Think you could survive a frozen and desolate world that’s full of vicious creatures out to kill you? How about one where a random blizzard could bring an end to your life if you’re ill-prepared? Or how about one where you have to make sure you’re kept well-fed and warm if you want to live?
Those are the sort of things you have to consider in Fade to Silence: the survival game from Black Forest Games and THQ Nordic that sees you awakening in a savage frosty world where your only form of guidance comes from a dark and mocking figure. With a daughter to protect and resources limited, it’s up to you to find your way to safety and figure out more about what devastated the world and how you can survive it.
Your adventure across the frozen wasteland is a deadly one, with the key gameplay mechanics being tied to your survival – you know, managing the likes of your hunger, your health, and your body temperature to make sure that you don’t kick the bucket. It’s the sort of thing we’ve seen in plenty of survival games over recent years, though that last one is a bit more prominent in Fade to Silence. This is a frozen world that you’re a part of where the cold weather can be a massive threat, with huge blizzards often cutting your adventure short if you’re not prepared. It’s exciting in a way and shows that danger can come from seemingly anywhere, with the unpredictable nature of the weather proving more threatening than anything else throughout the entire game.
That’s where most of the excitement ends though. Fade to Silence’s world is a big one and you’ll have to venture across it to uncover all the resources you’ll need to survive, but doing so feels so dull in design that it’s hard to find yourself feeling thrilled by the whole experience. Controlling protagonist Ash is clunky too, with simple things like jumping or interacting with items feeling more awkward than it needs to. Worst of all though you just feel so slow, which is a massive hindrance considering that the map itself is so big to explore.
That being said, I’ve got to give a shout out to the sleds you have access to that are pulled along by dogs. Sure, the controls when using it are fiddly as hell, but there’s something undeniably brilliant about the thought of drifting across the frozen world with the help of some canine companions.
Besides venturing across the world, you’ll also have a base to look after that can be filled up with the survivors you encounter on your journey. After completing optional missions for survivors you can have them join you in your base, where they won’t only help you gather resources and gain access to all new items but also help construct new buildings. It makes your base bigger and will improve your odds of survival, though you do have to keep gathering resources for it yourself if you want to see it thrive. The more people you have helping you, the more mouths you have to feed – their presence is essential to progress through Fade to Silence, but the monotonous gathering you have to keep on top of to ensure their safety can feel a bit tiresome.
However, whilst they do offer more substantial items for you to craft, it’s hard to feel too excited by the selection. Fade to Silence plays it pretty safe as far as crafting is concerned, with the player given access to the sort of basic commodities and tools that you’d have seen in nearly any other survival game. The genre has often been one where there’s excitement to be had when crafting that elusive item that had been out of your grasp from the beginning, but there was nothing that stood out in Fade to Silence’s crafting catalogue to give me that sort of buzz.
At least the combat is a bit more intuitive, with the best comparison to make being with Dark Souls. The player is able to unleash both heavy and light attacks, whilst on the defensive side they can roll out of the way of attacks or even give a quick block. It’s all tied up with the stamina meter, which means you’ve got to balance out your attacks and pick your moments, otherwise you might find yourself on the receiving end of an onslaught of attacks from your enemy without the stamina to defend yourself. Naturally, there isn’t a whole lot of depth to the combat with Fade to Silence focusing more on its survival elements, but it still proved effective throughout and felt a little bit more involving than I’ve seen in similar titles in the genre.
I’ve had more negative things to say about Fade to Silence than positive, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an awful game – its main problem is that it’s just a little dull. The pacing of the game feels a bit off with the player slowly trudging through their objectives, whilst a lack of proper guidance can make things drag out a bit too. Worst of all, if you die a few times you’re expected to start again, with the process of exploring the world and setting up a base being repeated. After a few attempts it started to feel a bit dire, especially since the game feels like it’s trying to punish the player at first, and it was hard to motivate myself to keep playing given that I’ve had a lot more fun playing other survival games.
A nice addition to the experience is the online co-op, with an additional player able to take on the role of one of the survivors in your camp. It was quite neat to venture out with a friend, gather more resources, take down enemies together, and just have each other’s backs. It helped alleviate some of the monotony of the Fade to Silence’s slower pace too, especially if you concentrate on working together and putting all your survival skills to good use. Still, it’s not the kind of game I could find myself seriously investing in as a co-op experience, especially with the drop-in nature where the stakes and sense of progression are only really there for one player. It was fun to play with a friend, but it’s not a long-lasting experience that you’ll both want to keep coming back to.
One thing I did really like about Fade to Silence was its intriguing and desolate world. There are a myriad of strange yet fascinating sights to see across the landscape whilst the deadly creatures that are lurking throughout all look viciously creative in design too – I really enjoyed being a part of the world itself and uncovering all of its malevolent secrets. Simply looking in the distance will have you in awe at what’s ahead of you and maybe even dreading the hardships that come with them… I liked it.
Unfortunately, the visuals themselves were a bit dated with some fuzzy textures and dull character models on display throughout. I also came across a few performance issues, with the frame rate dropping on a few of the busier instances of weather and enemy showdowns. It just sums up the game I suppose: there are some neat ideas on show in its design but the actual delivery of it falls short of the mark.
Developer: Black Forest Games
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC