The survival genre is most definitely an acquired taste, but it doesn’t always take a genius to recognise a bit of a dud. Fade to Silence attempts to take after The Long Dark with a harsh, unrelenting winter setting that puts a strain on food and warmth - but it’s nowhere near as effective. Largely thanks to a lack of direction, poor narrative beats, and technical shortcomings, this is an experience that will test your patience just as much as it will your ability to survive.
Make no mistake about it, Black Forest Games’ latest is a survival title through and through. With meters to manage for health, stamina, hunger, warmth, and tiredness, you’ll be constantly on the move scavenging for supplies in an effort to keep your body functioning. An open world plays host to that hunt, with dozens upon dozens of points of interest to explore across the map. Procure wood in order to start a fire, hunt deer with a bow and arrow to feast on meat, or drink a health potion to restore some HP. It’s a tried and true loop that provides a decent basis for the game to build off of, but it never really capitalises on that potential.
It’s because everything is so utterly rote. Working your way through each and every mark on the map feels like busy work, whilst the biggest set pieces consist of clearing out enemy strongholds by holding the X button in certain areas to destroy defences. Besides that, a ludicrously lacking plot offers very little incentive to rummage through the dilapidated structures that litter the landscape. It’s not usually the main focus of the genre, but we were hoping for at least something to incentivise us.
While traditional enemies do populate the environment, the most ferocious foe you’ll encounter is the weather. It’s by far the most dynamic and unpredictable mechanic across the whole game - adding a large element of risk to the experience. Alongside managing the warmth meter with flame-lit torches and barrels that can spark a fire, the possibility of encountering a blizzard is always something you have to take into consideration. If you’re caught off-guard by one, the chances of survival plummet by the second.
Of all its survival elements, managing body temperature is easily the most accomplished. As the screen starts to slowly freeze around you, the search for heat and shelter becomes all the more hasty. And, with only a limited amount of respawns until you’re done for good, getting caught up in the clutches of winter is almost an inevitability. It’s an impressively dangerous mechanic that punishes those who aren’t prepared for every situation.
When you’re not battling the cold, you’re sure to be doling out the beat down on grotesque monsters found around every corner. Using a similar system to Dark Souls, you can perform light attacks, heavy blows, and block - all governed by the aforementioned stamina meter. A brash health meter along with the name of the enemy takes up the bottom of the screen too, just to make sure we didn’t pass up on any sort of comparison to a From Software experience. Obviously it’s nowhere near as intricate, dramatic, or absorbing as what it’s trying to emulate, though, coming off as more of a cheaply made imitation.
As you navigate the icy wilderness, you’re sure to come across other survivors whom you can recruit, and in turn, send out on hunts for further supplies. While they come with the downside of consuming some of your meat and firewood reserves on a daily basis, the ability to hand over the responsibility of collecting basic materials to the AI is a welcome one. It leaves you with more time to uncover the world while friends back at base tend to the necessities.
Crafting is, of course, a major component of any survival experience and things are no different here. However, your options are rather limited. There are the typical healing potions, firewood, arrows, and torches to construct, but that’s pretty much your lot outside of a couple of tools, weapons, and clothing. A list that feels like it’s only half-way there, something that could perhaps be said for the entire experience.
Technically, this is a title that doesn’t quite reach the standards many expect in 2019. Clunky controls make traversal a chore at times thanks to a wonky jump that's mapped to the R1 button of all places, while the frame rate fails to hit a consistent 30. One or two interesting structures are sure to catch your eye as they float by suspended in midair, but the same can’t be said once your focus is back on land. Snowstorms are somewhat noteworthy, but once they’ve cleared, they reveal an environment that fails to distinguish itself with any sort of interesting scenery or architecture.
Fade to Silence is an amalgamation of mechanics and systems that only work some of the time. Extensive survival procedures and dynamic weather patterns provide the potential for a memorable experience, but nothing takes advantage of that. Controls frustrate, crafting is lacklustre, and combat is missing any sort of depth. Keen survivalists will find something to like here, but those with only a passing interest should probably steer clear.