Since the mid 1950’s almost every piece of science fiction involving robots has borrowed from Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, a simple set of rules that any artificial intelligence should abide by. 2014’s side scrolling action adventure game The Fall centred on A.R.I.D (Autonomous Robotic Interface Device), a combat suit’s on-board AI and her mission to save the suit’s pilot in line with the first of these laws: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. At the conclusion of the game ARID was unbound from the suit, as well as the constraints of Asimov’s laws.
For those new to the series (like me), the original game’s plot is summed up in a prologue before picking back up with ARID as she sets her own, self-imposed parameter: to save herself. As ARID has no physical form, she must traverse a network in order to locate a person known only as The User that ARID believes holds the keep to her salvation. The Fall 2: Unbound takes place in two distinct plains – a digital network and the real world, with ARID inhabiting the body of another AI. Whilst travelling through the network, ARID is represented as a digital copy of the suit she once inhabited.
In typical Metroidvania fashion the digital network is sprawling and at times requires a lot of retracing your steps to find the correct path. Some portals to later sections of the game are inaccessible until ARID gains a certain ability or completes a certain task. Throughout the network, ARID discovers logs which further the game’s plot.
Whilst traversing the network, ARID comes into contact with a digital representation of a virus and must take out the threat in order to proceed with her mission. The encounters trigger shooter sequences, although ARID only has a finite amount of energy that can be channelled into either ammo or movement. Should ARID deplete her energy reserves she’ll need to buy time for it to build back up, avoiding incoming fire from the virus. Other than ammo conservation, all that one needs to do to succeed is wait for the virus to flash blue, which signifies their vulnerability, engage auto-aim and fire a shot, controlled volleys or single rounds at it. Simple stuff which sometimes becomes both a chore and an annoyance.
ARID is able to enter the physical world by inhabiting other forms of AI but must discover their weaknesses and exploit them in order for them to comply with her requests. There are three distinctly different characters that ARID encounters – a neurotic Krytenesque butler-bot, a zen-like warrior droid and a pleasure droid. Each has parameters that need to be broken so that ARID can gain compliance. Within the physical world, ARID is able to move the AIs and influence them by interacting with objects within the environments, bringing point-and-click style puzzles to proceedings.
Of the puzzles in-game, most can be worked out from gleaning information from in-game dialogue or the logs discovered in the digital world. Others can be a case of interacting with every possible object in the environment until an animation sequence triggers. If you do become hopefully stuck, it’s worth consulting the objective log found within the game’s pause menu. Whilst not strictly a puzzle, one of my favourite sections was a QTE-like combat sequence whilst inhabiting the warrior droid. After a battle the droid gives itself a ranking based on combos, hits taken, etc; something which I latched onto and was determined to get top marks on.
Whilst the Fall 2: Unbound’s plot and characters are interesting enough, the repetitive combat and infuriatingly fiddly puzzles let the game down. I also experienced some frame rate issues during some animation sequences, which really was noticeable as the action froze monetarily. Combat and graphical issues aside and as Metroidvania’s go (and the relatively few I’ve played), The Fall 2: Unbound is one of the better examples, and one worth looking into if you’re looking for a break away from your normal gaming bubble.