Visual novels come to Xbox and the western world only infrequently. Recently, we were treated to The Pillars of the Earth
, which we enjoyed
, but outside of that we don't see them often on Microsoft's console. Echoes of the Fey: The Fox's Trail
was released on Steam last year, and is the first part in a magic-meets-mystery story.
The Fox's Trail
The story told in this game is bizarre. You play as a human named Sofya in a world where humans and leshids (elf-type characters) do not get on, and have been involved in wars throughout history. After the immolation, a way of ending the war that took a lot of lives, Sofya has ended up with the ability to use magic (a skill which is limited to the Leshid race). She now runs a private detective firm with Heremon, a Leshid who helped her after the immolation. The game opens as they are set to take on a new case.
As Sofya, it's your job to find a Leshid named Folren, whose mother came to you to ask for help. Folren had supposedly been killed in the war but you are led to believe there is more to the story. You are then drawn into a complicated and mystical story that involves secret organisations, spirit animals, polymorphing and a whole load of other stuff that isn't easy to grasp at the onset. The story is confusing, there's no doubt about that, but it's also full of intrigue. It's hard to follow at times but its ending is satisfying and worth seeing.
As stated, the game is marketed as a visual novel, which means gameplay boils down to a lot of reading and a lot of focus on the story, and little else. There are some very long conversations to listen to among the several characters. Your actual participation as the player is limited, which is a shame, but you can have some impact on what happens in the story. There are a couple of different outcomes to the story's ending, which are directly affected by what you say to certain characters. It's good to feel like what you are doing will make a difference in this way.
The fox mentioned in the game name, who only makes one appearance
Many of the characters in the game are annoying to say the least. Sofya herself has a carefree attitude which sees her sleeping with people involved in cases, getting drunk and fighting in the streets, which are blatantly unlikeable traits. She can also turn into a cat at will, allowing you to sneak into buildings to overhear conversations or grab necessary items, but this isn't as fun as it could have been. Aside from her, the other characters either feel largely forgettable or you spend so much time in conversation with them that it gets tedious. On top of this, when you have these conversations, the characters come into the forescreen and face forward while talking, which feels like a very dated style of delivery, though genre fans may forgive it more easily.
The graphics in general are very disappointing. The close ups on the characters when talking make them look detailed and the cartoony style is nice to look at, but the rest of it is largely amateur. The locations you visit, of which there are not many, are filled with plain buildings that you hardly see inside. When you reach the end of one side of an area of town, you simply warp back to the other side through a kind of cloud, which is convenient but strange.
As you explore the city, which won't take long, you'll be given various quests to do. The main quests have to be completed, but like nearly all games among the side quests you can pick and choose what to do. These side missions are often rote but they do help fill in the world with more details. In a story-driven game like this, that can be worth a lot to players.
In terms of achievements, there are only 15 to get altogether. Most of them are missable, apart from the ones for completing the different days of the case, and ultimately getting to the end
. The other ones require you to get to the end of the various side quests with the different characters. To do so you must be sure you interact with anyone and everyone whenever possible. One big bump was with the True Detective
achievement, which actually has the wrong description. It requires you to find out the truth about Folren on your own, and is nothing to do with Heremon. Overall it is an easily completable list even with a few annoying unlocks thrown in, and one you could be stuck on for ages if you went off the poorly detailed description.
SummaryEchoes of the Fey: The Fox's Trail
succeeds in a couple of areas but largely fails in others. The story is genuinely interesting when you manage to get your head around it, and presumably the successive episodes in the series will expand on the game's lore in ways that will clarify things better. The various quests and side quests help you paint a brighter world and the clues are fed to you through this . However, the game does not look like a 2017 release, with poor graphics and minimal locations. Couple this with unlikeable characters and overall the game is largely disappointing. If you adore visual novels, you'll probably find something to enjoy from The Fox's Trail
, but otherwise probably give it a miss.
- The story is actually quite interesting...
- Plenty of side quests to uncover stories and clues
- ...albeit confusing, especially at first
- None of the characters are likeable or relatable
- Aesthetically displeasing art
- Locations are very limited
The reviewer spent jut over four hours figuring out what happened to Folren ir-Adech, getting quite confused along the way but still managing to solve the mystery and unlock all 15 achievements. A download code for the game was provided for the purpose of this review.