When The Fall released in 2014, there were few games that had attempted to handle the concept of artificial intelligence seeking self realization. The idea of an AI eventually achieving consciousness by subverting its own rules was a novel one and certainly made the game memorable. Four years later, The Fall Part 2: Unbound seeks to return to this world and while it’s still an interesting world, with the increased focus on these concepts in other games, it might not have been enough.
The Fall was centered around the AI known as A.R.I.D. Arid was a combat AI with the direct purpose of protecting the user of the combat suit she inhabited. However, after subverting several other systems and coming close to achieving full self-realization, it’s revealed that there was no user in her suit, and all of her subversion had been done to essentially protect herself. If you don’t remember the plot, The Fall Part 2 includes a handy refresher with more information, however when specific things are referenced, it might take you a second to specifically remember what it’s related to.
The Fall Part 2 picks up with Arid being decommissioned and being injected with some form of virus. Her sense of self-preservation kicks in and she eventually finds herself inhabiting a network of various robots scattered throughout the base she is on. As she begins to take over these robots, she actively begins to harm others to achieve her goals.
There is no way around this: Arid, for a vast portion of the game, is an absolutely unlikeable protagonist. She’s specifically willing to harm others and when you are given a choice between making reasonable decisions and brash decisions that will only cause harm, she will always override your choice and choose the brash decision. It’s a bold idea to create such a thoroughly dislikable character, as Arid is willing to put these other robots through absolutely abhorrent things in order to survive. While there is a redemption arc, it does feel somewhat muted as you spend so much of the game being so unlikeable.
There are three main robots that you’ll possess throughout your time. One is a butler robot who’s masters are long dead. However, due to his need for routine, he still performs the same tasks every single day. There is a combat robot who believes that he’s a unique individual in a massive army of similar robots. Then there is the companion bot who is designed to respond to the needs of humans, whether it be for simple discussion or for sex. And BOY OH BOY, does she get treated like utter garbage.
Each of the arcs are unique and the end game actually involves you returning to these robots after you’ve absolutely destroyed them in profound ways and integrating each of their perspectives. Again, though, it hardly makes up for the fact that there’s a scene where Arid uses her force to persuade the companion bot to utterly degrade another human being and then forces that robot to have sex with that human against her will. I get that there was some need to actually make Arid into this utter monster of a being, with no sense of the morality that comes with consciousness, but it’s really rough to actually sit through these reconciliation scenes after everything that happens.
There are a lot of common gameplay elements regardless of who you are playing as. There’s still a heavy emphasis on exploring the environment and solving puzzles. Playing as Arid within the network, you have to fight off various forms of the virus, while you explore the environment, gaining new abilities and opening up new areas. There are also several fighting sections, reminiscent of One Finger Death Punch where you press a button in a direction that you are being attacked from to punch an enemy. It’s a weird addition but once you figure out how it plays, it’s not unwelcome. For players uninterested in combat, however, there is a mode that reduces the combat.
The puzzles themselves can be incredibly cryptic at times and incredibly simple at others. There’s not a real difficulty curve in these which is a shame. As mentioned previously, you eventually will integrate each of these robots perspectives, which open up new insights into the world and the puzzles, but they largely remain unchanged.
The Fall Part 2: Unbound is ambitious but it seems in parts to almost go too far at making Arid as unlikeable as possible. It’s clearly intended and if you can get past those characterizations, you’ll find a game that, while not as revolutionary as the original, is still incredibly solid. The developers made Arid a very risky character though. With her being “unbound” from morality, she often becomes unlikable and, at points, her actions directly are in conflict with what the player wants. It’s certainly risky and each player will come away with their own thoughts on how well it worked. Personally, I think that it made her unsympathetic but I didn’t dislike the game as a whole. If you enjoyed the original, you’ll likely enjoy the sequel but how much you’ll be looking forward to the third part is going to be heavily subjective by the end.
SCORE: 7.0 out of 10
A code for The Fall Part 2: Unbound was provided to Pixel Related for review.