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Review: The Fall (PC)By Ofisil At 08.03.2018 22:08

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A.R.I.D. is a female-voiced AI on-board a (quite buff) high-tech suit of military armour, responsible for the good health of the one wearing it, who just so happens to be in dire need of some medical aid. Even worse, this robotic cutie has crash-dived on an unknown planet, which might be devoid of biological life, but is full of trigger-happy, unfriendly, mechanical life. If that wasn't enough, a certain supervisor of sorts wants to turn her into scrap metal, as in "his" mind, A.R.I.D. is a faulty android, because "she" has broken a couple of the rules that bind their kind - and he is sort of right, to be honest, but that's the cool thing about this protagonist.

While you will soon get to use A.R.I.D.'s handgun, the gunfights (basically a subpar, 2D version of Gears of War's cover-and-shooting) aren't that exciting. Thankfully, these are nothing more than very brief breaks from the main meat: the puzzle solving. Moreover, what's interesting here is not how A.R.I.D. uses her weapon, but why she "decides" to do so. Pointing a gun is an ability that's "locked" on her system, and to activate it she must trick her own mind into doing so - in other words, A.R.I.D. must somehow convince herself that her master's safety requires pulling the trigger.

Therefore, she must bend the rules that control her behaviour; sometimes to the point of breaking. This is basically the theme of The Fall and is handled mighty fine despite the room for improvement. Besides this offering plenty of unique puzzle-solving, as most obstacles require exploiting some sort of loophole in A.R.I.D.'s way of thinking, it's also great story-wise, and works well both as a contemplation on the nature and future of AI, as well as an analogy of obedience versus rebellion, protocol versus free will.

Like all good sci-fi, The Fall approaches its subject in a more cerebral way - it's more about substance than style. Sure, both A.R.I.D. and the LIMBO-esque underworld that she has ended up in looks great, but it's mostly how everything feels. Dialogue, in particular, is surprisingly well-crafted, with the various AI that A.R.I.D. will encounter acting as... well, as actual AI would - highly advanced AI, that is. As a side note, the length of this journey is exactly how it should be: short, without feeling incomplete. Wrapping up, the game is smart, atmospheric, doesn't overstay its welcome, and, as a cherry on top, there's lots of subtle black humour thrown in. All is great, right?

Unfortunately, this is a "come for the gameplay, stay for the plot" experience. Yes, puzzle-solving is fun and all, but it pales in comparison to the narrative aspect, as not all puzzles are created equal. Moreover, exploring around will initially alienate those who are used to the more traditional ways of controlling a character. While an adventure at heart, and one that could benefit from a simple point-and-click scheme, this tries something different.

A.R.I.D. interacts with the world by pointing at things with her flashlight, and then choosing amongst a couple of actions. Sadly, besides this mechanic simply being counter-intuitive, it's also quite rough around the edges. Moving using this way feels pretty stiff, especially when it comes to her turning around. This might seem like nit-picking, but, no, it really takes away from the experience. Thus, it has to be mentioned once more: come for the gameplay, stay for the plot…

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Final Score
[i]The Fall[/i] is a fine example of an adventure, with the better puzzles demanding some out-of-the-box thinking, and a hardcore, almost Isaac Asimov/Ghost in the Shell-ish sci-fi plot revolving around robots and AI, which is so good that it's easy to forgive this for its less impressive segments, and its unwieldy control scheme.

7

/10

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