The Fall – Last Days of Gaia

The Fall (of Decent Design)The Fall – Last Days of Gaia is a post-apocalyptic RPG by German developer Silver Style Entertainment. The original version was plagued by bugs to the point of being unplayable, but there’s a “Reloaded” version out which you can get at “budget” prices (what a weird term).

Anyway, since I’m a fan of such games – Fallout 1 & 2 above all – and because I really miss playing good RPGs, I decided to give this one a shot. As with most RPGs I’ve recently played (Gothic 3, Two Worlds, a bunch of others) it is ultimately disappointingly stupid.

Now, I should be fair. I haven’t played the game much. Certainly not enough to be able to offer a completely objective opinion. The reason I haven’t played it much, however, is not because I didn’t want to. It’s because the flaws this game has are so annoying as to prevent me from playing for more than 20 minutes without banging my head against the keyboard and causing all the cornflakes lost therein to pop out. OK, that was both disgusting and untrue. There are no cornflakes in my keyboard. I have no idea what those things are.

Anyway. This is not going to be a full review, because I have neither the time, nor the in-depth knowledge of the game to write one. So it’s going to be a list.

  1. The graphics are very nice and very detailed. Unfortunately, since the camera controls are shit and you have to control a team of six people, you are constantly playing the game at minimum zoom. And it’s still annoying – like when a character is between two buildings and you can barely control him because the camera can’t go through the houses and you can’t get a useful perspective. This kind of nonsense happens all the time. It doesn’t help that the camera cannot range freely and is always tied to a character.
  2. The German voice acting is bowel-crunchingly awful. The lead character is a super-wimp, there is barely any emphasis, and I don’t think these people have ever even heard of the concept of acting. It’s all the more painful when I’ve just spent so much time playing Gothic 1 & 2, which have great voice acting. (Note that with both games, German is the original language. This is not a translation issue.)
  3. I am SO tired of RPGs with RTS controls. If I wanted to play a bloody RTS, I’d play one! Baldur’s Gate started it, but there it at least half-worked (though most strategic elements went out the window). In The Fall, it does not work. As usual, you spend most of your time fighting the path-finding AI rather than the game’s opponents.
  4. Speaking of which, considering this is basically a squad-based RTS, combat is just painfully bad. The designers apparently couldn’t decide how much control the player should have and how much should be done by the AI, so they decided on a mixture that incorporates the worst of both worlds. Even if you switch off all the automatic stuff, you still can’t control your characters decently – they still run around like headless chickens, straight into enemy fire. The idea of holding their position seems foreign to them. And the AI is just plain dumb. I mean, incredibly dumb. It makes lemmings look intelligent. It’s almost impossible to keep your characters from getting themselves killed every five seconds.
  5. The game incorporates all the good squad-based stuff: kneeling, lying on the floor, that kind of thing. It even has some very cool original features, like the ability to play dead. Unfortunately, none of this is any good, since you can’t really control combat, and since there is next to no interaction with the environment. (One of the first missions consists of defending a village. I love this kind of stuff. Positioning people where they have cover, putting people of roofs, setting traps, that kind of thing Doesn’t work. You just end up shooting around like an idiot and getting killed. Positioning people makes no real difference, neither does their posture.) Why could X-Com: Apocalypse do all these things in 1997 and why can’t The Fall do them nowadays?
  6. The game has a ton of great details. Getting flesh and fur off animals, finding water, looking for good places to sleep, etc. This is the meat and potatoes of RPGs, or at least of the kind of RPGs that I like, and is only rarely implemented these days. I was so excited when I read the manual. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to do much of all this, because the gameplay and the controls and the graphics are SO FUCKING ANNOYING. Why didn’t anyone notice this? Don’t these people play their own games? Don’t they test them? WTF?

I’ll keep on playing the game, and trying to have some fun. If I manage to do so without going crazy, I will report back.

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