Not a title to stay silent about.
Silence: The Whispered World II is a gorgeous game. It just has to be mentioned. Klaas Wolter, the PR Director for Daedalic Entertainment, who are developing and publishing the game, told me that the game's visual influences were a mix of Asian pop culture and traditional European children's books. Daedalic is known for their traditional adventure games, and Silence, with its sumptuous visuals and animations, aims to expand the genre in accessibility with access on PC and consoles early next year.
Silence opens in a bomb shelter in wartime, with protagonist Noah telling the story of the original game to his younger sister Renie, with her filling in the gaps; it's clear he's told this story many times. When a bomb destroys the small shelter they are living in, Noah has to find Renie who has disappeared. As he makes his way out of the wreckage, he moves back into the Whispered World, where his alter ego from the first game, the clown Sadwick, sacrificed himself so that Noah could awaken from a coma in the real world.
I can't state strongly enough how impressed I was with the visual look of the game. I'd describe it as Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by way of French 20th Century Illustrator Moebius. Everything has a deliciously painted fantasy look that complements the story effortlessly. This is in addition to the amazing animations, which Wolter—a large ebullient man with that delightfully soft German accent who pronounces all w's in English with a soft 'v' sound—said he was surprised to learn were are all "hand animated" without using any motion capture. The intro doesn't do the in-game animations justice; they're just fantastic.
The 3D-painted look was developed using a technique known as "Camera Projection." This allowed Daedalic artists to paint the background image first, in layers, then place those layers at different distances and add depth to them by adding 3D architecture to the 2D surfaces. This helps create a mix of a painted storybook world with 3D immersion.
Part of Daedalic's goal with this game is to make a game that bridges the gap between the hardcore adventure fans and a larger potential fanbase. This means having more intuitive puzzles than the traditional mindbenders of historical Adventure titles. In the puzzle shown in the demo, Noah had Spot, Sadwick's caterpillar sidekick—reborn from an egg—squash down flat and then move a boulder. It was very adventure-y, but seemed more intuitive without feeling cheap or simple, either.
On the characters, it's clear that when controlling one or the other, different approaches will need to be taken. Wolter told me that Noah would be more cautious, and that Renie would be much more adventurous and willing to rush into danger. I'm curious how this will affect the balance and style of the puzzles. The character animations looked amazing at a high, clean framerate.
Silence: The Whispered World II is slated for release on PC, Mac, and Xbox One in early 2015. Wolter said they were working on locking down the PS4 as well, and at the time of this preview believed they were close.