Published By: Huey Games
Category: Tile-Based Strategy Adventure
Release Date: 10.11.2019
Silk is an open world strategy adventure game in which you travel the famous Silk Road while trading goods, exploring the world, and getting into fights with rebels, nations, or whatever else threatens your caravan. This title is unique in that you are in the first-person prospective as a tile-based RPG while navigating a pop-up book style 2D plane. You move through pixelated environments while searching out the next city or trading post in order to restock, trade off some good, and hire additional guards and guides. Silk will have you going through what the developers suggest is the “biggest handcrafted open world of all time” but does that make this one a must play? Unfortunately, difficult to understand mechanics and a lack of anything really happening take this game from having a ton of potential down to a pretty forgettable experience.
This title starts out with four separate challenges that give you a bit of story to work with so that you can set upon your quest and begin creating the story arc for yourself. You have “The Traveller”, which is the easy mode option that has you just wandering through the map without a real direction or end goal. “The Rebel” has you allying with Rome to take down the Parthian Empire. “The Warlord” has you raiding and pillaging your way down the Silk Road. And finally, “The Noble” has you creating a vast trade network. The only other goal is to complete the various mini objectives that pop up from your advisers, such as trading for a certain item or picking up more guards. Beyond all of that you are on your own, with nothing but a very pixelated map to guide you. The historical significance to this title is worth noting, and the old school nature to it is interesting, but overall there is a large world with nothing inhabiting it, and that is such a bummer. The most impressively sized bummer the world has ever seen. The one good thing here is that when entering cities, you get a narrated explanation of the city and what was happening there in 200 AD.
After choosing your path and setting out on your journey you will be selecting the advisers for this journey. There are thousands of variations on these advisers waiting for you in the world, and they can be hired and replaced whenever you like so it is crucial to check and see if you can upgrade the people around you as they have a say in how situations end. Each has their own traits that they know about and you want to assemble a well-rounded team to take on the world. There are experts in war, good with trade and animals, or just fair at a bunch of stuff. These categories allow you to know what you will need to make decisions on so the higher-ranking advisers in each category the better so that you choose their idea to solving whatever may come about. This system is a bit convoluted and not explained well (even with the “How to Play” section in the main menu), however you can pick up quickly that you just need one of each and your well set. The lack of depth in this portion is a let down as the dialogue options are pretty cookie cutter from encounter to encounter with the correct adviser having the proper response and the others either talking about other things completely or having responses that hurt your wares and animals.
Trading is the main portion of this game as you will need to hire troops for protection and gather food to sustain everyone for the journey. Thus, you are forced to make money along the way in order to make it very far. There are the usual suspects available for you to peddle, such as silk, spices, and wool, but you will also work in livestock and silver. Increasing livestock can give you more options in carry weight as well as food sources, so they are especially useful, but the other stuff garners a higher price tag as you ramble from town to town looking for a good spot to dump off your wares. Cities, markets, temples and everything else aren’t marked in any way outside of through the symbol that separates them, so you don’t know if you are coming into an area where you will have more luck selling or not, so stopping at every location becomes necessary, as well as impossible with the size of the game. A lot of varying ideas and mechanics coming together in this one that don’t mesh all that well, unfortunately.
You can also gain a fair bit of loot through pillaging and fighting, but that will usually conclude in you accidentally at war or fighting a group of units that are larger than yours with no distinction to know how to tell. I found myself running into the enemy thinking I was good to go while repeatedly losing. I also found myself capturing entire towers and forts randomly as well. I don’t know how; I assume the expert level battle tactician helped, but he also lost to those small wandering groups, so I can’t tell you how it all worked exactly. The only real way to tell is to make sure you don’t attack anyone until you have a substantial force. And even then — trial and error. Fighting, as well as all other decisions are carried out via running yourself into things, and then choosing an adviser to listen to. Nothing else to it.
Hand-drawn art is utilized for the symbols, advisers, and blacked-out figures that march around the world, and pixel graphics are utilized for the world itself. Even though the character pictures are pretty well done, the rest doesn’t inspire a lot of pleasing aesthetic. The game doesn’t look great as a whole, and that wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the rest of the game was more solid. I understand it would be nearly impossible to actually create impressive environments, models, and views with a game this size, and a lot has to be repeated to cover it, but man is it monotonous.
Overall, Silk is a title I can’t recommend many to give a shot to. The environments are downgraded due to the size of the game and the art styles smashed together are awkward. The gameplay is monotonous and just not fun, while you also have no idea what is happening most of the time. And the lack of stories or quests outside of the most basic doesn’t even drive you forward through the other issues. The only saving grace is the impressive nature and scope this title tried to get to. Clearly, this is another case of a great idea that didn’t come through as planned as a final product.
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*The Switch Effect was provided a code for this game*