The Fall Part 2: Unbound

One of the most disappointing moments that I have experienced in gaming over the past few years was when the credits abruptly rolled at the end of The Fall: Part 1.  There was no “Part 1” in the title, so I went into the game expecting a complete story.  Instead, I got five terrific hours of a story that ended on a cliffhanger, the first episode in a series that had no promised second episode at the time.  To my pleasant surprise though, almost four years after releasing The Fall, Over the Moon Studios has released The Fall Part 2: Unbound.  This follow-up continues the story of the previous game and takes it in some interesting directions.  The story ends up, once again, being the strength of the game, while the gameplay exists mostly to serve that story.

The main attraction of the game is the saga of the A.I. character A.R.I.D., and how she goes about reclaiming her body while uncovering the mysteries underlying the first game.  Unbound picks up immediately where the first game left off, with a confused and disembodied A.R.I.D. wondering what she is supposed to do next.  And herein lies one of the storytelling faults in this game – the first game came out so long ago that there is a good chance that unless you've played it recently, you will have forgotten most of the content.  The “previously on” summary is almost worthless - it left me a little confused and disoriented at the beginning.  If you intend to play The Fall Part 2: Unbound, then you should probably brush up on the story in Chapter One via Youtube or Wikipedia.

Right after a short introduction, the story immediately moves into cyberspace, which gives it a completely different atmosphere from the first game.  About half of the story is spent in this virtual reality, and the other half is spent with A.R.I.D. essentially taking over the minds of other androids that she hacks into from cyberspace.  It is a significant departure from the first game, which had A.R.I.D. exploring a crumbling, rundown facility in a horror-like atmosphere.  The Fall Part 2: Unbound is more of a pure science fiction experience, with an increased focus on philosophy and ethics pertaining to artificial intelligence.  I did miss the atmosphere from the first game, but the sci-fi elements did a decent job of making up for it.  A lot of the subject matter has been in a lot of games the past few years, but The Fall Part 2: Unbound still manages to offer some unique takes on it.   If you enjoy this kind of material, then the story should keep you engaged, even through the parts where the gameplay bogs it down.

Over the course of your travels, you meet three AI characters with some interesting backgrounds and nuances.  Your interactions with these characters provide many of the story’s highlights.  One area where the story comes up short, however, is in its big reveal towards the end.  About two thirds of the way through it, you get the information dump that you have been seeking since the end of the first game.  I found that part of the story to be largely unsatisfying.  The game has an antagonist, and that antagonist’s motivations didn’t make a lot of sense to me.  The basic hows and whys get explained, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions that linger from both chapters of The Fall.

To facilitate the story, the game alternates its gameplay between exploration, rudimentary puzzle solving, and brief action sequences.  Like a lot of modern adventure games, The Fall: Part 2 offers puzzles that are relatively simple and straightforward: you interact with NPCs, pick up the occasional object, and use those objects in the environment to advance your goals.  For the most part, these puzzles are unsatisfying, and they fail to offer the player the satisfaction of cleverly solving the game’s challenges.  You solve most puzzles by simply highlighting every object in the environments and interacting with them until you find the result that you need.  There are a few exceptions to this rule and a handful of cleverly designed problems, but if you are a fan of adventure games, then you may be find this aspect of the gameplay to be lacking.

Exploration is also a major part of the game, especially in the cyberspace portions.  In order to find your next objective, you travel between nodes until you find a robot host whose mind you can inhabit.  In all of the game’s areas, you can find background information on the story, which you will need if you want to fully understand it.  This aspect of the game though, unfortunately, requires a lot of monotonous backtracking.  This problem is made worse by your slow walking speed and the absence of a run function.  The first robot character that you inhabit, in particular, has a rather dull routine that you have to repeat many times to finish his area.  Some of the cyberspace travel can have you wandering in circles as well.  If you are ever tempted to put the game aside, it is likely because you are tired of slogging your way back and forth on foot.

The last major feature of this game is combat.  Like the combat in most adventure games, it would not be good enough to carry a game by itself, but it is more than adequate within the game.  In cyberspace, there are the occasional short-lived encounters with virus-like creatures whose attacks you need to dodge and counter with your pistol.  There are also some surprisingly fun martial arts combat encounters with one of the androids that you interact with.  The action in the game controls fairly well and is adequately challenging without being frustrating.  It is mostly an asset to the game and it does a good job of keeping a sense of danger present throughout it.

When I try to come up with words to describe The Fall Part 2: Unbound, the one that comes to mind most frequently is “adequate”.  The adventuring portion of the game is adequate.  The combat is adequate.  The story adequately continues from the first game without standing out as excellent.  If you have been eagerly awaiting the continuation of the story from The Fall, then the next chapter of that story is easy to recommend.  It doesn’t, however, have the same emotional impact as the first game, nor does it provide explanations that tie up all of its loose ends.  The game’s subject matter is not entirely fresh, but its unique take on the ethics surrounding artificial intelligence at least keep it interesting.  If you played through the first chapter, then you should eventually pick up and play through the second chapter as well.