Developer Marvelous has been busy this year. They have released a remake in each of their two most storied series – Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life and Rune Factory 3 Special. To complement these remakes, Marvelous has brought to life two new IPs — the not-so-beloved Loop8: Summer of Gods and the subject of this review, Silent Hope. Silent Hope was announced only three months ago, alongside a slew of other games in the Nintendo Direct this June, a quick turnaround by any estimate.
Silent Hope takes place loosely within the world of Rune Factory, but no previous knowledge is required, as it is a standalone tale. Long ago, the King stole the voices of his people and fled deep into the Abyss. His daughter cried until she encased herself in a crystal of tears. Within the crystal, she survived the innumerable years until seven voiceless heroes arrived at the mouth of the Abyss. The Princess tasks these seven heroes to delve into the Abyss and save her father. The premise is a straightforward one that evokes a moral fairy tale. As an optimist who wants to believe in people, it’s difficult to accept the depiction of villagers being greedy and cruel during perilous times in flashbacks, but maybe it’s more glaring with the monarchy (absent king included) centered as the “good guys.”
The seven heroes are not only voiceless but also nameless. However, each has a unique class designation, such as warrior, sage, archer, or farmer. They also feature wonderful chibi-style designs that, combined with their unique playstyles, give a strong sense of personality. Only one of these heroes can descend into the Abyss at a time, but you can switch between them when back at your home base or from tear-crystals discovered in the Abyss.
Delving into the Abyss is unearthing the memories of the final days of the former Kingdom. Each strangely beautiful dungeon of the Abyss represents a different time in the memories of the King (such as his kingdom’s last autumn festival). These dungeons consist of numerous randomly generated floors full of traps and monsters, culminating in a boss battle. There are three main types of floors: mazes of passages to reach the gate to the next floor, monster arenas where you face several waves of monsters, and mini-bosses or bosses where far more powerful creatures bar your path. Sometimes, a floor also includes a bonfire, which gives you a new, deeper location from which you can begin your expedition.
While the Abyss has traps and occasionally requires you to take roundabout routes or open paths to reach the next floor, lizardmen, demons, dragons, and giant tortoises are the main obstacles between you and the King. Combat in Silent Hope should be familiar to anyone who has played an isometric action RPG in the vein of Diablo, including the plethora of drops. Each character has a unique basic attack without a cooldown, a dodge with a short cooldown, and can equip up to three skills from an eventual nine per character. You gain experience for defeating enemies and completing trials (simple quests you receive at the beginning of many floors), and upon leveling up, gain a skill point to spend on upgrading your skills. At first, each character only has three skills, but you unlock a second class at level 15 with three more skills and a third much later in the game. Some of these skills can be incredibly powerful, my favourite being the Critical Hit skill of the Trickster, which teleports to an enemy and follows up with a guaranteed critical hit. If it kills the enemy, it resets its cooldown, allowing you to chain through enemies and rack up massive combos for bonus experience points.
Unfortunately, the combination of randomly generated dungeons, a lack of non-combat gameplay inside of dungeons, the ability to only equip three skills at a time, and an absence of difficulty for most of the game results in Silent Hope becoming repetitive rather quickly. Even the bosses have very straightforward patterns, making them trivial to fight. The real difficulty comes in aiming at the correct enemy and preventing your skills from whiffing — not a rewarding kind of difficulty in this type of game. Despite these complaints, the game is powerfully addictive, and much of that is due to the gameplay loop.
So yes, the bulk of Silent Hope is setting out on expeditions into the Abyss, going as deep as you can and ending back up at your base by teleporting from a tear-crystal or through your death. But, once back at base, there are several facilities (managed by the heroes you aren’t controlling at the time) you can use to improve your chances in the Abyss. There is a farm, a field, an atelier, a mill, a forge, and a kitchen. The first four allow you to refine items you find in the dungeons (fodder, seeds, ore, and wood) into materials usable in the last two to craft equipment and food. Refining items takes time spent in the Abyss — delve into the Abyss to find items, set them up to be refined, pick them up the next time you are back at base, and repeat. Eventually, you will have enough materials to craft new equipment at the forge, the blueprints of which are “memories” of weapons, rings, and earrings you find in the dungeons.
The Princess offers rewards for completing tasks for her, most predominantly runes (which you also gain in dungeons). Runes are a currency spent to utilize facilities and can even be used to refine materials instantly. You can also break down your redundant items into booster parts (which can upgrade your equipment) and more runes. The final bit of character customization is runestones, elemental stones inserted into your weapon and ring for various bonuses. These also can change the element of your attacks and your elemental weaknesses and resistances. The two halves of Silent Hope’s gameplay, delving into dungeons and getting materials to build up your characters to delve further into dungeons, play off each other beautifully and make it natural to lose track of the hours.
One source of dilemma in Silent Hope is deciding how many characters to spend time updating. At first, it is tempting to level up and outfit all seven, but it quickly dawns that keeping everyone on par with the current dungeon requires many extra expeditions. I find the best balance is to level and gear up two characters. Most dungeons have two different predominant elemental types, so if you have two powered-up heroes, you can also have two sets of runestones to combat the specific elements of a given dungeon. Further, having more than one hero usable allows you to take longer delves, as characters have separate HP and potions. After you hit the credits, you unlock higher-difficulty versions of the dungeons. So, if your addiction to Silent Hope is strong, you can always try out different characters through future runthroughs of the Abyss.
Silent Hope is a charming, adorable game with pitch-perfect sound design, from its limited voice work (the Princess and the King), suitably adventurous and mysterious music, and dopamine-inducing sound effects. It gets repetitive but has a well-oiled gameplay loop that keeps you on the rails. The limited character builds result in a lack of depth, but the fun of combining the right weapons, runestones, and skills to make huge numbers appear and enemies disappear is always present. Silent Hope is simple in almost all respects, and yet it brings me joy to play it and likely would do even more so for the children in your life.