For desperate horror-gaming aficionados looking for their next fix, there are a few spooky hours to be had in Silver Chains, but we’d recommend waiting for a substantial sale.
For an independent horror game about a haunted house and a haunted past, the new game Silver Chains brings a smattering of scares and a morose soundtrack but lacks engaging interaction. Just this shy of a walking sim, it’s a game about exploring a fetid-looking manor with a lot of empty ambient space, hunting down the next story-progressing trigger, and occasionally escaping an immortal foe. With the volume cranked up in your headphones late at night, it’s the kind of game that could potentially crawl into your nightmares, but some language hiccups and a general lack of sensible interactivity and polish makes it a hard sell.
You play as a young man named Peter who has just woken up dazed and confused outside of a foreboding "abandoned" house. After the first of many blackouts, players find themselves in a room stuffed with creaky dusty furniture and squeaky floorboards, poking around to find purpose and escape, and soon discovering a message written into a mirror which may prove important later on.
Silver Chains cozies right up to that specific sub-genre of “doll horror.” Everything from creepy doll parts hanging on wires unexplained in a closet to a plot-centric ventriloquist dummy make appearances, though some of these may be veritable stand-ins for actual children. To describe this conflict further would reveal a little too much of the story, but anyone squeamish about the thought of young children meeting gruesome ends might want to distance themselves from this title, which unravels a plot involving a terrible curse, a nanny, a mother, and some very unfortunate kids.
It doesn’t help that the abandoned house in Silver Chains doesn’t really have a whole lot to see or do inside of it. Even the paintings hanging on walls and framed photos don’t present any visible context or narrative support, with almost every single one containing a messy indistinct blur; this seems strange, since static images are one of the cheapest ways for a horror game or walking sim to inject some sort of character or story insight into its surroundings. Instead, the manor environment is quite large but mostly same-y, with the majority of rooms featuring repeating assets of bureaus, chairs, desks, non-reflective mirrors, beds, chests, and closets, with barely any interactivity to be found. The few points you can interact with tend to be the expository notes left in plain sight which slowly unravel the story of what happened here back in the year 1900. An early game tutorial advises you to take advantage of the physical nature of these plot objects and turn them around to check for hidden information — let’s go ahead and save you the trouble and state that the only time this is a useful practice is during that same tutorial instance, which implies cut content or bad editing, or both.
That shabby detail is unfortunately indicative of several areas where Silver Chains clearly required more polish than it received. A few text and translation flubs occur throughout, including moments when a voice actor reads slightly different lines than the onscreen text, or when Peter randomly and immediately surmises the next step to be taken to progress the story, seemingly out of nowhere. When a horrific presence occasionally appears and chases the player, you’re meant to hide in one of several wardrobes helpfully positioned around the manor, but you can’t move the camera to peek at the incoming threat once inside, merely standing there until the dramatic music ends (rather helpful that this threat sports its own soundtrack).
There are a small handful of puzzles aside from just looking for the right place to be at a given moment, none of which are particularly memorable. After discovering a magical monocle you’ll be able to activate it to find the next hotspot, which ends up being the game’s primary tool to progress the story, a functional but mechanically uninspired decision. Besides that, a number of other unimaginative horror game mechanics appear — doors which don’t open except when they’re supposed to, doors which cannot even be interacted with but open for inexplicable reasons later on, random junk in the way which impedes your navigation like a forcefield, and convenient blackouts which allow the player to be quickly shuttled to the next important scenario. Of the latter you will probably be most thankful, since hustling between the three different floors of the manor hunting monocle-spots soon grows tiresome all on its own.
Some of the ghostly scares presented are certainly decent, and since there is usually only one single correct path to take, Silver Chains can relish in tossing a few choice frights where it knows you’ll be passing through. Still, so much of the game is firmly on rails, squandering the potential gameplay opportunity of exploring a house and thereby giving players some leeway as to what they will find and when. Most of this could’ve been realized as an outright point-and-click, Myst-styled experience, avoiding the greater sense of agency and experimentation it implies as an FPS-styled game.
Horror games live and die on a few basics, including lore, narrative, creepy ambiance, and the ingenuity of its scares. Silver Chains feels serviceable in all these respects, and though the overarching story is more than meets the eye, the clumsy gameplay and lack of polish detracts from thorough immersion. Beyond that, its asking price seems well beyond what the game offers, and attentive players could easily complete it in three or four hours. For desperate horror-gaming aficionados looking for their next fix, there’s a few spooky hours to be had in Silver Chains, but we’d recommend waiting for a substantial sale.
Silver Chains releases on Steam on August 6 for $24.99. A digital copy was provided to Screen Rant for purposes of review.