Review – Fade To Silence
Many considered the survival genre to be overcrowded, with numerous titles in the genre being released every year. Fade to Silence is the latest entry in the genre and it’s got some pretty ambitious goals but is it enough to stand out from the crowd?
The story follows Ash, a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by eldritch monsters. Once you boot up the game, Ash is awoken by a mysterious phantom with his base being under attack, with only himself and his daughter left alive with very little to survive off. Ash must explore the world for their survival and to uncover its secrets.
It’s an intriguing premise: what happened to the world? Why can Ash cleanse eldritch infestations? And who exactly is this phantom stalking him? Unfortunately, not much actually happens, as the story takes a back seat in favor of the gameplay, and is only really developed with flashbacks and visions that don’t really do much. The characters that you meet throughout the game have their own stories, and while some have some interesting pasts, the delivery comes off rather flat.
As is standard with all survival games, there are lots of meters to look after, items to craft, bases to build and a host of micromanagement features, and it’s the survival aspect of Fade to Silence that really shines through. In most survival games, the hunger meter is the biggest issue; in Fade to Silence, it’s keeping Ash warm. Food is surprisingly plentiful with a lot of hunting scattered throughout the map, but warmth is much bigger and more damaging threat. In one situation, Ash started freezing to death in the middle of an outpost clear. I had two choices: run away and recover or push on and face potential death, which led to an intense race to clear the outpost before I would become a popsicle. The survival felt surprisingly well balanced, never being too punishing, but it will hurt if you don’t look after Ash, as your maximum HP slowly takes a hit.
The base building and crafting mechanics are pretty standard and don’t add much value to the game due to how basic they are. You get to build different structures, from medical huts to crafting huts, and a even a place to keep wolves and a sled to help navigate the world and act as portable storage. The survivors that join your camp will do jobs such as hunt and gather resources automatically, but as soon as you give them a task it’s completely random when they will complete it. The second I set one of my followers the task of crafting a higher level bow they went out hunting, despite already being stocked up nicely on food.
The combat takes clear inspiration from Dark Souls, being less about button spamming and more about stamina management and precise timing. Or that’s the idea at least, as the majority of the enemies that you deal with in game have poor AI, and can be dispatched easily. The most common enemy type, the Ripper, is easy to cheese simply by walking backwards, occasionally performing a parry move if it gets to close or dodge if it does a heavy attack. Rarer enemy types, such as the Stalker, are much more challenging and fun to fight, thankfully enough.
Once you die, and after all your flames of hope have burned out, then the circle of torment opens up for the first time. What this does is give you permanent upgrades for your next run that will provide a significant boost that will give you a huge amount of resources. You read that right, Fade to Silence is also a roguelike. When I restarted the game, firewood and food weren’t an issue anymore, thus allowing me to focus on gearing up to prepare to take outposts as quickly as possible, cutting the game’s opening hours down to mere minutes, but leaving all the tutorials intact to irritate you. A few other permanent upgrades exist that improve your resistances, though they are much less noticeable and scattered around the world, usually gathered by clearing infestations. I really enjoyed the roguelike elements as they turn the harsh permadeath into something less traumatizing.
Visually, Fade To Silence is a generally positive experience with some pretty nice visuals. Venturing through the frozen wasteland during a snowstorm is a treat as Ash leaves tracks behind him. You won’t be blown away by great textures or environmental details, as it’s just a ton of snow, but it looks just good enough to immerse you into the frozen world. Unfortunately the menus and user interface are uninitutive and ugly.
The sound design takes a turn for the worse with some hilarious voice acting that took me out of immersion. On multiple occasions I went back to base to get food, not because of the reduced health but because Ash’s stomach wouldn’t shut up. Thankfully the phantom that mocks Ash throughout the game delivers a pretty solid performance and I generally enjoyed his appearances.
For players not fully interested in the survival mechanics and permadeath, there is an easier difficulty available that calms things down, even though achievements will be disabled in the process, allowing for the world and story to be focused on. I’d recommend playing the game on Survival though, as it’s not too difficult, and the constant feeling of torment adds up to the excitement. There’s also a number of bugs and issues to deal with, from smaller things such as button prompts appearing on objects on the other side of the map and tutorial messages not going away, to Ash attacking the opposite direction to the locked-on target.
Ultimately I was pretty bored playing Fade to Silence. Even though the map is full of markers to go to, there’s little variety to it. It felt more like a checklist: just go to marker, interact with object and move onto the next one. Events were pretty uncommon but were an entertaining break from the monotony of the open world. I was just constantly waiting for something interesting to happen. Then you’ve got what is the main objective of the map, to take over outposts. For the opening hours I was preparing Ash for a tough fight, but there was nothing there other than slightly tougher enemies than what I’ve already been slaughtering. It’s just too tedious.
A game in which you have to survive the cold harsh elements of a post-apocalyptic world overrun with eldritch monsters sounds like the perfect title for me. Unfortunately, Fade To Silence just couldn’t deliver a fun gameplay experience despite all the ingredients being there.
Fade to Silence technically looks pretty good but the lack of anything interesting to see is its downfall.
Strong survival and roguelike elements almost make up for the incredibly clunky combat.
Terrible voice acting and repetitive sound design. At least Ash’s ghastly stalker adds a lot to the experience.
Engaging premise aside, Fade to Silence in its current state just isn’t fun. Brief moments of excellence are outnumbered by long stretches of boredom.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Fade to Silence is available now on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Fade to Silence was provided by the publisher.