Sent out to die.
In the entirety of my time in Fade to Silence, I heard two types of sound. The first was during the game’s first cutscene, when the game’s sound finally decided to click on and provide voice over, and the second was the constant popping during the rest of the game as Fade to Silence tried repeatedly to load the game’s sound effects, voice acting, etc. The rest of the time was spent in utter silence, as I trudged soundlessly through the game’s world, fighting its mute enemies, watching the voiceless characters open and close their speechless mouths. The irony of a game called Fade to Silence having significant sound errors is not lost on me, but the lack of sound wasn’t for lack of trying. I exchanged emails with the customer support team, re-installed old plug-ins, cleaned my registry, uninstalled and re-installed the game, and removed the drivers for things like my headset, mouse, and keyboard, hoping that one of these arcane and arbitrary fixes would give me a game that would make noise. Aside from that single cutscene (none of the other cutscenes I experienced had working sound), none of it worked, and after about six hours of troubleshooting, during which the game also frequently crashed, I gave up.
I wasn’t the only one experiencing technical difficulties, either. A quick search of the forums revealed several other issues. Since release, Black Forest Games has released one patch and at least 5 hotfixes, and openly considered re-tooling the game’s combat on the forums to placate a dissatisfied playerbase. Fade to Silence is the latest game to adopt a “release now, finish later” mindset that seems to have infected the industry (see also: Anthem, Fallout 76), and the game’s forums reflect that. Patch, hotfix, hotfix, hotfix, hotfix, hotfix, “Hey guys, we’re thinking of retooling the combat and would like your input because the team can’t decide what to do.” It’s microcosm of the entire product, really: a buggy, derivative, mediocre-at-best (and it’s rarely ever at its best) title that has no idea what it wants to be and was released far before it was ready.
"Combat is suspiciously like the combat that buoyed a very famous series of Japanese action RPGs that shall not be named. You have light and heavy attacks, as well as a dodge roll, and performing any of these actions drains the stamina meter located just below your health bar in the top left corner of the screen."
That’s what Fade to Silence is. But here is also what it is: a survival game. Your character is bought back to life by some sort of dark spirit, wakes in a ruined, man-made cave. After acquiring a torch, you’re run through a very short tutorial that explains the combat, which is suspiciously like the combat that buoyed a very famous series of Japanese action RPGs that shall not be named. You have light and heavy attacks, as well as a dodge roll, and performing any of these actions drains the stamina meter located just below your health bar in the top left corner of the screen.
You can also block and parry enemy attacks, though the game doesn’t tell you how to do that, burying it, and every other tutorial aside from the barebones basics, inside a menu that it doesn’t tell you how to access. There’s also a lock on system and locking on to the enemy displays its health bar at the bottom of the screen, in case the wholesale lifting of the combat from the Japanese action RPG series that shall not be named wasn’t already blindingly obvious to you. The problem is that the combat never lives up to its obvious inspiration, lacking the nuance of the series it so desperately wants to be compared to. That series knew what it was doing, offering many places for depth, mastery, and understanding; Fade to Silence does not. It is merely a rote imitation going through the motions. The fact that Black Forest Games is already openly considering changing this combat system is all you need to know about how well it works.
After you beat down some weird dark fantasy creatures whose presence, much like the spirit who possesses you, the game makes no effort to explain, you’re introduced to your daughter (who you are given absolutely no reason to care about), a safe zone you’re tasked with rebuilding, and given an quest to go build a fire by scavenging firewood. Once you do, the game essentially abandons you to do whatever you want, offering no direction other than to recruit other characters to your cause, “explore, and survive.” There is little narrative to drive you (and what it there is poor), no direction, and no tutorial on how to do anything that isn’t buried in a menu. It just dumps you into a world and hopes you will discover how to survive.
"As you freeze, so does your health bar, reducing your maximum health over time, which makes it harder to survive. The colder you are, the more firewood you’ll need to acquire and the longer you’ll need to rest, which does things like increase how hungry your character is."
