Gaming News, Reviews, and Articles

Silver Chains Review - Spooky Scavenger Hunt

Gaming article by Ron Welch on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 - 04:01
Review

Wake up in a dusty house on a stormy night. Struggle against amnesia. Find stray journal pages. Pick up a gas lamp. Explore a haunted mansion. Chase scene with a deformed humanoid. Second act raising of stakes. Complete a ritual. The end. If you’ve played any first-person horror game in the last ten years, you’ve essentially played Silver Chains.

You play Peter, an amnesiac who crashed his 1920s car near a Versailles-style manor. Peter staggers up to the house and collapses, only to find himself in a dusty bedroom full of doll limbs hanging on strings. A nearby journal page hints at some tragedy that sent the house to ruin. Peter’s only goal is to leave the mansion, but the house is a labyrinth of locked doors and brick walls. Oh and, because this is a horror game, there’s a humanoid ghoul with weird proportions who periodically shows up with an accompanying violinist. You know, the usual.

 

Silver Chains' ghoul is like a bad wood screw; what should hold the whole thing together instead splits the experience in half. The first twenty minutes of Silver Chains are atmospheric, moody, and uncertain. You don’t have enough pieces to figure out what’s going on. The horror is subtle and full of creepy moments without outright jump scares. The shattered parts of the house feel natural, and the tension grows and claws at you without a moment of relief.

Ignoring Silver Chains’ Monster

silver chains dummy
Oh... a dummy... in my horror fiction. How original.

The very moment tension turns to dread, maybe even fear, Silver Chains yanks the controls away from you and hits you with an in-game cutscene. It pulls at your sleeve and says, “Look at our monster! Isn’t it creepy?” The first time the monster appears, you see it in its entirety. There's no subtly or subterfuge. A lanky person with big eyes is your terror de jour. Promotional footage shows it walking on walls, but I never saw that. That might be because the monster’s arrival prompts a chase scene that lasts all of 3 seconds before a ghost blocks your path and points at a wardrobe marked “Press E to Hide.”

 

On its store page, Silver Chains proudly states, “Experience an intense feeling of horror as you try to escape from the monster chasing you down.” With phrasing like that, you might assume the ghoul is constantly roaming around the house, similar to Alien: Isolation. That isn’t the case. Instead, completing an objective prompts a music sting signaling the monster’s arrival. The creature paces around for a few seconds and then disappears.

There are a few layers of anti-horror here that prevent a truly scary experience. First, you can only hide in closets or by creating distance between yourself and the monster. You can’t hide under tables or under beds (as we’ve come to expect from other first-person horror games) The monster can’t open or investigate hiding places. Once you’re in the wardrobe, you’re safe.

 

Silver Chains' Take on Tension

silver chains closet
Hiding in closets makes up about 40 seconds of gameplay.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many wardrobes and the few we have often appear in the same room as your objective. You already anticipate the monster's arrival and you already know where to hide. Good horror focuses on tension and release, but Silver Chains cuts the line before it’s taut.

Finally, the use of music eliminates any feeling that you’re sneaking past the ghoul. Because music only plays seconds before a haunting, you know you’re safe to explore the house and solve puzzles until you trigger the scripted sequence.  When the monster appears, just hide in the closet until the music stops and you receive journal updates saying, “Another encounter with the creature. Better be careful.”

While the first part of the story is mostly aimless wandering through a house, the monster marks the crossing from an atmospheric walking simulator to a spooky scavenger hunt. The rest of the adventure consists of collecting items without any challenge and bringing them to a quest hub. There's an occasional jump scare, but none of the tension building that defined the first 20 minutes.

Solving Silver Chains’ Mystery

silver chains circle
Good job collecting all those items. Now let's ramp things up and collect some items!

I’ll avoid spoilers, but I should mention that I found the mystery incredibly obvious. I had it figured out early on but had to helplessly ride the railroad tracks. After a big reveal, Peter cried out about what a fool he had been. I couldn’t help but shake my head. Of course, it doesn’t help that the friendly ghosts messing with Peter later explain the mystery outright and force him to fix things.

 

One section has a journal entry that explains a significant part of the story. It's clear what happened and it's actually scary. We understand what happened from the context. It's a subtle return to form. Then, Silver Chains goes too far and forces you to play through that journal in a red-tinted vision. It ruins the feeling of dread and the wacky NPC animations make the scene more funny than scary.

The segment that leads up to the finale is one of Silver Chains' weakest. You must find five flowers hidden around the house. While the earlier parts of Silver Chains have a built-in hint system, the finale seems content to let you walk around aimlessly without tension, music, or any threat from the monster. You’re just walking around a now-familiar house at night. The lack of spooks before the finale only serves to highlight, underline, and bold Silver Chains’ weaknesses.

Ultimately, I made a map of the house and went room by room trying to find the damn flowers. I found a combination lock and decided to brute force it. I pick up the flower and Peter says “I have the fourth flower. Now, where is the last one?” Suddenly the hint system turned on again, showing me the location of the last flower, but not the other two.

Silver Chains Review | A Haunting Revelation

Initially, Silver Chains seemed to have a lot of potential. The first half shows expertise in creating an atmosphere, incorporating interesting puzzles, creating moody lighting, and crafting the ideal haunted house experience. The monster flips the switch from “High Quality” to “Padded Quantity.” Unfortunately, that tension and excitement from the first few minutes never come back. What began as Amnesia-lite devolves into a generic first-person horror adventure.

Silver Chains is perfect for a very specific audience. If you find other horror games too intense, Silver Chains is an ideal pick. Likewise, this is a fine title for someone just getting into the horror genre. I’d probably show Silver Chains to that one kid who loves cryptozoology, aliens, and 80s slasher movies. However, genre fans won’t find much here beyond a drawn-out scavenger hunt.

 


TechRaptor reviewed Silver Chains on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.

Review Summary

6.0

There are two Silver Chains. The atmospheric, pre-monster Silver Chains draws you in with intrigue and great visuals. The post-monster Silver Chains is a silent scavenger hunt in the dark occasionally interrupted by a spooky monster. It's not bad, but it's not for genre fans either.

Pros

  • Excellent Atmosphere Building
  • Great Lighting
  • Some Unconvential Puzzles
  • Fun Level Design

Cons

  • Bog Standard Horror Game
  • Unfulfilling Monster
  • Predictable Story
  • Unsatisfying Exploration
  • Overly Reliant On Jump Scares
  • Very Short.

About the Author

No author image supplied

Ron Welch

I love dissecting game design, seeing what works and what could be improved. While RPGs, shooters, and strategy games are my favorites, I'll tackle just about anything. I also do voice overs, make an award winning wing sauce, and (formerly) write about post-apocalyptic goodness.