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  • Writer's pictureNate Hermanson

REVIEW: Chronique des Silencieux's detective gameplay sacrifices playability for intrigue

Updated: Feb 3

A couple years back, VGG declared Case of the Golden Idol one of the truest detective games we'd played. I commended the game's ability to access the player's critical thinking to unravel its scum-filled mysteries, all while never leaving the player too confused as to what to do next.

Well, if Case of the Golden Idol is the truest detective game, Chronique des Silencieux may be one of the truest detective simulators... and that's not necessarily a good thing.

An in-game screenshot of Chronique des Silencieux. It depicts the game's red string system where a part of a document is being linked to a transcript of a conversation had earlier in the game. A collection of documents can be seen to the left.

​Just the Facts

Developer: Pierre Feuille Studio

Publisher: Pierre Feuille Studio

Platform(s): PC

Price: $24.99

Release Date: January 29, 2024

Review key provided by Strange Signals PR.

Pierre Feuille Studio is a family affair. Brothers Tom and Flo came together to develop a project inspired by their own family — a game based on digging through family history and what it means to really be a detective. Six years, several new team members, and one successful Kickstarter later, Chronique des Silencieux is finally here to address what the studio feels is a "failing" of the detective genre and provide something brand new in the process.

In Chronique des Silencieux, you play as Eugène Faury, a young Frenchman who finds his world upended when his mother dies. He's sent to visit his uncle in Bordeaux and is almost immediately embroiled in a fun little mystery involving a brothel, a handful of criminals, and his jailed uncle. Through this prologue, we're introduced to postwar Bordeaux and its inhabitants, a group of people trying to make do in a society that's simultaneously struggling to hold onto the glamour of its past and grappling with the harsh realities of the present.

Through this initial mystery, Eugène becomes enamored with the detective life and finds a place for himself in this community. He creates lifelong bonds and finds a family to embed himself within after the loss of his mother. Eugène's natural curiosity and innate empathy for those around him make him a perfect protagonist for a game like this, and his childlike wonder persists even after the game finally introduces its big mystery in a five-year time skip.

Eugène is tasked with uncovering the truth about the secretive and kindhearted professor he'd spent years learning under, Victor Dousvalon. He's given this task by Victor himself.

Joined by Victor's daughter, Catherine, the two probe every part of the professor's life to figure out just how complicated it all really is. As you interview the people in his life, shuffle through old letters and documents, and find the correlations and contradictions hidden within, a fascinating bit of historical fiction begins to unwind.

Your main task is to find connections or contradictions, line-by-line, in the documents you find or the transcripts of conversations you have. You must chase down "leads" (the game's closest equivalent to quests) and eventually have a classic detective "confrontation" at the end of the case, where you use everything you've learned to break down a suspect's walls and discover the truth.

To unlock this confrontation, you'll use everything you've learned to build hypotheses about their role in the mystery. In a Golden Idol-like validation phase, you use verb "keys" to make connections between folks. For example, "Eugène" threatened "Victor." Get it right and the lock opens. Get it wrong and you just have to try again.

An animated GIF of Chronique des Silencieux. It shows the player rummaging through a desk drawer to find a document that shows a person's stock share in a company.

Chronique des Silencieux is surprising for how mundane its mysteries are. Rather than solving murders or uncovering corruption, you're learning about what folks did during the war and helping them come to terms with the ways society is changing. It's surprising how grounded in actual history its stories are and, from an admittedly ignorant point of view, just how European it is. From the pared back, Tintin-esque art style and animated cutscenes to the unrelenting Frenchness of its characters and setting, Chronique has a clear and focused identity, one that feels as authentic as possible. Authenticity is great, and the dedication is admirable, but a few key things hold it back from being a detective game I can recommend.

First, one of the biggest issues plaguing Chronique des Silencieux is an extremely inconsistent translation job. As I understand it, the game was built entirely in French and localized into English for broader audiences. Unfortunately, the translation doesn't quite hit the mark. Conversations are stilted and confusing, documents are hard to follow, and in a game so dedicated to parsing complex batches of information and finding connections between it all, having to simultaneously figure out what the game is saying while solving a complex mystery is a bit too much to tackle at once.

