I don’t know if I love survival/crafting games because I’m subconsciously preparing for the inevitable and impending apocalypse, if I enjoy the thrill of everything I’ve worked for balancing on the edge of a knife or if it’s the satisfaction of building everything I need using the gifts of the earth. All I know is, if a game has some way of breaking something down and using the materials it gives to craft something else, all the while juggling a series of counters that tick down to my death, chances are that I will probably get a kick out of it. Fade to Silence is the newest entry from Black Forest Games and THQ Nordic and it does all of the above while teasing you relentlessly with a creepy cosmic horror narrative.
The world you are thrown into at the start of Fade to Silence is bleak and only goes downhill from there. An unknown eldritch terror has taken over the world and plunged it into an everlasting winter, infesting most living things with corrupted red tentacles. You play as Ash, a survivor of the initial collapse who has some kind of strange connection to the infection through a rather chatty avatar that inhabits his body. Your goal is to explore the wasteland around you, uncover the mystery surrounding the demise of humanity, and most importantly, keep you and your young daughter safe from the many, MANY, hazards of the world. You are not the only one that stalks the snowdrifts though and you must decide if you’re going to create a community from the other wanderers you encounter or leave them out in the cold.
Winter isn’t coming…It’s already here!
The gameplay in Fade to Silence is pretty unique and a bit hard to describe but there are echoes of some of my favourite games, The Long Dark and This War of Mine to name a few. For my own clarity, I’m going to break it down into four subcategories: survival and crafting, exploration, combat, and community building.
Your two major concerns in Fade are staying fed and staying warm. It sounds simple enough, but you and your daughter are caught in the middle of the world’s harshest winter. Much like This War of Mine and The Long Dark, resources are scarce and finite. There is no self-sustaining way to keep your home base stocked, which means you have to constantly be on the lookout for plants to pick, deer to hunt and trees to fell. You have to prioritise your needs as well, for instance, there is an item in the game that you can consume as food or turn into fibre in order to craft a coat to protect you from the cold. Wood that you find can be thrown in a fire to stay warm or crafted into the arrows needed to kill your dinner. Since poisonous red tentacles have corrupted the world, there are only a few spots on the pretty sizeable map that can be harvested safely, and once they have been exhausted, you must find another before you run out of what you need to survive. It means that you never really get a chance to rest on your laurels, which adds a sense of urgency to your actions within the game. There are caches of supplies scattered throughout the world that you can find as you explore, but they are often guarded by horrors that lurk beneath the snow.
On Dasher, On Dancer, On Pr- wait, that’s it
A cool twist in the regular survival/crafting mechanic is that you only have a certain number of lives each time you play through. When you die (and you will die) you’ll spawn back at an altar near your base, with all of your gear and inventory intact. However, the spectre that lives inside you will extinguish a ‘Flame of Hope’. Once all of your hope has been blown out, you’ll have a final death and everything you have achieved will be reset and you’ll effectively be starting a new game. You can unlock boons that carry over through playing, such as starting a new run with a stockpile of supplies and you can find more flames of hope scattered throughout the world to give you more chances before the end.
As I said before, the map in Fade is a fairly decent size, but it’s also teeming with things that want to kill you. Since you’ll run out of things to eat and burn pretty quickly, you’ll need to keep exploring the world to find more. As you do, you’ll come across patches of land that can be cleansed by Ash, sometimes unlocking (or at least reducing threats around) new harvesting areas. There are also larger, deadlier outposts that need to be purged, which, once you do, house a huge stockpile of much-needed supplies. There is also the looming threat of ‘The Eclipse’, a huge sphere that floats above the landscape and dumps massive chunks of evil and metal on whatever is below. It’s unpredictable and seems to move with no intention, but it does have a nasty habit of showing up when you’re already in a sticky situation. Believe it or not, the deadliest thing in Fade to Silence is the weather. If you get stuck outside during a blizzard (which happen randomly as you play) you’ll find it incredibly difficult to see or move AND your maximum health (and regular health) will drop so rapidly, you’ll end up like an ice cube in no time.
That’s no moon
While out and about, you’ll run into some of the many monsters that plague the area, which look like they stepped right out of a game like Dead Space. Sadly, combat is one of the weaker aspects of the game, feeling a bit clunky and cheap. Locking on to an enemy during a fight is a must, but it also locks the camera into a restrictive field of view, meaning that if you encounter multiple enemies, if they aren’t all standing right in front of you it’s likely that they will punish you with very little warning. Not only that, enemies dole out far more damage than you (at least with basic equipment) and fighting them can go very badly, very quickly.
Luckily, you needn’t brave the wasteland alone, and at certain points throughout your adventure you’ll get an opportunity to recruit some fellow survivors (each with unique stories and talents) into your settlement. If you do, you can use them to build up your base, unlock ways to craft better gear and even send them out to gather food and wood. It’s a double-edged sword though as everyone you keep around is another mouth to feed and can swiftly drain your already dwindling supplies. Unfortunately, you’ll only be able to get so far in the game without some help as all of the gear above basic (needed for future survival) requires buildings that, for some reason, only your followers can build. The characters are pretty good though and the voice acting isn’t half bad, plus you get juicy insights into the story by building up your trust with them. Another reason to recruit at least one other survivor is that once you do, you can invite a friend to take control of them and play online cooperative multiplayer with you. Sadly I couldn’t find anyone else to play with, so I’m not sure about how well it works.
It takes a village, to raise an army
As I’ve been playing, I’ve noticed that the game can be pretty buggy at times. I’ve had my crew glitch below the map, refuse to execute given tasks and even take cold damage while standing around a roaring fire. I’ve reached a new grove of trees only to find that I can’t interact with them to chop them down. I’ve had the sled (an unlockable mode of transport) collide into nothing and then launch into space. It’s never anything that’s really game breaking, and quitting to the main menu and reloading can usually fix it, but it is definitely annoying. The developers do seem to be pretty active with supporting it though and hopefully it will be more stable post-launch.
At first, Fade to Silence was a bit hard and frustrating to play. Once I got the hang of the different mechanics and stopped trying to play it like Ark though, it became much more fun. It’s definitely a little rough around the edges and not for everyone, but if you are a fan of struggling against the odds and taming a savage land, then you should definitely check it out.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro // Review code supplied by publisher