Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail Review

Echoes of the Fey is a series of mystery visual novels set in the fantasy world of Oraz, home to Humans and the magical elvish Leshin. The Fox’s Trail is the first episode made by Woodsy Studio, a small developer that produces visual novels. But unlike other adventure games, this is a stand-alone tale with a complete ending. Actually, let me rephrase that. It’s a tale with multiple endings, based on your decisions and relationships with other characters. The game’s willingness to tell a fluid story allows it to stand out, despite my initial qualms.

Sofya Rykov, private investigator, is a strong protagonist who is willing to take matters into her own hands and is never afraid to speak her mind. Although she is a Human, she can use some magic thanks to her involvement in an explosive incident during the war between Humans and Leshin. Though everyone including Sofya tries to put the war atrocities behind them, a strong sense of oppression and prejudice in society has led to unresolved issues in Sofya’s town. And in her most recent case, she investigates the truth behind a Leshin man who reportedly perished in the war.

The story is much more complex than that, and at times the world building felt over complicated, which slowed down the pace. While the fantasy setting is rich with its own lore and intrigue, I found it hard to keep up with all the history and specific terms. It took me about an hour (out of a three-hour playthrough) until I felt comfortable enough with the backstory to effectively follow the narrative. But it was worth it to trudge through the exposition to get to the meat of the story, which is a surprisingly mature tale that isn’t afraid to convey adult themes and real emotions.

You conduct investigations by walking across a 2D map from one location to another, gathering clues through interactions with an interesting cast of characters. Though there are some fetch quests and some core conversations where you must unravel the truth, there isn’t much else in the way of gameplay. Sofya can turn into a cat – one of the only things she can do with her magic – and there are some instances where you use it to steal something or eavesdrop.

Otherwise, it’s strictly a visual novel--with all the dialogue that comes with it. Though a lot of the plot is predetermined, your dialogue choices actually make a big difference in how the climax and ending unfold. I tested this with backup saves and was surprised by the story's different outcomes, both small and large. The dialogue choices and their consequences aren’t as deep as those in a Telltale adventure game, but it’s more interactive than the average visual novel.

The cast of characters is small but likable, including Sofya’s straight-laced doctor/Leshin roommate Heremon, the suave and flirtatious Eduard, and the ruthless Arch-Commander Viola. Although most characters receive little development throughout the story, you can engage in side quests that help you learn more about them. In addition, the relationships you form with the supporting cast determine certain factors regarding the finale. In some cases, they even lead to romance.

The character art, while thematic, looks generic, sort of like what you might find on RPG Maker. The bigger issue is that each character only has a few distinct expressions. Combined with the fact that they move only their mouths (not in sync) while they speak, they appear somewhat lifeless. Thankfully, the voice acting is a different story. The strong, natural delivery by each actor sells each character’s personality. Sofya’s voice actress, in particular, nails the character’s reckless and stubborn attitude. Unfortunately, the game isn’t fully voice-acted and when it is, the acting is inconsistent. There was some side-dialogue that included full voices, important story moments that had none, and a few oddball conversations in which only one character had a speaking part while the other stayed silent. Finally, the music was atmospheric, but it didn’t particularly stand out. More consistency in the presentation could have elevated such a game that depends on its story and characters.

Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail was an enjoyable surprise. I wasn’t expecting the sheer amount of ending variations and deep themes that unfolded within this three-hour mystery. I appreciated that despite this being the first episode, it was a complete tale. Woodsy Studios has proven the worth of the intriguing fantasy world of Oraz, and hopefully, they can continue to improve in developing the second part of this magical tale.

I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!