Walking in a winter blunderland.
Survival games often vary in quality, not just towards their visual design, or in their storytelling, but in the way they use their survival mechanics to create tension as you look to stay alive despite your possibly grave situation. Some are often fair, ensuring you have a decent chance to survive whatever harsh conditions are set upon you, despite the various meters you will tend to. Others, however; place too much attention on those meters and they often become far too much of the focus, forcing the world and its story to never feel as important. Fade to Silence, a survival game by Black Forest Games, is the latter, a survival game that is overburdened with babysitting meters in a world that feels like wasted potential.
While there are story elements present here as you explore a post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland, it just never comes across as engaging or memorable. As Ash, you will explore this arctic wasteland and encounter survivors to bring back to your camp, or to have fight alongside you as you gather up resources to stay alive or slay the demonic monsters that litter about. Ash is also fighting his own personal demon, and in quite literal fashion, he speaks to you and often mocks the attempts you are making at cleansing the lands. You’ll meet various survivors as you explore, but these encounters just don’t have the narrative punch the game wants to deliver. Fade to Silence initially has intriguing ideas in a world that should be interesting, but the story just doesn’t captivate or take advantage of that setting. It also doesn’t help that taking back infected areas is as simple as just holding down X to cleanse the area. Sure, you’ll fight a few creatures and dodge a few incoming attacks, but overall, the way in which you save the land is quite simply anticlimactic.
Your journey to heal the infected areas and recruit survivors is often met with braving the harsh cold and ensuring your max health isn’t fully corrupted. Reviving your allies or cleansing the land takes its toll on you psychically and limits your overall health. You can fix this with crafting some specialty healing items, but at first, these items rarely offer up substantial effects and you’ll end up crafting several of them just to see your max health increase by a few measly pixels. The game does allow you to play on easy, removing the permadeath feature, but it also removes the ability to earn achievements, as well as the permanent boosts that remain with you after your character has officially kicked the bucket. While that system is directly tied to the permadeath feature, in which you have limited lives, removing achievements is a very odd addition that feels weird seeing as most of the tasks you’ll complete to earn said achievements are very common things like crafting items, or recruiting survivors.
Gathering resources will assist in crafting healing items, weapons, and gear suited to assist in braving the cold or allowing you to withstand a few more hits from the demonic creatures you’ll encounter. You’ll gather wood to start a fire, creating a safe space for you to craft and get some rest, as well as keeping you warm. You’ll hunt animals and gather various resources to prepare food, which is another meter to contend with alongside surviving the harsh winter climate all around you, especially harsh blizzards that will rapidly drain your temperature meter. Resting will remove some of the effects of these conditions, but will require you to rest longer, using up what wood you’ve used to construct said fire. Resources are also used to build up your home base, creating shelters with the assistance of those survivors you bring back to your camp.
Apart from a very apparent lack of direction, the story present here just doesn’t give you any sort of motivation to keep your interest. The demon will constantly talk to you, but most of the focus of his dialogue is telling the same thing to you in different ways. The gameplay loop of hunting, gather resources, surviving the elements, just isn’t enough to remain enticing. Even the base building and crafting systems feel almost tacked on and don’t really add much value to the game apart from keeping you alive, at least, in respects to the crafting component. About the only excitement here is through its simple yet very pedestrian combat. You have your typical light and heavy attacks, as well as a block, but generally you will back up, and then use your heavy attack to bridge the gap, and then wait for your stamina to recharge and repeat the process until the enemy falls. You can usually get in a few quick attacks as your companion distracts them, or a co-op partner that stands in for that very survivor. I’ve heard people compare the combat to that of Dark Souls, but frankly, I think that is stretching the comparison rather thin. While I’m not the biggest fan of the Dark Souls series, I simply don’t see the depth of that franchise here in any respect.
Fade to Silence may have been released in 2019, but it feels largely dated in nearly every aspect. I’ve seen my fair share of assets floating in the air, enemies clipping into the ground, and thanks to its clunky controls, you will find traversing the environment to be more of a chore than it should be, largely in part to jump being mapped to the R1 button, for some unknown reason. There are times the aesthetic does look very impressive, but when the game is viewed from up close, it just looks like a remastered PS3 game than something released now. If the game had gone for a more stylized look, then the low budget nature of the game wouldn’t be so apparent and it wouldn’t feel aged right out of the gate. I’ve also had the game freeze several times, NPC’s trapped under the ground, and the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired.
Now, all that said, Fade to Silence is not a bad experience if you take the package as a whole. Exploring the world does have its charm, and the combat can be fairly enjoyable, but the problem mainly with this game is that the world and narrative around its mechanics isn’t used to make the game better. The story is severely lacking despite its premise, and disposing of the infection just doesn’t feel like an accomplishment, given how simple it is to free the lands of the corruption. Survival games are often at the mercy of their gameplay loop and it’s a shame that the one here is often bland and feels wasted. If you thrive on maintaining survival meters or just exploring wide open spaces with friends, then maybe the co-op nature of the game may keep you busy for a while, but sadly, Fade to Silence fails to capitalize on anything it sets out to do and feels incredibly forgettable in the process.
A review code of Fade to Silence was provided for the purpose of this review.
All screenshots were taken on an Xbox One X.