You’d think I’d be more into adventure games than I am. In theory, anyway. I’m more of a deliberate game player; likely to take my time poking around in those nooks and crannies which is generally what the genre is all about. Usually this involves finding things that unlock arbitrary gates for you to either progress or get another piece of the story. My hang up, which is equal parts lack of nostalgia but also of living in a world where the archaic design just doesn’t belong, is the general obtuseness that surrounds these types of games. There are so many times, and this could just be my thought processes getting in the way, where I get frustrated easily because I missed something, either an item I forgot to grab or a piece of the puzzle I forgot to take into account. The older I get though, the more I realize this isn’t always my fault, but because of a lack of explanation or adherence to tropes that are best left behind.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because after playing The Fall I’ve realized you can have it both ways; the general structure of your typical adventure game can in fact have logical progression which in turn makes for a much more palatable game. Rather than having you stumble around heedlessly, The Fall makes sure to point out the areas and objects you’ll need to interact with in some by way of a flashlight that you use to highlight these spots. In most instances you’d think this would break the immersion, but considering you’re an A.I. in control of the space suit of an unconscious soldier it kind of fits the game’s overall theme rather nicely. More to the point it eliminates getting lost, which begets frustration.
Every item has a purpose, and once its purpose is fulfilled the game thoughtfully removes it from your inventory. This leanness means you can focus on the task at hand and really think about what you’re doing and how you can accomplish it. Likewise, the game offers different notes and story bits rarely as it is, but what’s on offer is usually helpful. Furthermore, anything of importance is logged so you can look it up again down the road, which was where I had a lot of my “oh yeah, that’s right!” moments. Like I said, I don’t usually have the mindset to figure these types of things out, but even I can figure out that a severed hand will help me open fingerprint-locked doors. Sometimes things felt illogical in that science fiction-like “because reasons” rule, but I could usually suss out the solution.
While I really appreciate the rational design of the puzzles in The Fall, I wasn’t as enamored with the plot. It starts off really strong with the aforementioned A.I. trying to save its pilot and all, but it starts to dive into the morality of artificial intelligence and its place in the world. It makes good points and it does set up some interesting scenarios as A.R.I.D. tries to break its programming in order to save its pilot, but when it starts having conversations with other A.I. in the facility it stumbles upon, I started getting a little lost as well as a little uninterested. It dipped back into that “because reasons” territory from time to time, which is where the game broke immersion for me. Although it’s not worth going into in great detail, it’s worth noting that the couple of instances of combat were also uninteresting and the only times I ever found myself triggering a fail state in The Fall.
There’s a sequel to The Fall but in all honesty I don’t intend to play it. The story ends in such a nice twist that at the very least I’m OK leaving it at that. Even though I’m slightly apathetic, at the very least The Fall has opened the door for me in terms of giving adventure games more of a chance in my increasingly shrinking play time. I get the sense that the genre is very slow to iterate, but this feels like the most substantial step towards palpability to the masses I’ve seen in a very long time. There’s enjoyment to be had in any game, but it takes something truly special to make it enjoyable to everybody. The Fall feels like a step in the right direction.