The marvellous Ben Chandler at Wadjet Eye sent this letter earlier this week... He's been playing the game since release - and by all accounts is getting rather good at it to!
Having put a little over 11 hours into Silk, and having had time while doing so to collect my thoughts on the game and genre, I thought you might be interested in them. Forgive me if I run long winded here.
One of my greatest memories of a computer game experience ever was when I was around 10 years old, at a friend's birthday party. All of the other boys were looking at car magazines, which did not interest me, and so this friend's father asked me if I wanted to see his new computer game. He knew I would, he'd shown me computer games before (including the original Discworld adventure - small world, right?), and so we sat down and he loaded up Civilization II, and guided me through the process of creating my very own fledgling civilization, founding a city, and creating a trireme. Having done so, I set out to explore the mysterious, huge world with my little ship, heeding his careful warnings about not venturing into deep water, and unearthing all sorts of exciting things I'd never seen before.
The experience of this play session was so vivid and profound on me that when I returned home I told my mother that I had to have this game. Nothing else could be more important. I'd do whatever chores, whatever dull tasks a mother could think up (I seem to recall some wall painting jobs, at the very least) in order to get the princely thirty Australian dollars one required to own a copy of the game.
I then, like many other people in the 90s and since, became hopelessly addicted to the game. I read the manual like a book, again and again, until the pages were dog-eared. Whole Sundays disappeared as I maneuvered my little men (let's be fair - they were almost always men in that game) around and built city after city. I checked out books from the school library on people that I'd never heard of, especially the wonderful Aztecs, whose name alone I had never heard of, and whose culture seemed like such a mysterious, incredible thing.
But Civilization II - and later games - never really recaptured that first moment for me, that magic feeling of setting out with my tiny lone ship, exploring perilous coastlines, uncovering a world rich with potential. It was a game of planning, of economics, of strategy, but very rarely of adventure.
Playing Silk makes me think that in missing The Lords of Midnight I may have missed the true genre that 10 year old me was really drawn to. Perhaps the closest thing I can think of is Cryo's lovely Dune adaptation - I found that the way the game takes you from being a single, vulnerable man in a strange world to the commander of a vast army that can take control of the planet was a lovely escalation of drama, and works particularly well in that setting. But the strategy genre went a different direction. I think, too, that a lot of modern games like to mix exploration with resource management in the form of things like survival games and roguelikes, but the direct interaction with those worlds feels often more tactical than strategic, and success in those games more often that not seems to rely on actions or decisions directly in the moment, rather than being the result of one's planning and preparation.
In short, I think you've really captured a lovely balance between the exploration of adventure/RPG titles, the resource management of strategy titles and the steady progression of characters that makes RPGs pretty good, too. In recommending it to a friend earlier this evening - who happens to be fond of The Lords of Midnight - I mentioned to him that playing the game feels like being a single unit in a game of Civilization, but where those games tend to have endgames that feature endless automation, countless small decisions, and massive political overthrows in order to keep people happy and productive, Silk is, from start to finish, always one step at a time, every decision being important, every action a direct choice. It's a great approach, and a lovely alternative. I'm curious to see what further challenges the Warlord destiny will bring now that I've completed a playthrough of The Noble.
And with that, I've likely talked your ear off enough. Cheerio, and congratulations once again on the release!