I Fell from Grace is a 2D adventure game with one of most fully realized branching stories that I’ve ever played. It presents a wealth of winding paths to be navigated by making meaningful and often disturbing choices. The narrative unfolds into a dark and pessimistic tragedy overrun with uncanny characters. The game flaunts grotesque imagery, in the literary sense, where the human body is distorted and morphed. A depressing and nihilistic view of humanity hides away in every corner. It openly prompts you to replay it over and over, making new choices and trying to solve a looming mystery. It’s weird, fun, and entertaining to explore.
I wish I could say this is an almost perfect game. But, there are some big issues with gameplay which bring down the experience immensely. The narrative and atmosphere are enough to carry the experience and justify buying the game. However, it doesn’t live up to its full potential.
While the thought and work put into the world and characters stand out, it feels like the game systems were not given enough development. How the player interacts with the world needs to be a priority in a game’s design. I Fell from Grace feels like it has only the bare minimum mechanics required. That being said, what I love about I Fell from Grace far outweighs what I disliked.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, I truly think so. Especially if you like adventure games already. Not only is it fun, but it leaves you thinking and wanting to play more. The issues with gameplay don’t really stop you from experiencing the game. At worst, you’ll need to split up your play sessions a bit more than normal.
It checks off all the boxes for games that explore the idea of choices and fate. I could see a game like this gaining the kind of community and fan-obsession that a similar game like Undertale has. They hit a lot of the same themes and both are filled with lore and unanswered questions.
If you don’t like adventure games, then you probably won’t like this one. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s firmly planted in that genre. So if you have a problem with the general conventions, this game isn’t trying to extend any olive branches to you. But if you like these puzzle filled, story-driven experiences than this is time well spent.
The Game (or The Tragedy of Henry)
Within the first minute, it captivates. A cryptic poem immediately sets the tone and a short scene foreshadows the gore to come. The world is bizarre. A city filled with people who speak completely in rhymes.
Without spoiling the game, our protagonist has a very long and painful journey ahead. It takes place over multiple playthroughs as you learn about who lives in this world and about Henry’s own life.
When we begin, his wife is terminally ill, he’s about to lose his job as a researcher at a pharmaceutical company, and their debts are growing. All this while the couple is still grieving after a miscarriage.
One morning Henry finds magical pills that cure any disease in his mailbox. It’s a great premise for a branching narrative and it will surprise and shock you with some of the choices you can make. I’ve not played a game that manages to follow through with so many decisions.
As you replay, you appreciate how little things build up into huge narratives. It feels like completely different stories from one playthrough to another. While there is no way to get a game over screen before reaching the end of a playthrough, some routes do end prematurely and are less kind to poor Henry. There is also a “true ending” for those with some patience. This ending wraps up the game in spectacular style and will no doubt generate enough fan theories to rival Lost or Inception.
The game teems with gore that leaves the player unnerved even in the 2d retro-styled art. It’s certainly not the first game to take this route. Hotline Miami comes to mind immediately. However, I believe the context of the gore is what’s shocking. I Fell from Grace revels in contrast. The characters seem to be in a normal world but are surrounded by terrifying scenes lingering behind closed doors. It’s unnerving how it appears to be normal, and creates an uncomfortable and weird atmosphere.
While I don’t normally place much emphasis on the quality of art, this is one of those few exceptions where look of the game tells as much of a story as the dialogue. You’ll explore an apartment building littered with trash and wanted posters, offices buried in moving boxes, and Henry’s own home cluttered and unfinished. The exposition and dialogue give context to these scenes to create rich little stories around every corner.
Gameplay is very straightforward. You move left or right on the screen to navigate the maps. When you come across an object you can interact with, a little subtitle appears above your character’s head. Pressing the interact key will either pick up an item, give you a few options, or simply give you some informative text. In some conversations, a timer forces you to make a split second decision. It works as a useful tool for ensuring the player realizes this specific dialogue option will have serious ramifications down the road.
You will be solving puzzles that are very reminiscent of classic point and click adventures. None of it is too difficult to figure out since the real focus in the game is on the choices you make. As I mentioned, the game prompts you to replay it several times while making new choices; through trial and error, you’ll complete an overarching quest to collect certain items.
The problem is, the first 20 minutes of the game aren’t that interesting after you’ve played it once. It felt like it took close to an hour before I would get to the branches of the story I had not yet experienced. On top of that, you will want to repeat a lot of the side quests each play through. It turns into a slog after 2 or 3 times. The branching narratives are great, but they are walled away by repetitive gameplay that becomes boring while you wait for the good stuff. You can’t help but think there’s a way to design this better.
A Limited Save System
Currently, the game limits you to 1 save slot. When you make a choice, the game auto-saves over your slot. It’s just annoying. If a choice has multiple branches, I have to replay everything up that choice to experience each branch. Simply being able to make a save before that choice would let you avoid needless repetition and make the game more fun on multiple playthroughs. I can accept that there is a creative decision in this mechanic, but it would be nice to see some elegant way to enhance the experience of replaying the game.
Not Enough Direction
The game doesn’t talk to you enough. For the most part, I found it to be very straightforward when solving the puzzles. However, if you walk past a required conversation or accidentally miss an item on the ground, the game confounds you on how to progress. You’ll find yourself backtracking and clicking everything over and over until you discover what you missed. It’s an old problem in the genre as a whole.
The game exchanges an overt hint system for listening to gossip around your office and by talking to people. It’s an interesting way to push the player forward, but I Fell from Grace doesn’t even have a quest log to accompany this. You have to pay attention to every hint in the conversations or you’ll miss some crucial point on how to progress the game.
Even making sure you pick up everything can be a bit of a chore. It was easy to miss items if you were not looking closely. This led to some really aggravating moments of confusion. The game offers no way to know what items you missed. If you stop progressing, it fails to notice. No help button or extra hints nudge you forward. On top of this, there are no real walkthroughs and guides to refer to at this time. So it can very be annoying to progress this game during short intervals.
A few glitches litter the game, but the devs patch them as players report them. I think the game just needs more players to poke it and find all the little problems. None of it is game breaking and I am willing to forgive this for the most part. Especially since they are fixing them.
The Score – 77
I really wanted to get across how impressed I am with what I played. It kept me engaged and I’m honestly itching to try one or two more playthroughs. I only got 33% of the achievements, so there is a huge portion of this game I didn’t even touch. For fans of branching narratives, this is a must play. I enjoyed watching the consequences of my choices fully realized. Each storyline has a great pay off. It’s entertaining and enjoyable. I can see this game becoming a cult classic and I don’t understand its lack of traction. Despite its flaws, there is a good game here.
I want to give the game a higher score. If I only had to rate the storytelling elements, this would be a solid 90. However, the lack of mechanics that would allow for better re-play potential hinder players from enjoying the amazing level of detail put into these branching narratives.
Available on: Steam
Developer: Deep Taiga