Silverfall is the latest in a long line of action role-playing games, and it's brimming with possibilities. It's got neat cel-shaded character models, a whole lot of cool monsters, and the tried-and-true clickfest Diablo formula going for it. It could have used a whole lot of buff and polish, though, and sloppy design elements wiggle their way into almost every aspect of the game. If you like action RPG's, you'll get a good amount of gaming out of Silverfall, but you won't find any of the slickness of Dungeon Siege II or Titan Quest.
Silverfall's cel-shaded characters are detailed and colorful.
You also won't find a reason to see what happens next. The genre's never been known for deep, complex stories, but a cache of clichÃ© characters and an uninteresting plot send you on a series of missions that feel disjointed. You must find out the truth behind an attack on the grand city of Silverfall, and as you might imagine, some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends, and you fight hordes of monsters on the way from one predictable plot twist to the next.
The sound design is trapped in the same basic formula as the story, with a boring orchestral soundtrack and some mediocre voice acting. The sound effects are nothing special, with all the standard sword clangs and spell whooshes. Yet all of that blandness is in direct contrast to the visual design, which is inspired and the most striking aspect of Silverfall. The environments are pretty, though par for the course in an isometric-view RPG, but the unique cel-shaded models are remarkably colorful and detailed. There aren't many gameplay reasons to zoom in close, but you'll want to do so anyway, just to get a good look at your character and the monsters you're fighting. Cleverly designed enemies, like corrupted elves mounted on enormous flying eagles and goblins with hind ends like wheelchairs, are as great to look at as you'd think, and the stylized shading makes it all pop. It's disappointing that the engine is so sluggish, though, and the animations get a little herky-jerky.
It's also fun to check out your character up close to see all the cool gear you can customize it with. But customization goes far beyond armor and weapons, because there are tons of upgrades, skills, and spells to spend experience points on. Many of them are available to you regardless of prior choices, while others depend on your alignment within Silverfall's technology-versus-magic trappings. As you make dialogue choices and take various quests, you'll align yourself toward nature or technology. In turn, you unlock more skill trees based on that affiliation. It's a neat system and is more than a little reminiscent of 2001's role-playing game Arcanum. But it works even better here, since both alignments are equally effective in combat, and the customization options are more fully realized.
Playing Silverfall isn't nearly as interesting as the fantasy-cum-graphic-novel atmosphere would lead you to believe. It uses a typical mouse-centric combat system that results in a lot of frantic clicking. While that's fine in and of itself, the genre's familiar and enjoyable action gets bogged down by strange design elements and frustrating glitches. The interface is the most noticeable annoyance, exemplified by the maddening minimap. Many vital non-player characters aren't identified on the map by anything more than the same white dot as unimportant NPCs. Also, the arrow attached to your own identifying dot points in the direction the camera is facing, not the direction your character is facing, which means you'll occasionally wander into groups of enemies by accident. Other times, you might drag a skill icon off your hotkey bar when you just want to move your character or fumble with the hotkeys when you want to cast a bunch of spells in a row. Part of the success of any action RPG is its ease of use, and getting around in Silverfall shouldn't be so much of a hassle.