. The distinct character designs aren’t overly exaggerated, but there’s a look to them that makes them instantly recognizable in the world of Syberia. Same goes to the environments shown in the demo, thoughtfully detailed and rendered, making smart use of fog and other weather effects when Kate goes outside the hospital for the first time.
But before speaking of her finally making her way out, it’s worth talking to about how the adventure game mechanics work in Syberia 3. Dialogue is just as strong of an element as any point and click title, and even though all the voice acting was in French during the demo, which will be the game’s audio option along with English, the writing’s sharpness came through the subtitles.
As for interacting with objects and the world itself, Syberia 3 plays like a more traditional adventure game. The trinkets that she picks up are fully rendered in polygonal 3D, allowing a closer examination for clues. Puzzles play out in a similar fashion, as shown in the demo. Kate approached her room’s locked door and its shorted out fuse box, which was opened by turning a screwdriver found in the room, through analog motions on the controller. Reconnecting the loose wires was made through a similar use of the stick. While this is nothing new to adventure games, it makes puzzles feel a little more substantial than simply having to click on items in an inventory after figuring out what to use where.
Sooner, rather than later, Kate discovers a plot within the asylum that aims to do harm to the outside populace, and thus the demo ended, with Kate finally being able to escape. At that moment, we watched a few short videos that showed how the areas past the initial sections are looking, and what can be expected later on in the game. The Syberia games were all about delivering a deep and thoughtful story wrapped in a beautiful presentation, and its next iteration seems to be on the same path.
The playable demo was surely short, but given how close Syberia 3 is from release, it’s to be expected. There’s a lot of the game that’s understandably being kept under wraps for surprise’s sake. The little that I saw – and that you can as well, if you watch the video below – made me all the more interested in finding out where the story’s going when the final version is out in December. Seems like the wait will certainly be worth it.