The Fall – Sorta Review: A Game You Probably Missed This Summer
I just kinda stumbled across The Fall, I have to admit. Found it under Steam’s Specials section a few weeks back, got it gifted to me, and forgot about it again.
Then last night I figured I’d sit down and try it out, and ended up playing it to completion in one sitting. I’m not sure I can give it a better endorsement than that.
It is admittedly not a long game. Depending on how much you get stuck, I’d say 2-3 hours long, but apparently this is only episode 1 of 3. To its credit, it feels almost like a complete story in and of itself, with a sequel hook.
First off, what is it? I’d describe The Fall as a 2D puzzle game with a focus on story, and with some platforming and combat elements.
As you start the game, you see a person, possibly a man due to the design of the suit, in some sort of futuristic space suit/power armour falling from orbit. The visor lights up, and the shielding is turned on in time to brace for the worst of the impact.
Then it cuts to underground, at the impact site. Instead a man’s voice, we hear a robotic woman’s voice. The A.R.I.D. AI onboard the suit is assessing the damage from the fall, and trying to figure out what happened. Her pilot isn’t responding, her monitoring systems are damaged, her weapon is damaged, and she can’t find any logs on where she is, or why she’s there.
So she consults her operating parameters:
And decides that with her pilot unresponsive and possibly in critical condition, she has to seek medical treatment.
I won’t really spoil the story beyond that, but I will say that I think it’s really good, and the voice actors also do a much better job than I expected from… well… from an indie studio. It does so much with just the base premise of “AI/robot must follow programming, but what if that programming interferes with its function”. In this case, the need to keep the pilot safe at all costs, but needing to push the rules to get there. You can’t endanger your pilot, but if you don’t get out of this place somehow, they will probably die anyway, so you’d also be endangering them by doing nothing. And the struggle to understand nuance when your world-view is at its core binary. Black and white. Boolean.
Whatever it takes? No matter what?
The way you interact with the world is probably both one of the strengths of the game, and its biggest weakness. On the keyboard you have this set-up: You aim by holding the right mouse button. If you’re in flashlight mode, then aiming at something notable will make an investigation square appear. If you focus on it, it goes from blue to yellow, and a description appears. If you then press left shift, an interaction menu pops up, and you can use the thing (to activate or pick it up), use one of your inventory items on it, or network with it. It’s a very neat and easy to grasp system, and it makes using inventory items on objects in the world fairly quick and handy.
Unfortunately it’s also the only way of interacting with objects. If you want to click on an elevator’s call button, you can’t just walk up to it and hit use. You have to aim at it from enough of a distance that you are able to bring up the interaction menu and use it from there. The latter half of the game has several elevators you will need to access several times, and it gets a little tedious.
I also feel like the networking ability is rather underused, especially considering how important it’s made out to be early on.
And admittedly, some of the puzzles in the second act pushed me to seeking out a guide, which thankfully was easy to find on Steam’s community side. The way you use the flashlight to find and interact with stuff, means that you can occasionally miss stuff that isn’t too obvious at first glance. There was one thing in particular I walked past many times until I saw the guide point it out.
But it does so many neat things with the theme and the setting, that I ended up really, really liking it. For example, as one of your parameters is “Must not misrepresent reality”, there will be times when “Lie” is an option, but you are just unable to select it. I adore those ways of driving home a point.
It isn’t expensive either, even if you think of this as just the first episode. €9.99 or your regional equivalent is really not asking a lot for this game. I don’t really know if you’ll have to pay separately for episodes 2 and 3, though. The store page doesn’t really seem to specify, as far as I can tell. Still, since it’s already been on sale, it probably won’t be long until it goes on offer again, so it could be worth waiting.
Personally I am really interested to see the continuation of this story.