Indie-ana Jones Reviews: The Fall (Act 1)
A system boot up screen opens up and starts running diagnostics. Then the screen opens up to show a combat suit. You play the AI running the suit and are tasked with keeping your pilot alive, who when you reboot is unresponsive. As you take a quick look around you discover you have fallen through a hole into a dark cavern. From the very start the atmosphere of the game grabs you and pulls you right in. You really feel as if you are trapped in this dark dank abandoned facility. As you move through the caverns you realize that keeping your pilot alive may be more difficult than you originally thought. There are conundrums and enemies abound that are slowing your progress drastically.
There are a couple of big problems with The Fall but the writing is most definitely not one of them. In the beginning ARID is unwavering and follows her programming to a T. To save her pilot she must be able to adapt and that is where the story gets interesting. To unlock your suits abilities you have to violate protocol in one way or another. So to get your camouflage activated you have to have either your pilot allow it or the suit must be endangered. Since your pilot is unresponsive you have to put the suit in danger purposely but that violates the protocol of not putting your pilot in danger. This is a conundrum, endangering your pilot to save his life. So with some circular reasoning you rationalize it and put yourself in danger to get the system override. As this continues ARID changes into something different and with the final twist the story ends on a exceedingly high note. There are supporting characters, one of which that deems ARID as faulty and in need of re-purposing (destruction). The story line and struggle is marvelous.
The music and sound effects are nice and most importantly, not annoying. They add and reinforce the atmosphere. Where it really shines through is the voice acting. Not only was the writing great but they nailed the voices for the AIs. The AI that runs the facility does as good a job as Wheatley from Portal 2. I really enjoyed the conversations between the characters.
As I stated above there are a couple of issues, however. Let’s start with the visuals, yes they look pretty but the problem is that it is so damn dark. It is almost like they couldn’t decide what they wanted to do so they went for half way between classic point and clicks and Limbo. So there are bright spots and I wanted to see more of this world but it was too damn dark to see.
Secondly, the controls are awful and confusing. I just could not get used to them and constantly getting all mixed up. I played on both keyboard and Xbox 360 gamepad and both were strange and not easy to work. So I stuck with the controller because I know it better and it seems like less to mess with. Sadly the controllers controls are not programmable and even the programmable keyboard controls don’t feel natural. So A is jump, which would be fine if you used it often but you rarely do. To interact with an item you have to highlight it with your flashlight then hit RB to open the interaction menu but you can’t just tap it to open the menu you have to hold it down and select an action/item to use. And if you have many items that could go into something it can be infuriating because once you choose an action/item if it doesn’t work you have to re-highlight it and try over and over. The shooting is okay because you just aim and pull the trigger. But the damn interaction button infuriated me for most of the game.
Finally, the puzzles! The civic and household puzzles are funny and the writing is great here but getting the items to solve a couple of them are confusing and make you back track a lot. This was the most difficult and infuriating part. You have to pay such close attention to every detail. Some of the puzzles require you to fail them first to reveal a clue, which of course you are trying not to because you do not want to have to restart from a checkpoint or something. My girlfriend and I spent forever trying to figure it out. The thing that pissed me off was the lack of a clue when you looked at stuff or asked the machine for help. It says dust this area and nothing else and when you ask it for a clue it says sorry the information needed has been provided. I probably spent a couple of hours searching around before figuring out that I wasn’t supposed to solve all of them before moving on and that there was a series of other things that needed to be done first. I think many people would walk away if they had to back track and find very convoluted clues that you have to hit with your flashlight just right to see.
One last weird thing is that it is episodic. It doesn’t say that in the description and it doesn’t say if you get the last 2 when you buy the first act. I will update you on that if I get an answer back about it. I assume that the second two acts will be much better, if they continue to build from the last half of the first act. I am excited to see where the story goes from here, hopefully the second and third act release in a timely manner.
For $9.99 it is well worth it, especially if you like puzzle/point and click games and if you get it before June 30, 2014 (Steam Summer Sale) it is only $4.99. It will be money well spent, you get to experience an engrossing story with great writing and atmosphere.