Empathy: Path of Whispers was a game that came across the ethereal surface of my existential desk quite by chance. Although I had never heard of the game previous to receiving a copy from the generous souls at Iceberg Interactive, I do love a good walking simulator, and so was quite stoked when presented with the opportunity to play and review this game. The product page description on Steam reads as follows:
Empathy: Path of Whispers is an atmospheric and story-driven adventure game where you explore a seemingly abandoned world through the emotions and memories of the people who once inhabited it, trying to restore the world’s lost balance by journeying through its past.
What I found was an engaging and quite lengthy adventure (at least lengthy for a walking simulator) which took me through quite a different take on a post apocalyptic world. It took me right at about 9 hours to complete with a fair amount of wandering. So, with that said, let’s dive into the meat of this review.
The story in Empathy: Path of Whispers is one that develops as you progress. You play as a child, awake and alone in a world where all other people are gone. The world itself is an idyllic and yet completely bizarre place. The narrator, who is heard but never seen, guides you on a path to attempt to restore the world and humanity to its pre-apocalyptic state.
Throughout Empathy: Path of Whispers, you will encounter sub-plots via notes and memories that reveal much of the fear and angst surrounding the inception of the apocalypse and humanity’s attempt to avoid its inevitable demise. Each distinct area in the game has its own primary story woven immaculately into the fold of the overall plot.
During your travels, you really really get to know some of the people whose memories you are afforded the opportunity to share, and the writing in this game does an amazing job of really bringing you close to a lot of people who are not even alive any longer and who you only come to know via their thoughts and impressions of the world as it was coming to an end.
Additionally, the actual premise behind the demise of humanity was nothing short of brilliant. This was an amazingly well thought out and presented glimpse into a fresh and new variation of the world we know as it is dying or coming to an inglorious end. Evocative through the end, Empathy: Path of Whispers will capture your imagination and not let go.
10 out of 10
Gameplay in Empathy: Path of Whispers has all the standards of a walking simulator: Exploration, interaction, and plenty of reading. However, thanks to a device you are given (a scanner) at the beginning of the game, you can find the impressions of a world left behind and attune your device to these impressions, revealing actual objects, memoirs, etc…and these will be used to progress the story and unlock the next areas of the game. This was a pretty imaginative and ingenious way to get the player fully invested in the game and allows a level of interaction previously unseen in this genre of gaming.
There is quite a bit of backtracking as one set of memories unlocks other sets. However, there isn’t any backtracking from one game area to the next. Once you have moved on from a game area, you won’t be going back. As such, it behooves you to really be thorough in your exploration, especially if you are an achievement hunter. After 9 hours, I still missed a small amount of notes and memories needed for the 100%
I experienced no actual issues while playing this game at all. It handled perfectly.
9.5 out of 10
Empathy: Path of Whispers utilizes the Unreal Engine, which is pretty common for this genre of gaming. As such, if you have played any walking simulators previously, you will have a good idea as to what you can expect graphically. However, when you look at the creative direction in this game compared to its contemporaries, you really get an appreciation for the level of detail put into this game and the definite desire to create a world that people have’t experienced before, and this was a complete success in my opinion. This is a beautiful game with plenty of jaw dropping vistas and a unique presentation that will again capture your imagination and never let go.
9.5 out of 10
There are some nice background sounds and music in Empathy: Path of Whispers. Things sound the way they should and the way they are incorporated into the game really elevates the atmosphere of the world as you wander about.
However, it is the voice acting that I found truly compelling. as you listen to the memories of now dead people and hear the things they were going through, not only as they tried to find normalcy in a world gone wrong, but also as their fear was mounting and different factions were forming. The variety of actors and attitudes used to define each of the many characters in the game was pretty phenomenal.
Special mention goes to the narrator, who really was able to find a nice balance between seriousness and a sardonic humor that was perfect for the story being presented.
9 out of 10
Empathy: Path of Whispers immediately enters the top tier of walking simulators I have had the pleasure of playing through. The story might be the most interesting one I have encountered in the genre, the set pieces were completely unique and awesome, and the presentation of this post apocalyptic world was fresh and new. An innovative addition to the gameplay typical of this genre really just elevated this games status even further. After all that, the game still managed to lighten the mood a little through witty dialogue courtesy of the narrator as well as a comical ending post credits.
9.5 survivors desperately trying to end the apocalypse while the remains of humanity does their very best to destroy and stop them from shutting down the vehicle for our destruction. Out of 10 possible. The remaining .5 simply disappeared.