The Fall is the kind of game you don’t see too often. It takes the classic point-and-click style and revamps it with more direct controls and some cover based gunplay. Despite the action, it never loses sight of the puzzle solving and exploration that are key to the adventure genre. The end results is the kind of game with some serious crossover potential.
You play as A.R.I.D., the artificial intelligence on board an advanced combat suit. When Arid is activated, she wakes up to a strange subterranean environment and no idea how she go there. Even worse, her human pilot is unresponsive and she can’t get a medical reading on him. The imperative becomes to seek medical aid for the pilot as soon as possible.
It turns out the area where Arid wakes up is a long abandoned factory. This factory becomes the setting for an incredibly interesting tale with a surprising moral dilemma. You see, the factory’s caretaker, a malfunctioning droid, has it out for Arid. In order to protect her pilot, Arid has to consider going outside her programming. By doing so, she might just be proving herself to be malfunctioning as well.
What makes the story work is strong writing and interesting characters. The factory is a legitimately interesting place to explore. It’s fallen into deep disrepair, and it’s morbidly fascinating to see how a group of emotionless robotics see it. Even though these characters are nothing but artificial, they still have a decent range. One AI has decided to alleviate his boredom by perfecting his ability to sound like a human. Arid herself is sort of capable of humor on occasions. It only gets better as it goes.
The visual style of The Fall is reminiscent of something like Limbo. The factory is dark and gloomy, with shapes often hard to see. The difference between this and Limbo is Arid is actually quite detailed, and that you can use a flashlight to illuminate the gloom. The flashlight in question isn’t that strong though. It gives a decent view of what’s in front of you, but in that blueish glow that doesn’t give you a true appreciation for how something looks. When you fire your weapon, however, the muzzle flash lights up a small area and lets you see how things really look. It’s a nifty effect. When there is light in the game, it’s that strange glowing kind that somehow only makes things more creepy. It kind of makes me with Limbo had a dash of color here and there.
Aurally, the game is fantastic. The robotic voices are done in such a way that they aren’t monotone. This is great, because the talking won’t bore you. The one human-like voice is done particularly well. That guy deserves a gold star. I mean, he’s playing an AI that wants to sound more human, and I totally got that from the acting. On top of the solid voice acting, you’ll have to slog through the factory while listening to oppressive and creepy music that create a sense of isolation and foreboding. It really sells the atmosphere.
The Fall is a bit odd to control at first. You move with WASD, and aim with the mouse. However, you can only aim when you have your flashlight activated. This requires you to hold down the right mouse button. If you come across something you want to interact with, you need to hold down left shift while you cycle though options. If you highlight an option or an item in your inventory, you just need to let go of everything and you’ll use it.
The game plays like a side-scroller. You don’t simply point the cursor and have Arid go there. You must walk over yourself. When moving, you need to have your flashlight out if you want to examine and/or interact with objects. If you don’t, you’ll be a tad more mobile, which is great for quickly moving from place to place. When the flashlight is out, however, you can find points of interest by centering the light onto them. Arid will give a thought about what you’re looking at via a text box. If you want you interact with the item, you’ll need to bring up your inventory and make a selection. You can also use the hand option to activate consoles or pick up items in general.
As an adventure game, there are plenty of puzzles to solve. For example, one memorable section has you attempting to pass a civics exam. Arid has to do things a domestic droid would be expected to do, albeit with a dilapidated testing site. One of these tasks requires her to push a kid on a merry-go-round. However, the machine is rust shut. The solution? Tie a wire around the base and attach it to a motor. The force from that will not only spin the rusted hunk of junk, but send the wooden kid flying! Hey. It still counts! Most of the puzzles have unique ways of solving them, often with a bit of a humorous bent.
Exploration is key as well. You’ll find notes, journal entries, and other such things that can help you figure out what to do. Also, getting stuck means there’s probably some place you didn’t investigate yet. The game world isn’t too big, so it doesn’t take all that long to get from place to place. This makes it a little less frustrating when you realize you have to travel to the other side of the building.
There will be times when you have no other option but to resort to violence. The gunplay is simple and straight forward. You right click to aim, and left click to shoot. The trick is that enemies will be shooting back, and they don’t miss. The key is to use cover and your camouflage to evade attacks until there’s an opening. You can take cover behind an object with a button press, but it can be a bit tricky to figure out where you need to stand to take the cover. You can vault over obstacles with the space bar. This is helpful in that if you vault onto an enemy, you take them out and regain health. The combat is less about quick reflexes and more about timing your attack.. It’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it, especially since there are only two different enemies.
If there’s one caveat, it’s the game is quite short. I beat it in three and half hours, and I could shave a good portion of that off now that I won’t get lost. The game is meant to be the first in a trilogy, although I think the ending is satisfactory enough if that never happens. If this game were more than ten bucks, there might be an issue here. The truth is, I just wanted more.
Short Attention Span Summary
The Fall is one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had this year. I figured I might like it, but I didn’t count on getting fully engrossed in an interesting story that held my attention from start to end. If you’re an adventure fan, you’ll enjoy the witty puzzles, strong character development, and smart writing. For fans of more direct action, the shooting sequences will serve as a bridge between you and the more cerebral gameplay. Fans of side-scrollers and adventures, this is definitely a game worth looking into. I can’t wait for the second part.