Silence: The Whispered World II – Preview

Title   Silence: The Whispered World II
Developer  Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher  Daedalic Entertainment
Platform  Windows PC, Mac
Genre  Point and Click Adventure
Release Date  Early 2015
Official Site

“You know, it’s a shame, really.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, when something looks that pretty, you start taking it for granted. After a while, you won’t appreciate how gorgeous it looks because if they’ve always had that level of standard, then you stop being impressed by it after a while.”

I paused and soon found myself agreeing. After all, it’s all too easy to take things for granted, and it’s a big reason why some of us so heavily resist change. As much as I’ve always loved the incredible work the Daedalic staff put into their gorgeous art and hand-drawn environments, I’ve always wondered when I’m going to stop finding myself in awe and start accepting it as an eventuality. Fortunately, that’s not going to start with Silence: The Whispered World II.

Taking place some years after the events of the first Whispered World, the story starts with Noah and Renie, who are both trying to find a place to hide from the war going on over their heads. In trying to protect her from the harsh realities of what’s going on around them, Noah accidentally upsets his sister, prompting him to find a way to cheer her up with the few items scattered about the bunker in which they’ve hidden.

Even in these early moments, the art is breathtaking, but not in the way that you’d expect of a Daedalic title. Instead of the usual two-dimensional characters walking around the environments, everyone in Silence is rendered in 3D and stylised in such a way that at some points you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for something made by Dreamworks. Utilising what’s being dubbed as ‘camera projection’, all of the characters and environments are three-dimensional, while the backdrops themselves are the same 2D ones as before, but they are projected onto the background. This means that the characters can move about the environments freely, but they still look as jaw-dropping as they did before. If anything, they often look even better thanks to the presence of a third dimension, allowing the scenery to pop out at you and for every character to feel like they’re in a living, breathing space.

Another major change to the standard Daedalic formula comes from the lack of a traditional inventory system, as items the player picks up can either be used on the spot, within the same environment, or within a couple of screens from where they first discovered it. If you don’t want to use an item then you put it down; there’s no actual inventory in which to stow items. This means that the puzzles can be faster-paced and rely less on the “use everything on everything” method that normally arises whenever a player gets stuck for too long, but also means that the pace of the action is far more methodical than it was before and could potentially make it too easy for some.

In order to placate the crying Renie, Noah uses the items immediately available to him to tell her a story, which in this case is a recap of the events of The Whispered World, allowing players who’ve missed the first instalment to get up to speed, or those who completed the original to get re-acquainted without having to play through it again. In these opening moments, the action feels incredibly cinematic as the camera dynamically pans between the characters during the dialogue, and focuses on Noah as he’s telling the story. It’s a massive change of pace from standard Daedalic fare, but if the rest of the game uses the same camera techniques and action then it could prove to look nothing short of fantastic.

After telling his story, Noah becomes separated from his sister Renie, and moments after this happens we’re introduced to another new mechanic – puzzles that involve you dragging objects with your mouse, rather than simply clicking on them. In this circumstance, Noah is trying to push some rubble away to get himself free and, with this new feature, you’re made to put in some of the effort yourself. It seems as if it works well enough, but the cursor changing form is the only indication that you’re meant to do this, so it might initially be confusing to those who aren’t used to dragging puzzles in their point-and-clicks.

Similarly, there’s a puzzle immediately after that which requires you to perform the same action over and over in order to achieve the desired results. In this circumstance Noah will actually give a verbal indication that it didn’t quite work, but in this genre that’s normally a sign to abandon your current tactics and try a different avenue. There are enough clues given that you should try to perform the action again, but it’s going to be a weird shift for some players, particularly genre veterans who’ve had that habit shaken out of them from years of puzzling. In this case, I think it’s honestly a step in the right direction; with the number of evolutions that Silence is trying out, it’s a great move to challenge the expectations of those who are most used to point and clicks, while giving something new to encourage those who aren’t as au fait with adventure games to try it out.

Rounding out the series of new puzzle types, Noah soon has to traverse an environment with some precarious jumps and ledges when he lands on top of a globe, whereupon the player has to move and rotate the mouse in order to keep his balance and prevent him from falling off of it. While it’s another new mechanic that’s thrown at the player early on, I actually found myself becoming quite fond of the approach being taken; the game is very subtly tutorialising without being explicit or resorting to hand-holding.

Soon, Noah finds himself inside the Whispered World, but it’s not the same as it was before, as is discovered when a vile creature called a Seeker appears, prompting the player to either find a place to hide or be killed on sight. Unlike Lucasarts titles of old, Noah can die at certain junctures in the story but, rather than result in a game over, it will just rewind to before the fatal decision or action. After the Seeker encounter, Noah is introduced to members of the resistance that have formed and are aiming to take down the ‘False Queen’ who has taken control of the land and is responsible for the sudden spate of monsters everywhere.

Before the demonstration was over, however, we were introduced to a later scene where the player has to take control of Renie, rather than her older brother. Although we weren’t able to see much, other than her carefree attitude and apparent nonchalance in the face of danger, we were told that she’d approach puzzles in a rather different way to Noah. For example, at one point Renie will discover that she needs to play an instrument to proceed, but is too young to have enough knowledge to know how to do it, prompting her to try another way to get it to play. Additionally, there will be moments where both characters have to team up in order to proceed, but there were no additional details as to how that would work.

As for those wondering whether characters from first instalment would show up, both Sadwick and Spot will make an appearance, with Noah allegedly turning into the former as he spends more and more time within the Whispered World. Although development started at the beginning of this year, Silence is already being geared towards an early 2015 release. Whether it will actually come out then or be delayed is something to be seen, but what I do know is that from what I’ve been shown so far, Silence: The Whispered World II is a breathtakingly beautiful adventure game that will buck the traditional conventions of the genre as frequently as it will drop your jaw.

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