Fade to Silence is a third-person survival role-playing game developed by Black Forest Games GmbH and published by THQ Nordic. Our story begins with our protagonist, Ash, waking in a cave with a gravely, menacing voice professing the inevitability of our hero’s demise at the hands of him and his Lovecraftian cronies. Ash exits the cave to find his daughter Alice and the realization of a horrifying scene, a freezing barren wasteland filled with bloodthirsty monsters. After clearing our an extremely large hive, the duo can set up camp to survive the night. However, with limited supplies and the weather getting colder as the days go on, Ash must scour the environment for anything and everything he can carry. Survival is key or death is foreseeable. Will you be able to survive the night, or will the hypothermia claim you before your adventure even begins?
When it comes to gameplay mechanics, Fade to Silence provides a myriad of different components to meet different playstyles. Whether you are a lone wolf that only cares for sheer survivability or a caring soul that promotes community and helping others, you will find something in this frozen hellscape to meet your fancy. The main objective that plagues this nightmare-induced journey is to clear various strongholds overran by the accursed monsters. These raids will not be easy though as each location encompassed by a thick snowstorm that drops the temperature drastically and eats away at your health as every second passes. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Once the monsters are vanquished and the curse is lifted, you are awarded a ton of resources along with free range of the area that was corrupted and a Flames of Hope, which gives you an extra life. If you are anything like me, these are a necessity as the world around you can be pretty brutal and one minute everything is going great and the next, you are laying on the ground breathing your final breath.
In addition to the Flames of Hope, you can discover Slivers of Hope and various shards that can aid you on your adventure. Slivers of Hope are required to unlock upgrades from the Boons & Benefits sections. These upgrades can be very beneficial and include things like more resources during scavenging or increased time before frostbite or starvation occurs. The one downside is that you cannot unlock any of these benefits until you have died the final time in this world. I enjoy this aspect as it provides a way to better yourself but requires an initial playthrough to get your bearings straight. However, the more time you put into the game, the more overpowered you become. While these upgrades are far superior, there are other permanent blessings that you can unlock on your initial adventure. These blessings are found in the forms of shards scattered all over the place and can be used to increase your health, stamina, weather resistance, and food consumption. They are not much, but it adds up and helps in the long run.
The final major components that encompass your experience are base and community building. At the start, you and your daughter man your home base, known as The Veil, by yourselves. However, early on, you will start having random encounters with other survivors, some of which are being corrupted by the evil entity. Like mentioned earlier, you can run your one-man-band as much as you would like and it has its upsides, but these survivors can be crucial to making the land a better place for both parties. Riding solo prevents you from having to use extra resources to feed and provide shelter to your new friends; however, if you decide to take this band of newbies, they can make your life easier on multiple fronts. First and foremost, each member has two skills that they excel in, like things from woodcutting to butchery to craftsmanship and everything in between. With these abilities, you can send them out into the wilderness to collect food and resources, allowing you to spend your time solving the mystery at hand. They can also be used to build various buildings around the settlement. Basic structures like housing, shops, and barricades are a necessity for survival and overall moral. While housing and shops seem like a no-brainer, barricades are one of those things that you may push to the side if you are anything like me. However, they prove their usefulness during various random events like blizzards or enemies raiding your base, without the walls, who knows what could happen. More advanced constructions like a butcher shop and wolf kennel can come later but are just as useful as some of the necessities.
The visuals and sound design of Fade to Silence bring the package together and express that feeling of isolation and desperation that comes around every corner. The visuals bring an expansive world to life that may seem barren but is filled to the brim with character as you explore the abandoned buildings and homes that once housed normal people like you and me. Seeing how civilization lived before this tragedy is expressed by the way Ash looks at and deals with destroyed cars or toppled buildings. His sense of remembrance brings forth a perspective that, as the player, we do not get to experience as to how this disaster pretty much happened overnight changing the course of history for everyone affected. These visual cues mixed with the overall stunning nature of the world around you brings together a cohesive story that fits right in and explains how one might act in a time of complete hopelessness. Pairing this with the amazing sound design that helped push this game just one step higher and the concoction is spectacular. The eerie noises, the distant screeches from the monsters, and the whispers of the wind that flows between trees present the feeling of being lost in the woods with a world of unknowns surrounding them.
My time with Fade to Silence was mostly enjoyable, with a few minor faults here and there, but a majority of the aspects didn’t give me too much trouble. However, two things were a little off-putting and left me either lost or confused. While the concept seemed really cool, the execution of the story just seemed quite lackluster. All of Ash’s backstory is told through brief flashbacks that are extremely vague and can be very confusing. I believe keeping the environment mysterious did help with making the overall experience better, but with it the story suffered, and I just wish there would have been more. My overall biggest issue was how clunky the combat, more importantly the melee-based combat, was. The issue didn’t stem from the combat being rather difficult, it was manageable early on. I just couldn’t find much to keep me using my melee weapon once I unlocked the bow, other than times when I seemed to be out of arrows. I honestly really hated fighting with my ax and would choose to take the long way around just to avoid most of the fights.
In the end, Fade to Silence was an unexpected pleasure that promised a lot and delivered on most of them. One more minor issue that I had with my experience was the base-building felt a bit compact. They didn’t offer that much land for you to build on and the buildings were limited due to taking up too much space. Other than that, the faults I found were small and didn’t affect the overall experience. The game is priced at $50 USD, which isn’t too bad because this game is massive and there is so much to do. However, the game does hit a niche demographic, it can be very difficult with maintaining all of the various stats in order to survive and can have a pretty large learning curve. So, enter this game if you wish, but be prepared for a lot of failing and death on your path to success.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 9.5/10
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