Fade to Silence is a survival adventure at heart, one that’s set in a post-apocalyptic world frozen by an eternal winter. With little but snow and ice shaping everything the eye can see, making your way about safely requires a firm understanding of just how the land works. This is where an immediate issue hits.
As the game starts, players wake in a crypt-like area, and quickly assume control of Ash, our protagonist. A booming voice is heard above all else as you quickly learn that the adventure ahead of you is one that you are not the odds-on favourite to overcome. In this world, nature isn’t what it’s supposed to be. Whilst the cold, hard, never-ending winter has certainly shaped a merciless land, that which lives within is corrupted, and those which remain untainted are at the bottom of the food-chain when compared to the monstrosities that roam the land.
After breaking your way through the early enemies in a tutorial setting, players are met with the soft voice of a little girl, Allie, the first survivor of your group – albeit a non-playable one. It is she who is the daughter of protagonist Ash. She’s not all too useful, but she is at least someone who takes the immediate edge off of what is otherwise a lonely world.
From this point your immediate objective is to traverse the frozen wasteland, gather resources and search for survivors to recruit to your group. To do this you’ll need to upgrade your equipment by collecting materials. Unfortunately, finding the specific materials you need isn’t always going to be a straightforward affair, as each playthrough sees resources and survivors placed in different locations. It’s often quite easy to spot an area that may be a little richer in resources, however it’s rare that you actually find the specific resource you are looking for. And the very first resource required to light the fire in your camp takes up way more time than you will have hoped.
Searching for resources is an intensive and important task, but something you’ll need to consider is the risk it will involve. Risks can spawn from several factors such as not having enough food, not having clothes to keep you warm, or not having a shelter to take cover in should a blizzard roll in. Being caught by a blizzard is something that takes a lot of luck to survive in, and the first time I found myself stuck out in the wilds amongst one, I met my first death.
Death is another important aspect of Fade to Silence. The game is billed as a survival adventure, but it only takes one untimely demise for you to realise that it’s more of a roguelike survival adventure. See, should you perish three times, you’ll be forced to start everything over again, including the tutorial.
Now, for your typical roguelike adventure, there’s rarely a hardship once you get used to things, with quick restarts often allowing you to jump straight back into the thick of a new run. Fade to Silence however is a game that feels like it’s being crushed under the weight of its roguelike features thanks to the fact that dying is so easy, and starting any new run takes an awfully long time to get back into.
What makes it worse is that dying is something that can happen rather frequently, and I’d argue that only a handful of times will it ever really be the players’ fault. I’ve died many, many times – I’ve started over more times than I care to think about, and I’ve tried numerous different methods to survive. One thing that never fails to cost a life or two though is the dreadful combat. This is a big part of the game thanks to the presence of the Eldritch monsters and these guys come in different forms; one has blade-like hands that swing at you, another spits flaming fireballs from a distance, and another sprints at you. All of these are much more powerful than you are.
Whilst that’s not an immediate issue – Darks Souls fans can chill out! – it quickly becomes an issue when controller input is severely delayed. If you want hard as nails combat, you need to have fluid movement and attacking moves, and in Fade to Silence, almost everything you do feels delayed.
It doesn’t help that the stamina bar is so poor. Whether you are sprinting to a new location, attacking enemies, or maybe even sprinting from enemies, you’ll take up a chunk of stamina. This is nothing new of course but the issue here lies in the fact that a single movement when attacking is enough to deplete the entire bar, whilst sprinting will see it drain so quickly that you spend more time walking than you do anything else. Defending yourself however also requires stamina, as does a dodging roll, and running away from the enemy that you are struggling with because they walk faster than you, then it’s easy to see the issue.
Further to that and another cause of easy death in Fade to Silence is the giant floating ball of rubbish in the sky known as The Eclipse – with it’s only noticeable purpose appearing to be launching destroyed cars at players whenever it hovers above. As I write this review, I still don’t really understand what it is, and with little backstory to explain what’s going on, there will be very few people who will actually understand it at all.
And that is where my next issue with Fade to Silence comes in. When it comes to survival games, we often find ourselves being thrown into the mix with little to no explanation. When your survival game looks to bring numerous enemies, hazards and more with no explanation as to what is happening however, it can make players either question the point of it at all, or feel completely lost in what is going on. For me, both of those are feelings that have occurred during my time with Fade to Silence. It’s not a feeling that is particularly enjoyable either.
Fortunately, talking to other remaining survivors found out in the wilderness is a way to at least uncover bits of the story, but finding survivors you can recruit to your group always comes with a challenge; defeating a load of enemies, or solving a puzzle explained with a riddle. This does however feel like it has been included to pad out the recruitment process, and generally is not really needed.
These survivors are in interesting feature in Fade to Silence though, and for more reason than simply uncovering more of the story; immediately after you’ve recruited the first one you’ll find the benefit of having an extra pair of hands to help out when hunting for resources. Disappointingly, for all the efforts of actually getting a new survivor to your group, when in combat, A.I. controlled team members tend to be rather useless, falling victim to the same ‘laggy’ input it seems that the actual player does when fighting enemies.
To combat this though, you could always invite a friend in to play.
You see survivors are the hub to multiplayer in Fade to Silence on Xbox One, but there’s nothing that explains this in-game so actually discovering there is a multiplayer option may well be a shock to anyone who’s already got involved. But it is possible and this is how to do it – when playing with a friend you can utilise party chat to ensure that your survivor is now a helpful addition to your group and doing so does make the game a little easier. However, should you use up all your lives, you’ll quickly see your friend booted from the game, forcing a restart, and sending you looking for players once more. Having survivors in your group can help bring higher-tier resources and gear thanks to particular traits – and so you’ll want to utilise them where you can.
Should you feel you’ve managed to cater to the basics of keeping your group and yourself alive, then you’ll need to head out and take care of the corrupted monstrosities that appear to be sucking the remaining life from the land. To do this you need to search for Nests that require cleansing, an act that is done by mashing the ‘A’ button whilst receiving incoming attacks from the Nest itself – another easy way to lose a good chunk of health.
Once you’ve cleared an area of Nests you’ll be left to head towards the Corrupted Outposts; these are usually what blocks a path to the next area on the otherwise open-world map. Clearing these allows access to the far reaches of Fade to Silence. These environments look fantastic and whilst the snowy, ice-filled land rarely throws out surprises, it does have a rather elegant look to it, with fine details protruding from every corner of the tundra.
If you begin to find that Fade to Silence is a tough affair, then you’d be right, however taking in the game via the Exploration mode, may be preferred. Survival was the way I choose to mainly play, simply due to the fact this is the only way to earn any Achievements, but should you take on Exploration then things do at least become a little easier with survivors proving stronger and more resilient, and infinite lives meaning each death will just see you required to run back to the area you died in. Resources are also infinite in this mode, however sadly, unlocks here don’t carry over to Survival mode and with Achievements disabled, it almost feels like Exploration is billed as the wrong way to play.
Overall though and if you’re after a game that looks fantastic Fade to Silence will certainly prove perfect for some wintry screenshots. However should you be on the lookout for something that provides a fair yet challenging survival experience within a post-apocalyptic setting, then Fade to Silence may not prove quite the fluid and enjoyable experience you’d hoped for. It’s certainly got the potential and with a few changes, there is no reason why this couldn’t stand out, but with combat proving deadly at worst, and just about passable at best, and progress so easy to lose yet time consuming to regain, this is one that is likely to push gamers away before they’ve even begun.