Whispers of a Machine engrossed me from the opening menu, where in the background art I could see the setting of the game: a town sitting atop a towering disk in the air above plains and roads that seemed wasted and left long ago. The first scene introduces the player character, Vera Englund, a special agent for the Central Bureau who is sent to a small town to investigate a murder. This introduction offers a character who is confident in their abilities, but still has some issues of her own to get past. It’s a real achievement that they have given a sense of the character from such a small interaction.
Developers Clifftop Games and Faravid Interactive do something truly special here that really elevates the point-and-click adventure genre in creative ways. First and foremost, their storytelling is powerful. They weave a yarn so strong that builds slowly and continues to throw wrenches into the players conceived notions of what is going on, but never so much that they can’t piece together the actual story. It speaks to the game’s great design that a lot of the puzzles don’t feel forced, but rather as central pieces to the story, feeling absolutely seamless. Still, while the plot continues rolling ahead, it never leaves behind it’s central players. Each character feels incredibly well realized (even dead ones) and never stray from how you think they might react to a situation. Vera’s story is especially interesting and just as fascinating as the mystery that brought her to her destination in the first place.
The game elevates the genre in fantastic ways, giving the player abilities with “the Blue” injected into Vera’s body, which are nanobots giving her cybernetic abilities that allow her to more effectively do her job. The most fascinating element to the gameplay is all of the dialogue choices not only shaped the story, but how I played it as well. The developers created a system where depending on how the player approaches the game, they will unlock specific abilities that create different solutions for every puzzle. This intersection of story and gameplay is a crossroads I can’t wait to walk down again.
Vera’s story is especially interesting and just as fascinating as the mystery that brought her to her destination in the first place.
There is clearly a great amount of love put into the game, as almost every single item has a different reaction not only from Vera, but almost all other characters as well. The environment is full of stunning backgrounds that may not be necessary to the investigation or the plot, but completely shape the world around Vera in fun and interesting ways. For example, there are a great many lifeless robots hanging around, referencing the fact that there was a war involving A.I. set not too long before the game began. This is only one of many examples of environmental storytelling found throughout the game. Items can be used in ways you might not expect, which forces the player to think outside the box on many occasions. This makes for some incredibly satisfying puzzles that really capture the feeling of being a detective. Some items might not be used until the very end of the game, but always having the inventory visible on screen keeps the player constantly wondering of their uses.
Whispers of a Machine is a fantastic example of it’s genre, with more than a few tricks in it’s blood. There is no doubt about how much work was put into this game. While the overall game is a slow-burning mystery, it will have no problem keeping your brain pulsing and the blood pumping, and one that won’t be forgotten.