The Fall is a Kickstarter backed game that previously launched on Steam and has now found its way onto the Wii U. The first in a three part series, The Fall comes along at an interesting time in our history. What The Fall presents is a universe where humanity is almost non-existent and artificial intelligence has become the dominant force. Arguments against the introduction of sentient robots into society are being thrown around by people a heck of a lot smarter than you or I – Stephen Hawking for example.
You play as ARID, a sentient combat suit who is designed to protect its human inhabitant. The Fall begins with ARID finding herself having mysteriously fallen from space into a cavernous place where she must find medical assistance to help her injured human. Through some great puzzle platforming, ARID discovers more about her true role and what it means to be an artificial intelligence.
The Fall is quite story heavy, but before discussing the immersive story it’s worthwhile taking a look at the game elements. Initially solely equipped with the torch on her broken gun, ARID navigates through the dark environment, interacting with items that her torch picks up. Sometimes this may be simply a piece of information relating to the scenery which helps build the story, other times there may be a tool or piece of equipment which can eventually be used to solve a puzzle along the way. The platforming is simple and responsive, however the focus is more solely placed on the enjoyable puzzles.
The puzzles are my kind of puzzles. I’ve never been a huge fan of adventure games as I find that sometimes the puzzles are confusing just for the sake of being confusing – I’m looking at you Sam & Max series. Here though, the puzzles are just right. They provide just enough challenge that when solved they feel rewarding. Most importantly though, the puzzles are entertaining and help progress the story along wonderfully. Some puzzles are downright hilarious as well, such as the set of tests ARID has to complete to show that she can be a useful house robot. One puzzle with a crying baby had me laughing quite a bit with its solution.
Along ARID’s path to finding the health station to help mend her ailing human, she sometimes encounters hostile robots. It’s here that The Fall stumbles a little. Where the puzzles and story are great, they are hampered by some tedious shooting sections. ARID can take refuge behind any available cover, periodically popping over the cover to shoot when she can. Alternatively, through some narrative related upgrades, ARID can camouflage herself into the background and pop out to shoot down the enemy robots. There is the option to stealthily take down an enemy and regain some of their battery power, but I never managed to get this feature to work and instead stuck with shooting from cover. Fortunately these sections are quite limited and don’t take away from the overall enjoyment of progressing through an engrossing story.
It’s with these enjoyable puzzle elements that the true joy of The Fall shines through. This is a great immersive story with one heck of an interesting central character. ARID is, basically put, an unreliable narrator – a role which makes for an interesting assessment of the place of humanity in the future. The journey that ARID takes and the characters she interacts with is one that is best discovered by yourself as it’s an interesting story full of twists and turns. For the sci-fi fans out there, the loose assessment of Asimov’s three laws of robotics will surely excite them as what The Fall does best is look at humanity’s role in the future as well as assessing robots going past their programmed duties.
The Fall presents a future where artificial intelligence has become a possible dominant force, and it’s through great art design and story progression that this becomes evident. Piles of broken and destroyed robots litter the background, sometimes with their lonely eyes glowing in the distance. An early interaction with a combat suit strung up on a crucifix shows how much of a commodity these robots can be and also displays one of ARID’s many great lines – ‘you are irrelevant’.
What helps sell ARID and the characters she interacts with as meaningful three dimensional characters is the great writing and superb voice acting. Why it works so well is that the voice actress behind ARID manages to portray the cold and robotic side of ARID, whilst also presenting her as a real character with potential emotions. This is even more evident with one of the protagonists that ARID meets along the way; a robot who has taken it upon himself to evolve to sound more like a human. The interactions between ARID and this robot are both intriguing as well as amusing. If they were voiced by lesser actors, the game would certainly suffer from it.
I was concerned that just like some other small budget games that are the first in a series, The Fall might end on a cliff hanger that due to a possible lack of financing, meaning there would be no true resolution. Fortunately, that’s not the case here as the ending is self-contained and does not end on a cliff hanger. If part two wasn’t just around the corner, then the current ending would still feel satisfactory. As it is, I’m beyond excited to leap into the next part and see where this story heads.
The Fall is a smart, but fun, sci-fi adventure that doesn’t overstay its welcome and is a true joy to play. With some great story telling as well as superb voice acting, and a low price, this is a game that should definitely be part of your Wii U or Steam library.