As far as open world survival games go, Fade To Silence has got quite a satisfying, if repetitive, core gameplay loop. It reminded me a lot of the State of Decay games in that regard when I first jumped into it, with all the exploration, recourse gathering and crafting. As I spent time with it however, I realized that it was trying to do its own unique thing, and the results are mixed.
Before the start of the game, you’re made to choose between two different gameplay modes, Survival or Exploration. In Survival, you have a limited number of lives before the game ends, and in Exploration you don’t really have a limit. Unless you’re used to some of the more challenging survival games out there, I recommend you choose Exploration mode for your first time.
When the game does start, it sort of just drops you into the world as your character, Ash, is bought back to life by a mysterious demonic being. You learn that the world, or the map you explore more specifically, has been overtaken by some sort of Eldritch plague, and you need to cleanse it of this corruption.
As mentioned above, the core gameplay loop in Fade To Silence is quite rewarding. Within around 10 minutes of starting the game, you’re introduced to your base camp and have to venture out into the frozen landscape to collect resources for your survival. You gather firewood to feed your campfire, and other materials like plants to create essentials such as food and healing items.
But there’s an aspect to the exploration that players need to be keenly aware of: the cold. Any time you go out into the world to explore and scavenge, you need to make sure you’ve got a torch or materials to craft a campfire with you to keep warm. Fail to bring one of these with you, and you won’t survive for very long. Even when you do have these with you, occasionally you’ll encounter blizzards when out exploring. These negate the effects of a torch or campfire, and force you to seek shelter.
For the first hour or so you just get by with the most basic equipment, before you’re able to acquire enough materials to craft better items like the Bow and Axe. These allow you to hunt animals in the world for food, as opposed to collecting plants, and cut down trees for wood, as opposed to scavenging for it on the ground.
Simply put, you invest time and resources into crafting better equipment, and these in turn allow you to collect resources more effectively and explore the map further. And there’s a lot to explore since the map is massive, and the promise of visiting new areas always keeps you going.
Eventually, you can also recruit NPCs out in the world that can help you with resource collection. You find them in various locations, often under attack by enemies, and helping them out allows you to send them to your base. Here, you can use them to automate material gathering, and even make use of their unique skills to craft specific items.
You do need to feed them and keep them warm, so a proper system for resource gathering is essential to progressing in the game.
You can also have them craft structures that grant you different benefits like allowing you to process materials into different forms, and reduce upkeep costs. One of the most useful, and entertaining, structures in the game is the Sledding Kennel, which allows you to make use of a dog sled to get around the map more quickly.
Recruited NPCs can also be bought along with you while exploring, and this is where your friends can take over controlling them for co-op play. Playing together is definitely fun, but I personally never opted to bring NPCs along during solo play due to their tendency to constantly glitch out.
Combat in the game is kind of mediocre. It has the SoulsBorne inspired system of heavy and light attacks mixed with parrying and dodge-rolls, but none of it works out quite as well here as it does in those games. There’s a surprising weight to your swings, but the moment they come into contact with the enemies is really unsatisfying, and the exact same can be said for parrying.
Dodging away from enemies is also a mixed bag, and there were numerous times where I took damage from devastating enemy attacks even when I had clearly avoided them perfectly. Combat also never evolves past this formula, and so it can get repetitive very quickly, resulting in you avoiding conflict as much as possible.
Enemy variety is also really lacking and, apart from the bosses that switch up fights a bit, you’ve probably seen them done better many times before in other games. There’s a burrower type, an exploding type, a close-range melee type, etc. Nothing here is particularly new or exciting, although they do look cool.
There are a number of glitches that plague just about everything gameplay related in Fade To Silence. The sled is buggy, the combat glitches out often and follower AI is as dumb as a brick. There’s also a general lack of polish that’s apparent throughout the entire experience, and I’ve had 3 hard crashes over the course of my playthrough.
The game’s story is quite interesting, but the way it’s told is quite annoying. A lot of context for the plot is provided either through resting at campfires, which triggers random cutscenes, or through interacting with the game’s different NPCs. There’s no proper threads to follow, and the NPCs are just so poorly designed and voice acted that I had a hard time taking them seriously.
Still, a massive mysterious sphere floating in the sky was enough to motivate me to see the narrative all the way though, and it does go to some really interesting places.
In conclusion, I enjoyed the story, but not the way the developers chose to tell it. Still, the entire premise was interesting enough that a few simple pieces of environmental storytelling motivated me to see it all the way through.
I really enjoyed the exploration and the survival mechanics, but they do get repetitive after a few hours with the game. The combat is clunky, and the gameplay overall is a bit too buggy for a final release, and they both impeded my progress more often than I would have liked.
Fade To silence is out now on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the PC. It was developed by Black Forest Games and published by THQ Nordic. This review covers the Xbox One version of the game.
The review copy was provided by the publisher.
Fade To Silence Review
Fade To Silence presents players with an interesting story premise and world to explore, but a bad combat system and the buggy state of the game brings the entire experience down.