From Woodsy Studio, Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail is the first part in a series of adventure/story games where you follow a human P.I. named Sofya Rykov, and her Leshin companion Heremon ir-Caldy.
Set in the rich fantasy world of Oraz, Fox’s Trail takes place shortly after the conclusion of the 30-year war between the Leshin and humans. An event referred to as the Immolation of Onigrad brought the war to a premature end when a faction of the Leshin, the ir-Dyeun, detonated the magical reactor at the heart of Onigrad killing thousands. Sofya is responsible for freeing Heremon and dozens of other Leshin from prisoner camps in Onigrad shortly before the explosion. But after ensuring as many people as possible were out, Sofya returns for an unknown reason. She is later discovered somewhere close to Onigrad, badly hurt and close to death. Since that day, Sofya has had unparalleled access to Fey, or magic, and no memory of why she returned.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have not played this game entirely. This review is based on the first few hours of the game. There are events or storylines that I am not aware of, and you should keep an open mind when reading what is written here.
The story begins with the main quest, the search for Folren ir-Adech.
His mother is convinced he is not dead despite official reports of his death, and the Leshin ability to ‘feel’ other Leshin through the Fey neither confirms or denies his death. You play as Sofya and explore the town of Vodostk gathering clues and engaging with the local population looking for Folren’s familiar, a fox, last seen at the local church. From there the story branches off in several plot lines. Of particular note in all of these stories is Sofya’s ability to perform “High Magic”. Even to the Leshin, a people who take to magic naturally, High Magic is considered challenging and requires decades of study to perform competently. Neither Sofya or Heremon understand her ability to use High Magic or her connection to the Fey and a huge part of this story is coming to figure out why Sofya has these abilities.
Being a dialogue driven game, the graphics and animations are simplistic. Woodsy Studio has already established their style in previous stories such as Serafina’s Saga and Quantum Conscience, and it’s present here. The colors are bright and lend to a more “real” world than a fantastical one. Without this being negative, the style reminds me of Justice League on Cartoon Network. Besides the Church Patriarch, the only character who stuck out visually was the Imperial Inspector. He looks like a blonde Dr. Krieger from Archer. I won’t spend too much time on the visual animations except to say the running animation for Sofya is awkwardly amusing. I was slightly intoxicated when I first saw it, and it was still just as funny sober.
Echoes dialogue is well paced and written. At times it seems rather obvious what each character will say, but it was sparse enough to not become an issue. There are several “choose your response” scenarios, but I have yet to see any notable consequences of those choices. What surprised me was the voice acting. I usually find myself skipping over voice over work in text heavy games to save time, but the inflection and emotion put into the characters are quite good. The “Expression lines” especially made me chuckle. However, the voice reaction compared to the actual text didn’t always line up, often making an odd juxtaposition. The characters I have met have intriguing histories and Sofya’s interactions with them are almost always entertaining, and both Sofya and Heremon are well developed and have deep histories. My favorite character so far is the Patriarch of the local church. I’m a sucker for religiously themed thriller stories, and this dude really sells crazy. It’s obvious both he and his assistant are hiding something, and what little history I do know about him he’s definitely not in Vodostk by chance. As a side note, Woodsy Studio has other content, text and visual, that describes events before Echoes of the Fey. I would recommend checking them out if you enjoy the game.
When I first sat down to play, I was not quite sure what to expect.
Based on the Steam page, as well as the history of the studio, I was expecting a more far-fetched universe. Or at least one not as grounded as this one is. The background is very well fleshed out, and the history is expertly reflected in the various characters and those characters interactions with each other. For example, due to the Immolation of Onigrad, a large group of Leshin overthrew the ir-Dyeun to sue for peace. After the coup, many Leshin, horrified at what the ir-Dyeun had done, scattered all over Oraz to start a new life. Vodostk had previously been under Leshin control, and when the war came to an end, many didn’t want to leave; though, some settled outside the town itself in the surrounding wood. The human empire, which in reality is a confederacy of kingdoms united against a common enemy, does not technically have jurisdiction in Vodostk but still maintains a presence. The actual ruling body of Vodostk is the county, and it requires that all Leshin register their presence in the county or face consequences. This leads to interesting encounters with the Leshin population and human population on matters of law. Folren ir-Adech’s mother, Tiatha, is not registered, and this gives Heremon and Sofya ethical dilemmas about helping her.
While this information is rather mundane, it gives a realistic narrative of the motivations behind several characters, which in turn gives them weight. The work put into the history is wonderfully written and both writers, Malcolm Pierce and Jenny Gibbons, have done a fantastic job of giving this game life. Look into this game if you are into story games/visual novels.