I’m sure many of you (or none at all, might just be me) have sat and wondered how Cortana felt, watching helplessly as Master Chief lost health during his battles with the Covenant… Or wondered just what was going through HAL’s head in 2001: A Space Odyssey… Is The Fall the game to help you understand from an AI’s point of view? I think so!
The Fall, developed by Over The Moon Games, and funded purely by a very successful Kickstarter campaign, puts you in the shoes of the enduring ARID, and artificial intelligence onboard a futuristic space suit.
As The Fall starts, you find yourself plummeting to the ground of an unknown planet, in an unknown sector of the galaxy… As you awake, ARID boots up and starts her scan. It is through this initial introduction that you are first exposed to the game’s excellent art style. Mixing dark and atmospheric backgrounds with a bright and intriguing character, the style is rather reminiscent of Limbo, and Flashback… Simple, yet beautiful. The menu system is styled much like an old mainframe computer. Chunky text, and minimal furniture. It is with this set of menus that you unlock abilities as you progress through the game, helping ARID with her primary objective.
It is through the inclusion of basic rules and protocols, based on Isaac Asimov’s Rules of Robotics, that ARID must obey, which presents the biggest challenge to her. Does she disobey the rules to save her pilot, or does she abide by them, and risk him dying? Does she risk the life of the pilot she is sworn to protect to escape, or risk her own life for his?
After ARID’s initial scan, she realises that the pilot of her suit is not responding. Assured that he is still alive, yet critical, ARID sets off to find medical assistance. Of course, being on an unknown planet, she doesn’t know where to start.
Using the classic side-scrolling platformer mechanic, you traverse through the levels section by section, using your torch as guidance, using your torch to discover clues in the environment, and picking up items to use along the way. I felt that the controls were a little finicky at times… Because you use the left analogue stick to move, and the right to aim, if you’re not quite precise, you would either find yourself missing a key item to interact with, or dying as a result of not being quite accurate enough.
The puzzle element of The Fall is clever, yet frustrating at times. Much like titles such as Broken Sword and Monkey Island, you must complete little challenges to progress the story. Without giving too much away, these can be solved using beakers to collect liquids, or an old robotic arm to access a control panel. Each puzzle is well thought out and many of the solutions are frustratingly simple to solve.
It is through these challenges that ARID discovers that she is in fact trapped in an AI depurposing facility, through which she must escape by completing the challenges thrust upon her, or risk her pilot not surviving.
Along with the tantalising puzzles ARID must complete, she is also under fire from other AI within the facility, tasked with her destruction due to her inability to accept the rules. Her objective is to save her pilot, without regard to the consequences…
The mix of platform/puzzle/adventure really appeals to me, I have been a fan of this type of game for some time, and overall I feel that The Fall is a tight, well-oiled title, and I would certainly welcome the rumoured sequels (that’s right, sequels!) It plays well on Asimov’s Basic Rules of Robotics, making you think of how to react to the challenges you face.
Next time you are in control of Master Chief, take a moment to think how Cortana could be reacting to your actions.
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The Fall is out on July 14 for Xbox One.