Fade to Silence is a survival action game developed by Black Forest Games.
It is available on Steam & Humble Bundle for $39.99, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for $49.99. This review was conducted on a standard PlayStation 4 console by Joseph Pugh. Note: If you purchase the game through the humble bundle link, I get a small cut as it is a referral link.
Fade To Silence is a hardcore survival game that acknowledges one of the worlds many truths, winter is evil. Look, if your one of those people who can’t wait for summer to be over, I don’t begrudge you that. But I would personally rather die in a pool of my own sweat than ever see another snowflake again.
I don’t want to say you’re wrong, but Fade To Silence backs me up by having a Lovecraft inspired eldritch horror end the whole world with eternal winter while constantly wielding it as a weapon. Just saying.
You play as Ash who is one of the few that has survived the end, along with his daughter. To survive you must gather supplies, craft tools, recruit followers and cleanse the land of corruption while combating monstrous abominations, the freezing cold, and starvation. You explore the world while collecting everything you can to keep your base safe, warm and your people fed. You also combat creatures with Dark Souls-like combat system complete with dodging, parrying, light and heavy attacks.
Your followers aid you by building structures, crafting gear, harvesting resources and they can even accompany you on your expeditions. If you have a friend, they can join you as one of your followers in online co-op. Fade to Silence also features a form of permadeath, you have a number of flames of hope and you can find or craft more. These are essentially lives, lose them all and it’s game over. However, you can obtain shards which boost your stats such as health and stamina, and boons that allow you to carry certain aspects over to your next run.
Fade To Silences plays on its themes very well. The creature design and atmosphere are very Lovecraft inspired and there are enough tentacles to make certain adult videos red in the face. The snowy landscape is as beautifully depressing as an eternal winter should be. Its quite large and would take a long time to get around purely on foot. You can build a kennel and use rescued wolves to pull you around on a sled It’s fun but somewhat buggy and awkward to use.
There are numerous corruption nests around the map that fill an area with red pulsating webbing and other icky horrors from the far realm. By cleansing these, which you do by seemingly absorbing them into yourself (and mashing a button) you can free up nearby resources. The bigger nests are outposts that provide you with a home away from home with access to your stash, fire and a teleportation crystal that lets you move between home base and other outposts.
You can select what buildings to construct and where.
The game isn’t a traditional survival sandbox. It follows a storyline told with sparse cut-scenes, character dialogue and dream sequences. The voice acting is poor and the facial animations are awful. One exception is the voice of the eclipse. The eldritch horror itself speaks to you, constantly mocking you, threatening you and downplaying all your efforts. The antagonist could have easily been faceless, the fact that its always with you to remind you of your insignificance is nice.
The followers you recruit aren’t random. They are fully voiced with backgrounds and story-lines for you to discover. Each of them is a bit unhinged, as you would expect given the theme of eldritch survival.
The combat system is pretty smooth, the animations are nice for both your own character and the creatures. Though I found it simplistic, you have a bow and a sword, that’s really it. Most other weapons are a simple upgrades of those two. Granted you do get fire and explosive arrows later on in the game. You have a basic attack, power attack, parry, and dodge.
Memorizing the enemy’s attack patterns is key, but after a few bouts with each enemy type they become very predictable and the challenge fades. That is unless you fight more than one, unless you’re in a higher region without upgraded gear.
Freezing is a big threat, once you start to succumb to hypothermia your maximum health starts to decrease and it takes a long time to get it back. Cleansing corruption or reviving a follower also lowers your maximum health. Healing, in general, is a slow process, even with healing items. Getting caught in a blizzard is a death sentence as temperatures will drop in the deep negatives. Getting to shelter is key to your survival.
The eclipse, a moon-shaped eldritch mass of metal and tentacles, floats around the map ominously as if Lord Cthulhu commissioned his own private aircraft to gloat over the world. I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was not a simple atmospheric effect. It floats all over the map and actually attacks you whenever you’re in its path by dropping cars, scrap metal, and eldritch blasts. The game’s strength is undoubtedly its theme and atmosphere.
Though its a survival game, most of the gathering and crafting is done by your followers. By cutting down specific trees or felling a deer, you mark that area for your followers to work in. You will personally gather resources from chests, bags, and points of interest as chopping the trees yourself is pretty much a waste of time.
You designate what buildings to construct and where then your followers will take care of it. You can also build walls and defenses as your base will come under siege by monsters. Its a lot of fun to defend the base with your followers, but sadly you have such a small area to build in, there isn’t much room for strategy. Once built, you can have your followers craft items. Each follower has different skills that designate what they can do.
Most of the wood and meat you obtain is corrupt, you will need to have your followers cleanse or dig through it. You will need to have them smelt ore, make medicine and craft you better gear. This all takes a lot of time, in fact, the entire game has an issue with time gating. Don’t me wrong, grind and survival games are inseparable lovers, and this genre is my favorite, I expect it. But that’s not what this is, it is not a grind, its waiting and wasting time.
You spend a lot of time waiting for timers to finish. Your followers handle most of the leg work, but need to rest often. During my time with the game, I died a lot purely from being impatient.
I needed better gear for the next region and had nothing to really do but pick up items I already had an abundance of. I would run into a tough region underprepared and die. Your follower’s skills increase, but it’s time-gated in the most hands off fashion.
The longer they spend in camp the more they trust you as long you keep firewood and food stored. Every now and then you get an alert that they want to talk to you. You learn a bit about their background and this repeats a few times.
Eventually, you get a conversation with a few dialogue choices and boom, their skills are now expert level. Its literally just waiting, and since only expert-level followers can construct certain items or buildings, your stuck waiting regardless of how YOU are doing in the game.
You also kind of have a time limit, though not a true one. Resources are finite, are finite and in set locations. Once they are gone, they don’t respawn, You consume more food and firewood as your camp grows. This means you are always pushed to unlock more locations for gathering, but it’s artificially stressful with all the time gating.
You are actually given a choice of NOT recruiting every follower but to me, it is a non-choice. They are integral to your progression and the less of them you have, the longer you wait for things to happen.
Now add in permadeath. The game isn’t that brutal really. You can find or craft more lives, the enemy’s are predictable and your biggest enemy is your own impatience. However, if you lose them all, you’re starting over, from the beginning. The game is open-world but more or less linear, there is no randomness to shake things up. Permadeath works best when games are re-playable.
You are just going through all the motions again, complete with the insane amount of waiting around. Sure your boons let you take some stuff with you and your stats are better. But I wouldn’t call it fun, I love survival games, but the mechanics can become tedious when used this way.
Fade To Silence isn’t a bad game really, it has some neat ideas. The winter landscape feels brutal, it drips with Lovecraft flair and I enjoy the base building and sieges. The cleansing and freeze mechanic work well and assuming you don’t get tangled up on the terrain, the sled dog transport is neat.
Some of its mechanics just work against itself. It would have been better as a survival sandbox, tossing away its linear nature. The time gating, lack of randomness and permadeath just don’t work well in those circumstances. It is still worth experiencing though, especially if you like Lovecraft stuff, pick it up on sale.
- Great Atmosphere and setting.
- Interesting follower and crafting mechanics.
- Combat is smooth and fun.
- You really feel the oppressive winter.
- Base sieges are fun!
- Online co-op.
- Creatures look great visually.
- Combat is simplistic.
- Lack of weapon variety.
- Severe time gating as you wait on followers to finish building and crafting.
- Permadeath conflicts with the game’s lack of randomness and linearity.
- Some framerate drops on the standard PlayStation 4.
- Enemies are very predictable