Review: The Fall

“Artificial Lifeform. State your primary function.”
Dark and ominous, The Fall is an interactive exercise in dystopian thriller well worth a single playthrough.

 

The mark of a good dystopian story is one that leaves an unsettling aftertaste upon completion. With Over The Moon’s flagship game The Fall comes a thematic exploration of artificial intelligence which produces multiple disturbing revelations, a testament to ingenious writing and stylistic delivery employed by the game developers.

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Released in May last year, this puzzle platformer follows the the suit’s A.I., A.R.I.D., as she traverses an unknown robotics facility to seek aid for her incapacitated wearer, whom having fallen onto the planet from orbit has sustained major physical trauma and is unconscious.

The sheer convenience of having an abandoned robotics facility on the planet points to a greater mystery surrounding the main character’s initial purpose and the nature of the facility itself. Questions deliberately left unanswered by the game, this larger unknown compounds the already-creepy story that’s ongoing.

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The Fall, literally.

A.R.I.D. possesses three protocols in her programming to govern her autonomous behavior in absence of her pilot, something reminiscent of Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, in which:

1. She must not mispresent reality. (aka lie.)
2. She must be obedient
3. She must protect her pilot.

Similar to Asimov’s rules,  a paradox is presented: if 3 is in jeopardy and the only way to ensure pilot survival would be to lie, then principle 1 shouldn’t apply. In lying to fulfill 3, rule 2 is both broken and unbroken. That’s where the tension lies and where everything starts to fray – and this disorientation is exactly what The Fall’s story expands on and does to the player’s perception to good effect.

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Good, bad or evil has no place in The Fall, only relevance, function and compliance. That’s the cold reality of the machine and you are thrust right into the thick of it.

In addition, conversations among the characters reveal a disturbing assessment of what has happened within the facility, subtly explaining the overall human absence within the game’s environment.

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Subtly.

Visually, the Fall is a game designed to be unnerving. Constantly set against a dark backdrop with heavy emphases on shadows and dim lighting, the atmosphere is eerily lifeless and grim. Players of the popular indie game Limbo will find themselves completely at home with this visual style.

One thing that truly stands out is the quality sound design. The good voice acting behind the characters, particularly the Caretaker antagonist – also an A.I. – adds a menacing edge to the environment which A.R.I.D. must navigate. Coupled with the creepy ambient music playing in the background, The Fall truly achieves its desired effect: in giving the chills.

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Bold, striking colours against a dim backdrop give a sense of mechanical dread.

On gameplay, to get from one level to another, players must overcome obstacles by applying sharp observational skills and logic. And I reiterate: sharp. Items lying around often serve a specific purpose in crafting solutions, so leaving a single stone unturned could spell an hour of confusion and frustration in attempting to retrace your steps.

While sufficiently complex to warrant a challenge, the puzzles can feel like a drag towards the mid-game, becoming more of a hindrance with minimal contribution to plot progression:

Twice, I resorted to reading a guide on the community pages to make clear of an essential item or step that I missed. This was not because the game was too challenging, but that the task at hand seemed bland and purposeless.

Furthermore, some of the steps required are not entirely intuitive, and may result in substantial head-scratching in the process – as was my experience.

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The Fall, like its main character, almost overstays its welcome. Almost.

While the less-than-stellar gameplay experience did leave me with mixed feelings about the game, it was fortunate that the story concluded not long after – and boy, was it a phenomenal ending of M. Night Shyamalan proportions. (Well, when he does a good movie of course)

As such, The Fall’s 4-5 hours long game time is enough to sustain players’ interest, and short enough to avoid overstaying its welcome.

B+

This game is worth a playthrough just for its good story, I recommend getting it on sale.

 

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Review: Apotheon

“Atmospheric. Captivating Ancient Greek theme. Great attention to detail. Slightly flimsy controls yet most importantly, fun.”

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Alientrap Games’ Apotheon is an immersive indie 2D platformer with a uniquely beautiful ancient greek pottery aesthetic. The story follows Nikandreos – a champion of humanity – who rises up against the Greek Gods to steal their powers and salvage the fate of his people. As Nikandreos, you will scale Mount Olympus and challenge the Gods in their respective realms.

  • Apotheon’s gameplay is rather solid, with plenty of interesting melee and ranged weaponry (many of which historically-accurate) to choose from, making for healthy variation in playing style. Certain quests shake up the usual “run-stab-block-repeat-etc.” routine by posing puzzles for you to solve, keeping the game lively and interesting as you move along.
  • Great attention to detail is also displayed in level and character design, with most in-game locations having a different feel, as well as plentiful variation in NPCs’ and enemies’ appearances.
Getting mugged by skeletons should be the least of your worries when exploring the cold depths of Hades.
  • The music accompanies the game well and changes according to the environment you explore. Slow, gloomy music plays during your foray into the dark underworld while glorious tunes bellow as you storm a fort for example, creating an amazing atmospheric experience. The lyre pieces, in particular, give the game an elegant touch.
  • The storyline is average with a cliché god-usurper plot (and we all know how it always ends). Nevertheless, the plot is well-presented and executed tastefully.
  • Game length is pretty substantial, well worth its price tag.
  • A healthy level of appearance customization is also available for the hero, from leather caps to wolf pelts to the iconic Corinthian helmet, you get to look as ancient a Greek as you desire.
Xiphos in hand and a funky sea-themed mythical helmet to boot.
Xiphos in hand and a funky sea-themed mythical helmet to boot. Note the collection of sharp, pointy, hurty things on the left.
  • However, combat is slightly flimsy as attacks are completely mouse-dependent and can be annoyingly difficult to control when Nikandreos is surrounded by enemies, which happens fairly often.
  • While there is a healthy balance between range and melee options in the overall combat system, the variety of actions available within melee combat is lacking, being limited to a simple stab or an upwards/overhead swing.
  • Finally, the amount of armor pieces available for Nikandreos pales in comparison to the wide range possessed by the NPCs, a pity considering the amazing art style which girds the game.
I mean…look at this! Barring the mythical creature stuff, where’d most of these go? Damned skeletons, I tell ya.

Overall, Apotheon is a good game with a quality composition of 55% style 45% gameplay. Its form similar to the pottery art it emulates: carefully crafted and artistically flavorful. Now, before I run out of adjectives to use in this review, let me conclude by saying that:

Apotheon gets a solid B+ for its good quality.
A definite must-try if you dig its aesthetic and love classical history; a worth-trying if you’re looking to play a fresh platformer.