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