We know, we know: you want a role-playing fix, but you just don't feel like getting all massive and multiplayer. Here's your fix: Silverfall, publisher Atari's newest venture into the Action RPG genre - you know, the genre where you can describe any game by saying, "it's a lot like Diablo II, but with..." - is an enjoyable break when Azeroth or Tamariel lose some of their zest.
Gameplay-wise, Silverfall is a lot like Diablo II, but with the addition of a party, two of whom can accompany you at any given time (think Dungeon Siege or Jade Empire, if you've played those). While not ground breaking or revolutionary, it offers plenty of what any fantasy gamer has come to expect: a world in peril, a hardy band of adventurers, and really evil bad guys that need to be vanquished (sometimes with the help of a magical sword). There are human, elves, trolls and goblins to play, and monsters, demons, undead and evil sorcerers to fry, sizzle, or cut into little pieces.
There are enough slight variations on the theme to make Silverfall entertaining and interesting, though. One big one is that the player must decide whether to support a technological or naturalistic society. The decisions we made while playing - mostly what quests to take - affected the world directly, determining what the cities and landscape looked like as well as what weapons and gear we could use and what skills we could acquire.
You start out in town of Silverfall, which is in the process of falling into the hands of a bad guy. You don't know how bad, but there's people running and screaming and dead bodies about, so probably pretty bad. Your newly created character is sent packing along with the other civilians, and the tutorial begins, casting you temporarily as an overpowered Archmage (a nice teaser of powers to come) and teaching you how to walk, talk and interact in the world.
The movement feels clunky, using a standard "point and click where you want to go" device, and though it smoothed as we got used to the controls, we still found it hard to navigate around objects and occasionally had to fight between the camera's point of view (a close up of our character's face) and the character's environment (something hitting us fairly hard). The commands to kill things, however, were simple and by spamming the left or right mouse button evil minions were easily dispatched. Not exactly a deep strategy, but it yielded satisfying results nonetheless.
Once out of the tutorial and back with our fresh, wimpy character, the world unfolded in a series of quest and sub-quests, all nicely laid out in our quest log, with color coded arrows on the mini-map leading us to where we wanted to go. Right from the start the option to go with technology or nature is offered, so choose wisely. We could relearn our skills for a (somewhat hefty) sum, but once the world is set down a path there's no going back.
Silverfall doesn't offer anything dynamically new, but it's a fun world full of things to whack with a satisfying storyline and well thought out characters and skill development. It's available both in a box through normal channels or via download from the Silverfall website for $39.99 (do not expect a fast download, though, at best it's four to five hours) and for the Action RPG fan, is well worth it.