The setting of Femida is an interesting one. Set in a post-revolutionary country trying to adjust to the world after the fall of a dictator, you’re a judge presiding over a series of cases that can impact how society evolves going forward. Each of your judgements sets precedent, layout the foundations for the rule of law going forward.
It’s a fascinating premise, as we still regularly see landmark cases and precedent being strengthened or weakened in courts around the world. Unfortunately, the execution leaves something to be desired.
Femida is a point and click game with several endings depending on your choices through the cases. While being a judge is the main part of gameplay, the main character has the ulterior motive of trying to find out what happened to his father in the wake of the revolution. Femida is set up to be a fantastic mystery thriller, but two-dimensional characters, unfinished story threads, and some absurd situations come rushing past in the relatively short experience.
The court system is not really styled on reality, with the developers taking liberties for the sake of the game. That can work well in something fun and quirky like Phoenix Wright, but Femida’s gameplay feels quite lacklustre compared to the potential themes.
Before each trial, you are given a folder that contains an overview of the case. You effectively take on the role of the investigator at this point, authorising the wiretapping of phones, unsealing medical documents, ordering searches of places, putting people under arrest, and stopping people from working. The effectiveness of these actions depends on the morale and corruption of the police force. Once all of this has been decided and the evidence collected, you can use it to determine the outcome of the case.
Before rendering a verdict, you need to go to trial and hear from various plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses who all give their own views of events that have occurred. You cannot present evidence directly to the them, there’s no “Objection!” to be yelled, but dialogue choices do seem to open up as a result of what you’ve discovered. Trials have a set amount of time in which you can decide who to question and what to ask, but if you’ve heard enough you can just stop the trial and pass judgment, even before hearing any testimony.
There is also a tension meter that fills up depending on statements in court, which can bring a trial to an early end if it fills up and a protest breaks out in the courtroom. There’s no long term effect to this, as the trial just restarts later, making the tension meter feel a bit pointless. It’s been toned down in updates since launch, but honestly there would have been little effect on the game if it wasn’t included in the first place.
Between trials, you can review how judgments have been received by looking at newspaper headlines, which is where you will get the only feedback on your work.
The overarching story will have you converse with various characters to learn about your father’s disappearance. These characters seem to come and go quite quickly with no real resolution, and it feels like the developers had some grand ideas but couldn’t really pin down which narratives to focus on. It’s just a foggy mish-mash of elements, and isn’t helped by the grammatical and spelling errors through the writing. It’s something the Russian developers are trying to resolve with the help of volunteers.
I will say that the artwork is pretty decent and the user experience when it comes to the interface is nice and clean making Femida easy to navigate.