Point and click adventures come in various forms these days, with many hybrids popping up on the gaming market on a regular basis. Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail could definitely be considered as a hybrid, with it being more of a visual novel than your classic point and click, but nevertheless it’s still an adventure of sorts. As the first instalment of an unconventional detective series, it needs to lay down a marker and hit the ground running to entice the masses into giving it a chance. Does it do enough to drag me into its steampunk world of politics and magic?
Who is this fox, and why are we on its trail? There’s no simple answer, because nothing is simple here in regards to the story. The main character, Sofya Rykov, is a former member of the human army who runs a private investigation service alongside a Leshin – basically an elf – bloke named Heremon ir-Caldy. The world of Oraz is finally at a state of peace after a terribly brutal, longstanding war between the humans and Leshin folk, but the slightest issue in the city of Vodotsk could potentially reignite it all. A woman hires the investigators to locate her presumed dead son, who might not really be dead, and off Sofya goes on a hunt for answers at the risk of things kicking off again.
Are you with me so far? I hope so, as that’s the simplest way I can describe the premise of Echoes of the Fey and the complexity of the lore. And without even getting to the gameplay, I’m already confused at the sheer amount of back-story to try and take in. For the depth of the storytelling is overly excessive, with reams and reams of back and forth between characters about events which have occurred previously. Sometimes it feels as though you’ve got more new questions after a conversation than the answers you actually initiated the dialogue to obtain. All the strange terms and obscure character names don’t help matters either. If you grasp it though, it holds a hell of a lot of story to get stuck into, one with a couple of unexpected turns.
Despite the complexities, the main narrative thread follows the general theme of social issues between those found to be ‘different’ and ‘normal’ people – well that’s what I make of it. It approaches the subject really well and having a protagonist who, for all intensive purposes, is a normal young woman harbouring a magical secret allows the player to discover both sides of the story. Sofya Rykov is such a multi-faceted character and stands out from the rest by some distance with her ballsy attitude, inquisitive nature and a penchant for flirting with anything that moves, if you so wish her to – there’s actually the potential for some steamy moments.
I was pleasantly surprised to find most of the characters having a voiceover to accompany the on-screen text and the acting is pretty decent on the whole. At really random points during the dialogue they just stop reading the conversation aloud though and just sum up fairly sizeable sections with very annoying one liners and words, which really disappointed me. I understand there’s loads of text, but the only thing worse than reading it all because there’s no voiceover is to also have some pointless remark leave their mouths that does nothing to add to the situation except irritate. In terms of the general sounds and music, I can only say that they weren’t good or bad enough to be noticeable.
As for the looks of Echoes of the Fey and, well, the costumes are utterly divine, especially the majestic outfits worn by Leshin people; there’s a fair bit of detail gone into ensuring each character has an identifiable look to differentiate them. The world itself, although a trendy steampunk setting, is fairly grim and bland, with nothing worth gazing at. Being grim I totally get, but the overall environment just isn’t interesting in the slightest.
Onto the gameplay then, and it simply consists of moving Sofya left and right in 2D environments with the options to talk to anyone loitering, enter buildings or traverse between different parts of Vodotsk. Finding and talking to people of interest is the key to gathering clues, which is more or less all you’ll be doing throughout; having a chat, choosing questions to ask and throwing the odd accusation around where necessary. Main objectives are shown as to what you must do to further the story, whilst there are also optional ones to partake in to add extra dynamics to the tale.
In a quirky little feature, Sofya can turn into a cat at will and this can be extremely useful for getting into places she isn’t wanted to have a good poke around. It’s something I wasn’t expecting, but the only bad side to it is that the idea is underutilised if anything. Another minor feature is the ability to purchase a new hairdo or some uninspiring books using coins you may earn for helping someone out. It could be completely removed from the game and I’d not bat an eyelid.
Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail is a bit hit and miss, with too much going on and a bigger focus on the political and social element as opposed to the magic. The sheer depth is incredibly impressive, but a lot of it feels like padding at times and when the voice artists aren’t even reading the material aloud at time, then why should I bothered about these parts? I love Sofya and the plethora of interesting characters she meets on her travels though – all of whom are kitted out in lovely attires. The gameplay is minimalistic and the transforming into a cat idea is a novel one which needed more usage.
If you want a dramatic interactive novel, full to the brim of lore and dialogue options, then Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail is possibly good enough to be given a look. I was left mostly confused though, wishing there was more to do other than bothering with the main focus of listening and reading.