by Joshua Bouie
After two years of Early Access, Black Forest Games has decided to officially publish their latest work, Fade to Silence, a single player survival experience (with the possibility of co-op) set in a post-apocalyptic world, corrupted by a mysterious dark force. At the heart of the adventure is Ash and his daughter Alice, forced to face an endless winter in a desperate attempt to defend themselves from the endless dangers that surround them.
Their refuge at the foot of the mountains, however bare, is the only totally safe place to go back to in order to cook food and save themselves from hypothermia after long hours of exploration. Visiting unexplored areas around the camp is necessary for survival, because it allows you to recover materials to craft heavier clothes, find firewood to deal with the harsh temperatures and food to be cooked on the bonfire.
Fade to Silence takes place in a nightmarish and freezing cold post-apocalyptic world, focusing on Ash, a leader who must rebuild his settlements again and again as he battles against the elements and monsters called Eldritch. There’s an almost Lovecraftian appeal to this premise, especially in the game’s opening moments of uncertain terror and existential dread. Yet, Fade to Silence never totally capitalizes on this, as most of the narrative developments in the game are either confusing or downright pointless in nature. Survival games don’t necessarily need to focus on narrative or plot, but with a premise so intriguing, it feels like a missed opportunity by developer Black Forest Games.
There is a barebones base building feature in which you can build a few different specialized huts with scrap and salvage from your scavenging. An open space in front of your camp becomes a construction site for important buildings like a sledding kennel for your dogs, woodcutter and butcher huts to process tainted resources, and workshops like the forge to create more advanced tools. Besides the functional buildings, you can also build walls and, at higher levels, some defensive emplacements like a ballista to help fend off periodic waves of monsters.
You can’t build anything yourself, though. The only way to do so is to assign one of your followers, who will then take on the task over a number of in game hours. Or they may lose interest and revert back to hunting or harvesting or sleeping instead, leaving you to return hours later to an important building that hasn’t progressed at all. The game would have been served much better by scrapping the base building entirely and instead using a simpler upgrade tree.
While out collecting supplies and fending off monsters, you’ll encounter survivors out in the world that you can invite to your camp. These followers aren’t randomly generated, soulless automatons, either. Each one is actually an interesting character, with unique personalities and skills that prove essential to rebuilding and defending the camp. Unfortunately, the well-written characters are buried under awful voice acting and stilted dialogue. It was a good decision to forego randomly generated followers, but it’s difficult to care for characters when you can’t even listen to them speak without cringing.
Then there’s Fade to Silence’s third-person combat mechanics, which come off as Dark Souls-like without the soul. There are heavy and light attacks a lock-on function, which both drain the character’s stamina but never pack as much of a punch. It’s clunky in all the wrong ways. There’s a dodge mechanic that never quite works, as Eldritch beasts often make contact regardless of where you are in relation to the attack. This leads to overuse of the games parry ability, which is contrariwise far too easy to overuse and abuse. Parry, stun, mash attack, and then repeat ad nauseam. Of course, this method doesn’t work against every creature in Fade to Silence but it’s enough that nothing combat-related ever comes off as organic.
Meters, like hunger and fatigue, add other wrinkles to Fade to Silence but never really feel as important as the warm meter, which can ruin an entire playthrough. Of course, being near a bonfire or wielding a torch can help ward off the coming cold, but both will not last forever. It’s important to plan ahead for any sort of scouting trip or resource gathering, because if you don’t have enough torches or healing supplies, death is almost a certainty. Especially on the standard survival mode, which limits your deaths to six before it’s completely game over, though there are ways to circumvent this.
If it wasn’t for the hellish combination of a deeply flawed, sometimes broken combat system and a laundry list of crashes and glitches, Fade to Silence could be a decent survival title. Despite its flaws there are some great survival mechanics here. The game desperately needed another couple of months of development to really polish the experience and iron out the glitches. Although Fade to Silence has great potential I cannot recommend you pick this up for the suggested price of $49.99 this is a definite wait for sale.