Survival means managing meters, which correlate to the state of your body. You can hunt deer with a bow and arrow to acquire food, for instance, and craft health potions from plants and other items scattered about to maintain your health. By far the most interesting mechanic to manage is temperature. It’s brutally cold in Fade to Silence, so firewood is a must. It can be scavenged or, should you acquire enough materials, acquired by chopping down a tree with a crafted axe. The interesting thing is how being cold affects your health. As you freeze, so does your health bar, reducing your maximum health over time, which makes it harder to survive. The colder you are, the more firewood you’ll need to acquire and the longer you’ll need to rest, which does things like increase how hungry your character is. It’s an interesting system that forces you out into the world when supplies are at their lowest, adding an element of tension to the game.
Unfortunately, the game squanders that tension almost immediately by adhering to rote open world design. Items are designated by spots on the map and going to each one to clear them out and acquire the supplies you need becomes very tiresome very quickly. Go here, get firewood. Go here, get deer. Go here… you get the idea. The game tries to add some spice by offering enemy strongholds to clear, which you do by interacting with a specific object and mashing left click, usually taking damage to your health and warmth, but there’s really no reason to do any of this other than to survive. Stories are not a cornerstone of survival games, but Fade to Silence hints at a larger plot by providing other characters, like your daughter, and the intrigue of being possessed by a dark spirit in an environment full of them. How did this happen? What are the consequences of your possession? What are the rules of the world? The game seems very reluctant to tell you, and when it does, the narrative is fairly poor, leaving you little incentive to do anything.
While there are enemies to fight and strongholds to destroy, the real enemy is the environment itself, and the weather that occurs in it. Weather is easily the most dynamic part of Fade to Silence, and also the game’s most unpredictable – and best element – it’s hard enough to survive in this world during a “normal” day – wood is initially scarce, and you need a lot of it to keep a fire going for any length of time. But during a blizzard? You can forget about it. If you go out into one unprepared, your odds drop by the second, which can turn a standard trip into the wilderness into a harrowing story, and a desperate attempt to stock up on dwindling resources into a fight to find shelter. It’s easy the best part of the game, and something it sells well as your character shields his face from the freezing gusts and your health bar – and the screen itself – begins to freeze.
"Clunky controls, an inconsistent traversal system, and frequent technical issues bring down an experience that already feels unfinished and often poorly designed."
As you venture deeper into the environment, you’ll come across other survivors, who you can recruit to your base as followers and send out to hunt for supplies. They’ll also help your rebuild your base. Keeping them around costs food and firewood, but its more than worth it as it allows you to offload the game’s more mundane tasks so you can explore the world and craft better stuff. Even that, however, comes at a cost. Most survival games measure your progress on what you can craft, and as mentioned before, Fade to Silence does have a crafting system. The issue is that there just isn’t much to it. You have your standard issue healing potions, some food, torches, axes, mining picks, swords, and a few clothes and… that’s it.
For a game about survival, the list of things you can make to help you survive feels remarkably lacking and unfinished, which unfortunately applies to much of the game. Clunky controls, an inconsistent traversal system (why, post-Breath of the Wild, are there arbitrary restrictions on what I can and can’t climb over?), and frequent technical issues bring down an experience that already feels unfinished and often poorly designed. If you absolutely love survival games, you might find something worthwhile here, but as I navigated my character through the soundless environments, looking for the next area to clear and thing to find, scrounging to survive, going through the motions, I realized that we were similar: we both found ourselves in this world, but both of us would rather have been somewhere, anywhere, else.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Dynamic weather is really cool. The game handles freezing in an interesting way. Having followers to help you out is a nice touch.
Really, really buggy. I had sound once and it crashed a lot. Movement is clunky. Tutorial does a poor job of explaining how to play. Combat is a dull imitation of better games. Poor story gives you no reason to do anything. Only a few things to craft. The open world is derivative.
Fade To Silence's cool weather system and interesting ideas can't make up for a derivative combat system, samey open world design, poor story, and several severe bugs. This is an adventure you won't want to survive.