GAME REVIEW: Silence – “Hugely Charming”
What a time to be alive! By the turn of the century, the point & click adventure game genre, and all similar titles, were dead as the dodo. Low sales combined with the trend of polygonal three-dimensional graphics saw the genre crash. The Broken Sword, Monkey Island and The Longest Journey sequels failed to meet their expected sales and their franchises screeched to a halt.
Fast forward to 2016 and the adventure genre is in full swing once again. Many people unanimously praise Telltale Games for this resurgence, which helped bring a number of licensed properties to the adventure game market and also helped revive a few as well. But point and click games didn’t die off everywhere in the 90s – in mainland Europe a number of dedicated fans still enjoyed this near deceased style of gameplay. Germany especially was a hotbed of fans still clamouring for more point and click games, the country produced the fantastic Broken Sword 2.5 fan game in 2008, in the same year that Daedalic Entertainment released their first game, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout. Daedalic Entertainment has been quietly churning out high quality point and click adventure games ever since and this has led to their biggest project to date, Silence.
Silence is the sequel to the 2009 Daedalic adventure game, The Whispered World. The original game followed the sad jester Sadwick through the fantasy world of Silence. The Whispered World was universally praised for its beautiful hand drawn style, so its sequel had to be just as visually impressive. Daedalic does not disappoint.
The game uses a mixture of stunning hand drawn backgrounds and beautifully crafted 3D models which blend together seamlessly. The characters are wonderfully designed and often during the game the character models could be close to what you’d expect to see in an animated movie. My laptop is a good few years old now, but even on the highest settings it runs well and looks superb. The hand drawn scenery is also wonderful to behold and outdoes The Whispered World at every turn.
In terms of gameplay, Silence is very much like earlier point and click games, but with a few extra wrinkles which really sets it apart from the crowd. There’s only a few minor changes, but they really make a difference – aside from clicking on an item to action it, the game will task you with clicking and dragging to pull or push objects and also using the mouse to move your character’s centre of gravity around when attempting to balance. Minor differences, but even modern point and click games like Broken Age haven’t used this technique. Silence has a nice little soundtrack, it’s not always perfect but still suits the game. The characters are nice but could do with more fleshing out perhaps.
It’s not all rosy when it comes to Silence, though. The puzzles, which have followed the same theme as Whispered World, are a mixed bag. Some don’t give you a clue to what you are meant to be doing, others simply are a case of trial and error. It’s a little disappointing to be stumped and not know what you are meant to be doing. The hints system often points you toward the final solution, but doesn’t tell you how to get there. When you know what the solution is but no idea how to get to it the game can become a bit frustrating. The music, while pleasant, doesn’t always match what is going on in the plot and can sometimes overpower the voice work, although this was easily rectified in the options.
The voice work is nice and matches each character’s physical attributes well, but they sometimes come across bland and unemotional. Silence desperately wants you to feel for the cast, but the voice performances give you little reason to. The voice work often feels very much by the numbers – I am aware that Daedalic Entertainment are a independent developer, but the voices sometimes feel more akin to a budget anime dub. The script also flows a little strangely; I get the impression it was written in another language and translated and while it’s translated perfectly well, sometimes sentences don’t feel right or are overly long. While it doesn’t spoil the game, it does sound a little unnatural and may contribute towards some of the voice work being of a middling standard.
The game has a strange flow to it as a whole. You could argue that the nature of the fantasy world of Silence being something akin to that of a dream could attribute to the sudden shifts in tone, location and plot. For instance, I had been searching for a character who was imperative to the plot, but when we had him, he didn’t really do anything. Another time, while searching for the oracle, I had broken into the city and ducked down a manhole, and there we found two of our party who had vanished into the same manhole moments before. But now they had been turned into statues for some reason, which led to another puzzle. This random nature interrupted the flow of the game, it is possible that these shifts are intentional and the nature of the world is that of a shifting dream, but for me it made Silence feel more like a series of individual scenes strung together with an overall plot as opposed to a flowing narrative.
Silence initially reminded me of Funcom’s The Longest Journey. While that is a fairly accurate description, I felt it reminded me more so of 80’s fantasy movie later on. The 80’s reference may not be obvious right away, but initially I had some trouble gauging the tone of the game – it starts pretty dark and does have some bleak moments, but then there’s bits like the taking stones, which could’ve easily come out of the likes of The Neverending Story, or look at Silence’s antagonists The Seekers who could’ve easily walked out of movies like The Dark Crystal.
Despite some negatives, I enjoyed my time with Silence. Silence is hugely charming and it is obvious that a lot of love and attention has gone into crafting such a strikingly beautiful game. Character models and hand drawn scenes really help to draw you into the Whispered World universe. The game takes tried and tested point and click gameplay and mixes it up a bit – it works a treat.
Gamers who have never played point and click adventures before may struggle to get into Silence, but fans of classic point and click games and fans of more modern style adventures (ie. Telltale Games) are likely to get the most out of this game. If you want to lose yourself in a pretty fantasy world, you could do a lot worse than Silence.