Fade to Silence – Xbox One Review
The genre of the survival game, like many is a saturated market. Under the different stories and graphical styles, its all down to finding shelter, food, keeping warm and avoiding the dangers of the environment. To stand out from the pack, you need to add the gamer something more, but although Fade to Silence gives us something a little different in terms of graphics and back story, underneath it all you just feel like you’re playing the same old game, going through the same old grind in a bid to overcome the odds and survive.
The story starts with your lifeless body being given life by some not some cruel and vengeful sounding entity known only as the Inner Voice. Were you dead, unconscious or just sleeping? It’s not quite made clear but I’d plump for the first option as when you do die in game, you’re revived in the same spot and in the same method. You emerge from a cave into a harsh snow covered world scattered with plantlike fleshy creatures and strange black spires jutting into the air. It all looks very foreboding until you’re daughter runs up and greets you and leads you to where you have a small base. From there you have to venture out, braving the harsh arctic weather and strange beasts that want to kill you, with your priorities being to find firewood, food, and other human survivors that you can get to join your settlement.
The background story is interesting when you start the game, as its vague, mysterious supernatural nature makes you wonder just whats going on, but the basic survival mechanics of the game soon take over and the overall plot pales into an unimportant aside compared to just staying alive. The cutscenes move the story, giving you a saga of a post apocalyptic world where genetics experiments that have gone awry lead to the perilous state of the human race. It all seemed to be padding to me to justify the world you inhabit rather than making any impact on game-play in what ultimately is generic survival fodder. Unimpressive voice acting doesn’t really lift the story above the ordinary and fail to raise the excitement.
Fade to Silence has come out of the Early Access scheme to full release, but it could be argued its come out a little early as doesn’t quite seem to be fully formed, unless the developers have decided they cant fine tune the game any further. That doesn’t mean to say the game is short on content. The sandbox map is large and full of areas to explore, with resources to find and areas to build bases but nothing seems to be particularly polished. The snowy graphics, poor visibility and frequent blizzards have you squinting at the screen as things look a bit grainy, but that could be a clever design feature by the developers to cram the content in without having to fine tune the textures on the graphics.
The key to advancement in the game is too find other survivors to bring back to your camp, the trouble is they are too hard to find, so progress is slow. You cant get far without the extra people in your camp as the skills they have are key to building features and advancing your crafting skills, thus building even bigger and better structures. The characters of these NPC’s are very one-dimensional and need much more dialogue to give them full rounded personalities, but instead you feel like your interacting with androids of limited response and cliched vocabulary.
The controls are easy to get to grips with as long as the terrain is fairly flat, as I found the jump/climb button a bit hit and miss when I tried to use it, and that wasn’t ideal when trying to flee in a hurry. You’ll spend most of your time running around picking up anything you can get your hands on, which ends up making the early stages a bit of a grind. That’s because of a very limited inventory space, so you’ll be up to full capacity much sooner that you’d like, meaning many tedious return trips to you base to drop stuff off before heading out again and venturing a bit further. You base can be reinforced with extra defences and weapons for your safety, and although the top down view for placing them is quite clear, its not so good when trying to place walls as the spaces for putting them down is very limited and is usually not the location you want. The menu system of the base really needs an overhaul as I didn’t find it user friendly at all, and the constant switching around of items gets annoying as you’d rather be getting back out into the snow.
The large map is split into sections, with an outpost in each one that needs to be freed from the grip of evil before the next area is unlocked. This gives some narrative to the saga but I found it a bit too slow paced to maintain interest for long periods. As you open up a new section, you gain an extra life, but I often found that far to little too late the perma-death happened far too often, and I was returned to my starting cave. In easy mode your survival is guaranteed a bit longer but you still need to get good at combat fairly quickly as you’ll be finished off by the creatures time and again. The combat system is clunky at best, and little skill is needed other than mastering block and dodge, then deciding whether to launch a light or heavy attack. The collision detection in combat is very ropy too, and a lot of the time I got by with button mashing the attacks as long as it didn’t deplete my energy too quickly. Enemies are well drawn but not so well animated, so look foreboding but once you’ve seen them move, you should be able to stay out of trouble and slay them provided youre not overwhelmed by numbers. There isn’t a large amount of different enemies either, which adds to an sense of monotony even in far flung areas of the map.
With a difficulty curve that’s already steep from the start, I cant see the point of all Achievements being turned off if you’re playing in the easy mode. I could understand it if it was an extremely easy mode to play thought, but it can still be a challenge and to deny any sort of Achievement reward is just demotivating. As I’ve said previously, Fade to Silence doesn’t feel like the finished article, and although patches have been forthcoming, there are still the odd glitches and frame rate issues that need to be ironed out, and more detail needs to be put into the visuals to get rid of the slightly blurred hazy appearance. The games sound is the low point from my point of view, with some unimpressive sound effects, and limited hammy dialogue that repeats too often.
You can play Fade to Silence in co-op mode, where a friend can join your game, and take the place of one of the followers that you have found and brought to your camp. This mode doesn’t really add a great deal, as the second player can’t stray too far away from the main character, and it also means you’re a follower missing from your settlement who could be busy foraging for food, finding firewood or helping defend the base from enemies.
I may be veering towards the negative in my opinion of Fade to Silence but it’s a game that has potential to a a good addition to the genre. In my opinion though it needs a lot of rough edges smoothing out, and I wouldn’t recommend you parting with cash for this until the games issues have been remedied with patches. Maybe a case of coming out of Early Access too soon and a title that might be worth a re-visit in the future.
Developer: Black Forest Games GmbH
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Many Thanks to Dead Good Media for the review copy.