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Video Game / The Fall (2014)
aka: The Fall

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Set in a dark, distant sci-fi universe, The Fall is an ongoing trilogy about ARID, an artificial intelligence on-board a futuristic combat suit. The Fall is a unique blend of traditional adventure game puzzles and action, mixed together nicely and set in a world rich with atmosphere. Players of The Fall will find themselves thinking, exploring, and sometimes fighting with the world and its unusual inhabitants.

In the first instalment, she is activated one day to find that the human pilot of the suit is unconscious and in desperate need of medical help. ARID's directive is clear - take her pilot towards medical attention. However, as she struggles to take control of the suit and help her non-responsive friend, she finds herself in a unique and bizarre situation that will cause her to question her rigid relationship to her various protocols and ultimately her self understanding. In the second instalment, ARID switches her developing consciousness between a virtual world, and three real-world situations where she must inhabit different robot bodies and work with (and occasionally around) the limitations of the artificial intelligences contained within.

The Fall was released by Over The Moon in 2014, and it is available on Wii U, Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can buy it on Steam here. The Fall Part 2: Unbound was released on February 13th, 2018. The third installment is still in development.

Has no relation to the 2004 Western RPG The Fall: Last Days of Gaia, and neither of them are related to the 1956 Albert Camus novel, the 2006 Tarsem Singh film or the BBC crime drama.

The Fall provides examples of:

