Title: Silent Hope
Release Date: October 3, 2023
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: XSEED Games
Genre: Action RPG
Even as reviewers, we still haven’t managed to complete the seemingly endless waves of critical video game successes 2023 has brought to the table. Between the numerous heavy story and gameplay experiences, the plethora of worlds to invest oneself in has become overwhelming. Still, that overabundance has left enough room for one of this year’s overlooked releases, Silent Hope. Without exaggeration, this hack-and-slash from Marvelous has stood out as my undeniable sleeper hit of this year that perfectly fits on the Switch platform.
Silent Hope is set in a fallen kingdom that, many years ago, had a king who sealed peoples’ ability to speak following unprecedented tragedy. Afterward, he threw himself into the Abyss, a seemingly infinite underground expanse. These events caused the king’s daughter, the princess of the kingdom, to cry endless tears that eventually encased her into a crystal of her own making, shaped like a teardrop. However, one day, seven heroes appeared, answering the princess’ call to explore the Abyss and rescue her father.
Silent Hope’s premise and overall narrative are minimal, as this experience relies on gameplay above all else. Still, there’s quite a bit of charm to how the story and cast are presented. For instance, while exploring the Abyss and preparing for the recurring task, the princess will constantly speak to the seven heroes and you, by extension. Her commentary is rather endearing since she has a wholesome sense of humor bolstered by a terrific performance by English voice actress Dani Chambers. Additionally, as you make significant breakthroughs throughout the Abyss, she will provide bits of lore for how the kingdom once was before its downfall, as well as the events leading to its demise.
The way the plot is gradually elucidated somewhat reminds me of how horror games and other titles use audio logs or written notes to establish themselves. But Silent Hope does it in a way that’s immensely more captivating. The princess’ comments give the experience a ton of heart that I’d argue is necessary, given how the playable cast is mostly, well, silent. Aside from understandable moments of melancholic rumination, the princess gives the adventure an air of levity that players will assuredly appreciate. Still, in the hub area, she often says identical voice lines repeatedly, so I’m hoping that gets mitigated in a patch.
As for the gameplay, Silent Hope is a genuinely addictive dungeon-crawler journey with roguelite elements. All seven heroes are playable one at a time as you navigate the Abyss, with each expectedly boasting different strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has their own skills, weapon types, and stat emphases that heighten individuality, alongside unlockable Classes that alter their outfits and grant selections of new abilities. Variety is the name of the game here, yet it’s thankfully not taken to a needlessly overwhelming extent and focuses on quality over quantity. The restructuring of the Abyss’ floors upon each visit enhances that focus on variation.
Silent Hope knows that it’s compact, and it uses that to its advantage. Between the Abyss floors being relatively contained in size and the combat system’s simplicity, the game doesn’t unnecessarily overextend itself. Nothing here overstays its welcome, as the vast degree of player choice regarding builds and choosable characters inherently offsets such concerns. In the Abyss, you’ll frequently find crystals that can either teleport you back to the base with all of your found items intact or let you swap playable characters with a stat boost that’s unique depending on who’s chosen. So, whenever you grow tired of one character, there’s a whole other crew of six that you can choose between to your heart’s content.
Regarding the combat itself, Silent Hope is, as previously mentioned, quite straightforward, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have depth. Alongside you needing to consider which characters are better outfitted for certain floors, their different swing speeds must be taken into account since there are slight delays after each hit. Still, there’s weight to each impact that instills combat identities into every hero. And, given the existence of skills, the way you’ll plan battles will also differ per character. For instance, the Warrior utilizes a greatsword that’s ideal for high damage yet suffers from slowness. On the other hand, you have the Rogue, who uses knives and excels at agility.
To be entirely candid, I found everyone immediately enjoyable to use regardless of my usual gameplay preferences because the moderate simplicity of it all doesn’t require in-depth experimentation to get a handle on. The Archer, for example, obviously uses a bow, and I rarely find myself liking that weapon choice, but the arcade-like integration of its battle techniques makes it incredibly approachable. My personal favorite character has to be the Farmer, though. She has a decent bit of range and standout skills that can debuff enemies, empower herself, and summon animal allies. In essence, she can be seen as a more diverse jack-of-all-trades than the safe pick that is the Wanderer.
However, something I should emphasize above all else to negate any potential misinterpretations is that while Silent Hope is simple and approachable, that does not mean it’s easy. If you’re under-leveled or ill-equipped, you can easily die in seconds. Success demands you to be highly aware of enemy telegraphs, especially in groups and boss battles. As an example of the latter, I fought a few bosses far sooner than my stats intended, making me deal chip damage. This then leads into the two general gameplay styles you can approach. Since everyone only gains experience when you control them, you can either solely prioritize one character or take turns swapping between them throughout the floors. Considering how floors usually have crystals enabling on-the-fly character switching, the latter pursuit is likely intended, but it’s ultimately up to you.
Still, regardless of your choice, you should always retreat back to the base if your health is low or you’re out of healing items since dying will take away some of the loot you’ve gathered. Thankfully, there are checkpoints throughout each themed Abyss area, but the loss of collectibles can significantly impede progress. This is because the hub houses several facilities like a kitchen and forge that allow the crafting of food and equipment, respectively. Items found in the Abyss directly influence what you’re able to create.
Other facilities, namely the workshop, atelier, fields, and farm, produce specific items used in the eventual acquisition of better gear and more restorative meals. Further, the levels and capabilities of these services will increase the more they’re used. Essentially, every avenue of gameplay progress feeds into each other quite stellarly, making every newly achieved feat affect its vicinities and thereby make even the most seemingly minute achievements grander than you would initially expect. When throwing missions redeemable to the princess into the mix, you’ll always have plenty to do that you’ll likely accomplish passively on your journey.
One slight annoyance I had with Silent Hope was how equipment is mainly swappable in the hub area from the storehouse. You can’t swap gear on the fly, which feels relatively needless. But in hindsight, I suppose the Magistone slots that some equipment has, crystals that bolster specific gameplay facets, make this restriction necessary, so players can’t simply swap between drastically different stat boosts whenever they like.
But another, more substantial critique I have, regards the enemy variety. While the player has an impressive deal of choice, the enemies you face aren’t exactly treated in the same way. Most of the foes are slight variations of each other, not offering any genuine distinction in how they’re read. Unlike the number of playable characters at one’s disposal, which can reduce potential boredom brought about by repetition, fighting the same enemies repeatedly can make the experience a tiring one, especially in lengthy play sessions.
Silent Hope boasts an adorable chibi presentation that I found to fit well, given the princess’ charming dialogue. Admittedly, the interiors of the Abyss can appear dull, but the player’s emergence from its depths will at least freshen up the screen a bit at the hub. Performance-wise, there’s really not much to comment on here. In my experience, the title ran perfectly fine, both docked and undocked, so there’s no need for concern on that front.
Silent Hope is an action RPG that will likely be overlooked due to the sheer quantity and quality of 2023’s video game releases. Still, if you’re yearning for a more low-stakes adventure that manages to remain fulfilling across brief play sessions, then this title is an ideal pick-up. The engaging progression systems, weight-filled combat, and addictive, varied gameplay loop make Silent Hope a delightful adventure.
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