An endless winter has fallen on Earth. Eldritch horrors now prowl the wilderness. You are Ash, a man battling with his own internal Eldritch horror while trying to create a safe haven for his daughter. To do so, Ash will need to venture out into the wilderness to scavenge supplies, rescue survivors, and battle back against the horrors.
Fade to Silence is a rogue-lite survival game, so storytelling is minimalist. Players will learn about the world from exploring, chatting with survivors, listening to the Eldritch horror, and dreaming during rest breaks. The writing is generally ham fisted, awkward, and at times cringe inducing. The interactions with survivors are too occasional to develop any serious attachment to them. The Eldritch horror that pesters Ash is maddening for all the wrong reasons, as it is repetitive and annoying instead of creepy. At best, the story is context for the game, at worst, it’s a nuisance.
Fade to Silence mixes elements of Dark Souls-type action, survival, and rogue-lite gameplay. Ash’s actions are restricted by his stamina bar, so players need to choose their actions wisely in combat. Resources do not respawn, so healing items are limited. Dodging, parrying, and blocking is a must for long term success. The combat system is solid. Attacks are well telegraphed, leaving much to player skill. There are a few hitches where Ash may get stuck on something in the environment, but it is not a common occurrence.
The game offers two difficulties. Explorer mode has unlimited lives, more resources, better followers, and is generally more forgiving. The main mode is not. Resources and respawns are limited, so players will need to plan ahead of time what they will craft to get themselves out of the gate and moving forward. Surviving outside of the settlement is tough. Staying warm is a constant challenge, especially when blizzards drive down the temperatures and drop visibility down to zero. Fade to Silence is not the type of game players will master on the first playthrough. It’s a game of trial and error to find out the most efficient way through the tech tree and the map.
Being a rogue-lite, permanent death does not wipe all progress. Players are able to purchase boons for their next playthrough with items collected from major story events and clearing strongholds. The boons range from bonus starting resources to saved buildings and equipment. Additionally, Ash becomes stronger and more resilient each playthrough by collecting certain items. They are a huge time saver and create some feeling of progression between attempts.
Getting into Fade to Silence can be difficult. The tutorial is barebones, with players only taught the basics of combat and gathering before being sent into the world. There are slightly more detailed instructions in the survival guide, but better tooltips would have been appreciated.
The pace of the game is slow. Ash has a slow, plodding footspeed and limited stamina for sprinting. Unlocking the dogsled and wolves will speed up the pace by a bit, but I find the dogsled controls to be clumsy. The hassle of having to move the dog sled into place, hopping on, travelling, and hopping off barely outweighs walking on your own two feet. Additionally, players will need to stick to the path, or they will be in for a bumpy ride and risk flipping the sled. Navigating is particularly brutal because there is no GPS type arrow, so players will need to squint through the snow to find the path and constantly pull up the map to figure out where to go. Early playthroughs are brutal until the sled is unlocked and the ability to retain the sled between playthroughs is purchased. The slow walking pace and the large distances between points of interest means players will spend quite a bit of time staring at the wintery environment.
Fade to Silence is a real grind due to the repeated playthroughs, the poor tutorials, the slow movement speeds, and missing quality of life features. Base building is a time and resource expensive process, but buildings can’t be moved once built. The buildings that are retained between playthroughs appear to stay in the same place, so players will need to destroy perfectly good buildings. Starting new games will take players through the initial tutorial each time, instead of providing the option to skip through.
The controls in Fade to Silence is rough. The game is built with consoles in mind, as controllers feel more natural. The menus are radial and designed for thumb sticks. Item management and crafting feels messy and unintuitive. The options for PC users are also limited. Basics like toggle to aim or sprint is missing. Several menu keys are hardcoded, so those who don’t use WASD or QWERTY keyboards may have trouble.
The visuals are a mixed bag. Fade to Silence’s environment is nice. A lot of time has clearly been spent to create the winter wasteland where nature and Eldritch horrors battle to reclaim the remains of humanity. The enemy character design is good. The Eldritch horrors look alien, serving as a foil to the natural environment. On the other hand, the character models are rather clunky and awkward looking.
The audio experience is rough. The sound effects are probably the best of the bunch. A lot of attention has been paid to the sound of footsteps treading across a variety of wintery terrain. The sound effect alerts for low health, hunger, and cold are played way too often. Replacing half of the sound effect cues with visual cues would provide the same effect and be less annoying. The music itself is decent, mostly excelling at creepy horror-style music to build tension. The biggest issue lies in the inappropriate or overuse of tension setting music. The squeaky strings kick in randomly for no apparent reason, making the music ineffective when tension should be built up. The voice acting is also poor. Ash’s voice actor is barely passable, and everyone else falls behind. The player is supposed to develop a fatherly bond with Ash’s daughter, but her voice actor is bad enough for me to desire as little contact with her as possible.
The premise of a hardcore rogue-lite survival game is an attractive one. Unfortunately, Fade to Silence struggles with lousy writing, bad pacing, poor quality of life decisions, and a clunky feeling that never goes away. I can see a very small niche of gamers who will be willing to put up with the game’s quirks in exchange for a tough game combining Dark Souls-type combat and survival gameplay. On the other hand, most gamers can avoid the game’s clumsy execution and never feel like they’ve missed out in life.
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