Whispers of a Machine is a point and click adventure game set in a far Nordic future and it’s your job to solve murders. AI has been banned since the Collapse, and the police have a careful watch over anyone who wants to invest in this area. This is a great game and will delight fans of the genre as well as anyone interested in techno-noir narrative.
As Vera Englund, a special agent of the Central Bureau, it’s your job to check out the crimes in the small Nordic town of Nordsund. The inhabitants of the town remark that this kind of crime doesn’t happen very often, so there’s definitely something going on deeper in this investigation. The situation quickly escalates as soon as you arrive – originally called in for a single murder, that’s now expanded into three.
This is a true Sci-fi tale. Vera’s located in a futuristic version of Sweden but anything with a CPU or artificial intelligence has been banned. There was a mysterious event called the Collapse and now humans remain in this rather bleak world in cramped houses and a series of grey buildings. Nordsund seems nice though, as do it’s inhabitants and they are all pretty baffled as to why these series of tragedies have come to their town.
The gameplay in Whispers of a Machine is great fun, where the three main character traits of Vera are the main focus. Empathy, assertiveness and analytical. Each choice in a conversation is remembered and shapes the narrative in front of you. It’s not entirely clear to you as the player but different options open up to you through the choices you make which lend itself to more of an RPG than a traditional point and click adventure game.
There’s some really nice mechanics in the game which I appreciated and felt like it set itself apart from other point and click games. This mainly focuses around the use of different cyber abilities. You’ll start out the game with a few useful abilities like scanning, strength boost and monitoring.
Scanning comes in use almost immediately at the start of the game where you have been sent to investigate a murder. Scan the body with one of your tools and you can pick up the blood type of the victim. With this biometric data, you can now scan for objects around and understand where the victim has been and what he has touched, leading to more clues.
Monitoring comes in handy when you are having conversations with NPCs, as you will do a lot in Whispers of a Machine, as the world-building is discovered through conversation with other characters. Turn on the monitor throughout a conversation and you’ll see if they are anxious or not, and if you spot an anomaly then you can press further for an answer. The strength mod is fairly obvious, sometimes you need to smash open a door or pull a wedged coin out of a slot and some extra strength certainly helps with that.
Vera’s abilities are thanks to something called Blue. This is a nano-technology injected into subjects and the narrative reason to why the world adapts around you. There’s a nice scene early in the game where Vera meets the police chief and she asks Vera “Do you remember what it’s like to take the Blue?”, as the police chief asks her to “let this old lady live a little”.
As you make choices you’ll shape Vera’s personality and characters around you will react differently depending on how you treat them. There’s also no manual save system in the game, so you can’t go back. The best thing to do here is yourself, choose the option that comes naturally to you and shape Vera the way you want to shape her.
The game branches out and offers a variety of paths through the main story, and if you want to go down a different path then you’ll have to start again from scratch. This does lend itself to really getting into the role and becoming Vera.
There’s a notebook feature in the game too which acts as your to-do list for an area, giving you a nice template to follow. This can get tricky sometimes as you’ll need to press the other characters for answers. The notebook’s utility definitely came in handy and acted as orientation for me, subtly letting me know I still had something to do here.
There’s the classic adventure game inventory system where you’ll gather items like keys and photographs and try to use them with various actions on screen. It’s a well implemented system, although not as innovative as the mod system described before.
The game’s writing is in-depth and the character-building is fantastic for a game of this size. It’s relatively small taking roughly 6-8 hours for a full playthrough, however, the back story of the characters and the world-building is impressive. There’s a lot of Nordic history here, with the game being developed in Sweden by Clifftop Games.
The game works towards multiple endings so there’s definitely some replay value here. As it’s a fairly short game this is possible and if you’re a fan of the genre then you should go back and try another style with Vera’s choices and personality. I’ve played through the game once and I’m drawn to go going back and playing it through again to see the differences.