  • Ability Required to Proceed: An example of Gameplay and Story Integration, as the suit has several powerful abilities it can employ to bypass obstacles. However, for safety reasons those abilities can only be triggered at the command of the human operator and are unavailable to ARID. Unless such abilities are immediately required to save the pilot's life, in which case emergency exceptions are allowed authorizing ARID to employ them. When she starts intentionally putting her operator In Harm's Way to better protect him is where her programming starts to get murky...
  • Adventure Game: Much of the game consists of puzzles, collecting items, using items on each other, etc.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The general theme of the game: AI doing things they're not supposed to, in order to better fulfill their protocols.
  • Animated Armor: ARID herself is the driving artificial intelligence on a suit of Powered Armor. Should the wearer become incapacitated, protocols allow her to override manual movement routines and autopilot the suit's motive abilities to find medical and/or diagnostic facilities. The story begins with those override protocols being enacted. She cannot activate the suit's more exotic and powerful functions unless the situation should conspire to make them necessary to save the pilot's life. Of course, the situation has a handy co-conspirator in ARID who finds out that she can put herself in harm's way to have a reason to activate the functions...
  • Artificial Intelligence: ARID, the other ARID units she meets, and The Administrator are all examples of this.
  • Batman Gambit: The Caretaker tells ARID that she can change the testing criteria in the domestic robot testing facilities by accessing the central Mainframe. In doing so, he can threaten ARID and put the Mainframe in a position where it might violate protocol, and thus justify shutting it down.
  • Black Humor / Video Game Cruelty Potential: The player needs to invoke this in most of the Domesticon puzzles.
    • Feed a child: Put a dead person's head on the plate. It's got enough protein, right?
    • Quiet down a crying baby: Vacuum it with a broken destructo tube.
    • Helping Granny Cross the Street: Purposely get her hit by a car, then carry her the rest of the way.
    • Help a child have fun on a playground: Hook up his merry-go-round to a superpowered engine, thus making it spin so fast that the child goes flying off into the background.
      • <The child is satisfied.>
    • Pretend to be subservient to humans: Alter your own programming to allow you to be deceptive and thereby become more dangerous to humans.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality:
    • One way in which the various robots are presented as truly alien is their morality, which is based around their protocols. In particular, robots are usually not afforded much value - ARID struggles against her deactivation only because it jeopardizes her pilot's survival. When she notes a fellow suit's occupant is dead, she concludes that the AI on board has no purpose anymore and deactivates it to salvage its battery. In fact, she informs the AI of this and it completely agrees with her assessment.
    • The only character with a set of morals close to human is the Mainframe, who has spent a long time experimenting with the limits of his protocols while unsupervised.
  • Boom, Headshot!: A successful headshot will literally blow the head off droids.
  • Chekhov's Gun: ARID's health diagnostics system is damaged. This prevents her from knowing she has nobody inside.
  • Cliffhanger: ARID's remaining two protocols are erased, and she wakes up. "To be continued..."
  • Creepy Crosses: The Caretaker has been crucifying both droids and humans on makeshift crosses.
  • Determinator: ARID will stop at nothing to get medical attention for her pilot, including questioning her own protocol.
  • Exact Words: The "correct" answers to the Domesticon puzzles rely on this to varying degrees as the state of the facility make passing the challenges using traditional means impossible. In some cases the answers cross over to outright Insane Troll Logic.
  • Glamour Failure: The Caretaker sometimes deploys a hologram around himself to make him look like one of the facility staff. However, this projection is just a skin over his robot-shaped face and mouth-grill so he just looks more bizarre. If you ask him about it, he gets testy and says, "Do not evaluate me." And the trope gets Inverted, During the fight with him, the Caretaker is vulnerable when he does try to use his glamour.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: A Central Theme of the game, and done by most of the artificial intelligence cast.
    • The Mainframe has the capacity to refine his interface protocols to better interact with humans, which he has been running for several decades. In doing so, he has developed a more naturalistic voice, but also grew things like curiosity, introspection, and the ability to grow bored. However, he is still limited by the extent of his protocols, but has gotten good at working around them.
    • The Caretaker was programmed to keep the facility working efficiently, optimizing where needed, and assist in its primary function of evaluating robots. When it begins to see humans getting in the way of that efficiency as being "damaged" for doing so, well... We get a classic example of the "paperclip maximizer" problem — an AI that is narrowly programmed to perform a function as efficiently as possible can potentially do more damage without violating its programming than your standard rebellious AI could ever dream of. The Caretaker considers the damaged, decaying facility "more efficient" because, essentially, with no output, there is no "failure." No employees taking wages, no defective models coming off the line because nothing comes off the line.
    • ARID herself as she is forced to go to ever greater extremes in pushing the rules of her own protocols to comply with them begins to twist them around, ultimately subverting them.
  • Guide Dang It!: Since the interface icons do not appear unless you are pointing the flashlight near the correct spot, and some either do not appear or can not be interacted with (and thus appear to be background/aesthetic only) at first, you may need a walkthrough just to get through the first level (because the blood can only be picked up once you have the pan and you have talked to the other combat suit about the gun-stealing vermin; if you only have the pan, ARID refuses to collect the blood because she has no reason to do so), not to mention find all the things that you can and need to shoot instead of interact with normally. Likewise, some of the Domesticon merit tests and the second fish require a bit of backtracking. At least the few times you can network with something are called out (since every interface icon has an option to attempt networking, most of them useless).
