Author Topic: Silent Hope (Switch) Review  (Read 695 times)

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Offline Loadsy

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Silent Hope (Switch) Review
« on: September 27, 2023, 07:00:00 AM »

Out of the frying pan, into the dungeon.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/65041/silent-hope-switch-review

From Marvellous and XSeed Games, Silent Hope is a dungeon-crawling Action-RPG set in the world of Rune Factory and Story of Seasons. With the cozy groves of Mineral Town behind me, I excitedly trade my pitchfork for… another pitchfork?

In a land robbed of its voice, you play as one of seven silent heroes, guided by a Princess encased in a crystalline tear. Your goal is to venture into an ever-changing Abyss of monsters and darkness, find the King who dwells within, and free the realm from its curse of silence. To do this, you’ll need the help of your brothers and sisters in arms, as well as enough food to fill a banquet hall and recipes to fill an encyclopaedia.

From the outset, you have a variety of classes to choose from: Wanderer, Archer, Warrior, Caster, Rogue, Farmer, and Fighter. Each has a basic attack with the A button, a dash-type movement ability mapped to the R button, two healing potions mapped to L (which are refilled with each new run of a dungeon), and three abilities that can be mapped to B, Y, and X. There’s no need to feel stuck with your initial choice, as you can switch freely between classes to find what’s right for you. I myself started with the Farmer, armed with a pitchfork and poisonous butterflies, to experience what that playstyle was like, before switching between Warrior, Fighter and Rogue for something a little more familiar.  

Dungeons play out from an isometric view, with their layout newly generated each time you enter. Some floors have barriers that require clearing before proceeding to the next level below; others feature a small enclosed arena with waves of foes needing to be dispatched (a Monster Rush). A number on the bottom right denotes what floor you’re on and how many there are in total for that segment of the Abyss. You’ll also notice a few icons appearing on certain floors; these indicate types of monster encounters or where you’ll find a crystal to return to camp or switch your character. But the most important of all is the icon that looks like a campfire. Campfires represent checkpoints that allow you to start deeper in the dungeon should you want to return to camp or fall at the hand of a ravenous sheep or a sonic boom-slinging ninja weasel.

If you do perish in battle, you’ll drop some of the loot you collected and be ejected from the dungeon, returning to camp. Here is where you can improve your gear, have materials prepared, and cook food. Loot drops for weapons and accessories work much like recipes. You still need to gather the required ingredients to craft the drops you find. For that, you have the atelier to produce materials, the workshop to treat wood, and the blacksmith to forge the equipment when all the materials are gathered. In addition to improving your gear over time, you’ll also need to create meals to provide temporary bonuses that can make a huge difference in your playstyle. Cooking certain dishes will give you increased health, defence, strength, or critical chance, to name a few, alongside status and elemental resistances that become more useful as you plunge deeper into the Abyss and difficulty increases. To prepare these dishes, you have a small farm to harvest products from your cows and chickens, and a field to plant wheat and other fruits and vegetables. These all get brought to the kitchen, and much like the blacksmith, if a recipe is fulfilled, you can craft as much of a food product as your inventory allows.

The crafting side of Silent Hope has some interesting concepts but is also fairly basic. On the positive side, although it’s not explicit exactly how, production time for materials is tied to time spent in dungeons through both slaying monsters or harvesting seeds from plants in the deep. What it means is that crafting material production takes a backseat to the action combat and is far more passive than one might expect. The downside is that those familiar with the series’ ties may be disappointed with the crafting systems being offered as there’s essentially no gameplay involved, and all crafting is reduced to a few menus.

Thankfully, the ever-addictive loop of finding better and better equipment is just as enticing here. For starters, you can find special mementos (gear recipes) that need appraising from the Princess. Gear ranges from class-specific weapons to earrings and necklaces, as well as Runestones. Runestones work much like gems in Diablo, where they can be placed into weapons and accessories with the requisite empty slot to socket them into. Every piece of gear has a rarity from common and rare to super rare and legendary, as well as an associated rank. Early items will be rank 1 and are quickly eclipsed in power by items that are rank 2, regardless of their rarity. No matter what class you play as, you’ll find recipes for weapons from any other class, so you might pick up a superlative bow while playing as Caster and choose to switch over to Archer to take advantage of your new toy.

Specific character progression outside of gear is through standard level ups. With every level you have a green gem to spend on powering abilities up to a maximum level of 5 each. When your class reaches level 15 you’ll unlock an advanced class for your character, these give access to an entirely new set of abilities and you have the option to mix and match with the previous classes skills for a large amount of customizability. And don’t worry about committing heavily as you have the option to re-spec your skills any time at base camp for a small cost of runes (the game's currency). My most levelled character being the Ranger, the advanced class of the Farmer, they became something of a caster/melee hybrid. I was able to summon birds who followed me like feathered magic missiles. Lots of fun and has me curious as to other advanced classes I didn’t get to experience.

Silent Hope does a good job at striking a balance in its difficulty, and a lot of it is based on the player. Sticking with one class will mean you have fewer levelled characters to swap to as you go deeper into dungeons, necessitating a return to camp when your hero is low on health. You can find corrupted Princess statues on almost every floor, and these will give you a specific trial such as “Kill 5 elite monsters before moving to the next stage” or “Clear the Monster Rush in under 60 seconds,” to name a few. You will also find special doorways that lead to zones teeming with elite monsters and the promise of loot behind them. These are entirely optional but do a great job at dangling the allure of more power should you have the skill to complete them. Speaking of challenges, Silent Hope has a built-in achievement/mission system that is constantly watching your progress: hit certain milestones and you’ll unlock a small reward. Something to note is that through these passively earned rewards, you’ll unlock a rank 2 legendary weapon for most classes allowing you to experiment with other characters even if you don’t get the required loot drop.

As you progress deeper into the Abyss, you’ll find glowing circles of light on the ground. The Princess is reminded of events as you discover familiar locations to her, and standing in these circles will have her continue the tale of how the kingdom fell. Clearing a stage will reveal a stone tablet that has the written insights of the King as everything around him plunged into chaos. It’s not a terribly complex story but having both perspectives running concurrently was an entertaining, if light, storytelling experience.

It’s worth commending how well Silent Hope runs on the Switch. It is buttery smooth docked and in Handheld Mode. The Chibi aesthetic clearly lends itself well to solid performance, but there can be moments with dozens of enemies on screen, and yet the game maintains a steady framerate. On the audio side, while there’s no background music that really stands out, the soundtrack fits the theme and was enjoyable to listen to. Something slightly more grating was the frequency of the Princess’s audio lines at base camp. They’re cute and do offer some interesting world and character building but there’s not enough unique lines of dialogue to match the frequency with which they’re played, so you may be tempted to reduce the voice audio in settings early in your playthrough.

Silent Hope offers a wonderful if somewhat rudimentary ARPG experience, but there's plenty of room to improve if it ever gets a sequel. Tilesets, though random, begin looking very familiar after you've been through a few dozen floors, and the stages have different themes but play almost the exact same. While stage hazards attempt to mix up the gameplay, they just don't do enough to add the variety I had hoped for; the same can be said of enemies, many of whom are basically palette swaps. Bosses are the highlight, both cinematically and from a combat perspective; I just wish there were more of them. With hours of additional content post-credits thanks to an unlockable hard mode, much like its farming-focused cousins, Silent Hope finds its place in being video gaming comfort food that you can easily dive into at any time, and I am definitely going back for seconds.