Fade to Silence
Black Forest Games/THQ Nordic
My initial playthrough of Fade to Silence started off in an interesting manner. I woke up in what looked like a crypt, as the bearded, manly looking protagonist (think: A younger Mel Gibson). Some sort of nightmarish entity was hovering above my supine body, cackling at me and muttering something about not wanting me to die yet until it wanted me too.
The non-corporeal, dark tangle of wispy, elongated limbs and sparkling eyes that was my tormentor, suddenly dove into my body. I heaved a few more times and then rose groggily to my feet. As I studied my surroundings I realized that I was indeed trapped in some sort of subterranean space. I staggered around and finally located the exit, and then…I crashed. Or, rather the game crashed to desktop.
So, I restarted the game again, this time making it out of the crypt. And then it crashed again about ten minutes later. From there, I did get to actually play the game for another ten hours or so before another crash, but by then I’d pretty much seen all that I wanted to see, and so logged off. I guess I should have done my due diligence and read Fade to Silence’s many informative Steam reviews, which are full of reports of it crashing constantly.
But let me rewind. When I’d first heard about Fade to Silence, I thought that its premise seemed promising. You play as a man who is trying to survive within a post-apocalyptic tundra landscape, and you must fend off many an eldritch horror that seem to have it out for you.
Fade to Silence’s trailer was rather bizarre, now that I look back at it in retrospect. It had many different elements at play, including aspects of pure survival (i.e. scavenging for resources and crafting), Dark Souls – esque combat, base building, colony management, and role-playing. I guess at the time I thought “wow, this game really has a lot of replayability with all of these disparate systems going on.” How wrong I was.
Sometimes, indie developers can get a little too ambitious for their own good. I know that many of them have these fantastic concepts that they’d like to see implemented in their little digital baby. But usually, the breadth of their vision far outstrips the meager budget that they have on hand to work with back here on Earth. It’s similar to trying to film the first Godfather film with a handheld GoPro camera in three days. I don’t care how brilliant the script is; it’s just not happening.
Gameplay-wise, the bulk of Fade to Silence entails wandering around its bleak tundra…and wandering around some more…and then some more. All of this shambling around is punctuated occasionally by eldritch horrors popping up out of the snow and attacking you. Oh, yeah, and meeting a few surviving NPCs that you can ask to join you. Unfortunately, none of this is implemented well, nor fun to do.
The wandering around aspect is a painfully slow process. You can gather resources and craft protective clothing and the like, but there is little guidance on what to do next. When you do figure out that you’re supposed to be finding and recruiting survivors, you’ve probably died at least a few times and in doing so, lost everything.
That’s right; Fade to Silence is actually a rogue-like game too, which I found out the hard way. Once you lose a battle and go down for the count, everything you’ve accumulated is lost forever. Thereafter, you’ll have to trudge around through the snow some more, gather resources once again, and hopefully not lose them by dying again.
I get rogue-like games. I’m okay with dying over and over if there is something different that adjusts each time; offering me something new in the process of coming back. In Fade to Silence, everything seems like a chore, not only because of the ultra-grindy resource gathering system but because all of its other systems seem tedious and repetitive as well.
Combat is one of my biggest gripes. While viewing the few seconds of combat in the game’s trailer, you’ll think that it looks very reminiscent of a Dark Souls title. However, after playing it you’ll see that your character only has one combo at his disposal. That’s it: Uno.
Combat basically consists of attacking your adversaries with your sole combo, backing up a few steps to avoid its counter-attack, and then lashing out with your combo again. Over and over until the damn thing falls. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, this is not.
Fade to Silence’s visuals are also nothing to write home about. The game suffers from a muted palate, muddy and blurry textures, and rather blocky models. I don’t really mind minimalistic graphics if they are stylishly done and fit the overall vibe that the developers are going for. However, when the devs are obviously going for a grimmer and more realistic look, having a game that looks like a PS 2 title isn’t going to win you any awards in terms of immersion.
To its credit, the concept behind Fade to Silence is an interesting one. Having to survive against post-apocalyptic horrors from another world in vast frozen tundra environments seems like an automatic win. Unfortunately, the game’s design choices were haphazardly implemented. It was as if everyone on the dev team had something that they wanted to have implemented in the game, and the lead game designer just couldn’t say no.
Fade to Silence can be a fun game at times. Its backstory has a desperate sort of high stakes survival aspect to it that may draw you in, at least at first. But when the tedium of both its wonky combat and boring resource gathering systems kick in, you’ll probably lose patience with it. To end on a hopeful note, perhaps the devs will learn some useful things from all of the negative player-feedback and address these various gameplay issues in future patches and updates.
Fade to Silence features some pretty okay looking graphics that make its survival gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig: