2014’s The Fall took many people by surprise. With a handful of issues to the side, it effortlessly blended together a solid Sci-Fi story with some deep and well thought out puzzle mechanics. It was hardly a revolutionary experience, but it scratched an itch that many other titles during that time just couldn’t get to. Over the Moon are back with a sequel, but have the issues from the first game followed suit? Not entirely, but that’s not to say that The Fall Part 2: Unbound is near flawless, far from it. Mercifully the game offers players the option to recap the events from the predecessor, which is great for those that never got around to enjoying the first installation. That being said, this is a sequel that’s much better and makes more sense when you’ve actually played The Fall, rather than relying on the short recap.
The nature of the plot rests with its title. Arid (Armoured Robotics Interface Device) is an AI that has since broken free from its shackles, and now unbound, faces an attack from a human user. Arid must now focus primarily on saving itself whilst hunting the user, utilizing any means necessary to get the task done. Infected by the user with a virus, Arid is unable to return to its body, meaning that unlike the original, much of this sequel takes place within the confines of a network. Being unbound doesn’t necessarily mean that you cant tether yourself to other entities, in fact, Arid will manipulate three robots to achieve its primary goal. Each of these robots come with their own rules and regulations, but will Arid work in unity with them? Or disregard their programming to get what it needs? Unbound makes for some interesting narrative, that cant be argued.
It’s worth pointing out that Unbound is the second game in a planned sequel, so there’s going to be some story elements and world building left open, for the final installation. I wont spoil what unfolds, but what I will say is that if you enjoyed the predecessor, you’re going to love what’s on offer here. Not only because the setting is vastly different, but because it’s more intricate and well paced. Controlling the other machines obviously means taking a trip outside of the network, which is achieved via system nodes. These machines offer unique ways to play the game, and come with cleverly implemented puzzle mechanics that helps shake up the overall experience. The actual gameplay on the other hand remains the same during these segments, regardless of which robot you are taking control of. You will control these robots the same way as Arid functioned in the first game, with a side-scrolling perspective.
During these moments, Arid is able to patrol the immediate environment in search of clues. It’s a very straightforward affair that sees Unbound leaning more heavily on its narrative, rather than its less than commendable combat aspects. Engaging with clues wont only move the progression forward, but it also tends to supplement the plot too, which is a nice touch. What I thoroughly enjoyed about these three robots, was that each needs to be tackled in a very specific way. I wont ruin how or why, but it’s at times like this when Unbound shines at its brightest. When in the network, however, Arid is more physically capable than ever before. This includes being able to move and jump more swiftly, protect herself with a shield, and utilize two modes of firepower to battle back looming viruses. Arid’s firearm will overheat from excessive use, which will in effect also make her jump ability deplete for a few moments.
I cant wholeheartedly say that I enjoyed these combat segments as much as other parts of the game, simply due to the lack of challenge. Granted, combat sequences are few and far between, but they should at the very least instill some form of tension. That, sadly, never pulls through. I dare say that the combat mechanics could have been entirely removed without compromising either the game’s length or its diversity. I would have loved to have seen much more emphasis on the puzzles, rather than the combat, but again, these sections don’t prove to be all that taxing. With that in mind, the puzzles are not overly complex or completely well structured. Puzzles should make sense, this is vital for ensuring that the player understands how to break them down. Unbound doesn’t always realize that, and at times can dish out a puzzle that lacks any real logic. This isn’t a regular occurrence, but it does become irritating when you simply need to rely on trial and error, due to poor design.
What I will say in defense of the puzzles is that when they work, they work exceptionally well. Some of the puzzles in Unbound are crafted with such depth and innovation, that you simply have to appreciate the developers for their ingenuity. Perhaps that’s why it’s such a stand out moment when you’re hit with a puzzle that doesn’t make sense. What truly does stand firmly as the game’s weakest element, is the visuals. Unbound is not a good looking game. The visuals are bland and not very exciting, giving off a very dated look throughout the entirety of play. The art design is passable and there’s certainly some interesting locations, but without a layer of polish, it’s just not enticing on the eyes. The conclusion of the story throws a ‘To Be Continued’ screen at you, and although I endured more shock and thrills from the original, the sequel still manages to hold its own and throw a curve-ball right at the last moment.
Unbound is bigger than the first game, but not necessarily better. I thoroughly enjoyed the thought provoking story, as well as the intriguing individual character stories. However, the dated visuals and the filler combat mechanics pull this otherwise well rounded experience just short of greatness. That said, the plot is worth the price of admission alone.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.