I tend to avoid roguelike titles, as I don’t like the idea of losing my gear and progress after death or a game over screen. Thankfully, Fallback is a game that managed to keep me hooked, even after countless deaths and in turn, repeated unskippable dialogue sequences.
Fallback borrows all the best elements of a good post-apocalyptic setting — including things such as evil robot overlords, despair and a subterranean hellscape, in which humans are enslaved (by said evil robots).
In Fallback, players assume the role of a soulless prisoner, known as the Bearer of the Plant, which upon death, is easily replaceable. The intentionally generic-looking characters are made unique by their class or job. Playable character jobs range from classes such as the Technophobe, which encourage backstabbing enemies for additional damage, to jobs that offer more range (and thus safety) such as the Seismologist.
In terms of the designs themselves, the playable characters in Fallback look a bit like what would happen if you crossed Christopher Nolan’s take on Bane, with the psychopath character from the Borderlands series. In other words, Fallback does an apt job in portraying its take on a post-apocalyptic setting.
The world of Fallback is also quite striking, with its rusty reds, stifled with muted browns, juxtaposing the more vibrant-neon colours that ooze out from the robots and other hazards of the underground labyrinth. The colour yellow also plays a big part in Fallback, usually acting as a marker for safety or indication as to where the player can proceed. The use of colour is particularly important as Fallback is a 2.5 title with randomly generated rooms, often containing paths that go into the background or are otherwise, well-hidden.
The story present in the game is serviceable, elevated mostly by its comic book inspired cutscenes, which kind of made me think of Wall-E Nier Automata of all things, ultimately making for an interesting experience.
I have to admit, at first, I did not enjoy Fallback, I found the ramping difficulty curb to be a little too overwhelming. However, the trick to Fallback is in its unlockables and skill trees, which might sound obvious, but Fallback is a title in which the right upgrades are essential to success. Upgrades come in two forms: modules and skills. Starting with modules, which are ethereal, meaning they only persist as long as the player is alive, can be considered to be your typical collection of augments and powerups that slowly trickle in and allow better odds at survival.
Skills, on the other hand, are permanent upgrades that can only be unlocked by finding and freeing prisoners. My best advice to new players is to just stick to finding prisoners and getting the skill tree as close to as full as possible. By the end, the skill tree takes a considerable amount of points to max out but ultimately grants the player with essential perks such as double the starting shield, additional damage and having the ability to heal before a boss encounter.
If it wasn’t clear already, Fallback is a tough game, which is both a blessing and a curse, depending on the kind of player you are. In other words, Fallback can be a little too difficult in the beginning, especially some of the boss encounters.
Those who stick with it, however, can persevere and eventually become strong enough through both the upgrade system and from the skill gained from playing. Fans of exploratory games and those who like a tough challenge will likely enjoy the satisfaction of overcoming some of the harder trials present in the game.
Death is everywhere in Fallback, often requiring players to memorize the timing necessary to stave off a game-over screen from the onslaught of both enemy characters and traps. Coupled with the fast and frenzied nature of the player movements, Fallback can quickly become an intense but rewarding experience, something I think is unique to the roguelike genre, and something Fallback does rather well.
At the end of the day, Fallback is something I can only recommend to those who really like a challenge in their videogames. Otherwise, Fallback is best enjoyed in small bursts in order to gradually build up skills in the level tree, in the hopes of becoming strong enough to overcome the ever-increasing difficulty of the game.
Fallback is game that aptly takes the elements of a good roguelike title, wrapping it up in a unique aesthetic and approach to exploration. The game is only slightly held back by a difficulty curb that some may not have the patience to endure, especially for those who are new to the genre.