Cold, pale flesh. A feast for maggots. But the maggots have to wait. I’m not finished with you…not yet. You’ve failed. I’ve triumphed. A new cycle begins.
These are the taunting words growled at you as you are awoken and given a simple task – survive the winter.
Perhaps a not so simple task, however. As the demon (that reminds me very much of a Dementor) resurrects your corpse, you’re flung straight into the world, advised to grab a torch and defeat the first monster that stands in your way. You must then “cleanse” a giant crystal to save your daughter, before being allowed out into the frosted world beyond. Welcome to Fade to Silence.
There isn’t much explanation as to what has happened to the universe you’ve been plopped in to. It could be a scene from Westeros after the White Walkers (or the Others for you book readers) have taken over the kingdom, spreading winter’s curse through their path of destruction. There is certainly not much hand-holding either, as you’re left with no supplies to make a fire…or even chop down wood.
The first thing you’ll notice is that you need to get warm. Quickly. There is an icon in the top right that shows how close you are to getting frostbite (well, just cold), as well as telling you the temperature of the area you’re in. Unless you’re stood by fire, though, don’t expect it to go much above one degree. Once you venture out of your base, you’ll find areas split into various sections. For example, outside the base to your left, is a small “Woodcutting” area, featuring trees that haven’t been “corrupted”, and to your right a location for “Hunting”. You’ll get a notification on the right of your screen when you’re changing between areas, so you know not to try chopping down trees in the Hunting areas.
Both of these tasks are difficult to undertake when starting out, because the deer you go to hunt move very quickly. You can sneak up behind them, which works well – you can then hammer at them with your torch and they will eventually pass away, meaning you can loot them for the meat. No eating that yet though – remember, raw meat will earn you a nice dose of salmonella. In reality, the game just won’t let you eat it.
As you go through your search to locate some wood to build an axe and start to progress, you can press and hold F to enter into a view that will let you see items on the floor that you can collect, enemies in the distance, or animals to hunt. It still took me a fairly long time to find the wood I needed to craft my axe. There is the odd outbuilding with an abandoned backpack you can loot, but I found the Perfect Wood I required just laying around on the wasteland.
When you do see an enemy, you will probably wonder if you are doing something wrong. It is just one of the areas of this game that feels clunky and a little uninspired. The combat is simple enough: Simply left mouse click for a simple attack, right click for a heavier attack. The latter will sap up more energy, as will dodging out of the way of attacks. But the camera angle does not lend itself to an engaging battle. Half the time you end up swinging your chosen weapon into thin air, whilst the creature you’re having it off with watches on (probably) chuckling.
Elsewhere in the white wilderness you will find “Eldritch” shrines, which corrupt the area of land they occupy. Defeating them is the exact same every time you approach one – press E, mash your mouse and swing around in circles. They’ll deposit some useful items you can pick up when you’re done though, as well as helping to save the environment.
I managed to find a follower to bring back, but he was stuck and needed rescuing from another baddy. It let me go up and press E to cleanse, and the process starts again…mash the mouse. This definitely either needs mixing up or replacing with something else. But on this occasion, two land snakes popped up and started beating me. I died. Twice. I got annoyed.
The manner of my death annoyed me, of course. But it’s the amount of time it takes to get back, too. The protagonist, Ash, walks so slowly, and you only get to sprint for about eight seconds before he’s tired and needs to recharge his energy.
But when you do manage to get some followers back to your base, you can take gathering resources out of the equation. You can send them out to do these kinds of chores for you, taking out the repetitiveness of trying to hunt or tree felling. Your base will occasionally succumb to an attack too, so these villagers can help with that. They’ll follow you out of the base at your request, helping in fights, but I can’t say they’re all too useful. They’re just sort of…there.
When you do get tired of walking later in your adventures, you’ll come across a dog driven sled. Yes, our prayers answered! That is, until you actually try and use it. Your game will just turn into a physics clusterfuck. Not that the rest of the game runs like butter, mind you. My PC is certainly not underpowered (I even have it installed on an SSD), but I consistently struggled to get anything over 50FPS, and in some battles you see drops down to 15FPS making it incredibly difficult to do anything at all, especially when that damn camera obstructs most of your view. Also, very often as you’re just walking around, the camera will suddenly glitch and you’ll be looking behind you. Or maybe to the side. Sometimes you wonder where you were even facing before.
On death, the demon-Dementor I mentioned earlier will take a life from you. When you begin, you are given eight attempts before the game ends and everything you’ve just done goes up in smoke. But this isn’t the only time you’ll see this demon. His disembodied voice echoes constantly through your explorations about how it’s going to kill you, or how you’re doing the right thing wandering out in the middle of a blizzard. Like that sarcastic player who harps on all match in Rocket League when you accidentally own goal the ball. What a save! What a save! What a save!
So where does all of this leave Fade to Silence? It certainly isn’t without its bugs and issues, making it very infuriating to play for any extended amount of time. There is a real lack of variety in combat and exploration. But above all of this is a game that, if fleshed out more, could be an excellent time sink. More emphasis made on the village building, with greater followers to horde, and make the AI less useless. After reading comments made at the end of last year, it does seem as though these same issues have persisted – so whether Black Forest Games will get them resolved before release is a little concerning. You would certainly hope so at its current price tag.