“She would have liked to tell them that behind Communism, Fascism, behind all occupations and invasions lurks a more basic, pervasive evil and that the image of that evil was a parade of people marching by with raised fists and shouting identical syllables in unison. But she knew she would never be able to make them understand. Embarrassed, she changed the subject.” – Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
With a Limbo-esque chiaroscuro art style, and an atmosphere inspired by the “emotions of living in such a fearful and alienating society” as the communist country its Romanian devs grew up in, The Black Fall Kickstarter campaign oozes with potential. The video will send all pseudo-intellectuals (like myself) running for their copies of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, so they can quote a few passages and feel relevant.
In the post-industrial, post-human world of The Black Fall, every humanoid you encounter “is a potential enemy, an informer, a criminal,” each “animated by suspicion, fear, and uncertainty.” Even the take-over of the world reeks of communist allusions, as the benevolent Machines who once worked alongside humanity toward an ideal have now transformed so that “these days, Machines ARE the system. Oppressive and hostile towards humans, their role is to ensure absolute control over everything that lives.”
What was it that Kundera said? “Criminal regimes were made not by criminals but by enthusiasts convinced they had discovered the only road to paradise. They defended that road so valiantly that they were forced to execute many people. Later it became clear that there was no paradise, that the enthusiasts were therefore murderers. ”
Okay that was the last one, I swear.
The Black Fall originally appeared on the interwebs in July, when the game became available on Early Access (since removed.) Yet however promising the atmosphere proved then too, many described the Early Access game as something closer to a proof-of-concept prototype than any sort of enjoyable Alpha. But considering that Sand Sailor Studio only plans on releasing in August 2015, and claim that the Alpha already doesn’t reflect what they have now, The Black Fall still has time to deliver on its promise.
Many of the features that weren’t included or too unpolished remain intriguing concepts in conjunction with the communist atmosphere. For one, there’s a reputation system based on which combat style you choose (stealth or guns a’balazing), which make the Natives (the humanoid enemies) react to you accordingly. I suspect any outright lack of compliance will probably make them less than willing to help. They’re also adding a feature that would allow players to control the Machines in order to solve certain puzzles.
But The Black Fall‘s real heart is a team that seems dedicated to communicating a nuanced perspective on the complex emotions that come with growing up in a state that most of us will only ever read about. As children during the regime, they remember playfulness as much as hardship. “We invented a lot of cool games and ways to pass the time. We red a lot, climbed trees and get into any sort of trouble you can think of,” the creators say in a comment on the campaign. “On the other hand there was the grownups world. We saw our parents suffering because of the regime. There was a lot of mistrust back then. People were encouraged by the state to spy on each other and you definitely couldn’t speak your mind. So all and all we have mixed feelings about that period, warmth and joy but also alienation and suffering.”
Potentially because of some backlash from the less than stellar demo, their still pretty far behind their £25,000 goal with only three days to go. The Black Fall will be available on PC, Mac, and Linux, though they’re promising console ports if they surpass the funding goal.