"Breathtaking graphics, beautiful soundtrack, poignant ending—unfortunately these are not enough to carry a game through to the end. "
As a point-and-click fan, it surprises even me that I've never played a Daedalic-developed title, whose name is synonymous with the genre. When The Whispered World
came out in 2009, it made quite a splash, garnering much high praise for its creative world, artful graphics, and emotional story. Thus, when I came across its sequel, Silence, I figured now would be a better time than ever to see what the hype was all about.
Silence opens with Noah rushing to get his sister, Renie, and himself to a bunker as an air raid siren sounds. As the world around them succumbs to the bombs, Noah tries to cheer Renie up by retelling the story of Sadwick the Clown—whom Noah was in The Whispered World—and how he escaped by smashing the mirror in the throne room. Abruptly, a blast tears the bunker open and Noah wakes up alone. As he tries to locate Renie, he stumbles into a cavern and soon realizes he is back in Silence, the universe he escaped in The Whispered World. Now, he must find Renie and get them back to the real world.
Traversing through Silence, they make allies and discover enemies known as Seekers. While some poignant scenes occur and culminate in a difficult final decision, the last chapter felt extremely rushed. Just as I was growing to like five of the six characters, the game makes a straight beeline for the finale—I barely even knew the basics of the sixth character. Egregiously, multiple points in the final chapter could have benefitted from significant character and story building, but they have clearly been left out of this brief five-hour excursion.
Furthermore, while dialogue options exist, they scarcely present an illusion of choice. In more than one instance, when I selected a strongly affirmative statement, a reticent statement poured out of the character's mouth instead! While I suspect a handful of moments exist in which my decision did matter, it was hard to pick them out amongst the piles of insignificance. In spite of these inadequacies, the ending was still extremely emotional and I spent a good minute pondering my choice before making it. What the resolution boils down to is this: when faced with a tough situation, do you take the easy route of ignorance or the harsh truth and whatever consequences that come with either decision? With no right answers, players should simply follow their instincts.
Controlling the characters runs fluidly as the mouse easily handles movement and interaction. Players can set up their mouse scroll wheel and/or space bar to display hints for puzzles and objects or points that can be interacted with. While you can click the left mouse button to skip text, it doesn't always work for animations, thus when you click on an object and the character says something while interacting with it, you might still have to sit through the entire animation. I found the hints beneficial as I was unimpressed with most of the puzzles in Silence—they were largely difficult to follow without hints, and I frequently found myself randomly clicking and interacting with items to trigger progression in frustration. None of the puzzles prompt an "ah-ha" moment or "d'oh, how did I not think of that," which I would consider to be the best measurement of a puzzle's simplicity in ingenuity. Additionally, the load time between screens was exceptionally long, rendering multi-screen puzzles extremely offensive, though thankfully they were few. Considering that the game has pre-fixed checkpoints for the player, was it really impossible to improve the load times?
Complaints aside, Silence boasts a thoughtful soundtrack that matches its surreal world as well as outstanding sound effects—though perhaps a little too outstanding, as in a couple instances, the repeated cries of some creatures in discomfort only made the inability to puzzle out the developers' solutions more frustrating due to how perturbing the sounds were. Noah's voice acting is excellent, but I can't say the same for Renie. Initially, I found her vocals rather monotone and not quite in tune with the words she said. However, as the story progressed, Renie's voice definitely improved. and I can't pinpoint if this was a directorial decision to match the plot change. The rest of the cast also do a great job, though sadly they simply don't show up often enough.
Graphically rich, the lush world of Silence contrasts significantly with the muted blue-gray-browns of the harsh war zone Noah and Renie were in. The vibrant colors of the various locations and special effects, such as diffusing gas, are fantastic in implementation. Even the cutscenes seamlessly flow between point-and-click actions and quick time events that blend in well. The visuals are one thing Daedalic did completely right.
Breathtaking graphics, beautiful soundtrack, poignant ending—unfortunately these are not enough to carry a game through to the end. Silence feels like an ambitious project that got cut short, and it's unfortunate considering the exponential room for growth in the game. For its high price, it's difficult to justify a five hour gameplay duration, let alone the rushed ending. Though some replayability exists for achievements based on the player's decisions, the lackluster puzzling and load times are a significant deterrent for me, though perhaps not for everyone. If you're a fan of The Whispered World, there's probably enough here to warrant a look, but if not, you're likely better off trying a different Daedalic title.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.