Fade to Silence has been out as Early Access on Steam since 2017, but now Black Forest Games and THQ Nordic have put out a release for consoles. Reviews on Steam are mixed over the period of development, but more favorable as the game went on. Have the changes made the difference and does the port hold up?
Fade to Silence sets the tone from the menu screen, where your slowly freezing body is huddled in the tentacled grasp of the Eldritch horror monster that watches over you. Coupled with the harsh winds of winter and the ominous tinker of a toy box melody, it’s clear from the start that this game is going to give you the chills.
You have two options when starting a new game. Exploration and Survival mode. Exploration offers a more relaxed style of gameplay where survival features are still important, but you have unlimited lives to expend and can enjoy the story that slowly unravels before you more. Survival puts you at a limited set of lives with the joys of permadeath to contend with. You go hungry faster, freeze faster, and you have an overall more challenging experience. It is worth noting that only in Survival mode can you unlock trophies and achievements!
I started Fade to Silence with Exploration, just to get a feel of the game and what it has to offer and later had a go with Survival. The game opens with the monster from the title screen, insulting your feebleness as your corpse lay frozen. It tells you that it isn’t done with you yet. The horror sinks back into your soul and you awake encircled with candles and in the center of a ritual circle. For Exploration, this is a full ring of flame that never goes out. For Survival, you start with three. For every life you lose, a flame will go out.
A brief tutorial follows, leading you out of the crypt where you arose and into the frozen wastelands. The monster has claimed and destroyed your settlement. This is where you learn to swing a weapon and cleanse the taint from the area, much to the horror’s dismay as he hisses in your ear. Your daughter, Alice, is the only survivor and together you must start over again and survive this unforgiving wasteland.
The aim of survival is fairly simple. Gather resources, followers and build a camp where your people can be kept safe from the horrors of the wastelands. The crafting system is small and simple, this is not the kind of survival horror game that will see you going up to every tree and bush and harvesting something from it. These lands are tainted, and as such you simply can’t use everything that’s available. You need to seek out groves of untainted trees that your followers and you can harvest and look for the few herbs and roots that can be made into food and poultices.
When hunting reindeer for meat and cutting down trees you’ll encounter tainted resources, more so than untainted. You’ll need followers with specific skills to process the tainted materials to salvage what’s useful or risk wasting what could potentially feed your camp for the next few days.
You’re not the only hunter in the wilds though, and monsters are out there with a hunger for human flesh. Combat in this game can be challenging, and you will need to make sure that you are well prepared for a fight. There is no shame in stealthing-away through the bushes to avoid a Stalker, especially if you’re running on limited lives. The game will punish you harshly for being unprepared and punish you for getting cocky too. These monsters are to seriously be contended with and whilst some might be easy to pick off at a distance with your trusty bow, don’t assume that’s going to be the case for everything.
The story is fed to you in tidbits as you go through dreams, and truthfully I don’t find myself all too engaged with it. Perhaps I’m too early on? On the flip side, however, the interactions that you have with your followers I find very rewarding. Each person is unique with their own fleshed out backstories, and as each follower grows to trust you more they’ll confide in you more. So far I’m more interested in the stories of the survivors rather than that of the overarching game, but I’m keen to keep going to unravel more of the mystery.
From playing a good portion of both Exploration and Survival, I can happily say that the game is pretty solid in its build. I have only encountered one game crash, but luckily this game has a good autosave facility where I didn’t lose out on anything. In terms of actual gameplay, I did find that hitboxes on resources, monsters, and even myself aren’t the tightest.
In fights, I’ve found that I can miss by a good number of inches with an arrow and still hit my target. Likewise, enemies have been able to do this to me too, even with my best-timed dodges. It’s not agonizing, but it is definitely something to keep in mind whilst you play.
I noticed the hitbox issue when cutting down trees as well, as well as a missed opportunity for game mechanics. Trees that are highlighted can be chopped down, however, I’ve had it on multiple occasions where I step up to the tree and even though I’m holding my axe, I can’t chop it down. I have to press X, but to get the prompt to interact can take a bit of a dance around before it comes up. Once I have it, I can spam away on the X button to chop down the tree and then have the same dance to harvest the fallen log. If I’m holding my axe, I should really be able to chop it down as is, not enter a separate means to do so. When hunting reindeer, you can also only harm them with arrows, I’ve gone in to deal a finishing blow with my sword on a dying reindeer, but nope. It goes straight through. I do find this choice especially odd and challenge the developers to maybe reconsider this for smoother gameplay.
Despite this, I’m finding Fade to Silence to be thoroughly enjoyable. It appears that this port is a stable one and works well with consoles so far. I’m keen to play more, and even more so to get some friends on board and see how co-op works within the game too. Some may criticize the simplicity of the game but I don’t think it needs to be any more complicated. Sure, the crafting menu isn’t the most comprehensive, but I think the developers are trying to put across the idea that you can really only make do with the scraps you can get your hands on. You can’t expect to build grand structures from firewood and salvaged metal.
However, you need to factor in that as you recruit more people from the wilds to live in your camp that you need to provide for them. Yes, they can hunt and gather for themselves, but if you’re focused on building your camp your followers will be working on that instead which means you’ll need to make sure they have the materials they need. Especially as you can’t actually build anything yourself.
Fade to Silence is a game I can easily see myself to continue playing for as long as it keeps being updated and worked on. Perhaps as time goes on I’ll want more from the crafting system, but I have plenty to keep me occupied in the meanwhile where it isn’t a worry. Next on my list is to be brave enough to go and tackle one of those tentacle towers I keep seeing in the distance… I think those are the key to opening up this almighty map more.