The Fall puts you in the shoes of ARID, an advanced AI aboard a combat suit, whose human pilot has been injured in an unexplained planet-fall. Bound by your programming – you must not misrepresent reality, you must be obedient, and you must protect your active pilot – you must search for a way to heal your pilot in the strange robot-decommissioning facility you find yourself in.
What follows is a story that shows the dangers of trusting only to logic and the madness it can lead to. The facility is dark and oppressive, with human and droid corpses strung up and left to rot by the mysterious Caretaker – the robot who seems to run the place. He is only following his programming, as you see from the various notes and snippets hidden around the levels, but it has led him and the droids under him to their current state.
But while it is easy to see your adversaries’ strange form of madness, ARID begins to walk the same path early on. The suit has various capabilities, but they can only be activated by a human pilot unless said pilot is in mortal danger, at which point ARID’s programming forces her to override them. In this way you unlock new abilities such as a camouflage, but it is more than a convenient gameplay device, as it drives the plot; ARID deliberately places her pilot in danger to unlock powers to save their life. It’s a logic loop the AI struggles with, commenting that she must recommend herself for decommission once her pilot is safe before countermanding that with the notion she was doing it for a greater good. I won’t give too much away, but it is scary how easy it is to follow ARID’s twisted logic, and you begin to see how the facility’s droids went insane.
If only the gameplay matched up to the story, however. Harking back to the point-and-click adventures of yesteryear, The Fall has you running around levels solving puzzles with the occasional firefight thrown into the mix. You aim with the right stick, shining your flashlight to highlight points of interest, which you can interact with in the right conditions. Early puzzles take the form of finding a power-cell to turn on a terminal, tracking back and forth across the level until you’ve done A to get B, which unlocks C which gives you the power-cell. It’s never a challenge – with enough time you’ll be able to pass any puzzle – but the answers are more-often-than-not vague, and have you running across fairly large areas between things you need to do, which is made worse when you miss something first time around.
Fighting is a little more enjoyable. Once you’ve unlocked a gun you again aim with the right stick, pressing it in to switch to a laser sight, and shooting with the right trigger. While pretty standard, the twist is that you are much weaker than the enemies you’ll face, so the use of cover – and later your camouflage – is essential. Once you learn the rhythm of your opponents’ attacks they’ll never be a problem, but it adds to the sense of your fragility.
Presentation wise, The Fall is pretty slick. Graphically, it’s fairly simple, all taking place on a 2D plane, but the backgrounds are very well drawn, as are the robots, and it all has a run-down feel that matches the story perfectly. Sound design is similarly excellent, with the little noises building tension; dripping water or a sparking light in the distance. It’s no Alien: Isolation, but what is?
Unfortunately, I encountered a number of bugs during my playthrough, with audio cutting out frequently – including different parts at the same time on the GamePad and the TV. The larger issue was the dialogue skipping that kept occurring, large chunks of text passing by before the voiceover even had a chance to begin. Hopefully a patch will sort this out – and other issues I’ve seen reported elsewhere – but in a story-based title this is a major problem.
Coming in at around four hours, it’s important to view The Fall as what it is; the first part of a planned trilogy. The story is certainly worth your time, especially as I can’t think of anything similar, but the poor puzzling and simplistic combat mean it is hard to recommend, and the bugs make it even less so. Hopefully the next instalment will be better.
Lots of bugs
More fun with a guide