Well the leaves are descending, the barometer is going low and my interest in this analogy is plummeting like a tiny pebble into a vast watery abyss. So with those autumn allusions out of the way, let’s get into the Indie Kickstarter game The Fall.
Crashing from space, you land on an unknown planet and your pilot is unresponsive. You are the A.R.I.D (Arid) on board the mark-7 combat suit and you must obtain traverse the hostile environment to acquire medical assistance for your pilot. While searching for aid, you must face what happened on this planet and how it reflects upon Arid’s use, or misuse, of her inbuilt protocols.
I must admit for a game that is only the first part of what will be a series of games, or at least that is what I hope it will be, the game is very engaging. As has already been well documented in my game reviews that the side scrolling mechanic curries great favour, the puzzles the game brought were far more interesting.
Even for those who are not great puzzle solvers, The Fall manages to give the puzzles a certain amount of difficulty without making them so frustrating that it makes them a chore. The puzzles are plentiful enough to keep your brain engaged without being done so overtly that you have to sit in another room with tea and a good book so you can recover from the twist your brain has been put in.
However it’s the story that is the real hook of the game. The not knowing whether your pilot is injured, unconscious or even dead makes for gripping stuff, making you feel invested in all the actions Arid performs to keep the pilot safe.
The game’s logic runs almost counterintuitively to how you would attempt to protect your pilot as to protect your pilot, you must put your pilot in danger so that systems may be enabled so that you can advance in the game. Sounds strange but it’s a clever device to get you make Arid a more functional combat unit while adding the danger and the notion that by doing this, you are breaking one of Arid’s protocols, to protect the pilot.
Credit has got to be given to making the main character female. Alison Kumar does a cracking job as Arid’s voice, both giving Arid the cold mechanic voice of a fully operating combat unit whilst also injecting emotion here and there to highlight Arid’s turn towards a more sentient being, as seen in the way she rationalises her breaking of protocol.
Credit must also be given to Sean McQuillan as Mainframe AI (Hank/Morely) and Alejandro Pacheco as the Caretaker. While these voice actors are virtual unknowns, they played their parts exceedingly well, getting me to both love and hate them in equal measure.
The Fall also manages to deliver a creepy environment through its good use of environmental design, such as the notes from former employees, the decaying nature of the entire place and also the darkened visuals to make you feel you really are quite below the surface of the planet.
Also the fact that you have to search for things using the flashlight on your pistol makes the dank atmosphere a much more prevalent feeling, having to scour the surrounding in search of puzzle items. It’s a nice touch that you somehow don’t really think about and those are generally the best ones.
I do not wish to give things away, but the general effect had reminds one of the creepiness of Fallout 3’s Tranquillity Lane. While it does not have the same brand of chirpy surreal-ness, its attempt to make it look like all things are “fine” while everything is dirtied and decayed does bring forth a certain dystopian feel to the game.
However there are a couple of things that need to be criticised about this game, like its lack of a controls menu. Having taken a small break between gaming sessions, I forgot the button for crouch and had to resort to pressing every button I could to finally be able to crouch again. Over the Moon, if you are making a sequel (which you’d better be) please include a controls menu as it’d make everything just a lot easier for those with the memory of a lemon.
Also combat feels quite boring at times. At first when the sentry bots start coming for you, combat feels a little challenging, especially when you have that moment’s panic when you have to switch between you pistol’s light and laser targeting mode.
But then, as the game progresses, the fighting becomes more about crouching behind boxes or using your camouflage (which somehow makes bullets miss you) and then taking out the robots who decide to remain out of cover for a short while after they finish their short burst. It becomes repetitive and, aside from a later addition to enemies, this will be the standard fighting mechanic which can be a bit dull.
Yet these small gripes cannot detract from overall quality of this game. As a first step into this sci-fi adventure, it is brilliant and I can’t wait for more. Sure there are areas for improvement but I am sure they can be addressed in the next game. While the price may be a little steep for a four hour game, it may be a price worth paying as you’ll definitely get sucked into this game and will be watching eagle-eyed for the next release.
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