Winter isn’t coming. It’s here already, and it’s staying. In the bleak, frozen, and corrupted wasteland of the future, Ash struggles to keep his daughter and whatever remainder of humanity he can find alive. Himself? He can’t seem to stay dead. At least not until the corruption overtakes him. In the distant past of Ash’s existence, a high-level scientific experiment gone wrong unleashed this corruption and unending winter on the world, but what is his connection to it? Can he discover the truth and save those around him before he succumbs to the unending embrace of darkness all while ensuring his own daily survival? Or will his voice Fade to Silence? This is our review of THQ Norc and Black Forest Games’ Fade to Silence.
From the onset of the game, the player is made aware of what seems to be a personification of the widespread corruption, itself. For some reason, this being has chosen our hero, Ash, to kill, resurrect, and kill again. The various corruption monsters you encounter while out and about picking daisies are apparently dumbed down, feral extensions of its will. While not zombies, per se, I’m pretty sure that once you are dead they eat your brains.
While the introduction to the story is definitely enough to pique your interest, you may find that, aside from random dream sequences, discovering what has happened to bring on this eternal winter and what connection it has to Ash will have to sit on the back burner as the challenge of survival becomes the center of your focus, and the weather and aforementioned baddies work to end you, again.
There are two difficulty modes to choose from, Exploration and Survival, with Survival being the more difficult of the two. As the game begins, Ash is reanimated by this mysterious master of corruption within a ring of flames. If you chose Exploration, your ring of flames is completely lit and will remain so; enabling you to die and resurrect as many times as you deem fit with no loss of in-game progress. Survival mode, however, gives you only three of the flames lit, and each time you die, one will be blown out. Upon losing your last flame, it’s a hard game over, but not the end.
Upon restarting the game on Survival mode, you will hopefully have acquired Boon points that you can now spend to boost your starting situation. Unfortunately, these Boons are not permanent, and each time you are required to restart you will only have as many to spend as you have earned in the immediately previous playthrough. From what I can ascertain, Boons are acquired by liberating outposts. Your starting point is one of those outposts, so when you die, regardless of how many outposts you have or have not liberated, you should always have one Boon.
Survival mode also uses certain types of shards that can be found throughout the world to increase your survivability. These are permanent, unlike the Boons, and there are four types of shards, Revitalizing, Quickening, Warming, and Nourishing. Collecting three of one type will garner Ash a bonus in the corresponding area. Sadly, if you choose Exploration mode, you will not have access to either the Boons or Shards, but hey… infinite 1UPs.
Fade to Silence is, at its core, a fairly involved survival game, and a good one at that. In a world overtaken by snow and ice, resources are scarce and a bit hard to come by. While there will be a smattering of resources within easily reachable distances, to begin with, it won’t take long to burn through them and need to go further out in order to obtain more. Fade to Silence also has a somewhat random menu of potential followers that you can recruit, who can help ease the burden of gathering, but, obviously, will also increase the rate at which you go through them. These factors will cause you to do more scouting in order to claim more resources and you will quickly find yourself burning through an entire region, just to survive. Add to that a pervasive and hostile corruption. Not to mention a ginormous floating island, called the Eclipse, full of tentacles and debris that floats around throwing said debris at anyone or anything that catches its attention.
A form of corruption insinuates itself through much of the frozen landscape contaminating much of the potential resources throughout. Even the resources that can be gathered are mostly contaminated, leaving little to be salvaged immediately. Don’t throw it out, however, as you can have certain followers with the right skill sets can remove the corruption and render more usable resources. So, of course, you can reject any and all followers and try to make it by with just you and your dear daughter, who does absolutely nothing, but doing that will mean kissing goodbye to the vast majority of resources you obtain as more of what you harvest is corrupted than not.
Potential followers are interestingly diverse, and from what I can tell, pretty random on where and whether or not you will encounter them at all. In several playthroughs, I have encountered as many as seven different individuals, and I honestly never get too far into the game, having never made it much past the first region before I died. Going to the locations in which I have encountered potential followers in previous playthroughs often resulted in meeting an entirely different individual. Each follower has a heartbreaking backstory that is slowly uncovered over time as they come to trust you more. Earning enough trust with a follower to learn their full backstory will help them achieve catharsis, which will max out their skill efficacy, allowing them to create more complex items at the various workshops. Which you can’t get without followers to build it for you. Apparently, you’re too good to build anything (or too bad at it) and are relegated to merely planning the layout of buildings in the outpost.
Outpost buildings range from basic huts to workshops aimed at facilitating specific skill sets, such as medicine, butchering, occultism… You know, the essentials. You can also have your followers build palisade barriers, which is always a good idea as corrupted beings will periodically attack your outpost in groups. An absolute must for your “To Build” list is the kennel, which will also provide you with a dogsled. You don’t actually get dogs, but assaulting corrupted outposts will result in befriending friendly wolves (wait, what?). Once you have rescued two wolves, they will act as your sled dogs while any other pairs of wolves you rescue will increase your sled team, therefore increasing your travel speed. Handily, the sled also has a box you can access to store acquired resources in until you can get them to your stash. There are a few other handy things about liberating corrupted outposts, as well. Defeating the corruption at an outpost gives you access to a crystal that will instantly transport you to any other outpost you have liberated. You will also find a lock box in each newly freed outpost that has a good quantity of resources and a stash that is conveniently, if not realistically, connected to your main outpost stash. Now you don’t have to make it back to your starting outpost to deliver resources, just to the nearest one you’ve rescued.
Combat is simple, almost overly simple. Most opponents stick to basic patterns, which is okay because Ash’s available combat moves are just as limited. But other than that, I found the game extremely enjoyable and quite a challenge. Opponents by themselves may be no worry (except crushers), but then the Eclipse shows up to rain cars down on your head while you fight and things take a turn for worse. The survival aspects are engaging and motivating and at times will take up all of your attention. The story is wound around the survival aspect in such a way that it only slowly and deliberately gives you clues as to what is happening, and while you may want to pursue the hints it provides, that desire is constantly pushed aside as the need for resources takes the center stage. I poured countless hours into the game and don’t feel like any of my time was wasted or boring. Adding such a complex survival aspect to the game changes, for me at least, the perspectives of what might have been common exploration and grinding.
In my opinion, the game culminates into an expert combination of storytelling, survival, and community management, leaving me quite satisfied with the result. True, there are a lot of survival games out there, and aside from obvious clones, each is trying to find their niche to hopefully push their game, their story, into something more than the standard fare. For me, though not perfect, this game hits that goal. Well done, THQ Nordic.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on PC with a code provided by PR.
- Conan Exiles