Empathy: Path of Whispers is an upcoming puzzle adventure game by Pixel Night. Oddly enough, they list it as an action adventure game despite the fact that there is never any action to be found. This isn't necessarily a knock on the game, but it is a walking simulator and they would do good to market it as such so fans don't return it when they realize that it is just a walking simulator. Either way, Empathy: Path of Whispers is set to launch May 16th for PC.
Empathy: Path of Whispers will be available for purchase over on Steam.
The story is definitely Empathy: Path of Whisper's strongest point, which is why it is a shame that it isn't anything spectacular. You take the role as some person who is following the orders/advice of some other human as you try to figure out what happened to the world. Which is weird, because the person talking to you through the void clearly knows what is happening and what is going on. He is constantly talking about the people in the world who you get to know by accessing their memories. He clearly has some understanding of these people and he just doesn't feel like telling you.
You are then guided through several different locations, such as a park and a small mountain village as you learn more and more about the people you hear. This is also why I suggest having subtitles on. Without them, there is pretty much no way of knowing the names of the different people.
That voice in your head represents the narrator, and he isn't very good. It's not that his voice is bad or that his lines are pure garbage, he is bad because he exists as a way to draw interest. There is no reason for him to be there other than the developers didn't know how else to keep the intrigue going without him giving vague hints about what is happening or making one liners. He sure does love those one liners. He doesn't ruin the experience, but I feel the developers missed out on an opportunity to make a depressing and lonely atmosphere.
I also feel that Empathy: Path of Whispers relies too heavily on the memories for story telling. It is nice to get to know the different people and they are well crafted, each having their own personalities, struggles, and goals. However, I would have liked to piece more of it together myself. Don't' tell me someone used to be in the military, leave clues in the environment for me to piece that together myself. It would have made exploring the environment much more enjoyable if there was more story to glean from it rather than just more memories to listen to as I hunt for the next one.
The gameplay is boring and it is far too repetitive. Throughout your time with Empathy: Path of Whispers you will match up so many wavelengths you will have nightmares every time you see waveforms. It isn't that this is a terrible gameplay mechanic, it is just that it is used so often that I ended up sighing every time it came up. You have to hunt down a variety of objects that you find using your radar and solve the little waveform puzzle every time. It gets old really fast but the game never drops it until they very end of the game.
Beyond those little waveform puzzles, are some actual environmental puzzles. Most of these are just simple find the right item to use on the right object type of deal. None of these really stood out but I was glad they meant that I didn't have to solve any more waveform puzzles. For a little while, at least.
The gameplay isn't helped by the slow movement speed. The different environments can be pretty large and running around them gets boring quickly. After you have found all the memories in an area to help you connect with the characters, there is nothing in them. The level design is rather boring and predictable and rarely has anything of note to look at. The one exception is the village of Eagleview which has a great backdrop to look at and some interesting pillars. It also didn't help that I had to completely restart the entire first half of the game.
The only time this really gets away from the waveform puzzles is the very end. Here, you are exploring a lab of some sorts and it has a heavy focus on environmental puzzles and learning more about the characters we have seen along the way. It is definitely the best part of the game, which is why it is a shame it is by far the shortest part of the game. If more of the game played like the last section, the game would be far better off. As it stands, however, the gameplay is more of an annoyance than a fun activity.
Graphics and Sound
The game doesn't look terrible, but it doesn't look great either. Some of the outdoor environments look pretty, though they are hurt by poor textures and static skyboxes. The indoor environments all look pretty bad. They are serviceable, but they aren't going to blow any minds and are pretty forgettable.
The sound design is actually pretty decent. The voice acting ranges from bad to pretty good, but most of them fall right in the middle. The music is actually pretty good but is used far too infrequently for my liking. It often just disappears for levels leaving you with nothing. Or in the case of the first area, leaves you with the sound of children laughing that never stopped ever and made me want to gouge my ears out.
It's never good when a game deserves a category for bugs, but Empathy: Path of Whispers is unpolished enough to merit such a section. There were more than a few times where I wanted to delete the game and scream into my pillow.
The biggest bug happened halfway through the game. I got stuck on a puzzle that involved bringing up the power for the train. It gave me a few different power blocks that I had to use to power square by moving certain pieces around. I got stuck and decided to turn the game off to take a quick break. This was a mistake. The green power blocks were no longer active when I re-loaded. I figured I just had to go activate them again, unfortunately, that wasn't an option. I had to deactivate a fan to get across to where I needed and, for some reason, the fan was no longer had any collision detection. I just kept falling in an endless void to my death. Since the game works on an autosave system only, I had to completely restart the game. This was made even worse by the fact that I had to listen to all the dialogue again because you can't do any puzzles while the dialogue is going on and you can't skip it.
Some other bugs include falling through the ground, objects having no collision, and walking on air. The game also has a teleport system where it puts you back on the last solid ground you touched if you fall off, which often put me in areas where I was stuck and had to reload. The game in its current state simply doesn't work properly.
That's not to say the game is only bad. The different characters are pretty fleshed out and interesting, and I did push on to the end to try and figure out what happened to them. The waveform is a good idea, it is just used far too often and became annoying instead of fun quickly. It needed to be spaced out and used less frequently. It felt more like a scavenger hunt, except I knew where all the items are and I just need to walk over and grab them. I suppose it is more like cleaning your room. It is about as exciting as that, at least.
|+ Interesting characters||– Waveform puzzles|
|+ Good music||– Indoor environments|
|+ Good outdoor enviornments||– Bugs|