Fade to Silence Review – Dead of Winter
My body lays on the floor, cold, dead. The shadowy figure looms over me. “You failed, I triumphed”, the deep voice says. The figure blows out a flame in the ritual room. As the flame is extinguished the being merges into my body. My eyes shoot open, I’m alive. But the tradeoff is that I have one less Flame of Hope, one less chance to revive. I walk out of the ruins, my fellow survivors are hard at work keeping us fed and warm. We must survive.
Welcome to the harsh apocalypse of Fade to Silence, where even the weather is out to kill you. In Fade to Silence, you play as Ash, a man who has an entity called the Inner Voice tied to his very being. This entity belongs to the Eclipse, the eldritch force that has ended our world. Along with his young daughter Alice they must rebuild after a devastating attack on their settlement. Along the way, Ash will meet survivors who can help rebuild, hunt, and gather. Each character has their own backstory, personality, and motives. While none of the characters are incredibly deep, they are likable and the mechanic of them opening up to you based on your leadership is really interesting. The world is incredibly engrossing and the characters are great.
To survive Ash and the other survivors will need to hunt food, gather wood, and mine ore. This is accomplished by venturing out from your settlement and gathering resources from limited use areas. To get your followers to gather in these areas you must first harvest there yourself. So that means chop down trees, mine ore, or shoot a deer. Once completed your followers will go that resource area and gather materials independently. The only problem is that the resources are finite and can be drained quickly. So there’s a level of strategy involved, how far are you willing to trek into hostile territory to get the resources your people need? As you accumulate more survivors their needs will grow. There are ways to reduce the amount they require but the tradeoff is that you might not have space to place important settlement structures later. For most of the game, it will feel like a constant race against the clock for resources and that builds a great level of tension. Another interesting wrinkle is that as you progress through the map you will need higher tiers of equipment to unlock resource areas, so be aware of what you need to outfit yourself with. There are a few small flaws in the system that could easily be remedied though. For instance, it seems that your followers drain resource areas a little too quickly. My followers had drained a higher tier hunting ground within 30 minutes of me opening it up, that’s a little too fast. Secondly, the amount of time it takes to process certain resources at the woodworking and butcher huts takes a little too long. While these shouldn’t be the source you rely on for food and wood, I do feel that their timers should be sped up a little, especially when your follower becomes an expert in the skill associated with those huts. Otherwise, the system is great, providing plenty of tension that forces the player out of their comfort zone. There is also a death and respawning mechanic in the game that encourages careful play. Every time you die you are resurrected, but at the cost of a Flame of Hope. Run out of those and its right back to the beginning of the game. While this sounds punishing there is a system that gives you permanent unlocks and resources upon reset. So while beating the game on a first run is unlikely, it is possible.
Gameplay, on the other hand, is a little uneven. While most of the gameplay revolves around collection and exploration combat is a core pillar of the game as well. Combat is a little stiff, block and parry timings are inconsistent, and the stamina system is not great. This makes the combat more burdensome than fun, which makes the timed wave attacks on your base bothersome. Which is a shame, because the enemy designs in this game are really good. They look like something out of a nightmare, spikes jutting out of screaming mouths, claws made of Eclipse essence. The only complaint I have about the enemies is that the Stalker enemy is not fun to fight in the slightest. These enemies come out of nowhere, attacking you by surprise often. These enemies have a dash attack that is incredibly hard to read but you cannot block the dash. Instead, the only way to avoid taking massive amounts of damage is to roll out of the way. This doesn’t really work as by the time the animation of the dash has started it’s already too late to roll and you will be hit. My advice, avoid these enemies entirely, run away.
One other aspect of the gameplay is traversal. The map is pretty big, yes the map is split into segregated areas by means of narrow tunnels but the areas are still fairly large. While exploring you need to be aware of your hunger and cold. Hunger will slowly drain your health when you haven’t eaten. Meanwhile, cold builds up during your ventures in the frozen wilderness. when it reaches a critical point your health will begin to freeze over, lower the max amount. This can be easily reversed but needs to be managed. To compensate, the player can build a sled and tame wolves to pull it. This is the fastest way to get around but it has its problems. The sled handles poorly, steering very rapidly at even the slightest movement of the joystick. What isn’t explained is that sleds will follow the roads marked on the map so you don’t really need to steer. the only time you need to is if there is a fork in the road. The other issue with the sled is that any shift in the surface of the terrain will send the sled careening through the air. While resetting it is easy enough, it is frustrating to have to do it often. These are ultimately small issues that can be fixed with updates.
The story for the game is rather vague, mostly focusing on Ash’s fight for survival. Lore comes from dreams that Ash will periodically have when you rest as well as conversations with your fellow survivors. The lore mostly focuses on how Ash got to where he is and what triggered the Eclipse event. While it is very slowly delivered and often very vague it is still really engrossing, you want to know what happened to screw up the world so badly. While the world is interesting the visuals are somewhat lacking. Snow looks great, there’s even randomly generated snow during blizzards. The draw distance is also really nice as you can see the sweeping snowy vistas before you. But the characters look really rough. With low poly textures, bad lip-synching, and wooden animations they look more like theme park animatronics. The voice acting is also a mixed bag. Ash sounds much younger than he looks, meanwhile Alice sounds older than she is. The other survivors fare much better in the vocal department and some, like the spiritual huntress Gani, have great emotional range. The voice that steals the show though is the Inner Voice. While definitely modified, his voice is imposing and the one you’ll hear the most. He constantly taunts you, alludes to his deity-esque status, and more. I’m a sucker for this kind of villain and I love his presence in the game.
Fade to Silence is a great survival experience that has a few flaws that can easily be ironed out. With a harsh environment, terrifying enemies, and engaging systems it’s hard to not recommend the game. With a little more polish this could be one of the best survival experiences this generation. I know your Inner Voice is telling you to get it and I wholeheartedly agree.