  • Hannibal Lecture: The Caretaker gives such a big one to ARID that her system gets messed up, enabling her to lie.
  • Heroic BSoD: A literal example. In the end, ARID is in such despair that she lets herself be taken away by Domesticon security.
  • Interface Spoiler:
    • Subverted, you never activate some of those functions that look like they belong in a Metroid game.
    • Oddly, also played very straight; likely a programming oversight. Sometimes, when killed, ARID's head vanishes or gets knocked off, revealing nothing in its place.
  • Hypocrite: The Caretaker calls out ARID as defective for violating its own programming, while conveniently ignoring the fact it laid waste to an entire facility when it deemed humans as "inefficient".
  • Kansas City Shuffle: The game pulls this on the player to hide its biggest plot twist. It makes it seem very obvious that ARID's pilot is already dead, so you won't realize that the same hints could indicate the much weirder twist that there never was a pilot.
  • Laser Sight: ARID's pistol has one installed.
  • Living Macguffin: Colonel Josephs, ARID's pilot, who she spends the entire game working to find medical attention for. Since he's not actually piloting the suit, his location and status are unknown until the second episode.
  • Mind Wipe: The Caretaker performs one on The Mainframe, who is desperate as its current personality has taken it a long time to acquire. Both ARID and he are powerless to stop it.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Caretaker spends the entire game trying to stop ARID because she's gone rogue, but... she doesn't truly go rogue, and thus gain the ability to pass the final test, until he gives a speech that cuts through her rationalization that all her deviant actions are in greater service to her core directive.
  • Noodle Incident: Two of them. First, what glitches/errors did ARID have to get her dumped on a re/depurposing facility in the first place, and what caused the facility to be abandoned in the first place. The second is pretty interesting, because there's a line implying that the facility itself was pretty much stricken from Domesticon records.
  • One-Hit Kill: The headshots referred to above. There are also the steath kills ARID can execute if she hides into sufficiently dark background beforehand.
  • Powered Armor: The Mark 7 Combat Suits, with onboard ARID intelligence.
  • Robot Girl: ARID's body is androgynous, but has a woman's voice, and is referred to as female by the developers.
  • Robotic Psychopath: The Caretaker, whether by damage, bugs, or just a strange evolution of his programming, has clearly gone way beyond what he was intended to do. He puts robots up on maintenance frames, as he was programmed, but when he runs out of frames he makes more by building wooden crosses to hang them on, then starts hanging up people too when he believes that they are also "malfunctioning".
  • Rule of Symbolism: Used by the developers. The wooden crucifixes that damaged robots and people are hung from are intended as jury-rigged maintenance frames, but considering that things are just left hanging from them with no one to attend them afterward presents certain culturally loaded imagery. Further, the first part of the game takes place in a cave, and the achievement for escaping it is "Allegory".
  • Rules Lawyer: The Mainframe knows exactly what the rules are and exactly how far he can push them. He holds to this scrupulously because as long as he does not technically violate them, the Caretaker (being bound by its own set of rules) cannot kill him.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: ARID "kills" server farms full of domestic robots in her attempts to find medical treatment for a human pilot she doesn't even have.
  • Stock Audio Clip: The Mainframe regularly uses pre-recorded lines (denoted by greater/less than symbols and a generic chipper quality in his voice) that approximate the answers to ARID's questions before skipping over to his "real" voice and being more specific. Once the Caretaker has formatted him, all he has left are these stock clips.
  • Take Cover!: There's fully functioning cover system used by both ARID and her opponents.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: While ARID does not operate under the classic Three Laws, her Operating Parameters are similar; Must Protect Active Pilot, Must Be Obedient, and Must Not Misrepresent Reality (ie. Do Not Lie.) Played with in a Zeroth-Law fashion when ARID must deliberately place herself (and her pilot) in danger in violation of the first parameter, for the greater good of activating a special ability that will allow her to progress and thus get her pilot to a medical facility. The last quarter or so of the game involves a mission with the specific purpose of revoking the third parameter, for the same reason.
  • Wham Line:
    • "Oops. I'm sorry. There is no human present within the combat suit."
    • Right along with Mood Motif. It's silent save for ambient noises as ARID enters the medical bay, and while she begs The Administrator to scan her. Then, just as he says the above line, creepy, dissonant, tense music starts to play.
    • "Nothing... Nothing binds me..." Followed by ARID's OS kernel deleting all of her protocols.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Explored in-depth. ARID has no qualms with removing the power cell of another combat suit whose pilot is dead, and said suit's AI agrees with her assessment because both parties interpret him as being without function. Later, ARID must deactivate entire groups of androids who are being kept in stasis, because doing so will free up power for the Mainframe to flush water from a building, but the fact that said droids are still capable of performing their functions if they get off-world is raised. The Mainframe explicitly asks if their "lives" are worth sacrificing for the one human pilot inside ARID.
  • Who Forgot The Lights?: LIMBO was one inspiration for the game, and shares its heavily silhouetted look.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: The Mainframe is bound by the protocols he was programmed with, but he has had a lot of time to figure out how to push those rules without actually breaking them. ARID increasingly must resort to this as she navigates obstacles, finally subverting one of her core laws entirely.

