There’s an air of seriousness to Whispers of a Machine. After all, when its core story features a murder mystery set in a society that rose from the ashes of an apocalypse, there’s not much to be very jolly about. Mix in some more science fiction elements and you’ve got an adventure tale that looks to explore the relationship between humanity, machine, and death.
The star of this point and click adventure is Agent Vera, who’s sent out to investigate the murder of a worker in the small settlement of Nordrund. There are no witnesses, no murder weapon, and a whole host of questions. This scene is where you’ll first get know how Whispers of a Machine plays, and it is essentially like any other point and click adventure you’ve come across before. You’ll investigate scenes, pick up items, and use those items to interact with each other and other people.
What’s slightly different are Vera’s neural augmentations. As a member of the Bureau, Vera has access to additional skills like a biometric reader that can monitor a person’s heart rate and emotional state – handy for questioning. She also has a scanner that can pick up clues in the environment like DNA and fingerprints, and her final introductory skill is a muscle boost which can be used to move things that would be too heavy for regular humans.
As the game progresses Vera gets more skills, but they’re determined by your play style. This is decided primarily by how you interact with the other characters in the game, whether you try to be approachable and friendly or stick strictly to a businesslike tone. The skills you unlock give you different ways to approach the obstacles that are put in front of you.
Considering the tone and theme of Whispers of a Machine, it’s not surprising that each puzzle requires logical thinking about the situations that comes up. Such an approach means that there are only a few instances you have to think outside the box, and it’s something that helps keep the story moving forward. There are very moments where you can get stuck, instead allowing you to appreciate the story and characters that much more.
While there are quite a few characters dotted about town for you to talk to, only a few really stand out. That isn’t to say the cast of characters aren’t well written or voiced, but only a handful will be remembered once the credits roll. The story itself grows from the murder mystery to exploring the implications of artificial intelligence, its pros and cons, and why a devastating war broke out over the arguments from the past. The events of Whispers of a Machine act as a microcosm of the ancient war which led to societal collapse and change.
Nordrund itself isn’t especially large and is fairly easy to navigate because of this, which means it’s not too much of a chore if a puzzle solution requires you to tramp from one side of the map to the other. The look of the game is clearly inspired by other classic point and click adventures, but the colour palette manages to give a sense of the bleakness that has permeated a society that has sprouted from the wreckage and ruin of the old world. The music also adds to that sombre outlook in the game. It’s not all moody misery, as one pair of characters really do bring some lightheartedness to the dreariness of the rest of the world.