Cautionary tales about Artificial Intelligence are always fun because they lay bare our own insecurities as a species and The Fall Part 2: Unbound gives us reason to side with the AI.
If you haven't played the first game do so now and come back because I need to spoil that game in order to talk about the new one. Otherwise, skip this paragraph and I'll endeavour to be vague about past events from there. For those still here or don't care - at the end of the first game Arid discovers that she wasn't housing a human being in need of medical attention, this realisation means that she broke her restrictions without due cause and she breaks down and her body is taken away after she removes her own head. This shocking ending serves as the starting point of Part 2
Right - providing that you managed to stop your roving eyes from gazing at the remainder of the above paragraph we can get on with this.
Trapped inside her own mind Arid, the AI, needs to find a way out, a way to track down someone she calls The User who is trying to destroy her completely. To do this she has to enter what is essentially a visualisation of the Internet and it is the worst part of the whole game because it mostly consists of shooting and shooting. It's something The Fall
could really do without and it is bad, very bad.
Luckily you don't spend long in cyberspace. Arid finds a port she can re-enter the real world through and finds herself sharing the robotic body of a Butler. She got here by following a signal left by The User but once inside the Butler she finds it difficult to recruit his aid in her mission because he is fixated on his routine. To get where you want to be you have to solve a puzzle based around breaking the Butler's routine, tricking him into willingly going where he would otherwise not go to achieve your end goal. Arid learns to be more devious and cunning throughout. There is callousness to her actions that made me feel deeply uncomfortable aiding her, and this feeling continues once she leaves the Butler behind and forces her will on other Hosts.
As you progress closer and closer to The User you leave in your wake discarded tools that under normal circumstances would be seen as equals to Arid, but her arrogance is not without purpose.
In the promotional material for Over The Moon's The Fall: Part 2
we saw one of Arid's hosts - The Companion. This robot's primary purpose is as a sex worker. She is programmed to be slightly ditzy but with an abundance of empathy and understanding of the human condition. This perspective is totally alien to Arid, so much so that the way Arid systematically breaks the Companion's will is heartbreaking. She preys on her Hosts need to be selfless in order to make her do terrible things, all while the Companion pleads with Arid to find a better way.
Her treatment of the Companion is where you truly realise that something is broken in Arid, and the way the game resolves this realisation is brilliant... But that is for you to find out about by playing the game.
As with the previous game, Part 2
is a side scrolling mix of light platforming and point-and-click adventuring where clues and items in the environment help you solve puzzles or find new ways to manipulate your hosts. Because a lot of the puzzles revolve around emotional conditioning the answers aren't as simple as the first game, in which they were mostly logic-based. Because of this I did find myself a little stumped at times as I, in good old-fashioned adventure game tradition, rubbed the items in my inventory against anything that seemed vaguely relevant until something happened to move me forward.
I mentioned earlier that the game would be better without the shooting segments and I stand by that. It feels like unnecessary filler that detracts from what is otherwise an excellent game. You lock on to black smudge monsters and dodge them by jumping around and then shooting once they turn blue. Simple enough, but because the controls don't feel designed for combat everything comes across as clumsy.
In the cyberspace areas you can also find terminals with documents that flesh out the wider world surrounding The Fall
. I would like more of this because we don't know much about the state of mankind outside of Arid's limited exposure. There is a potentially fascinating world outside of the scope of these games and I want to know more.
Visually, the game isn't stunning. A lot of the game's assets are stock items from the Unity store, but this doesn't matter because there is a lot of charm baked in to the game, enough to override most of the games shortcomings. However, there are a number of bugs and unpolished areas that need fixing, mostly in the form of invisible walls that can trap you, or missing barriers that let you fall out of the world. The autosave system needs tweaking as well - upon restarting the game I would sometimes find myself further back than expected.
If you enjoyed the first game this is a no-brainer. It's smart and fun with compelling characters. If you're a curious newcomer then definitely go and buy Part 1
first - neither game is particularly long, but they are both worth your time.
+ Arid is a deeply flawed and fascinating character
+ The emotional impact around the Companion's segment was unexpected, but very welcome
+ Smart writing and an interesting (if obscured) world
- The Cyberspace/Network area, necessary but dull
- The shooting, either needs reworking or removing for future instalments
SPOnG Score: 8/10