Fade to Silence hardly treads on new ground, but it certainly proves to house some interesting elements throughout its run. The main drawback, however, is that it falls shy of greatness for a number of different reasons, and is then further held back by some irritating design choices. Still, if you’ve a fond heart for survival games with a character of mystery and intrigue, Fade to Silence will likely serve you more than most, just expect immersion to be religiously broken. Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s go from the top.
Fade to Silence is a survival adventure game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that’s stuck in an endless winter. The game’s semi-open map is full of dangers of all shapes and sizes, with nature itself battered and corrupted by monstrous creatures. Players take on the role of a boring survivor known as Ash, a man that never really brings anything interesting to the proverbial table. Sure, there’s some plot threads to pull from Ash as you journey in, but it’s handled in such an obnoxious way that it’s hard to truly take seriously.
Playing as Ash, you’ll move through the game’s torn world with survival as a forefront objective. Starting out, there’s two tiers of difficulty to choose from; exploration, and survival. Though, be warned, you’re only allowed one save file in Fade to Silence. That means that if you (like me) plug several, several hours into the exploration mode, and wish to test out the alternate mode, you’ll be kissing goodbye to everything that you’ve worked for. It’s a frustrating omission, and something I hope is alleviated in a post-launch update.
I understand that survival games need to be strict in regards to save files, so that players cannot circumvent the difficulty, but here, it wouldn’t have hurt to have isolated save files per-mode. Nevertheless, it is what it is. The differences between exploration and survival are night and day. Exploration is a much more chilled affair. Here, you’ll have infinite lives, a world full of infinite resources, and much stronger survivors to call upon. The kicker is that achievements are deactivated in this mode, so you hunters will need to stay in survival.
Survival is where the game ramps up the difficulty; limited lives, dwindling resources, and so forth. Regardless as to which you dive into, the game’s handling is well set for the most part, or, at least as far as the controls are concerned. Movement and aiming is tethered to the left and right stick respectively, with item slots tied to the D-Pad, and combat and interaction functionality achieved via the face buttons. Outside of that you can scan the area to look for resources (Tomb Raider style) through the use of tapping the right trigger.
You’ll also use both the left trigger and right trigger to utilize the bow, with a moderate jump tied to LB, and the ability to block and counter via RB. It’s a relatively straightforward affair overall. Using these commands, you’ll navigate the harsh world within in the hopes of doing all that you can to stay alive. This tends to consist of ensuring that your survival gauges are constantly topped up; tiredness, warmth, hunger, stamina, and of course, health. Mercifully, the world is at your fingertips, offering all the means to keep those all full.
Once thing I thoroughly appreciated about Fade to Silence is how accessible it is. I’ve played quite a few survival games that have put me off sooner than I’ve loaded in, mostly due to how convoluted these experiences can be. Here, on the other hand, things are kept simple and digestible. Nothing is ever truly complex as far as the game’s mechanics go, and most of the game’s necessities are well detailed and make sense from the off. Unfortunately, however, things tend to fall pretty plat elsewhere, but we’ll get to all of that shortly.
The game’s world is your oyster, and it’s here in which you’ll find the means to survive. Using the scan feature, nearby points of interest will be highlighted. There’s a plethora of places that you can scavenge materials from, or indeed, find all important shelter. Your base of operations is the main POI, though, you can indeed unlock more bases later on as you venture deeper into the wilds – complete with a fast travel system to make life that little bit easier. Each base camp houses a stash box, a fire, and some other fairly useful tidbits.
You’re also able to expand your base through building more facilities, such as a hut for wolves that you save – to which you can then use them as a vehicle to get from one place to the other in safer and faster means. Though in order to do so, you’ll need more survivors and a completed list of necessary materials; all of which vary per-build. Once again, this is all kept relatively clear through some clean and concise UI and menus. The general rule of thumb is to ensure that you always have the goods that you need to keep your camp alive.
Starting out, this amounts to little more than gathering wood for the fire and searching through abandoned belongings. In fact, the first few hours of your play will likely consist of scavenger runs, continuously daring yourselves to step that little bit further away from your base on each and every trek. Before long, it becomes apparent that you need better tools, and as such, this is where the crafting comes in. Crafting is very easy to pick up on, but surprisingly scarce in regards to what you can craft to make use of throughout your game.
To craft, much to be expected, you’ll need resources. Using the world’s resources, you’ll be able to craft the likes of new outfits for better protection against the cold, new weapons for improved resilience against enemies, and other handy pieces of equipment; bows, arrows, food etc. Crafting aids you in keeping the scavenging process easier. For instance, whilst you can find food through abandoned wares, you’ll find more food through crafting a bow and hunting a deer to farm it for meat – might I add, the deer in here are ridiculously stupid.
Whatever the case, that’s the backbone of Fade to Silence. You’ll work to farm for supplies, and then use said supplies crafting items or expanding your base, further allowing you to explore more of the game’s world and rinse and repeat the process (usually at heightened danger) elsewhere. It would have been nice to see more depth to crafting, or even just some more things to craft and make use of, but keeping inline with the game’s accessible approach, it’s hard to criticize. I just wish there was a deeper pool of goods to work towards.
Exploration is of vital importance here. Simply running from one point of interest to the other wont get you very far. Fade to Silence wants you to take in its world, and in doing exactly that, you’ll be more likely to find a better outcome in regards to the contrary. The game’s map keeps a chart of everything that you come across, as well keeping track of where you’ve been, and where you’ve yet to visit. Playing with a keen eye and a sense to explore will see you recruiting more followers, and gaining more grounds to farm from.
