Song of Farca is a morally grey detective game where you play as private investigator Isabella Song as she takes on a weird and wonderful range of cases that might not be as disparate as first appears. Being under house arrest for a crime she absolutely committed won’t stop Izy as she hacks into the technological infrastructure of the near-future city, using the internet, cameras, drones and her friendly AI companion Maurice to collect evidence and build a case against the nefarious wrong-uns who plague the city. With nemeses as wily as those Izy is locking horns with, evidence alone won’t be enough so it’ll be up to your keen wits and detective skills to draw conclusions from the data you find and use it to turn the tide of interrogations against those who deserve it. Not easy when it can sometimes feel like the whole city is against you.
Much like Q from the Bond films, Izy does most of her damage on her laptop, sitting in her pyjamas before her first cup of Earl Grey. And this is where the game starts us off, with Izy sat in her apartment (pictured along the top third of the screen) waiting for a call to come into her computer, (the screen of which takes up the remaining two-thirds of the screen). Here the game introduces you to a minor mechanic that shows how much thought and effort has been put into the development process: You can’t use the computer or interact with anything until Izy is sat at her computer. You can’t even move the cursor. This immediately focuses your attention where it’s meant to be, on Izy, and prevents you from getting distracted on the computer playing minesweeper or writing 80085 on the calculator, whilst also adding a sense of realism. It’s such a tiny touch that only comes up a couple of times throughout the game but it shows how solidly the game is put together and reminds you there’s a ‘real’ character that you’re embodying here, not just a conduit for you to interact with your fancy Minority Report-style laptop.
But, enough on how you *don’t* interact with Song of Farca, time to talk about how you do. The first of the two key phases of the game is the evidence-gathering phase. Here you are trying to untangle the complex web of a criminal conspiracy through every means available from your computer. Your client gives you the basic outline of the case, including what happened, where it happened and an idea of the key players. You can start by doing some basic internet research on the suspects. When you click the ‘do research’ button the game will bring up a couple of important articles with the key information highlighted, which you can click on to add to the case file. The key information is always quite self-contained so I love that you don’t have to read the full articles if you don’t want to. Attention span? What attention span? The game also tells you how much important information there is to find so you don’t waste time trawling for clues that aren’t there.
Once you’ve got a good foothold in the case, it’s time to switch gears and go and do some spying. But of course, you’re under house arrest so you’ll be doing all of that virtually (what is it, 2020?). You’re given a floorplan of the area you’re going to investigate and the location of one camera to get you started. When you hack the camera, any technology within its cone of vision is available to be hacked, allowing you to daisy chain to more and more cameras, revealing an increasing percentage of the map. You can also hack drones and other moving platforms with cameras to expand this range and routers give you access to a camera you cannot see. Your goal is generally to hack your way to a tablet or computer with some juicy evidence in its memory banks. But, you can’t hack these devices when people are nearby so you’ll need to hack distraction devices around the area to draw them away. This hacking mechanic is simple but absolutely brilliant. It’s a self-contained little puzzle that’s really satisfying to solve – for two minutes you feel like a real spy-come-private investigator.
The evidence you gather in the section might be documents, photos or videos – all of which will add to your case file, expanding your knowledge of the case. As ever, the game will tell you how many things there are to find so you’re not fruitlessly searching an area once you have everything. There are a range of puzzles to solve involving the evidence you’ve collected. For example, if the evidence is a video there is a zoom and enhance cliché mini-game where, for three different frames of the video, you need to select from three options what the zoom and enhance might be seeing. The game tells you how many of the three you have correct but not which ones so you’ll need to employ some trial and error to find the correct three images and complete the video.
Once you’ve got all of your evidence together it’s time to ask some scary people some difficult questions. The conversation will go ahead like an interrogation, with you asking the questions and showing your evidence when they deny anything – think of a cross between Phoenix Wright and LA Noire. However, evidence isn’t the only thing you can present to get your suspects to confess. You can also make deductions from all the other information you’ve gathered through your investigation. You’ll need to link two statements together in your Sherlock Holmes-style mind-palace to form a true deduction. For example, if you know that your suspect studied schematics for a device and that the device was frequency hacked, you can link those facts to deduce that they worked out how to frequency hack the device from the schematics (okay, Liz isn’t exactly Poirot but it’s a start). After enough evidence is thrown at a suspect you’ll either be able to tell they didn’t do it and have some new leads for your investigation or they’ll confess and you’ve solved the case.
All of the cases you’ll face in Song of Farca are tied together by the organised crime in the city’s underbelly and the morally bankrupt corporations in their ivory towers. Through the game, you’ll be taken on a narrative journey where you question who’s good, who’s bad and where you sit on that sliding scale, considering the dubious means by which you undertake your pursuit of justice. An absolute sea of grey morality awaits you in Song of Farca.
Song of Farca is an exceptional game. It has great mechanics that draw you into Izy’s world, a thought-provoking narrative and attention to detail up the wazoo. All of this is tied together by a gorgeous cyber-punkey/neon art style that fit the game beautifully. I had a brilliant time with Song of Farca and would really recommend it. If you want to feel like a detective in a high tech future, I’m not sure there’s anything better.