Song of Farca first hit my radar during a previous Steam Game Festival. It was a demo I was keen to try out, being a detective game featuring a female protagonist, but unfortunately time got the better of me and I missed my chance before the end of the event.
Fortunately, Wooden Monkeys project made a reappearance at last month’s LudoNarraCon and so it was added to my priority list. And after completing the prologue around an hour later, it was added to my wishlist too. Although it felt more like a visual novel and less lifelike than the other detective title I’d checked out, Murder Mystery Machine, there was still enough investigation in the gameplay and intrigue in the narrative to make me sit up and pay attention.
The story takes place in the city of Farca, during a time where technology isn’t just a part of everyday life but has made some things impossible without it. IT corporations gradually gain more influence and have become a modern aristocracy which couldn’t care less about the law or mere mortals. The corrupt government and criminal organisations are still trying to resist the powerful corporations, but they know that their golden age is over and Farca entering a cyberpunk future.
Residents are left with no choice but to turn to private investigators to solve their problems. As detective Isabella Song, you must uncover the crimes that the police have turned a blind eye to due to pressure from the mafia. You’ll have the help of gadgets, a small army of drones and your intellect; and even being under house-arrest for becoming involved in a bar fight won’t stop you from doing your job. After all, it’s no problem for a hacker to get online and find what they need.
A client is already calling you with your first case at the start of the prologue. A prototype eTerrier was stolen from the CTO of ApportPlastik while it was being taken for a walk in a local park and his young daughter is now heartbroken. After finding out where the dog was last seen, you digitally head over to the location and do what you do best: hack into the security cameras to start your investigation, download as much information as you can and track down the criminals.
Several useful abilities are at your disposal. Accessing a camera allows you to interact with the objects within its view and jumping between them all will give you a complete top-down overview of an area. You might come across a drone or a cargo bot which will enable some movement within the location. There may also be computers or tablets to unlock, but you’ll need to first figure out a distraction if these items are being guarded by an employee or security guard.
For example: there’s a drone in the park but it’s blocked by two children who are misbehaving. Using the available cameras, you come across a fountain switch – what better way to attract the kids by turning on the water? This means the drone is then free to scan the area and turn on an alarm, alerting the guard and causing them to be drawn away from their office. Hacking into their computer there lets you access the CCTV footage and download the video so your investigation can continue.
This footage can be digitally enhanced through a simple visual puzzle to give you the face of a person, who can then be searched for on the internet and a profile created from the details uncovered. You can also see the plates of the van used to take the eTerrier, which can be analysed by your artificial intelligence (AI) Maurice to give you its current location. All of this information is added to your digital investigation board and it’s here that you can see all the links between the evidence.
Unlike the mind-map board in Murder Mystery Machine where it’s up to the player to make the connections, they’re automatically displayed for you. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any detective work involved though; sometimes you’ll need to call the people for whom you’ve gained contact numbers and see what you can get out of them. You might have to prove that they’re lying by showing them a particular item or make a conclusion based on what you already know to back them into a corner.
Your assumptions won’t always be correct however, and wrong answers could have consequences. You can only talk to people for as long as they wish to tolerate your presence and jumping to a wrong conclusion could result in them ending the conversation. Players will need to use their detective skills to rely on the facts and avoid falling for any lies told by the suspects, because your decisions will affect the course of the story and you’ll need to live with the outcome of your actions.
I’m not sure I sure much of this mechanic during the prologue but the Steam page advises that Isabella’s situation will become more complicated as the narrative progresses: “The stakes get higher, and the various plot strands come together to form a single story. The choices you make in investigations have important consequences to the plot. Do you convict the suspect that all the evidence is pointing to or dig deeper? What collateral damage will you leave behind you?”
While Murder Mystery Machine is a game based in reality, Song of Farca feels a little more story-based and futuristic; and where Isabella’s methods are reliant on technology rather than old-fashioned detective work, the gameplay feels more focused on the conversations you have with other characters. It’s still up to the player to lead the investigation though and find the evidence that will lead them to the correct suspect. It’s pleasing when you succeed in making a correct logical leap between clues or solve a visual puzzle.
Song of Farca is due to release this summer, so hopefully we won’t have long to wait to find out what Isabella has gotten herself involved in. Until then, give Wooden Monkeys a follow on Twitter to stay up-to-date on their progress.