Fade of Silence Is it One of the Best Survival Game

The survival genre is still in its relative infancy but has already given birth to more games than fans can easily keep up with. These often grueling games challenge the typical video game power fantasy by demanding players stay alive in a world that unrelentingly tries to kill them. Monitoring all sorts of life gauges, crafting bigger homes and better tools, and recruiting other survivors into your camp are the pillars of the genre, and through the oppressive winds of its central snowscape, these elements can once again be seen in Black Forest Games’ ambitious but flawed Fade to Silence. Genre fans may push through the harsh conditions, but newcomers will find it’s not worth the struggle. Fade to Silence is both a survival game and a horror game, though it’s not a survival-horror game. Rising from near death in the opening moments, protagonist Ash is taunted by a Grim Reaper-like character who dares you to survive and is sure you cannot. After a brief tutorial instructing players how to handle the game’s stamina-driven combat system and craft a simple torch, you’re setting off into the game’s forever wintery open world. It’s not long before Ash and his daughter Alice are starving and freezing, but the game does a poor job telling you how to craft necessary items, making the early moments very frustrating.

As Ash groans with hunger pains and jitters in the unforgiving temperatures, it feels like Fade to Silence is quite content with letting you die just minutes after you’ve begun. This is where some genre rookies will be turned off right away. A bit more hand-holding feels necessary just to keep people invested at first. Fortunately, I have some experience with games like this so after some trial and error, I was able to get going with a campfire, a new axe, a sword, and a few servings of food. Not long after, the game’s minimally guided objectives open up completely and your mission turns three-pronged: explore, survive, and uncover the past. Combat operates in basically two ways and neither feels good. Early Eldritch creatures can be gamed so easily that they never land a hit on you, while later enemies are so overpowered that they feel impossible at the time of their introduction. Fortunately, combat isn’t as big a part of the experience as the game’s early tutorial may lead one to believe, and I was able to explore plenty and avoid a lot of combat just by running away from most enemies. Regularly, blizzards will come through the area and turn you nearly statuesque with how hard they hit your body temperature gauge. Creating brief campfire refuges on your travels is crucial, not just for crafting items on the go that demand fire, but just to stay warm and alive when these storms roll in. Once you get your mind around crafting, it becomes enjoyable, especially when you “cleanse” major creature encampments and are showered with large caches of the supplies you so desperately need. I never lost the sense, however, that without my genre familiarity I’d have abandoned Fade to Silence early because of how poorly it explains things. One of the better parts of the game is the survivor recruitment system. Out in the world, there exist more humans like Ash and Alice, and saving them via optional missions also allows you to recruit them into your camp. While each becomes another burdensome mouth to feed, their benefits outweigh their costs.

They each bring unique skills like hunting or woodworking to your camp, which opens up new types of increasingly interesting and needed buildings you can create at your base. You can even find wolves to use as sled dogs to travel the world faster, though the controls for this sled are so bad that it’s a regular nuisance just trying to reroute the thing after crashing into trees or snowbanks regularly. You can also play in co-op by taking companions on expeditions with you and inviting a friend online to fill in as that character, though I find it more beneficial to keep the skilled laborers at my base, building the next crucial building. On top of all these systems is also a roguelite element wherein dying has you resurrect with the ability to retain some bonuses, while losing most mission and base progress. The same intro ushers you back into the world with the same Grim Reaper wannabe taunting you, giving it all a Groundhog Day from Hell feeling, which is fun in its first instance but gets tedious after a few times. Like the early days of Dead Rising, you’re not meant to beat Fade to Silence on the first several tries. Instead, you’re meant to grow stronger slowly before eventually amassing enough starting perks to fully weather the storm.

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