Black Forest Games' Fade to Silence is an engrossing tale of survival that is unfortunately bogged down by repetitive combat and poor storytelling.
Fade to Silence is an open-world survival game that makes players feel every single second of its main character's pain-staking struggle. There's a real sense of urgency involved when guiding Ash through a harrowing blizzard, trying to find shelter while the warmth meter shrinks to nothing. It's in these moments that Fade to Silence shines as an engrossing tale of survival against all odds. It's just rather disappointing that these moments are often overshadowed by repetitiveness, bugs, and a general lack of focus.
Fade to Silence takes place in a nightmarish and freezing cold post-apocalyptic world, focusing on Ash, a leader who must rebuild his settlements again and again as he battles against the elements and monsters called the Eldritch. There's a spooky, almost Lovecraftian appeal to this premise, especially in the game's opening moments of uncertain terror and existential dread. Yet Fade to Silence never totally capitalizes on this, as most of the narrative developments in the game are either confusing or downright perfunctory in nature. True, survival games don't necessarily need to focus on narrative or plot, but with a premise so intriguing, it feels like a missed opportunity by developer Black Forest Games.
Then there's Fade to Silence's third-person combat mechanics, which come off as Dark Souls-like without the... well, soul. There are heavy and light attacks (even a lock-on function), which both drain the character's stamina but never pack as much of a punch like any Dark Souls game. It's clunky in all the wrong ways. There's a dodge mechanic that never quite works, as the Eldritch beasts often make contact regardless of where you are in relation to the attack. This leads to overuse of the game's parry ability, which is contrariwise far too easy to overuse and abuse. Parry, stun, mash attack, and then repeat ad nauseam. Of course, this method doesn't work against every creature in Fade to Silence but it's enough that nothing combat-related ever comes off as organic.
Still, there are those moments of torturous survival in the game's blizzard-prone wilderness that almost allows the aforementioned flaws to fade to silence. There's nothing quite like being in the middle of gathering firewood for your bonfire back home while your character is starving only for a big blizzard to hit as if out of nowhere. The race back to camp as the ice builds on the warmness meter is nearly enough to cause the sweet sense of panic that the best kinds of survival titles can induce. In these moments, Fade to Silence shows off the brilliance lingering just beneath the flaws.
The other meters, like hunger and tiredness, add other wrinkles to Fade to Silence but never really feel as dire as the warm meter, which can effectively thwart an entire playthrough. Of course, being near a bonfire or wielding a torch can help impede the coming cold, but both will not last forever. It's important to plan ahead for any sort of scouting trip or resource gathering, because if you don't have enough torches or healing supplies, death is almost a certainty. Especially on the standard survival mode, which limits your deaths to six before it's completely game over, though there are ways to circumvent this.
The map in Fade to Silence is a little disjointed and traversing it can be more than a little confusing at times, but the HUD is intuitive enough so that you'll always find your way around eventually (if it were too easy, would it really be a freezing cold, post-apocalyptic survival game). Materials for crafting are smartly laid out and never thin enough to feel like death is guaranteed but also never in bulk enough so that you'll necessarily be able to load up before a blizzard shows up and you're forced to flee. It's a delicate balance, but the title actually pulls it off quite well. And crafting itself is kind of bare bones for a survival title, featuring very little in the way of creatable items, but Fade to Silence evens this out with a system that is thankfully uncomplicated.
Fade to Silence's survival mechanics are mostly a success and, combined with its truly punishing blizzard system, creates moments of gleeful suspense. If the game had eliminated the monster threat and the dull combat mechanics, instead focusing on shoring up the survival elements, it would perhaps be one of the best survival titles of the year. As it is now, it's still a worthwhile experience with an absorbing premise and fun moments sprinkled throughout, but it's far too plodding in so many areas to be considered something truly great.
Fade to Silence released April 30 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC for $49.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.