• Silas Review



    Silas
    came out last Wednesday, September 14th for the PC. Silas was marketed as the first Kart Racer/FPS hybrid. It is independently made by Exalt Studios, which is comprised of one guy, William Sworin. It has been in the works since 2003.
    Gameplay:
    Silas is a very ambitious Kart Racing game that often tries to do too much without first securing some basics. The game includes a shooter-style aiming system that isnít even really used in the Kart Racing portion of the game. The flying portion of the game is also not really included in the races. These features are what makes the game really special and it is truly unfortunate that they seem to be completely absent from the kart racing portion. Had the core mechanics of kart racing and debugging been focused on perhaps the issues with karts getting stuck, certain death respawns, and invisible walls could have been avoided. On certain levels like The Dark Forest the invisible walls were not even covered up by scenery to at least give me a hint of where to go. That being said, the game played around with some interesting weapons mechanics. The rocket launcher being controlled with the right mouse button after firing was intensely satisfying the few times I was able to pull it off properly. On the down side, it was often difficult to know what weapon you were wielding until you fired it thanks to the poor weapon boxes in the top left being cut off as well as their mechanical looks. In Mario Kart, you know when you have a mushroom because it is so simple in style and different in color than any other item. In Silas, the simplicity simply isnít there. On top of this, every weapon had 2 functions(left and right click) making the weapons even harder to keep track of.



    It just seems like if youíre a lone developer you should try to get the basics down first and build upon them only when you have a working and fun core. While the basics of racing are there and the controls and manoeuvring actually feel really nice, it still felt like the game overreached. The basic power sliding to gain speed while drifting was handled poorly thanks to the controls and timing. You had to hold shift while holding forward and a direction, and then holding the other direction at the same time and repeat the process twice for a full boost. Itís a completely arbitrary way of causing a boost and it doesnít help that it takes a long time holding all the keys until the car begins to spark(meaning itís ready to boost). All in all, the boosting was rare within the race and could have been executed much more effectively.





    The game modes in Silas comprise of the typical Grand Prix, VS., and Time Trial modes. A tutorial is included which is useful in order to learn the clunky power drifting technique. There is also a Mercenaries Mode which features missions on both kart and glider. The neat thing here is the addition of boss battles. They arenít phenomenal but beating the mode was certainly the most fun I had in the single-player experience. Not even level 4-2(place top 3 in 1 lap) could ruin that fact, even though the level was essentially Rainbow Road except with poor respawn points, jumps that often gave me no chance of landing, and a long, narrow, and curvaceous pathway entirely made up of boost pads.



    The battle mode is unfortunately multi-player only. Considering the game was pre-release at the time, I made due with what I could. Despite that, the battle mode was by far the most impressive of all the game modes. It featured a weapon list at the bottom of your HUD that really makes your weaponry easy to manage. Beyond that it has 5 different battle modes, a good variety of maps and weapon selection options, and features the Glider power-up to allow Karts to turn into Gliders. This mode does not use the auto-target system of the racing modes, which means the weapons are all enjoyable to use. Also, the power sliding system isnít as necessary to the gameplay in battle mode, nor are the consequences for failing them as detrimental to your success. Combine all this with online stat tracking, perks, and leader boards and you have yourself an enjoyable experience with enough players. The question is, if enough players populate the servers in order to make this game flourish.




    The flying portion of the game works surprisingly well. All of the Mercenary mode missions involving flying were personal favourites. Itís a shame the Grand Prix mode didnít utilize this in some way. A 12-person battle mode will certainly get quite intense with air to kart combat involved. Though it would have been nice to have a ďturret modeĒ for flying as well. Simply put, a camera angle that shows your target area for bombing would have also been useful.

    Presentation:
    The visuals in
    Silas
    do not stick to one theme or style. The weapons, menuís, loading screens, and even the music suggests a futuristic setting while the levels themselves tend to have a unique cartoonish feel to them. Many of the maps feel, for lack of a better term, fluffy. This is fairly pleasant on the eyes despite how distant the style is from the rest of the visuals. It just seems like the developer couldnít decide between futuristic and a fluffy
    Mario Kart
    look. Even the characters are just as conflicted in style. Bramble, Hoot, and Raine could easily be in a childrenís television show while Magnus, Gears, and Sphire fit better into a Sci-Fi universe. Some textures and sceneries were pretty stale on some maps while on others like Dyna Woods they impressed me. The loading screens were always calming and pleasant on the eyes. Overall, the graphics never interfered with my enjoyment of the game, though they did nothing to aid it either.


    The audio was certainly the gameís strongest feature. The music was really fast paced and upbeat. It was recorded by Loudcore. The Electronica music certainly fitís the futuristic feel of most of the game. Unfortunately the game contained a bug that did not let me turn the music volume down but thatís another issue altogether. There were some tracks I made sure to listen to even when I wasnít playing the game. The sounds of all the weapons was fairly standard and sounded about right except for the machine gun on the glider which would often continue to sound like they are firing even if you stopped. The voice acting for the characters were a nice touch. They were cheesy and certainly showed the gameís independent upbringings but they were also corny and silly enough to actually earn some laughs. Whether intentional or not, they were welcome.


    Verdict:
    All in all Silas is a game made by a single developer and it shows. This game highlights developer William Sworinís capabilities as a programmer but there is also a severe lack of polish and some poor design choices in some places. However, Silas is not a simple Mario Kart copy as it tries to change up the genre. It is a very ambitious game, for better or worse. The game has flashes of pleasant visuals, awesome music, and good level design all surrounding a playable kart racer. It is the battle mode which seems to be the gem within the game. If you have enough friends willing to try this game out on a lan Iím sure youíd have fun in battles. I canít really say the kart racing will sustain your interest for very long. Though the battle mode is a well built and fun addition to the game, it cannot make up for the rest of the mediocrity and bugs found in the game. Considering the team size and budget for Silas, itís still a decent product. In this day and age the bar set by games like Limbo and Amnesia makes it impossible to overlook glaring problems like those found in Silas, especially when it demands $9.95 for online play.
    VERDICT: 5.5/10
    DEVELOPER: Exalt Studios


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