The two tend to coincide; followers will typically only visit points of interest that you’ve visited and farmed from yourself, so it pays off to interact with any area that allows it. This comes in especially useful when your followers are put to work (such as building at the base), in which they’ll farm and hunt in areas that you have yourself, to save you a bit of legwork. It’s a decent system that removes quite a bit of needless backtracking. Once you have your first follower, you’re able to call in a friend to play the game with you too.
Though, with or without a buddy playing, you’ll need to keep an eye on your group’s moral, and ensure that your way of life and your resources are healthily kept in check to receive maximum benefits. It’s also important to understand that certain followers are better at specific roles than others, so using them as intended is always the best methodology. On your many travels, you’ll undoubtedly come across a small range of nasties along the way. Enemies are scattered all over the place, with a gradual climb in difficulty later on in.
This is where the combat comes into view. Combat in Fade to Silence is very much Dark Souls, being that you’ll utilize a light attack, a heavy attack, and a dodge. The game’s enemies arrive in all shapes and sizes, and tend to house their own movement and attack patterns. You’ll attack and avoid blows until your opposition falls, keeping your limited stamina gauge in mind. The whole ordeal is pretty lackluster, and never really provides much satisfaction or payoff. Furthermore, enemy awareness is very much hit and miss.
Several times I found myself able to strut straight past an enemy, only to be sighted from across the map by another of the same type. This level of inconsistency needs addressing, because it negatively toys with the game’s tension to a degree. When you’re not killing enemies, chances are you’ll be clearing strongholds, which amounts to little more than holding down a button whilst you liberate the grounds, and then battling with a tougher variation of an enemy you’ve encountered several times beforehand. It’s quite dull.
The game’s biggest enemy is that of the weather, and believe me, it’s freakishly harsh. One minute you can be taking in the sights, and then in the next, a blizzard ensues and puts your life on the edge of a knife. When this happens, finding shelter and keeping warm becomes a mandatory objective. These moments are few and far between, but they’re always tense and exciting. There’s other events to be mindful of, some not quite as exciting as others, but I’ll credit Fade to Silence for its ability to keep the journey feeling somewhat dynamic.
The whole while you’re traveling the game’s world, you’re able to soak up some added narrative; from observing your surroundings, or, via interacting with a sinister entity that applauds your failures. The latter you can trigger upon death, or through engaging with dark orbs that are spaced out across the terrain. It’s a very mysterious affair that does a good job at keeping you guessing not only your every move, but the story and history behind the world’s structure. It’s a shame then, that the dull Ash sits amidst all of this visual intrigue.
It doesn’t help matters that the voice acting is rather poor, and does little to instill personality. Had the developer spent more time focusing on refining the story, and placing its interesting beats in a mandatory fashion, Fade to Silence would have been much better at telling its tale. Instead, what we have is a torn and desperate world that seems entertaining to explore, but fails to connect any of that to its protagonist. The game’s more severe issues sit with its performance, its at times clunky feedback, and its lack of depth.
I lost count of how many times I witnessed sharp drops in framerate, or other technical problems, such as masses of assets failing to load in correctly, or on time. That’s not to mention getting stuck in the map. Then, there’s the poor feedback. Trying to do something as simple as align a shot or clear a jump becomes too much legwork in the face of the game’s lack of fluidity. Further, the absence of a climb function means that you’ll religiously need to take the long way around, seemingly because Ash fails to jump higher than a foot.
Do I find any fun in needing to traverse around a large bridge to find its embankment point, to then walk to the end of the bridge to pick up an item because Ash refuses to jump (or climb) a two foot structure? No. No I don’t. Rounding that off, riding on a wolf-pulled sledge is about as unresponsive as they come. If those basic faults wont piss you off, the game’s previously alluded to lack of depth likely will. Fade to Silence would have been a much better survival game had it provided more depth to its combat, its crafting, and its building.
Much of your time spent playing this will revolve around treading about its world, picking up resources whilst avoiding (or taking on) dangers, and heading back to camp to revitalize and prepare for another run; getting further and further, bit by bit, on each trek. That hook is only enticing as and when you reach new locations, but soon wears off once you’ve done everything you can do. Its progression structure isn’t too dissimilar to, say, State of Decay 2, only more dialed down, less deep, and somewhat less tense. Make of that what you will.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to pull the experience down in its entirety, because if anything, the game certainly has its fun moments. It’s just a shame these moments are so fragmented, or, only fun when you’re witnessing the game’s systems, enemies, and events for the first few times. I’ll commend the game’s world size, there’s a lot to see and a lot to uncover, most of which you’ll spend hours at a time uncovering, or, even longer working out how to get to new areas without succumbing to the dangers that sit in wait. That’s Fade to Silence at its best.
I had more fun working out what to do, than I did actually doing it once I worked it out. Many of the game’s problems can be ironed out in a few post-launch patches, but as it stands in its current form, its merely serviceable. There’s far better survival games out there, but that’s not to say that you should overlook this entirely, because there’s genuine value to pull from your time in this game. Just, expect it to be either fleeting, sporadic, or fractured. In regards to the game’s audio and visual design, Fade to Silence gets a safe pass.
The game’s winter theme gives little difference from area to area, but it’s a well detailed journey when all is said and done. Sure, it’s not the best looking game in town, but it wears its distinctions well enough regardless. The game’s audio presentation is more hit and miss. Whilst its audio cues are fairly solid, its voice acting is borderline horrendous. Bottom line? If you’ve a soft spot for survival adventures, Fade to Silence will serve you well. Yes, it has its faults, and yes, it’s lacking mechanically, but it still proves worthy of a recommendation.
Fade to Silence offers quite an accessible survival adventure that knows exactly when to push your buttons. The game’s seemingly interesting world is full of possibilities and dangers of equal measure, ensuring that there’s always some event to take on throughout. The drawback, however, is that of its lack of polish and mechanical depth, together with its awkward combat. Shame really, with more time in the oven, this could have been a big hit.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.