REVIEW: Silverfall

After beating every U.S. PSP hack-n-slash—(Worth mentioning: Rengoku 2, Phantasy Star Portable, Bounty Hounds, Alien Syndrome, and not because they’re all sci-fi)—I imported Silverfall from England. Long ago, a stateside release was planned, but cancelled, I imagine, due to mediocrity. Silverfall is a stripped-down remake of a PC game with the same name, set in a fantasy world where magic meets steam-age technology, blah, blah, blah—like Arcanum and Thunderscape before it.

Silverfall’s core components borrow heavily from the hack-n-slash formula popularized by Snowblind Studios (Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Champions of Norrath) and established long before then. With a single character you bash stupid foes, collecting random loot, leveling, and raising skills and attributes. So let’s talk about differences…

There are no classes/jobs in Silverfall, per se. When generating a character, you chose from 4 races (with unique appearances and attribute bonuses), and approximate your own class by raising skills from various categories: ranged/melee combat, light/dark/elemental magic. If you split your attribute points somewhat equally, you’ll do everything pretty well and can freely choose skills to reflect your style. This works fine, other than the fact many skills are useless or redundant (i.e. 2 skills in separate categories buff your movement and attack speed).

Essentially, magic skills are no different from weapon skills, so every action (even swinging a sword) drains from your power (MP) meter. Interestingly, monsters have their own power meters that visibly lower as they fight. A tactic (something you’ll never need in Silverfall) is to use a skill that saps monster’s power, incapacitating them. Conversely, monsters do this to you all the time.

Now for Silverfall’s most interesting feature: By collecting icons (either a cog or a leaf) hidden in the dungeons or earned by quests, you increase affinity with either technology or nature. Gaining one reduces the other, so choose a path and go whole hog. These affinities let you learn special skills and use certain weapons/armor. Unfairly, you’ll feel like a prick for following technology, undertaking quests to log pristine forests and build smoke belching factories.

So far so good, but sadly, Silverfall is crippled by retarded design choices. The biggest: All monsters and bosses level with you, meaning, why level at all? Compounding that, you have a full in-game map of each area with all objectives marked, so there is even less reason to explore, especially since treasure chest contents are randomized in such a way that the hidden out-of-the-way chests don’t give any better loot. In fact, by bothering to explore, you’ll level so rapidly as to max out halfway (no exaggeration) through the game.

Next, the difficulty is sloppy and uneven. Ranged monsters and “bleed” (a.k.a. poison) effects destroy you in seconds. However, most monsters can be walked through. But what does it all matter since there is no penalty for death? You merely warp back to the last (convenient) checkpoint. The monsters don’t even respawn.

Aside a few good ideas, Silverfall is pretty half-assed and feels rushed and ill conceived throughout. There are things to enjoy—compulsively gaining levels and loot is always fun—but Silverfall makes it so arbitrary it’s barely a game, ultimately bringing the hack-n-slash genre one step closer to a non-ironic Progress Quest. Sorry grind-heads, your time is better spent maxing out your Phantasy Star Portable character.


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