I have a soft spot for robots. What can I say, I always enjoy seeing weird stories of them trying to be more, or sometimes less, human. One of my favorite indie games covering that concept is The Fall. It dealt with how far a robot could push its own rules, and if being able to purposely use loopholes to break those rules was ethical. Nearly four years later, we get a follow-up with The Fall Part 2: Unbound. Does this continuation still ask the hard questions, or has it fallen too far to recover?
The game picks up where The Fall left off, although there is a helpful video recap of the first game if you forgot or skipped it. You play as a robot named A.R.I.D. who has found herself partially dismantled and infected with a virus. Since she's unwilling to let go of her newly found sentience, A.R.I.D. writes herself a new rule that states she must save herself. To make any real progress, she requires the assistance of three robots actually in the physical world. So, she takes to jumping into their bodies and convincing them to do what she wants. Each of these robots has their own personal lives to attend to, and A.R.I.D suddenly hijacking them to serve her needs throws them off. So, A.R.I.D must convince them to help her, find out where the virus is coming from, and save herself.
The big draw to the story is its treatment of AI, and the questions imposed by it. Each character in The Fall 2 is a robot with certain limitations. One of the major themes is how to work both around and through each robot's limitations. There's a clear fear from the few human characters that robots will replace them entirely one day. You have a race that is struggling with seeing their replacements mature in front of them. You have another trying to figure out how to actually mature despite that struggle. It's compelling, and it helps that the writing is strong enough to make me care about the characters and the universe that they inhabit.
Over the course of The Fall 2, you'll play as four different characters, each of whom is slightly different from one another. You'll spend the majority of the game as A.R.I.D., and her segments play closest to a Metroidvania. Here you'll move through a computer Network, following the trail of the mysterious User that is hacking into and infecting A.R.I.D.'s body with the virus. Along the way, you'll learn new abilities that allow you to progress through new sections of the world, along with opening up older sections to get collectibles from. It's not as in-depth as a game totally devoted to this style, but it's good enough to keep me engaged to the end of the game.
Of course, this cyber world is not safe, as the virus seeks to stop A.R.I.D from getting around. Thankfully, she has a gun to protect herself. You can only hurt enemies when they attack, leading to an interesting combat system of luring, dodging, and countering blows. You have to time everything just right, as both your attacks and dodges are tied to an energy meter. Let that meter deplete, and you'll find yourself vulnerable until it can recharge. This makes for fun moments of carefully timing your attacks so that you're not left open. It's rather simple, but it's a fun combat system that managed to keep me entertained for the duration of the game.
Unable to solve her problems without interacting with the physical world, A.R.I.D must rely on three other robots who can directly interact with the world around them. You'll take control of Butler, Companion, and One, and their gameplay segments are closer to your traditional adventure game fare. You'll have to find and use items in your environment to assist with breaking the robot's programming and get them to act in a way A.R.I.D. wants. Most of the time, this is pretty straightforward and simple. Occasionally, the game breaks into bad pixel hunting or trial and error to find the solution. It's never often enough to really ruin the adventure segments, but I did sometimes become frustrated while trying to find particularly nonsensical answers.
Each of these three has a unique hook that makes their section stand out. One's hook is probably my favorite of the three. He occasionally gets into melee fights that play similar to indie hit One Finger Death Punch. Enemies come from all sides, and you need to hit corresponding buttons to defeat them. Enemies will sometimes block attacks or dodge, forcing you to adjust. This serves as a really fun distraction during the adventure game segments.
Butler and Companion's unique hooks come from the style of adventure they're on. Butler has a cycle that repeats endlessly, and you need to find subtle ways to throw off this cycle and interrupt him. Companion is more about talking to people around the space station she occupies, learning information pertaining to them, and exploiting that information to move further. There's no combat in either of their sections, which instead focus more on puzzle solving. With the puzzles and story being as good as it is, I had no problem slipping into either of these roles and enjoying some time in this alien world.
The game is also accompanied by strong art design and voice acting. Each of the game's settings was unique, showing off some creative use of advanced technology while using color filters to set the tone of each zone. The cheery pink-heavy look of the Companion's environment is a long shot from the much bleaker grays of the Butler's. I was impressed by the voice acting, that helped give these robots even more of a personality. One sounds just as strong as I'd expect, while A.R.I.D. glitching out was always terrifying, reminding me of Lord of the Ring's Galadriel.
Sadly, glitches occasionally took me out of the moment after the art and voice acting worked so hard to draw me in. During some of the melee fights, I would see enemies get suck in place endlessly running. In one section of the game, I was able to consistently fall through the floor and out of the map. The glitches weren't terrible, but they were distracting.
The Fall Part 2 Unbound ends with the words "To Be Concluded...", and I'm so excited to see what happens next. The gameplay is fun, taking notes from several different genres and mashing them together in a way that works out. The story is interesting, asking tough questions and providing answers that are morally questionable at best. Great art and voice acting really just tie whole game together. I'd suggest grabbing the first game and giving it a run as well, but this is one sequel that improves upon its predecessor in every way.
The Fall Part 2 Unbound was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
The Fall Part 2: Unbound is a fantastic sequel that takes many of the elements of the first game and improves on them, creating a fascinating story and a fun blend of gameplay elements.
- Great Story That Asks Interesting Questions
- Fun Metroidvania Segments
- Blends Adventure Games With Other Elements
- Good Art and Voice Acting
- Pixel Hunt Puzzles