|Release Date:||March 9th, 2007 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Duncan Lawson (sinna01)|
Ok, here we go -I'm going to write about Silverfall for your consideration, without once mentioning a certain isometric action RPG that rhymes with 'Biablo', Biablo II' or even ' Biablo - Bords of Bestruction'. Let's see how long that lasts.
Silverfall, in a nutshell, is not very good. In summation it is in fact pretty terrible, but to qualify that its shortcoming are really only so glaring as they are show in such stark relief by titles who already got it right. This title lacks the hack n' slash excitement of the Baldur's Gate series, the character depth of Neverwinter Nights, the indulgent fun of Fallout, the character of Warcraft, the story of Planescape, or the polished presentation of Diab… other games. If Silverfall had in fact predated all or any of the above titles, it might have managed to be a passable gaming experience, but the ineptly implemented features lifted from prior games makes for a clumsy experience, un-engaging at best, screen-walloping at worst.
Silverfall might have been forgiven a lot more if it had been more innovative, but following tried and tested formulas and then getting them wrong is galling. The plot set up is no exception to this. It's the fairly typical sub-Tolkein landscape just stuffed full of limp wrested elves, Scottish dwarves, mentally impaired ogres, dress wearing wizards, valkeries outfitted by Sports Illustrated Swimwear Edition, and steroidal warrior types. It is all presented in an overly shiny, cell-shaded style that never quite reaches the slyly irreverent humour of Dungeon Siege, nor the rich environments of the epic Planescape. Into this idyllic setting erupts the ubiquitous horde of undead and demons, no doubt herded around by some bloke in black and pointy armour. Your job is to line the hordes of evil up and dole out the spankings, point and click style.
The interface is instantly familiar to anyone who has played an action RPG before, which is in essence a good thing. Intuitive controls are a feature to be welcomed, and the red blob of health to one side and the blue blob of mojo to the other with the quick slots in the middle and good examples. Left click on screen to move your character, click on an NPC to interact, on a monster to attack - right click on any of the above to get into slightly more complicated interactions such as spell casting, range attacks, etc. Much like a kinder egg, monsters will drop items when bifurcated, which can either go to kitting out you little hero or sold for the shiny back at the settlement. Pick up quests and side quests in the homestead, bulk up on the experience points; kill bigger monsters, rinse, repeat. To be honest, it's a formula that's hard to completely pooch as so many titles have shown the way already. Silverfall seems not to have been paying attention.
There are plenty of issues with the gameplay, not least the widespread reports of fatal bugs and crashes despite repeat patch release. Most of these are small annoyances that can usually be ignored in the face of an otherwise good game, but not in this case when they are overshadowed by glaring defects that any judge in the land would accept as a justifiable homicide plea.
Picking the first one at random, the quest structure is poorly implemented. Quests will be given to you up to several hours of play before you are anywhere near a competent level to prosecute them, sometimes with the actual objective of the quest fairly obscure. Even checking the quest log can be of no help, as a conversation with the alleged quest giver simply replied verbatim - the lucky adventurer might notice a point of interest appearing on their map, so as to pick up a clue of where to head. The minimap in the corner is by default slaved to the direction of the camera rather than the player, which has annoyed more than a few players.
The camera is probably one of the most enduringly annoying elements of the game. Move the cursor against the edge of the viewing area, and the camera will swing around accordingly. Unfortunately, even on a decently powered machine with the game on low settings, the graphics engine has a hard time working sensibly. Just too add insult to injury, the game designers though that they should add inertia to the floating camera. This means that should you try and shift the point of view and stop it when it's just right, its glides on the extra few degrees like the boom operator was drunk. Simply trying to align your view shouldn't itself be a skill game. Assuming you do spend a precious few minutes pointed in the right direction, the zoom-ability of the view is useless. At full extension, the area in site is not sufficient to really see where your going or get a tactical appraisal, and at full close the camera suddenly switches to an over-the-shoulder view which is the grant chocolate-teapot of viewpoints for a action RPG.
Whilst near blindly navigating the maps, some of the quests you will pick up will result in you picking up a helper / follower that will follow you around and perform in one of a few selectable behaviour patterns. Think Neverwinter Nights, but less so. The helpers can make a great deal of difference to your chances of survival, but after about the 100th time they have stood right on a wanted item or location and this making said goodies unreachable, you'll wonder if death wasn't preferable.
Actually, I would like to belay that last comment. Nearly anything is preferable to death in this game, which is similar to the system used in Everquest, but les forgiving. Death will mean the player will reappear back in the nearest settlement, but robbed of their entire inventory. A tombstone will appear where the hero fell, and naked but for loincloth you will have to sprint to it and pick up all the individually fallen goods. The will not autoequip, and the landscape repopulates fast - which basically means that the naked hero has to runn through inftested territory in naught but a nappy, grab his kit, and keep running until the train of monster following them tails off. This leads to situations with 3 or 4 tomstones in a row that the player will then have to visit in succession in order just to restore the status quo and get back o trying to kill the swarm you started with. Woe betide the hero who dies in the midst's of a large swarm, as its going to be a lot of running around before you can get back on the saddle. 'Life Insurance' can be purchased in each settlement, which will revive the player still fully attired for a nominal fee, but one time out of fifty the player will either forget or the option to renew will not auto-cue, and its back to the long walk.
The maps are impressively large, but mostly because they are very sparsely filled. Unlike in certain other well known isometric view action RPG's with randomly generating landscapes, the dungeons cannot -or at least should not -be explored at random. If you come across a dungeon instance, you can happily hack your way through its empty vaults, only to come across at long last an unoccupied central chamber. Go away, eventually get the quest, and have to do the whole thing over again as it repopulated. Repopulated at modified levels, at that, so recovering an area is every bit as difficult and slow as the first time around, really twisting the knife when going back and forward over and over.
As with any modern RPG, online co-op has to be a standard feature. To give Silverfall some credit, this is not entirely incompetently implemented, with a simple hop-in system where joining players will effectively act as minions to the main player and their quest roster. Of course, both players then suffer the drawback of playing a horrible game together, but like they say: a problem shared is a problem two people have got.
There are some more details to this game, such as a poorly implemented skill tree, and the chance to move your alliance between the forces of technology and the forces of nature, but this like everything else is clumsily done. It would be reassuring to find out that this game was produced in the midst's of massive company layoffs, or was rushed out for tax reasons, as any production team that wilfully leaves their product so poorly finished deserves to be dissolved entirely. Action RPG is probably my favourite genre of all, and given the lengthy play hours thus title offers, I would have dearly loved to enjoy this game, but I just don't have it in me.
- Cell shaded style is innovative for the genre
- Large play areas
- DVD looks pretty when hit by a .22 flatnose air pellet from about 30 yards.
Not so good stuff
- Clumsily made
- Poorly executed
- Absolutely infuriating lapses and lacunae in obvious features
- Long loads
- Costs money. Any amount of money at all.