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The Fall Part 2: Unbound Review

Become Unbound and control your fate in The Fall Part 2: Unbound! Test your puzzle-solving skills in this interesting yet challenging action-platformer. Follow the AI character ARID as she struggles to uncover the mysteries behind her existence in this newest iteration of The Fall series.

The Fall Part 2: Unbound Review

Introduction

The Fall Part 2: Unbound is a Metroidvania style 2D action-platformer developed and published by the creative minds over at Over the Moon and released on February, 2018 for Steam, PS4, XBOX ONE, and Nintendo Switch.

The game focuses on an AI entity named ARID, who is searching in digital and physical worlds for someone called the “user,” in an attempt to return to her body. Along the way she will take control of other AI’s to find out what really happened to her.

The Fall Part 2: Unbound is available on Steam for $16.99.

Story

ARID is a lost AI in a hostile world full of dark shadows and viruses who would like nothing but to see her fall. Without a body, she wanders, searching endlessly in the cyberspace for her purpose.  She can't help but be fixated upon finding this "user" who has infected her. The story of ARID predominantly takes place in several miniature sequences where the protagonist takes control of dormant electronic bodies. These bodies may be those of butlers or martial arts wielding painters, but all serve to help ARID find the aforementioned and mysterious “user.” Most of these are not very interesting, serving only as a means to an end for ARID as she climbs through multiple worlds, but are critical to her progress.

As ARID continues to fight her way through this hostile electronic world she develops many personality traits, and starts to question what her true purpose is. She seems calm during the sequences where she takes control of others, but all is not as it seems. This tranquility soon gives way to anger and frustration as her hosts become unwilling to help due either to their internal agendas or schedules. The game, while taking place in an electronic world of sorts, has many locales. I will not spoil the entirety of the game in this review, but some of the more interesting locales include rustic homes with long-dead, rotting occupants, fields of dozens of enemies who look down upon ARID menacingly, and even elaborate bunkers with beautiful contrasts in-between.  

The Fall Part 2: Unbound Review. Companion scanning
The intermediate areas are primarily platforming sections with uninteresting industrial-like backdrops. Most of the actual story takes place within small dialogues and documents you can find placed around the world in terminals or while looking for a way around obstacles your hosts place to impede ARID's progress. A large portion of the game is unlocked after finding out the true purpose behind ARID’s exploration, and the story really picks up after this point. The dialogue is interesting and engaging, but there is not enough of it to warrant a replay since the player will likely find all in a single run. Exploring the world around ARID is a delight due to the well designed platforming and eerie atmosphere, even if the environments seem empty and dead at times. Due to spoilers, I will not discuss the endgame, but it was satisfying enough and answered almost all the questions I had by the end of it.

Gameplay

The actual gameplay differs greatly in many sections of the title. About a quarter of the game is action platforming, with basic jump and shoot commands. This is akin to much of the combat in old-school SNES games where the player is situated in a 2D space and they must aim vertically while jumping and dodging enemies and attacks. The twist here is that you can only hurt the viruses when they have expended their own energy, indicated by their blue glow. The player must be careful, however, for the amount of energy you have is limited by time and ARID will be left open for an attack if this is not conserved. This is just one of two energy sources the player can view on their HUD. The player has bars they must pay attention to, one titled “System Integrity,” and the other being “Energy.” If ARID expends all her energy while fighting viruses she will be unable to attack until the gauge fills back up. Think of this as a sort of stamina bar but utilized as ammo. When hit by enemies your “System Integrity” bar will decrease, acting as a health indicator.

I mentioned earlier that you will be fighting entities called viruses, who fly around and shoot at ARID. They have two stages: the black and cloudy phase where they shoot at ARID is when they are invulnerable. ARID must wait patiently for an opening. After they attack the cloud of black that surrounds their core will disappear, giving ARID free reign to shoot their internal blue energy. Halfway through the game you will gain the ability to absorb defeated viruses and use them against the remaining enemies. There are also segments where ARID controls her hosts and fights enemies in slow motion, kicking and punching those trying to take her down. A few crucial boss fights are scattered here and there, but nothing that really impressed me.

The action packed platforming gameplay early on is somewhat misleading, as the actual meat of the game takes place while ARID is controlling different robotic creations. These sequences have somewhat generic point and click mechanics, with ARID being able to view and interact with many objects around the world. Most of these don’t present interesting backstories and a lot of them (e.g. the butler’s master and mistress) are never fully fleshed out. It feels as though most of the gameplay in these sections could have been more refined and concise.

I started to become frustrated during some of these sequences especially since the small clickable items in the game world are, for the most part, boring and just downright unimpressive. Furthermore, the boss fights and virus attacks are highly linear and repetitive. I found myself unable to find any sort of variety in combat. It was the same repetitive wait, shoot, absorb, repeat. Repetition in games is not necessarily a negative, for the most part, but in The Fall it felt as though this was just an obstacle to get through the story instead of a pleasurable experience.

The Fall Part 2: Unbound Review. Combat system
The strongest part of The Fall Part 2: Unbound has to be the puzzles. Yes, some are very simple and take nothing more than a few mouse clicks and logic to complete, while others are very frustrating and seemingly random. But once the player completes these they are the most satisfying and engrossing parts of ARID’s adventure. The downfall is that most players will just end up clicking every prompt repeatedly in order to progress. A lot of puzzles are blatantly obscure and require what seem like arbitrary prompts in order to progress. In my opinion, a good puzzle game has obstacles designed with logic in mind, where this title seems to have random assortments of items and objectives that must be pressed in a certain order to proceed. That is if the game doesn't impede progress due to technical hiccups, for there were several times in the story where I had to replay segments because the prompts that led to progress in the story didn't trigger properly. This wasn't a huge problem, as the game built in a "skip scene" feature, but it was still a slight annoyance to replay portions due to conditions out of my control.

Graphics and Audio

The game is graphically unimpressive, with a minimalistic look that attempts to mimic what an internal computer simulation would look like. The developers chose a dark and mysterious aesthetic, which is unobtrusive and done well. The engine does have beautiful lighting effects and smooth animations, but character jitter and low resolution textures plague the game in certain parts. The audio is good, but not great. Ambient tracks are played in low-action scenes where the character is exploring, and high-tempo tracks build up during fight sequences. As I said, the sound was good, but not something that will blow you away in terms of auditory fidelity. In fact, the technical aspects of the game as a whole seem to follow that pattern: The Fall Part 2: Unbound is definitely not the worst game I’ve ever played graphically, but it’s not something that will impress the masses.

The Fall Part 2: Unbound Review. Brilliant atmosphere and lighting

Conclusion

The Fall Part 2: Unbound is definitely an improvement upon the previous iteration in terms of gameplay, but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of fit and finish. The story is somewhat strong, with voice acting and audio being unimpressive at best. In terms of gameplay, it seemingly doesn’t know what it wants to be. Every now and then there is platforming and Metroid-style shooting gameplay, but it then quickly shifts to a point and click adventure game with somewhat witty dialogue spread throughout. I don’t see much replay value in this title, but the entire experience was adequate and enjoyable for a first play-through.

PROSCONS
+ Engaging story– Long and tedious puzzles
+ Witty dialogue– Repetitive gameplay
+ Interesting concept– Generic and uninspired aesthetic
+ Beautiful lighting and animation

7
Good

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