I’m a sucker for horror games. There’s something about testing how brave I am, by challenging myself to get through them without giving up, which adds to the excitement. This weeks horror game which I’ve been tasked with beating is from developers Cracked Heads and publisher Headup Games, called ‘Silver Chains‘.
Silver Chains is a first-person horror game that favours exploration and puzzle-solving over combat and action. It’s been around since August 2019 on PC, having just made its way to consoles, and as someone who doesn’t play PC games, it originally completely passed me by. So, time to find out if I’ve been missing out on a modern horror classic.
Silver Chains begins with a car crash. Our protagonist, Peter, crashed in a driveway of a huge, possibly abandoned mansion where we take control to try and find help. Peter definitely doesn’t find help though and instead is left looking for answers as apparitions, monsters and poltergeist activity inhabit this impressive and historic location.
Horror games with a good story is a combination I’m a huge fan of and Silver Chains fits the bill perfectly. There are notes to discover all over the mansion and they add suspense and context to actions that happen within the game. Some things that are recorded in letters repeat themselves, adding a tense dynamic where you may know what’s going to happen, but not when. They also add a lot of weight to the plot, fleshing out the backstory and context.
Although the game begins and finishes in quite a short runtime, taking approximately 3 hours to complete (or less if you know where to go), the various pieces of lore you find allows you to create a vivid picture of the events that transpired in the house. The diary entries are really impactful and definitely captured my imagination and the house felt ‘lived in’, despite being empty from living people, largely down to the impressive writing. As such, even though it’s a ‘short’ experience, it’s crammed with backstory, lore, and history, enough to satisfy me for the time I spent playing it.
The audio in the game is also really impressive, especially when experienced using a good pair of headphones. Floorboards creak behind you, making you anxious to turn around. The thunderstorms outside bang and flash periodically, a simple yet effective foreboding to the events in the game. Of course, the creepiest aspect though is the various voices you will hear at different times. Young children giggle and ask you to play, while monstrous screams can also be heard. It’s an assault on the senses at times and is definitely not pleasant.
That being said, I was still eager to press on. Despite all the sounds and things going bump in the night, the game draws you in. There’s a simplicity to the gameplay that is also engaging. There’s no combat, it’s purely interacting and solving puzzles, with the occasional chase segment. Regarding the latter, I absolutely despite chase sequences in games, as they often feel forced and can really disrupt the flow of a game. Thankfully, in Silver Chains, they’re few and far between and are usually very simple. It would be nice to get some more warning about when they are about to happen, as they’re very abrupt and sometimes a slight hesitation can result in a death and a respawn, but as it’s so infrequent it doesn’t become too problematic.
The fundamental gameplay is about finding key objects and working out where they need to be used. There are a few puzzles to solve which aren’t difficult, but they do offer a nice change of pace and add variety into the gameplay. Sometimes, if an answer isn’t obvious to you then it’s because there’s still something you need to do, which is one thing I wish I knew beforehand as I would have saved myself a lot of time in my playthrough trying to figure things out. There were a couple of occasions where I felt the need to refer to a guide, as the game doesn’t always do a great job of pointing you in the right direction, but thankfully the layout of the building isn’t too difficult to remember, so once shortcuts are opened it becomes much simpler.
Of course, as it’s a horror game it’s not quite as simple as ‘walk to point A and complete an objective, then point B and repeat’… Along the way there will be some scares – I’m not ashamed to say this game had me pausing with terror more than once. There are a couple of cracking jump scares and some very cool set pieces that inflict a sudden fright.
However, there are also some aspects of the ‘horror’ that don’t quite land due to some awkward animations. There are a couple of instances where characters that are supposed to walk, or move gracefully, instead move in a much more sliding or unrealistic fashion – which completely ruins the illusion. It’s a minor gripe but one that does have a big effect on the impact of specific moments. I found myself laughing sometimes in place of being scared, which is definitely an unwanted response in an otherwise tense moment.
There are a couple of glitches to report too. On two separate occasions, I somehow glitched inside the walls of the mansion and was unable to get out without restarting the game. It’s not game-breaking by any means but a nuisance all the same, so just be wary when playing that things may not always be smooth.
The only other issue I had with Silver Chains is that the experience just feels a little bit limited. As it’s so exploration-based, I was hoping to be able to look closer at more objects, rather than just the ones that are needed for the story. The house is a wonderful setting, with lots of detail and decent visuals which adds a lot to the experience, it’s just a shame that there’s lots of stuff sitting there with no apparent use when they could be there to expand the experience even more.
Silver Chains surprised me in many ways, I didn’t expect it to make me jump as much as it did and I didn’t expect the story to have me as engaged as I found myself. It may be a bit simple in terms of its gameplay, but if you think of it more like an exploration game, in the same vein as Edith Finch, rather than an out and out horror game, it makes more sense. The sound design is brilliant and there are some interesting monster designs to go along with those hideous sounds too.
Silver Chains isn’t going to win any awards, as it doesn’t really do anything new or exciting, but that being said, it’s a solid horror title with a gripping story and some poo-your-pants moments. If you’re a fan of the genre, definitely give it a play, if not, it’s still worth your time for the story.