We understand that an independent team only has so many resources and after a long development, they simply had to get the project out the door, but this issue hurt the experience and made nearly every part of the game more complicated than it needed to be.

Chronique des Silencieux builds most of its intrigue and challenge in providing you with tons of information to parse through. There are documents with pages of info and long conversations to be had with characters about the dozens of topics you have at hand. It all produces thousands of potential connections, with the game asking you to pinpoint the exact one it wants for you to progress the story. Translation issues aside, Chronique ends up embodying the classic "I know what the game wants, I just don't know how" experience that the point and click genre is infamous for.

So many times did I find myself connecting the right conversation with the right document, but not picking the exact match of lines that the game wanted. So many times I was able to quickly figure out the "twists," but found myself banging my head on the wall to figure out how the game wanted Eugène to get there.

That said, the developers seemed to realize this could pose challenges — that the game's information-heavy gameplay could lend itself to multiple correct solutions that prove a lie or inconsistency in a case, so they've implemented a feedback system where players can propose additional solutions. It's a merciful move that I appreciated.

These issues are at their worst in the game's first case — the prologue — and clear up more and more as the game goes on. But it makes for a frustrating first impression.

Chronique does have a hint system. It's a useful compass that helps to guide you toward certain documents and conversations. But in my case, more often than not, it told me things I'd already deduced.

An animated GIF of Chronique des Silencieux. It shows the hypothesis building system where two pieces of info are placed on either side of a lock and a key associated with a verb is placed in the middle. The GIF is building the statement "Jojo Mandolina threatens Flavio".

Apart from the confounding logic, Chronique has a few technical issues that make it that extra bit more frustrating to play. In the game's point and click-like exploration phase, the fixed camera swings wildly from being way too tight to the character in enclosed spaces to way too far in the outdoor areas. If you move the camera away from Eugène while moving him around he'll simply disappear. Click into certain conversations and see all of the game's textures replaced by strange colorful artifacts... only to crash moments later.

While Chronique is in a more than playable state, these issues pile onto what is an already frustrating experience in a way that make bugs like these even more inexcusable. (Thankfully, there's a frequent autosave feature that makes it so you rarely lose progress.)

It's clear that the team has a passion for the narrative and setting, and there is undoubtedly a special project buried under layers of issues that undermined the experience.

To highlight a few of my favorite parts of the game:

  • With how frustrating the play experience is, when you do manage to figure out a path to solving one of the game's mysteries without any help whatsoever, it's super satisfying.

  • The game's personal and historical focus make for a slow-burn experience whose intrigue creeps on you. By the end, I found myself gasping at revelations, desperate to see it through to the end. Finding a lackluster ending waiting for me at the finish line was just in line with everything else the game did though.

  • The actual detective systems here are worth exploring further in future games and show a solid foundation for a much better game down the line. I beg them not to abandon these concepts.

An in-game screenshot of Chronique des Silencieux. A young man in a wet sweater stands in front of a woman sitting at her vanity. A chandelier hangs above them. A collection of various conversation topics sit on a window off to the left.

Pierre Feuille Studio had lofty ambitions with Chronique des Silencieux. While their dreams of making the truest detective game were held back by some perplexing translations and frustrating logic, they accomplished their goals of making something truly unique. Despite the genre's booming prevalence in the last decade, Chronique's historical fiction approach to its mystery and the relatively ordinary mysteries you're solving make for an experience unlike many of its contemporaries.

With a great hand-drawn art style and the endless promise of its detail-oriented systems, it does just enough to keep you intrigued across its 10-15 hour story, if you're patient enough to bother with the piles of documents and confusing leads, that is.

Video Games Are Good and Chronique des Silencieux is . . . JUST GOOD ENOUGH. (5.5/10)

+ a beautiful hand-drawn art style, an interesting approach to historical fiction

- translation issues make a complex mystery all the more confusing, bugs make playing an exercise in patience, and logic issues keep you guessing from end to end

Chronique des Silencieux's key art. It depicts a cloudy French setting doused in tones of orange and yellow. Three characters stand collaged on the right. On the left is the main character, a glasses wearing young man with a green vest who is taking notes in his notebook. An older man in a brown suit vest looks longingly into the distance. A young blonde woman holds her hands behind her back and looks over her shoulder suspiciously.

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