Published on May 30th, 2018 | by Joseph Saulnier0
Who knew that when Limbo came out all those years ago (2010, gosh has it really been that long) that it’s dark, murky world would spawn so many games of similar ilk. So simple, yet surprisingly engrossing, complex, and foreboding that you couldn’t help but feel true fear the moment that giant spider starts chasing you. There have been only a handful of games to successfully recreate the wonder that you got from Limbo. Is The Fall one of them?
Well, that may be a bit of a stretch to answer for this review. Especially considering that The Fall on the Switch is a port rather than an all new entry into the genre. The game received widespread praise, but I never had the opportunity to play it on PC. When the port to the Switch was announced, I still had no idea what to really expect from the game, which was both good and bad as I ventured through this bizarre world.
The Fall begins with a man in a suit much like Iron Man’s, complete with AI, falling out of orbit and crash landing on a mysterious planet. The player assumes control of the previously mentioned AI, known as A.R.I.D., and you primary goal is to seek out the necessary means to save the life of the pilot in the suit. The facility you find yourself in his a sort of fun house, in that you come into contact with so many different things from hostile robots, to wacky AI, to even resorting to the weirdest things possible to complete a puzzle in order to proceed further.
Which by the way, if you do not like puzzles, stay away from this game. From the get go, you don’t really get a lot of instruction in the way of advancing through the game. You are pretty much left to your own devices and exploratory skills. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I nearly put the game down after spending about 45 minutes just trying to get out of the first area, only to find that I just didn’t run my flashlight over one square inch in a “room” to find the component I needed to make progress.
The combat is as simple as it comes, with the ability to take cover next to certain objects, with enemies doing the same. It can feel like a classic movie shoot out as both you and the bot you’re fighting are stepping out of cover to get quick shots off before stepping back in. The biggest issue I had with the game, despite my inability to find a way past the first area, was the clunky control system. The aiming controls using the joystick on the left Joycon would work better with a d-pad than a stick. Literally pushing the stick up will cause the suit to sweep his gun upward and down will sweep it downward. Left to right will switch the direction the suit/gun/flashlight is facing, but there’s not really any in between. It’s not very intuitive, and often got awkward as I am facing right, sweeping up to shoot, and then the Joycon wandering a little too far left and all of a sudden I am turned around and getting shot in the back.
It may sound like nothing, but when you’re used to the intuitive controls of many other games on the market where you point the Joycon in the direction you want to shoot (e.g. pointing to the upper right will bring him there automatically instead of having to hold up to bring the sweep the gun that way). Maybe that was the intention. Since you are playing as an AI that is not as fluid, or quick to react in a physical manner, as a human would be, it adds to the experience. Honestly, though, it felt more of a distraction than an actual feature.
The atmosphere in The Fall has a very “in your face” feel to it. The whole game is sparsely lit, and you won’t be able to see much even with your flashlight out. You see a constant glow from the suits helmet, which really stands out in the dark backgrounds. Levels, or areas as I have already referred to them, are separated by elevators, with most of your goals making the next elevator accessible and/or usable. The writing, however, is where The Fall shines (pardon the pun). A.R.I.D. will do anything to ensure her pilot’s safety, which leads to some pretty interesting situations of breaking its own rules to overcome security protocols and some humorous interactions with other AI as you progress through the game. This focus will alienate her from potential allies and can even affect the way in which you may approach a puzzle.
Despite the difficulty in identifying objects that can be interacted with (as conveyed by my 45 minute jaunt back and forth through the first area) and the clunky control scheme (which given time you do get used to, but you almost have to relearn it if you come back to the game after playing another), this game is one of the best storytelling experiences I’ve had in gaming. That’s a big statement from a man who loves gaming more for the involvement in the story-telling than anything else, and especially given how short an amount of time it took to complete (after my beginning snafu). The writing is fantastica and doesn’t feel like a banal sci-fi story that you can find in a dozen other games. The non-human characters manage to express emotion, despite their flat, robotic speech, thorough the morality behind their actions. Now that I’ve played on the Switch, I am really looking forward to experiencing The Fall 2 which released on PC at the same as this Switch port.
3.5 out of 5 stars
This review was written using a copy of The Fall which was provided to Skewed & Reviewed by the publisher.