Fade to Silence Review- Good concepts marred by a host of flaws

Posted May 1, 2019 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Black Forest Games

Publisher: THQNordic

Available on: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One

Release date: April 30, 2019

When done right, survival adventure games can be quite engrossing experiences, with every move and decision fraught with the danger that it could be the last thing you do. The post apocalypse is always a prime setting for this type of game, and mixing in some Lovecraftian Eldritch horrors could feel like it takes the idea to another level. Such is the concept of Fade to Silence, a new title from developer Black Forest Games and publisher THQNordic, who has touched in part on this with its Darksiders series.

So, does the game measure up with its lofty concepts?

Sadly, no. Despite having some very solid ideas, Fade to Silence is riddled with technical issues, poorly written dialogue, cheap deaths, and frustrating gameplay. When it gets things right, the game can be an almost enjoyable experience, and can suck you into its world as you scrounge for resources in a harsh wintry climate. Trying to find shelter during a blizzard or find food when you’re on the brink of starvation is when the game shines the most, and building back your settlement with survivors you recruit from the wilderness can be a satisfying experience.

The overall story is doled out in snippets, relayed through dreams of the main character named Ash. Ash, who also needs to mind his daughter Alice, has apparently run afoul of a mysterious, powerful figure ( it’s not really explained as to who this is, though he certainly appears to be Death himself). For unexplained reasons, Ash has the power to cleanse these evil infestations that have cropped up, and your main objectives, besides survival, are finding and cleansing nests and outposts. There are six outposts in all spread across the map, and they become increasingly more difficult as you go on.

Roaming in and around the countryside are creatures of various forms. Hellvines tend to stay inside the nests, popping out from underground to strike. Spitters will shoot gobs of a nasty substance at you, and Rippers can slice you apart. Then there are larger nasties, like Crushers, and a giant tentacled ball of debris that floats over the land and rains deadly shrapnel when it passes overhead. The worst are Stalkers, which appear out of nowhere, strike swiftly, and are near impossible to defend against.

To help Ash survive you will need to craft yourself an axe, bow, torch, pick, and a sword, along with constructing one use shelters, campfires, and healing items. Supplies exist in just enough quantities, though in the early going it can get frustrating to gather what you need. The tools also serve in combat as well, which is Souls -like in nature. You have both a light and heavy attack, can parry and block, and a stamina bar you always need to keep an eye on. Unlike the Souls games, there are no stats to increase or skill trees to fill out.

The game is divided into two modes, Exploration and Survival. Sadly, you can’t have multiple files, so you need to choose one and play until you’ve had enough, as starting in the other mode will overwrite your previous game. Exploration mode is the “easier” of the two, with infinite lives but with both Trophies and a mechanic for granting blessings and boons, the Circle of Torment, disabled. This is more if you want to try and get through the story, such as it is, and not lose all resources and progress you make.

Survival mode is the default choice of the developers, where you have limited lives, can acquire trophies/achievements, and the Circle of Torment is active. Losing all of your lives isn’t game over, but you do lose all of your resources and progress, and need to start again. The Circle of Torment can mitigate some things slightly, like allowing certain things to carry over to a new cycle. Some players will enjoy this rogue-like system, while others may get frustrated and quit the game with the loss of all you acquired. For those who don’t like the idea of starting over, Fade to Silence is best avoided, and they can save themselves the $50 price tag.

Rogue-like games can be fine, as long as they’re fun to play (Dead Cells is a great example of this). Sadly, a laundry list of issues renders Fade to Silence as far more frustrating than fun. Technical issues abound, like frame rate slowdown, clipping, and stuttering. This is despite the three patches issued prior to the game’s launch. More patches may smooth things out, but at present the tech issues are very noticeable. Graphics look closer to the PS2 than the current gen of consoles, and mediocre voice acting doesn’t help with the poorly written dialogue. None of the characters ever feel fleshed out enough to care about, and often the dialogue doesn’t even match what’s on screen.

Not having a pause function can make using the clumsy inventory system a pain, and there are plenty of cheap deaths to set you back. While the game autosaves plenty, quitting the game will not keep you at your present location (you’ll always start back at your main camp when you start a new session). These issues all combine to make for a game that just is not fun to play, and many will give up before they reach the end out of sheer frustration. It doesn’t help that the game gives you no indication of where to go or what to do, outside of “explore the world and survive”.

It’s a shame, really, as with a few tweaks Fade to Silence could have been a nice surprise. When it clicks, it clicks well, but all too often it doesn’t. There are some great ideas here, but sadly Black Forest Games wasn’t able to execute them well. Patches may help down the line, but for now the game isn’t worth its asking retail price of $49.99 (USD). To be sure, the game will find some fans, especially those who enjoy a challenge compared to more mainstream, accessible games. For those gamers, I wish them luck. For others, wait for a price drop or even a free trial to try this out.

5/10 stars

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus