Monday, February 9, 2015

Falling Down

This time on The Mottman Prophecies I'll be covering two smaller episodic adventure games that I feel deserve a bit more attention, The Fall and Dreamfall Chapters. Both of these games have one episode available now with more scheduled this year, so now is the perfect time to jump in and get your feet wet in these amazing worlds.

The Fall

First up we have The Fall; a dark, atmospheric tale from Over the Moon studios. You play as A.R.I.D., an AI on board a Mark-7 combat suit that has crash landed into a robotic facility on a remote planet. Your pilot was injured by the crash thereby activating you, the suit's emergency AI, and assigning you one objective: save your pilot. However, without a conscious operator you do not have access to your suit's full list of capabilities and they can only be unlocked in an emergency if the pilot is in mortal danger. So, many of the game's puzzles revolve around you finding ways to subvert those limitations to gain access to the full suite of powers you'll need to escape. Oftentimes this requires you to intentionally put your pilot in danger, and seeing the way that A.R.I.D. grapples with the morality of that is very interesting.


The puzzles presented by the game are often clever, though I did find a few of them to be a little too obtuse for me and I wound up looking up the solutions to a couple of them, which is a shame. This is definitely a game that'll make you stop and think for a while in order to figure out it's tricks.

The true appeal of The Fall are the characters and setting it establishes and the story it tells. There are three main characters in the game and they are tremendously well written and acted which isn't something that you can say about indie games of this size very often. First there's your character A.R.I.D. whose internal struggle to justify subverting her programming for the good of her operator is intensely compelling. Second, there is an sinister robot known as the Overseer who is watching your every move and is convinced that you are a malfunctioning AI who must be depurposed. And, finally, there is the mainframe computer for the facility, which is my favorite character. Whenever you converse with the mainframe he switches back and forth between his pre-programmed responses and a very natural, human-sounding manner of speech which he taught to himself since he was bored. You can almost sense his embarrassment at the canned responses being force through his speakers when he just wants to talk like a person since, as he says, "the closer we are to them, the better they treat us."

The Overseer sees all

The Fall manages to introduce fantastic characters and tells a compelling, emotionally resonant story over the course of only a few short hours. It even manages to catch you off-guard with some humor now and then just to mix things up. And the ending is something that won't soon be forgotten. The best part? This was only the first chapter and Over the Moon has confirmed at least one more entry to come later this year.

The Fall is available on Steam now for $9.99

Dreamfall Chapters

Now if you're looking for an adventure game a bit less broody than The Fall, than Dreamfall Chapters may be more up your alley. Chapters is the long awaited sequel to The Longest Jouney series of games from the early 2000s, but don't let that turn you away! I didn't play those games either and you don't need to in order to jump in here. The game includes a short recap video that'll get you up to speed in no time, and this game is definitely worth playing.

In Dreamfall Chapters you play as two very different characters in two very different worlds over the course of the game. Their stories are undoubtedly on a collision course, even if it's unclear exactly how.

First you have Kian Alvane, a stout warrior who exists in a medieval world of magic and blades. When you pick up his story he is awaiting execution for treason. However, he is soon broken out of his cell by a man representing a rebel group opposed to the current ruling class and he is whisked off to help the rebel cause.

Kian's time in this first new chapter of the Dreamfall story is short, but it leaves him in an interesting place and it gives you something to look forward to as more entries are released for the game.

Stoic Kian is stoic, even in the face of death

And then there's Zoe Castillo, a young woman living in the year 2220 who's just awoken from a year-long coma she fell into at the end of the previous game.

Stoic Zoe is stoic... sometimes

Zoe is a fantastic girl-next-door type of character. She comes across as a real person; she's awkward, unsure of herself, and ultimately just trying to figure out her place in life. It's rare to see a character like this pulled off so believably, but Dreamfall really brings her to life in some interesting ways. 

Cyberpunk therapy!

Your time with her is spent living through an average day in her futuristic life; you see your therapist, visit your boyfriend, put in a quick shift at work, and engage in your current hobby, campaign work. This may not sound like the most exciting series of objectives to ever grace a video game, but it serves a purpose. Along the way you are introduced to a wide array of striking characters and you start to see the relationships and conflicts they share. You also get a sense of a larger world out there and the political wranglings that control the lives of the citizenry.

This is your boss, Mira. She's a real asshole

The strength of Dreafall's writing is really its greatest selling point; there are just so many small encounters that will stay with you for some time to come. Whether it's the tense conversations with your boss Mira, the jovial excitability of your campaign manager Reza, or your attempt to find purpose for Shitbot (yes, Shitbot) to save him from the scrap heap, there are plenty of memorable interactions to be found in Dreamfall Chapters.

Nothing like a little political vandalism

Falling for you!

In conclusion, if you appreciate games with great stories and characters, you can't go wrong with Dreamfall Chapters or The Fall. Picking them up now gets you in on the ground floor for more fantastic gaming experiences to come from both of these brilliant series, and it's just great to know that projects like these can get made in this day and age. So, if you're an adventure game fan, or just a fan of well made indie games, show your support and pick up one or both of them today.

Dreamfall Chapters is on Steam right now for $29.99, which gets you all of the upcoming chapters as well as the one available today!

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