From the moment The Fall starts up, and the first few minutes of the opening cutscene play out, I knew I was in for an eery ride. The more I walked throughout the game world, the more something felt amiss about everything. Something bad had happened upon the planet before I arrived, and now my main goal was to protect the unconscious pilot within the suit, even when quite often the entire world felt like it was against me. I also felt incredibly alone, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t put the controller down.
The Fall plays and looks like the lovechild of Super Metroid and Dead Space, while still maintaining its own uniqueness that sets out beyond these titles, and above many other Metroid-like games. It even goes a bit further with the gameplay, and at times invokes a feeling of adventure games of the past, requiring one to locate an item that is needed to progress, or to just scrutinize every minute detail of the game world. No simple run and gun explorer is this. You will be using your brains more than anything else to rise above the challenge.
I can say something about The Fall that I rarely say about games: I didn’t feel compelled to complete it because of its gameplay. The gameplay is solid, but it isn’t the most compelling part of the game. Unraveling the mystery of everything that makes The Fall is what kept me pushing forward. The further I progressed, the more questions arose, and the more I wanted to know what had happened before I arrived. There was a myriad of questions all arising from the initial question that the game had presented to me when I started the game: What made me fall onto this place?
From that single question grew many, many more, and each time I had a new one running around in my head, the deeper I wanted to explore these dark corridors, lined with the shadows of what appears to have been once a thriving location of some sorts. The Fall provides no background to its story or history upon your start, and yet it is one of the most compelling and intriguing games I have ever played.
The story begins with our mysterious protagonist plummeting through space and onto a strange planet, wearing, what we soon learn, is a military grade combat suit. After impact, ARID, the suit’s AI, kicks in and ascertains the situation and confirms that its pilot is unconscious. Taking matters into its own hands, the best it can, ARID begins to search for a medical bay so that it may save its pilot. The only problem is that ARID does not have the proper authorization to use many of its features, unless a situation arises in which it must use them for the greater good of its pilot. It is a journey of one trying to help another, that can barely help itself in the first place.
Gameplay is a grand mixture of genre staples: 2D exploration, point-and-click adventure games, and even some cover-based shooter thrown in for good measure. Unlike adventure games of the olden days where one literally clicked around the screen in hopes of discovering the next item they would need on their quest, The Fall switches it up a bit, while still keeping that familiar feeling intact. ARID has a flashlight attached to its firearm, used to aim and discover points of interest. This acts as your point-and-click element. It is the force that obtains items, pounds gold coins into conductive wires, and activates various other useful functions of the game world.
It is something you will be doing a lot. Every form of interaction requires the shining of the light, save for combat, but the control is the same, and instead of aiming a beam of light, you are aiming with a laser at an unfortunate foe that stands marked by it. In order to locate points of interest, the light must shine upon them, and so there will be times where some important ones will be overlooked and not found until the feeling of giving up sets in, and even then only by pure, dumb luck, something important is stumbled upon.
Combat is the only element of the game that doesn’t feel very smooth to me. You take cover behind objects and wait for enemies attack to end, then pop out and blast at them. Headshots are an instant kill, and other parts of the body take a few hits to get the job done. There were occasions where I would have my sights upon an enemy, then fire off a shot, only for my aim to instantly change – usually at the ceiling – and cause me to take a bullet or two. This problem is also the only reason I died on my journey, the second time being once when I was behind a firing enemy and was taking damage from its shots, even though they were nowhere near me. These problems did not popup every time I entered battle, but they seem to whenever it was the most inconvenient.
The ambiance of The Fall is engrossing, from beginning to end. There is an ever-present feeling of dread lurking about every corridor then never leaves, especially when conversing with an AI that seems to have gone completely insane. It’s personality is goofy and it made me feel uneasy, especially with the increase of human corpses that would continue to pop up in strange locations. The Fall’s atmosphere is its number one star. It is what made me want to both play and continue playing. Over The Moon does a lot of things right in this game, but they have the atmosphere of this mysterious world especially perfected.
Being that this is only the first episode of The Fall, we are left playing a waiting game. Truth be told, it is a game of waiting that I do not wish to not play, as I wish to explore more of this world than Over The Moon has presented to me. Hands down, The Fall is one of the best games I have played. It’s inspirations are clear and noticeable, but never does it feel as though it is copying. Its identity is known from start to finish. The Fall is an adventure game for the new generation, and I welcome it with open arms, and bated breath for the next chapter.
The Fall is available now on Steam for $9.99, a very reasonable price for a game of this caliber.