Developer: Over the Moon Games
Release Date: May 30th, 2014
Available On: Nintendo Wii U, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PC. There may be differences between versions.
AI are often the subject of movies, books, and games. There’s always the question of if they can be considered people or not. The Fall features what is probably one of the most interesting robots I have ever come across in a video game. Does this game manage to tackle the subject as well as other materials, or does it fall?
The Fall follows the story of a robot named Arid who crash lands on an unknown planet. With the knowledge of her human pilot being in danger she sets off to go find medical help. Yet this planet contains a former factory for Domesticon, a company that makes robots to clean homes and care for people. When the two robots left in the factory, The Administrator and The Caretaker, demand that Arid go through tests we end up with a clash of protocols that lead the robots to question why they do anything. It’s a fantastic story that looks at robots and AI in interesting ways. Furthermore, The Caretaker is probably one of the most effectively creepy villains I’ve seen in a video game, and I was always interested in furthering the story to see what happens next. The Fall also ends on a pretty surprising twist that effectively sets up a sequel, which I can appreciate.
The Fall originally looked like a metroidvania to me, but it’s more of a puzzle adventure game with some shooting elements. At the start of the game Arid doesn’t really have many options, since the majority are shut down and require either her human to turn them on, or her to be in a situation that threatens her human’s life and requires her to turn it on. As such, a lot of the game actually involves actively putting Arid in harm’s way to get her systems rebooted. Need her ability to cloak? First I needed to step into a scanner to get a turret to fire at me, which would convince Arid’s system that she needs the cloak to keep her pilot alive. Of course, she also just put her pilot directly in harm’s way which runs counter to her programming, so the programming dilemma this creates is also an interesting joy to behold.
All the puzzles in The Fall are pretty creative, and each one left me rather pleased when I solved it. By using the right sick Arid points her gun and can switch between her flashlight and laser sight. As long as her flashlight is up Arid can see objects that she can interact with and I could chose if I wanted to just interact with them, or if I wanted to try to use another object on that. It could be as simple as using a card to open a gate, to collecting blood so I could attract an overgrown rat of some kind that stole a working pistol. I could also “network” with computers and other devices to communicate with them from a distance, though I honestly maybe used this like three times throughout the entire game.
There’s also some combat in The Fall. Arid is armed with her pistol, and it has unlimited ammo and a bottomless clip so it’s very easy to use. Arid can aim and shoot whenever she switches to her laser sight, and in the game she’ll be taking on enemy robots. Sadly, there’s only two types of enemies in the game: robots with guns and robots that blindly charge and explode. The game also has a rudimentary cover system, but there’s no real point in using it after Arid gains the ability to cloak as her cloak works the same as cover only it works everywhere. Another sadly useless system is the ability to stealthy execute enemies from behind. It’s in the game, but I got all of one opportunity to use it: the tutorial where I learned I had it. An end game boss fight stands out as the only real highlight of The Fall’s combat, but at least it doesn’t happen often enough to really bring down the game.
The Fall’s story and creative puzzles did a lot for the game, even with it’s less than stellar combat. Arid is a character I cared about, and watching her continue to question her programming and become more and more human-like was far more compelling than I expected. The end of The Fall teases The Fall 2, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.