Chronique des Silencieux is a title that stands out right away with its beautiful Tintin-esque artstyle and romantic southern French setting. Placing you in the role of Eugène, an accidental detective, you’re tasked with scouring the streets of 1970s Bordeaux and investigating its inhabitants’ various secrets and plots. You’ll need to interrogate witnesses, uncover sensitive documents, and piece together many mysteries along the way.
The charming facade of Chronique des Silencieux’s artstyle betrays a morally grey narrative featuring murder, drugs, and a whole host of ne’er-do-wells. Using the mouse to navigate, you’ll follow Eugène’s misadventures as he digs through the dubious family histories of the city’s colourful characters. There are some delightful animated cutscenes that pop up occasionally, breaking up the gameplay and featuring French voice-acting. A nicely atmospheric soundtrack adds to the ambience, underscoring your journey through brothels and backstreets, collecting evidence and testimony as you go.
The game’s investigative system takes inspiration from the minutiae-obsessed interface of ‘Papers, Please‘. Each piece of evidence you collect can be examined line-by-line and matched to a line of dialogue from a witness in order to make a connection or call out a contradiction. This can lead to new topics for investigation, or uncover “verbs” that can be used to form your own hypothesis. Pairing two topics with a verb is how you guess what’s happened (e.g. Madam Solange – threaten – Flavio) and if you’re correct, you’ll be able to take what you’ve learned and confront a reluctant witness, forcing the truth out of them in a dramatic denouement.
It’s surprisingly challenging to piece each thread of evidence together, particularly since the English translation in its current state is difficult to parse. Translating such a mammoth amount of text is a huge undertaking for an indie studio and they’ve done an incredible job at making the game playable in both French and English, but unfortunately, the nuance required to perform satisfying detective work is not yet there. You need to scan through dozens of individual lines of dialogue to seek out connections and form hypotheses, and with the sometimes ambiguous phrasing, it can be a struggle to figure out exactly what you’re supposed to be doing next. Even making liberal use of hints, more than once I hit a wall and just started clicking options at random.
I’d also note that there are some slurs in the current translation that felt like they came out of left field. Encouragingly, developer Pierre Feuille Studio released daily updates throughout the preview period and have committed to adjusting translations, balancing difficulty, and improving other parts of the user experience after launch. I’m looking forward to seeing how the game evolves with user feedback.
Chronique des Silencieux presents an intriguing story with a gorgeous art style and in-depth detective mechanics. It’s a promising title from a new indie developer now available on Steam.