Silverfall is a title showing glimpses of unrealized greatness swamped in tedium and questionable design choices. Essentially a Diablo-style clone, this action-RPG does many things almost-right, but never quite hits the target on anything.
The story is one of the weakest points in the game, although the setting itself is full of promise. Silverfall takes place in a world of both magic and technology, where proponents of Nature are often at odds with those favoring Science. Robots, zombies, mages, and riflemen make up the denizens of the world. With the possibilities available in such a world, it’s sad that the story is about as generic as possible. The titular city, Silverfall, is ravaged by some demonic forces, and the most powerful man in town, Archmage (yes, that’s right) has gone missing. So it’s up to Our Hero to lend a hand and begin setting things right in the world. The story progresses through several typical fantasy locations, including the foreboding marsh, the elven glen, the floating city of technology, and several more. And Our Hero gets to hack n’ slash his or her way through each and every one of them.
Character creating is simply a matter of choosing a race (human, elf, troll, or goblin) and sex, and then starting off in the world. There are no classes to choose, so characters are fleshed out as they go up in levels and focus their skill points in various areas of Combat, Magic, or the catch-all Other category of skills. As players kill things and take their stuff, they begin to specialize as a mighty mage, a powerful warrior, a sharpshooter, or any combination of the above. In addition, characters can ally themselves with either Nature or Technology, opening up another skill branch and conferring bonuses there. This Nature/Technology duality holds promise, although both sides seem to have similar powers with slightly different dressings. Should players decide they don’t like the particular path a character is taking, skill and ability points can be adjusted for a price. I like this idea a lot, as I often find myself not quite liking the choices I made early on in a game.
Combat is where Silverfall begins to show its problems. There’s just nothing very exciting about combat—all of the enemies have basically the same personality. Enemies will sit in a small cluster and wait until you get too close, or you hit one of them with a spell or missile. The entire cluster then attacks until they or you are dead. Although there are many different kinds of creatures, they usually only differ by the pixels they’re wearing. Some have a special attack or two, but for the most part combat just doesn’t change. Making things worse, the enemies level up with the characters, so there’s never a chance to be able to just mow through the wimpy, early-level enemies, nor is there ever really a feeling of being in over your head. It may be that I just picked an easy character to play, but after a few levels I found myself able to plow through just about anything with my blast ‘em mage, never breaking a sweat.
There are missions, both primary and secondary, to keep the plot moving. These consist of the typical “kill this, retrieve that, escort the other” that seems to be a staple of these games. The Nature and Technology missions add a bit of flavor to things, and actions taken on these paths have in-game results, such as the direction Silverfall takes as it’s rebuilt. While serviceable, there’s nothing new or exciting in the grab-bag of tasks set forth, and so the game just keeps plodding along.
Game control is a letdown, and probably the weakest point of the game. Moving and attacking is done with the left and right mouse buttons, in combination with a handful of hotkeys. The camera is completely manually controlled, never being able to lock on the way the character is facing. The minimap is one of the worst I’ve seen in an action-RPG, and it took me several hours of play to finally get used to it. My character also occasionally got stuck on the rest of the party, or on some of the landscape, sometimes resulting in an untimely death. In addition, it was easy for me to accidentally click on one of my party members, opening up a dialogue box in the heat of combat. During this time, I couldn’t do anything until I closed the box, but enemies could continue to pound on me. That’s not a happy thing.
Speaking of party members, players are able to use up to two AI-controlled characters as backup, to help fill in wherever needed. These guys can be given a simple script to follow, but they often get themselves quite dead by rushing to combat a bit too enthusiastically.
I never liked “corpse-running” after death, but Silverfall seems to think this is a good way to spend the time. Once killed, all of your possessions fall to the ground where you died, and you have to run back (naked) to collect the stuff, right back to the place that might have been a bit too tough for you, only this time you have the added challenge of not having any equipment. You can purchase “life insurance” to be resurrected with your equipment intact, but that increases in cost with each use.
Silverfall looks decent, with a cell-shaded graphic style. The magic effects are colorful and impressive, the monsters, a typical fantasy grab-bag, look good. The voice acting could use a little work, but there wasn’t all that much in place to mar the game. There are reports of numerous bugs and glitches throughout the game, although I must have been lucky enough not to come across anything noticeable myself. There are also a couple of multiplayer modes, including a PVP mode and a cooperative campaign mode, for those wanting a more social game.
I found myself somewhat enjoying Silverfall, but I’d never consider placing this title on anyone’s “to buy” list. There’s an interesting world to explore, if only the developers had put a little more time in adding the extra spark that makes players want to endlessly churn away at the hordes of enemies. Perhaps those who absolutely need more Diablo-esque hack n’ slash will find a few hours of entertainment here, but most would do well to give this one a pass, or at least wait until it hits the bargain bins.