While no game has promised a sequel longer than Half Life 3, Over the Moon have kept fans waiting almost four years for the next chapter in ARID’s journey, The Fall Part 2: Unbound.
It’s been a while, and understandably you’re probably wondering how that development time has been spent. For better and worse, the game has undergone some radical adjustments. Some for the better. Some for the worse.
Yes, you still use your gun / torch combination to identify points of interest which can then be interacted with, but The Fall Part 2: Unbound definitely has more of a split focus now as you shoot through doors using different bullet types ala Metroid, and everything is interspersed with platforming and shooting sections. There’s no longer an infra-red to line up your shots, which means no more satisfying headshots. There’s also no takedowns, and the cover system has essentially been scrapped altogether. Now you don’t have to crouch behind boxes or lean beside lampposts, instead simply walk in front of pieces of the background environment, like wire fences, to protect yourself. This is because ARID’s enemies aren’t walking towards her, they’re flying all around her.
Most of the time, you’ll be contending against bacteria-esque anomalies which float around the screen in varying forms. When they turn a lighter shade of blue, you can blast them to smithereens as much as your energy bar will allow, but if they change to yellow they’re invincible, and when they turn red that means they’re about to attack you. This can be good fun, as you’ll definitely get those Samus-vibes from ARID as she backflips and rolls between platforms, but it’s certainly not perfect. While the enemies all seem to follow a predictable pattern, they got in far more cheap shots than I would have liked or appreciated, especially in certain sections. One, in particular, had me stuck in a permanent death loop because the virus kept shooting me before I had a chance to recover, then jump to get away. At that point, I was on the easiest difficulty setting.
This time out, ARID can have up to three bars in the top left of the screen. The first, System Integrity, is ARID’s health bar. The second is an energy bar which tells you how much firepower ARID has to use for her gun. If it depletes, she’s virtually defenceless until it’s had time to recharge, so you’ll definitely want to keep out of sight for a few seconds while it does. Finally, ARID can also use a special ability late on in the game which enables her to absorb some attacks.
And the eagle-eyed among you will have seen that there is another form of combat in the ‘I AM TRAIN’ trailer. Sadly, this can be equally, if not more frustrating, as it’s a fairly basic, occasionally demanding QTE. As ‘One’, you are a true master of martial arts who fights off waves of ‘The Many’ coming at him from either side. Simply press Square to punch left or Circle to Punch Right in order to fight through the machines, with the game grading you at the end of each conflict. You’ll start out with basic adversaries but eventually you’ll have to contend against machines that can block, switch stances, and have tougher armour. It’s when the game starts throwing these at you in bulk later on that it becomes more of a memory game you’ll need to time just right. But even when you are seemingly timing it perfectly, you’ll still find yourself getting beaten down in annoying, inescapable patterns. Sadly, The Fall Part 2: Unbound’s combat is full of these unforgiving glitches. Oddly, an issue it has not inherited from the original.
So, yes, for better or worse, The Fall Part 2: Unbound is significantly simplified compared to its predecessor with ARID’s abilities stripped right back. Battles lack the same tension, spontaneity, and spark of the original, with the weave-in and out of cover / shoot aspect never satisfyingly replaced. Rather than spend your time upgrading ARID’s suit to gain new abilities, this time around you’re following ARID’s strictly rewritten protocol to ‘Save Myself’ after the shocking events of the original. At the start of the game, she discovers that she has been operating outside of boundaries, suffered a system collapse and was dismantled.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Where The Fall was told from one perspective throughout, here you have three other AI hosts who can help ARID in her quest for survival. And the good news is that, even though the combat leaves a bit to be desired, the story is so engaging and complex that you’ll be hooked from beginning to end.
While The One is the only one to really offer any gameplay changes through combat, The Companion and The Butler have such strong personalities and individual goals that the way each of their scenarios play out feels like new games within a game. This is where the puzzle-solving comes into play. While Networking has also been scrapped, you can still use various items and discoveries on other objects, and this time shift between hosts so they can offer different perspectives and points of view while providing additional options.
Basically, if you enjoyed the ‘family serving’ section in The Fall, you’re going to feel right at home in Unbound because Over the Moon have truly gone all-in on that.
And narratively, Unbound challenges moral constructs at every turn as Arid looks to sabotage certain processes and protocols in order to fulfil her new directive. But in doing so, she learns more about her place in the world, how her actions can affect others, and more about her purpose. This is not the same character we met in The Fall, ARID is more three-dimensional. She’s unshackled, developing a sense of free-will, and learning how to contend with newfound feelings and emotions. All in all, it helps set the foundations for a very philosophical, thought-provoking piece that raises plenty of questions while giving other insightful answers.
Yes, the dark, brooding, horror-like atmosphere of the original is clearly absent here, but Unbound is more about the exploration of AI, their quest to fulfil their true potential and discover what it means to be a sentient being. It makes Unbound feel like a genuine second part to The Fall as it doesn’t try to recreate what’s already been done. Something that has been seen so many times before with sequels.
Not just that, but it feels more like the end-product of more experienced designers. The direction of the scenes makes for better story-telling, animations are less stunted now, more free-flowing and flexible. The soundtrack is punchy and genuinely contributes to the overall aesthetic and for the most part, the voice acting sounds more professional. Then there’s fast-travel pylons which are a welcome addition as well. The Fall did require a bit of backtracking at times which became quite tedious, but this is no longer an issue in Unbound as you can move around like a bolt of lightning.
With some hiccuping frame rate issues and combat misgivings aside, overall, I probably preferred The Fall Part 2: Unbound to the original. I felt more invested in ARID, I enjoyed the character development, the interactions and dynamics at play, and the overall movement between scenes.
And here’s the thing. The way Unbound is left off, with the story-telling capabilities Over the Moon have, and the mechanics they’ve introduced in both of their games, the third and final part can be outstanding. Maybe even one of the greatest independent releases of all time. With The Fall Part 2, OTM’s mission to merge a Metroidvania with a Point and Click Adventure has taken another massive, important step forward, despite being prone to a few wobbles.
The Fall Part 2: Unbound is not always perfect or pretty, and there’s still plenty of work to be done, but I guarantee few other games this year will go as deep narratively. You’ll quickly connect with its memorable characters, always be eager to know what happens next, and by the end, praying it doesn’t take another four years to reach a conclusion!
+ Deep, thought-provoking narrative
+ Nice merge of genres
+ Seamless movement and control
– A feeling of oversimplification compared to original
– Combat prone to glitches and bugs
– Occasionally juddering frame rate
The Fall Part 2: Unbound
8 out of 10
Tested on Playstation 4