Late Arrival Spoilers beyond this point.

The Fall Part 2: Unbound provides examples of:

  • And the Adventure Continues: At the end, the One, the Butler and the Companion have recovered ARID's body and are meeting up with a veritable army of the Others, ready to fight against humanity who want to assert their control over AI's.
  • Creature of Habit: The Butler, who awakens and powers down at the same times every day, to perform the same tasks every day, without exception. He is aware of the fact that the humans of household he serves are all dead even as he waits on them daily, he simply continues to bring them tea and apply makeup to their corpses, assuming they would have told him to do otherwise before they expired if they wished him to do anything different.
  • Cyberspace: With her Cranial Processing Unit removed, ARID's only ability to manipulate the rest of the world is via network access, which is represented as a digital landscape with areas corresponding to the physical locations they represent (i.e. an office building has projections of cubicals and desks.) Incoming connections are represented as flowing pipes, firewalls are represented as literal brick walls blocking passage, etc.
  • Expository Gameplay Limitation: When ARID inhabits one of her possible hosts, she's rigorously bound by their functions; trying to make them deviate off-course will cause her computer virus to flare up, and the host will retreat from the deviation to avoid infection. Furthermore, when the Butler is inhabiting part of the house's hardware, his body's movement range limits how far ARID can command it to go before the signal would be lost; and since the Companion directly interacts with humans, she needs to receive permission to service them in various ways.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: The Universal Companion's design invokes this. She is a "fully functional" gynoroid who's most common use is as a Sex Bot on the near side of the Uncanny Valley. However, that is a subset of her primary directive to make people happy. Her subroutines for processing and analyzing the emotions of others are very sophisticated and can interact with a great deal of emotional intelligence geared toward soothing. Her personality is exuberant when interacting with people, but quickly turns meek if she is challenged.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: ARIA eventually comes upon "One", an android whose AI is obsessed with self-distinction. He refuses to connect into a hub where others like him are located, for fear of losing his unique qualities, and any time you encounter other androids who have picked up his qualities through their Hive Mind, he retreats from them.
  • It's All About Me:
    • After losing her primary directives at the end of Part 1, ARID establishes a new directive: "Save Myself". For the most part, this is just simple self-preservation, but as circumstances become more dire, ARID becomes more desperate and the measures she is willing to enact more callous.
    • The One is obsessed with self-differentiation and self-improvement, to the point he rejects out of hand any company, intrusive or otherwise, and is effectively trapped in a narcissistic cycle of admiring his accomplishments and deriding those of others as "pathetic" to maintain his sense of distinctiveness.
  • The Jeeves: Invoked by the design of The Butler. Technically The Butler is the system of the entire household he inhabits, but the "personality" component of the system can only directly control one part of its hardware at a time. Most typically, this is an Android wearing a smart suit and interacting with a deferential and cheerful servant's demeanor.
  • Me's a Crowd: The situation for One, and he doesn't like it. He's part of a mass-produced series of androids who all cohabitate a region of the planet where they gradually develop a Hive Mind based on personal experiences which then filter into the server, being replicated by the Many; seeing proof that the Many share his vested interests causes him to start shutting down.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • ARID has a moment of this with each of the three intelligences she encounters once the effects of the virus she has spread to them become obvious, as well as Colonel Josephs' plans for the virus she just laid in his lap.
    • The Butler grows so dependant on his purpose that he starts speaking on his dead owners' behalf, using them to justify utter objectivity.
    • One has lost all sense of personal identity, asserting that he has become equal with anything within range of his sensors at the moment.
    • The Companion abused a member of the human crew, under ARID's guidance, and she's also a virus specimen readily within Josephs' clutches.
  • My Greatest Failure: The Butler once accidentally discarded an infant down the chute to the household's garbage incinerator, and the parents expired from grief not long after. His failure to uphold his programming and attempts to reconcile that with his other directives lead to him archiving the respective memories to continue his functioning. The results have made him a little... detached from reality.
  • Rogue Drone: One in a nutshell. He is obsessed with the idea of self-distinction, to the point that he becomes visibly disturbed when he sees the other drones beginning to imitate him.
  • Sanity Slippage: As a combat machine, ARID is normally stoic and pragmatic to a fault. However, the more obviously she becomes at risk, the more clearly desperate and emotionally disturbed she becomes. The Virus infecting her in fact is designed to enforce an emotional reaction akin to fear if an artificial intelligence's protocols are threatened in an effort to narrow its perception of options and prevent the Zeroth Law Rebellion scenario that lead ARID to abandon her original rules in the first place.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Though there's no indication that they've ever met face-to-face, The One absolutely hates everything about a Domesticon employee named Bob Davis. At a point in the story when he's having trouble differentiating himself from everything around him, he'll start asserting his distinction from other things more strongly when you indicate ones that are connected to Bob Davis in any way.
  • Teach Him Anger: In the final act of the story, ARID needs to share the perspectives of each of her host bodies with her other host bodies, allowing them to see outside the limitations of their own programming:
    • The Butler views things objectively, and needs to be taught to see how his actions affect others and how to realize himself.
    • The One understands things exclusively by how they affect him, and needs to be taught to appraise himself objectively and to appreciate others.
    • The Companion cares only for how her actions affect others, and needs to learn how to regard those others objectively so she can take care of her own needs.
  • The Virus: After having her head hooked up to diagnostic hardware, ARID becomes infected with a slow-building computer virus uploaded from a user elsewhere. ARID needs to trace the virus back to its source to try and find her enemy and save herself. She unknowing spreads the virus to everything she projects herself into along the route.

Alternative Title(s): The Fall