Title: Whispers of a Machine
Developer: Clifftop Games, Faravid Interactive
Publisher: Raw Fury
Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi, Nordic Noir, Point & Click Adventure
Release Date: 4/17/2019
Price: £11.39 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
What the Developers say
Whispers of a Machine is a Sci-Fi Nordic Noir that tells the story of Vera, a cybernetically augmented detective in a post-AI world, who investigates a string of murders and unravels a dark conflict over forbidden technology.
Whispers of a Machine is a classic point & click adventure game with neo-noir trappings in a Nordic post-apocalypse. You play as Vera Englund, a special agent from “the Bureau,” sent to investigate a murder in a small town far from the edge of “the City.” The story examines faith, humanity, and the nature of God. But does the writing and plot do these heady topics justice, or does this high-minded adventure fall flat? Read on to find out in this Rapid Review!
The mechanics of Whispers of a Machine will be familiar to any fan of adventure games. The biggest disappointment for me was how sparse and straightforward the game’s puzzles are. This is a rather short experience, clocking in around 5 hours, which is fine, but the vast majority of the game is spent in dialogue and running from place to place. The puzzles themselves are decent, but not particularly challenging. The thing I did appreciate about them was their reliance on logic and critical thinking over pixel hunting. One place the game does shine, though, is its augmentation system.
Your character, Vera Englund, is a cybernetically enhanced agent of “the Bureau.” Her enhancements come in the form of a “cyber-fluid” called “Blue.” It’s unclear what this fluid does to one’s physiology, but it gives Vera cool abilities like super-strength, a heartbeat scanner, a forensic analyzer, and more. As you play the game, you unlock more augmentations. Which augmentations you unlock are determined by your disposition. Your disposition is a triangle with empathy, assertiveness, and analysis at its points.
Through dialogue choices, you’ll push Vera in one of these three directions. Where she sits on this triangle will determine which augmentations she develops throughout the game. It’s a neat system that makes your playthrough unique, as later puzzles rely on these augmentations to be completed. I won’t spoil what the augs do, but they do significantly alter the experience.
But what about the story? Without a solid story, any adventure game is guaranteed to disappoint. Luckily, in Whisper’s case, it does not, though it’s not without its issues.
This is, ultimately, a game about faith. It examines the pushes and pulls between humanism and religion, with a healthy dose of A.I. to complicate things. You see, this is a world still recovering from societal collapse. What I liked about the world was the fact that this isn’t Blade Runner, it’s what happens after that society falls apart. That said, it’s also not Fallout. The world is rebounding, nations are re-forming, and humanity is getting another shot. What was so frustrating about this is that the game gives you precious little information about the world that was and the collapse that shattered it. Enticing nods to elements of Whisper’s history are offered but not expanded upon, which I didn’t like.
Audio & Visual
Whispers offers pretty stock-standard visuals for this kind of game. A vague retro-aesthetic informs its pixel art, which draws heavily from the classic adventure games by developers like Sierra and Lucasarts. This largely works, but I was disappointed in how little the game uses its unique “Nordic” setting to inform its world design. While there are undoubtedly Norse runes on flags and certain UI elements, this game doesn’t seek to do more than use names and themes pulled from Norse mythology. On the flip-side, Whispers does feature some great architecture and character design.
On the audio front, Whispers delivers a forgettable, but decent score that does a fine job accompanying the gameplay. One element I was especially impressed with was the amount of spoken dialogue. Every conversation is fully voiced, and except for a few characters, the voice acting is quite well done.
The game features a branching plot based on your choices, with frequent auto-saves that force you to commit to those choices. This gives decisions more weight and adds to the game’s replayability. I liked this aspect, but I also felt like it allowed the game to side-step having an actual opinion. This will appeal to some, but for me, the final choice left me wanting.
I would have liked Whispers to have taken a firmer stance one where it falls on the humanism vs faith vs artificial intelligence triangle, but it seems to want the player to make up their mind. With that said, despite walking some well-tread thematic concepts, the story is well-written and has some fun (if predictable) twists and turns.
If you’ve consumed many point & click adventure games and neo-noir stories, you know what you’ll get from Whispers of a Machine. With that said, this is an enjoyable game that is worth its asking price. With competent art, strong voice acting, and a decent, if cliched story, this may even pull in newcomers to the adventure gaming genre.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Whisper of a Machine by using the link below.