Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cleared: Silverfall

I finally got around to finishing Silverfall, though if I want to keep playing with my same character, I can eventually go through Earth Awakening. Silverfall, for those who aren't quite sure what I'm talking about, is an action RPG in the tradition of Diablo from a now-defunct game developer called Monte Cristo. Before we get much firther, though, let me just say this: don't let the awful T&A box art turn you off to the game. I had the advantage of not seeing it as I bought the game digitally, but criminey, that's awful and isn't reflective of the game's content. Anyway, it's really sad that Monte Cristo are, as I just mentioned, out of business, because the game is something of an undiscovered treasure, especially for those that like the genre. First of all, though, let me lead off by saying that Silverfall is not the kind of game you play for the plot, because there's very little of it and what is there is alternately ludicrous and nonsensical. That's okay, really. The real fun in this type of game is in the gameplay itself, and Silverfall does several things very right. First of all, unique (as far as I know) to games of this genre, Silverfall has no class system at all. You start off as one of several races and pick your abilities as your fancy strikes you, and there's plenty to choose from. There's also a refreshing lack of "wrong" options. Aaron Stack (whom I seem compelled to link at least once a month) and I both played this game around the same time and we took completely different approaches to character design and both of our characters worked. There's something of an "alignment" system, but instead of law vs. chaos or good vs. evil, it's nature vs. technology. Also of note is that the game gives you four skill points instead of just one like many similar games at every level, so characters diverge in their capabilities very quickly, which is a refreshing change. The expansion pack, Earth Awakening, adds more races, a crafting system, some UI tweaks, and a new, high-level campaign, and can be purchased with the base game from most digital game outlets (Steam, Direct2Drive, etc.) and goes on sale somewhat frequently. It really is tragic that the studio that made this gem folded. I would have loved to have seen what a full-blown sequel looked like. If you're a fan of the action RPG genre, this game belongs in your collection. If you're not yet a fan, this probably is a good second game (Torchlight would be the best introduction) if you find yourself a fan.

RPG notes: As usual, there are spoilers in here, but really, there's not much to spoil. I didn't find much in the way of plot elements or character archetypes to steal in this game because there's nothing there to steal. The plot barely strings the game together. This isn't a problem, however, because the visuals are amazing for a game this old. Whoever did the art direction did a fantastic job, so you'll get all sorts of neat ideas for descriptions of weapons, armor, and monsters from playing this game. The weapons of the corrupted elves, the tree dragons, and the necroraiders in all their forms in particular are going to find their way into my homebrew setting.


  1. Yeah, I think I can sum up the problem with this game very easily: the choices you make for your character are almost purely numerical.

    There are a few base choices, like "am I going to follow the nature or technology trees" and "melee, ranged, caster, or hybrid", but after that, everything is a "status quo" percentage increase. For all the talents, only a few are obvious, behavior changing abilities, like a new special attack or whatever; you get a lot of "plus ten percent per rank to damage with melee" abilities, flavored to the specific tree (melee, ranged, caster). This is made worse by the fact your enemies also level up, so outside of the few thresholds where you get a new combat animation or spell, you're spending a lot of time treading water.

    They had some smart ideas, but I think they padded them out too much with basic stat buffs and number crunching we never see, because its all behind the scenes.

  2. I see your point about the underlying math, but the aesthetics are different enough that the characters feel different based on their preferred fighting style or selection of spells. I still think it would be fun to do a summoner type character in the game with a zillion assorted minions of various types.

  3. Yeah, the few non-number choices you make - Fists versus Sword and Board versus 2-Hand versus etc. - are pretty obvious as far as changing your playstyle, but for every one choice like that, there's five or six "Add +X to Crit" and "Add +X to Hit" talents. I'd rather see more choices refining your Sword and Board style than simply passively increasing your defense while wielding a shield - I can see that I'm using my shield as an offhand, but I can't 'see' that my shield is making me more defensive when hits and misses aren't based on actual hit location, just random chance.

    If the summons were temporary, D&D 3.X style, maybe. But as Diablo II taught me in the high ends of play, adding more summoned dudes always ends in your frame rate stuttering like mad.