Released back in 2014, The Fall was a wonderful surprise to me. I grabbed it on a whim during a major PSN sale, and ended up falling in love with its deft combination of heady sci-fi storytelling and clever puzzle solving. There were issues to be had with the game, sure, but that didn’t change how I appreciated what the title was trying to do, both from a storytelling and gameplay perspective. As soon as the credits rolled, I turned my attention to what Over The Moon had planned for a follow-up. After four years of waiting, The Fall Part 2: Unbound has arrived, with a premise that resolves to not only reintegrate you into the world of the series, but to also expand upon previous threads.
Picking up following the events of the original, The Fall Part 2 reintroduces us to rogue A.I entity A.R.I.D. With her previous primary directive, getting help for Col. Josephs, the being that was supposed to be in her Mark-7 suit, proven to be a lie, she has been unshackled from her previous restraints. When a debilitating virus is sent to her programming by the mysterious USER, A.R.I.D develops her own set of rules, namely, save yourself over anything else. While she may not be able to use her own body anymore, she can tap into different hosts, specifically a trio of robots, who may be different, but share a common bond. The problem is, each of the three robots (The Butler, The One and The Companion) are shackled by their own boundaries. A.R.I.D can either work with them through these limitations, or smash through them to get what she wants.
Like the first game, the complicated story of Unbound is its best asset. Touching on themes of control, redemption and self-actualization, the story kept me engaged throughout the title’s seven-ish hour length. Ultimately I think the toxicity of control was the arc that resonated most with me. From the control A.R.I.D’s guiding rules have over her, to the dominance she asserts over the meek Companion, control is depicted as something that can cause more harm then good. It’s a fascinating development, as you can see things are getting worse the more aggressive A.R.I.D acts, but you also understand why she is doing what she does. This theme does directly lead into to the reveal of who the USER ends up being, which I did find a little disappointing. It’s conveyed as being a twist, but from the second A.R.I.D gets into contact with this character, I knew they were up to no good.
One of the things I came to appreciate about the game was that A.R.I.D is not a hero. She’s selfish to an almost unbelievable degree, and her inability to alter her rules ultimately leads to a worse situation. Part of this attitude stems from the virus, sure, but after the shock she experienced in the last game, she’s strictly out for herself now. Her crusty attitude also serves as the building block of her relationship between the three robots she jacks into. While the idea of her rewiring their thinking is a tad frightening, it does lead to a handful of memorable interactions, both funny and tragic. She does redeem herself in the end, which leads into a cliffhanger that I expected, but may disappoint some that got burned by the first game. However, similar to how I felt at the end of that game, I’m further intrigued as to where Over The Moon will be taking the series next.
The Fall Part 2 takes place over four different locations, one for each of the robots, and the networking grid where A.R.I.D travels between them from. For two of the characters (The Butler and The Companion) you’ll be focused on solving puzzles in order to override their guidelines. The One also has a bit of puzzle solving in his area as well, but there’s also a heavy focus on combat, as he fancies himself a bit of a karate master. As for what A.R.I.D is doing, she’ll mostly be traveling between each character, while also fending off different bursts of the virus that is beginning to run rampant. Along the way you can discover secrets about the world of the game, as well as some flashbacks to events from the first game.
Unbound is at its best when it has you trying to break your robotic “friends” out of their programming. You take control of each character during these sections, but in order for them to fully help you, you’ll need to figure out how to alter their wiring, so to speak. For The Butler, this means breaking him out of the daily routine he keeps for his master, even though the time for that has long since past. The Companion is in a similar spot, as her job aboard the base she is stationed on prevents her from being able to help. The One is a little different, as his individuality is what ultimately impedes A.R.I.D from being able to look into the USER further. Once you have gotten them on your side, you’ll eventually have to make each of these distinct personalities co-operate with each other in order to save A.R.I.D.
Unlike the first game, where the puzzles sometimes were a little too obtuse, the difficulty here feels right. Each section is difficult enough, but the solutions didn’t seem as random as some of the ones from The Fall. You have all of the resources you need in each location, and the game does a solid job of giving you a little bit of a push as to what the next step you should be taking is. If there’s one issue I do have with the puzzles of the game, though, is that they sometimes rely a little bit too much on backtracking in order to work out. This is particularly noticeable in the first section involving The One, which has you constantly moving between different floors of a compound in order to suss out the solution. It can feel a little tedious, even if you 100% know what you have to do.
Unfortunately, while the puzzles of The Fall Part 2 are excellent, the same cannot be said for the combat. Action is broken into two different segments: brawling scenes with The One and shooting sections with A.R.I.D. The battles between The One and The Many are probably the better of the two, and that’s mostly because they pop up less. You’re locked into one place while enemies rush you from both sides, so control is limited. It’s extremely simple, even once The Many begin to learn from your moves, but I understand why they were included. The A.R.I.D segments are rough, however. As you wander around the network, you’ll have to engage in firefights with pieces of the virus that are floating around. You can’t just open fire repeatedly, though, as your weapon and jumping ability are tied to a limited energy meter. The last game had similar combat sections, and I didn’t enjoy them either. In fact, they’re probably worse this time around, because instead of fighting other robots, you’re just doing battle against black globs of nothing. It feels like even Over The Moon realized these sections dragged the game down, because there’s an option to play through the game with the combat limited. I didn’t try it out, but the fact that such an option exists isn’t a great sign.
The Fall Part 2 isn’t a graphical showcase, but it gets the job done. The character design for A.R.I.D is simple, but that simplicity works for what the character is. I wasn’t a huge fan of the other major robot designs, and there’s something off about how any human character looks in the game. The environments are a little too dark for my liking, but I understand that they needed to look that way in order to fit the mood of the game. The network A.R.I.D travels through could have used a little more variety, as well. Similar to the previous game, the voice acting isn’t great. There not entirely unbearable, but some of the dialogue from A.R.I.D and her allies sounds downright amateur. I wish I had a little more to say about the soundtrack, but I can’t remember any single piece of music that stood out from the game, so I guess make of that what you will.
The Fall Part 2: Unbound is mostly a triumph, as it succeeds in the areas I wanted it to succeed at. The plot is another excellent piece of smart science fiction that entertained me as much as it made me think. The same can be said for the puzzles, which never crossed the line into logic-breaking and were genuinely fun to break down and solve. However, the game breaks down in similar areas where the previous release faltered. The combat remains too simplistic to be enjoyable, and the presentation could have been better. With presumably one more entry on the horizon, the series could eventually go down as an underappreciated trilogy. However, Over The Moon will need to continue to clean up the flaws of their engine before it can fully reach its potential.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was provided to us by the game’s publisher.
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