Fade to Silence is an early access survival horror game fighting to stand out from the crowd. Its unique world entices you with a Lovecraftian hellscape frozen in a perpetual winter. I was initially pulled in by the novel focus on managing a village along with tower defense mechanics – all while exploring and maintaining the usual slate of needs: hunger, rest, and body temperature.
In retrospect, it’s boring and poorly designed. It lacks originality and is unfortunately caught in the trap of trying to look like a blockbuster AAA game rather than actually being fun. It took me two revisions of this article to figure out I didn’t like the game. Each time I went back to rewrite a paragraph, I found myself realizing how poorly designed each system is.
Even learning to play is overly complex and abstract. It manages to hit every one of the points I love in survival games but disappoints in implementation. This game needs an overhaul before full release. Every system needs to be redone. If all they do is build upon what they have, at best it’ll be a generic, flashy third person flop.
Should you buy it?
You probably want to wait until full release. It’s incomplete and filled with poor design choices such as an abundance of QTE. Game performance is also bad at the moment. A patch did make the game run a bit smoother, but it still needs a lot more work. I was continually annoyed by these interruptions to the experience.
If you’re predominantly drawn to the village management, only the bare bones of what they are promising is implemented. At this time, the system lacks any meaningful impact on the world. Furthermore, while the ability to construct defenses is fun, it feels needless since the enemy AI is still too stupid to put up much of a fight.
After a few months of patches, they may fix the graphics issues and the village management may be more extensive. Then I would feel more comfortable suggesting people buy the game.
The Lovecratian universe is really the best thing they have going right now. It covers up a lot of the mess that composes the actual gameplay. You’ll come across fascinating sights that defy logical thinking; tentacles writhing in the ground, blood veins crawling up trees, and the threat of falling debris from a floating mountain made of skyscrapers. It’s beautiful and mysterious. I wanted to learn more about the world but the core of the game doesn’t hold up.
On paper, this sounds amazing; to survive this strange world, you must build a safe and industrious village. A permadeath system gives you six lives do so before starting over. You must collect wood, food, and scrap metal. As time progresses monsters attack your home with increasing difficulty. You must balance building defenses with care for villagers. Tower defense meets village management.
The learning curve for the game is poorly paced. It doesn’t do a great job of explaining how to do most of what I just described. I was left confused when trying to learn more complex mechanics and in the end felt like I wasted lots of time. It would have been a more enjoyable experience if the game had guided me to crucial information instead of hoping I stick around long enough to learn. If the developers don’t find a smart way to teach players how to play I can see this game becoming a confusing mess as it expands.
Most of this game is centered on exploration. However, the fun is somewhat ruined by busy work. As you explore, you’ll come across “Eldritch” shrines that are consuming the few natural resources remaining. Destroying these shrines by initiating some lack-luster QTEs frees the supplies. Since you’ll be destroying a lot of these shrines, I hope they come up with a more interesting mechanic. After the first QTE event I thought, perhaps these will get harder the more I do. But no, they are all identical. You mash one button as fast as you can to win. You don’t even need to mash it that fast, but you will just to get it over with.
There is some hope here, as one of the better designs of the game is a loop that ties crafting equipment with exploration: explore, collect resources, create better gear, explore, collect more resources. There is the potential for a lot of nuance to this system. However, right now you can ignore the powerful upgrades villagers provide and get by with the basic survival items that you craft on your own. It’ll take some fine tuning for this loop to be worthwhile.
One last note about exploration; there are alternatives to walking around by foot. A dog sled allows you to cover ground faster however, the physics system breaks often, making your sled disappear and leaving you stranded. There is also fast travel is unlocked by defeating mini-bosses who guard areas called strongholds. This is actually a pretty fun part of the game. It requires to you manage your health and do some prep work. Upon successfully defeating the monsters there, you will have the ability to spend a rare crystal resource to move between your village and that stronghold. No complaints with this system overall.
Combat is recycled from every game that includes a stamina meter. You have a strong attack, a fast attack, and roll button. Fights are generally one on one, which offers little excitement most of the time. The most common enemies use ineffective range attacks and after a while I mostly ignored them. The game’s less common melee enemies do create a delightfully high anxiety situation. If you get cocky, you’ll deplete your stamina, be unable to roll away, and lose one of your precious lives.
Ranged combat is the best option for most fights. At the moment, the enemy AI has no real counter to your onslaught of arrows. The only situations where the bow didn’t work was when the framerate dropped or when the aiming system became confused and shot the arrow in the wrong direction. Overall, combat is pretty boring and more of a chore. I’ve played better versions of this exact combat system a 100 times already.
The AI is very simple. When your villagers see a monster, they rush towards it. They seem to ignore the rules you must follow and easily kill anything. Furthermore, you are better off not creating walls right now. They look cool and keep the bad guys out, but your villagers stupidly get stuck inside, unable to help the defense.
Monster AI isn’t great either, as I’ve mentioned. However, the only unfair enemy I encountered was some kind of demon dogs. These broken monsters teleport, hit you, and disappear before you even see them. In addition to this, most enemies would glitch from time to time. But, that usually meant you could cheat some of the bigger fights.
I did enjoy my time in Fade to Silence, but other than some cute sled-pulling-puppers the game fails to stand out. Maybe because I’m a survival fanatic, the game blinded me with what I wanted it to be. That said, I genuinely think there is a lot of potential for something great to emerge if they expand on the village management system. We haven’t seen an immersive survival game really branch into the management genre yet. If they don’t, come full release the game will find itself dead on arrival.
They are looking to release this game mid-2018 with four major patches before then. The patches are planned for the end of every month from January to May. I doubt how reasonable that is. With the number of problems currently in the game, four months doesn’t seem like enough time. Unless they’re hiding some good stuff up their sleeve, I believe the game still needs some major design revisions.
Available on: Steam
Developer: Black Forest Games