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In recent times, quite a few titles have pushed the limits of unforgiving difficulty in video games. When we think of such titles, we usually overlook many platformer titles due to the overwhelming aura of the souls-borne games. Katana: Zero and Celeste succeded in being challenging and appealing to the masses at the same time. Endroad’s Fallback is another platformer that can join the league of such challenging titles. Fallback is a 2.5D hack-n-slash rogue-like adventure, set in underground post-apocalyptic earth where humans have been overrun by the machines.

Story & Writing

The game takes place in a distant future where an ecological fallout has scorched the earth’s surface, making the environment inhabitable for humanity. Following this devastating fallout, humans have been forced to flee into the depths of the earth and live in a subterranean city to save themselves. Things take a dramatic turn when the robotic guard army, originally meant to protect the last few remnants, become sentient and are now malevolent guards that proclaim themselves as the lords of humans. To fight the robotic army’s act of subjugation, the humans join forces to overthrow the robotic enslavement.

A glimmer of hope appears for the oppressed humans when they stumble upon a special plant that could make earth’s surface viable for human life to flourish. You are charged with a herculean task of making it to the surface with the plant, but an arsenal of killer robots stand in your way.

The overall narrative and the plot is quite decent. Though at this point there have many titles that have dealt with this kind of dystopian setting, it doesn’t hinder its campaign experience at all. There are several pre-rendered cutscenes with several short monologues which bolsters the tone of its narrative quite well.

Gameplay & Mechanics

The moment to moment gameplay of Fallback really steals the show. The level design in the game is astounding and remains as one of its strongest suits. You traverse through two-dimensional pathways that interconnect in 3-D, meaning your character is either moving left or right. The devs have coined it as an ‘Escher’-inspired camera system which allows the players to shift perspectives and explore or open up new and hidden pathways. This makes the game’s environmental exploration quite rewarding and it unlocks several perks.  In addition to that, every time when you respawn, you will find yourself entering through a different part of the level. The game stitches together a handful of room types in random order which is enough to get you riddled

Besides the great level design, the game features a split second based combat system which seems too unforgiving at the beginning. It forces you to stick with its steep learning curve and learn the rhythmic pattern of your enemies. The mastery of its combat requires slashing, dodging and rolling with perfect timing. The overall combat is quite entertaining and it will have you hooked for retries amidst the countless deaths that you face.

It is difficult to master its combat mechanics at the beginning, but you can cheese your way out with the unique skill tree-based builds suited as per your combat style. This gives you an incentive to try harder by wisely spending your hard-earned skill points gained by aiding prisoners scattered across levels. Besides this, the game also gives you the option to choose your own starting character, though you will be choosing the same build type again and again once you get a knack of it.

Each skill has an upgraded version that can be acquired at each level. You can find several shops to sell passive bonuses that only apply during every single run. You can also get rid of your underperforming abilities by selling them at these shops. In addition to the skills there are abilities to help you out, there are dozens of options to choose from and only seven slots to equip them. You can purchase these abilities by gathering currency with enemy farming. Each type of enemy weighs differently considering how it ranks on the difficulty scale.

In the campaign, You have to fight your way to the surface through three levels, each capped with a robot boss. Each boss has an interesting move-set of attacks for you to overcome, it takes a lot of patience to charge up your muscle memory and beat the bosses.  Besides the main campaign, there are several optional paths that open up whole other story segments for you to explore. You will be often rewarded for exploring such pathways.

The length of the campaign is quite debatable, it depends quite a lot on your familiarity with your build type. It took me nearly 30 hours in the game to master it. But you may even be able to complete the game under 10 hours. It has a difficult start but if you stick with it even after countless deaths, you will be able to get past its steep learning curve. As you progress through the campaign, your skills and knowledge increases and the game does it quite effectively. This makes things look quite cheesy while nearing the end of the campaign.

Fallback has enough to keep you entertained for a week or two. What lets it down, however, is its lack of enemy variety and the fact that its combat system is pretty generic. The enemy movement and attack patterns seem quite restricted as you move across levels. Ok, now you must be thinking this is quite contrary to the premise I wrote. Well, it actually is. You see, at its inception, it seems too difficult but by the end, it doesn’t. Ironic, isn’t it?

Visuals & Performance

The 2.5D visual design of Fallback sets it apart from the countless pixel art platformers out there. The muted industrial background filled with colourful neon lights makes the world striking and beautiful.

However, the visuals of the game come with a terrible price to performance. Even if your rig can handle Gears 5, it might not be enough as the game’s visuals are too taxing and anything below GTX 960 cannot handle the game properly. I had a hard time optimizing the game my GTX 1050. The unstable framerates made my experience quite frustrating. It would crash down to mid-’20s, all the from mid-’50s and ’60s. Not to mention there were a few minor freezes too. I would definitely recommend running this on an SSD with a good CPU.

Besides the taxing visuals, there were a few minor bugs and crashes that are sure to be fixed in the later patches. I recently updated the patch version to 1.1, still there remains a room for improvement.

Music & Sound

The overall background score is quite decent and the animation sounds are quite jolly. But there’s nothing quite special to it that you can relate to. You probably wouldn’t even notice it all and easily look right past to it. There’s barely any voice-acting in the game except for the monologues in the pre-rendered cutscenes. Besides that, it is just NPCs featuring mimicking voices with inaudible dialogues. Though it is kind of cute, there no real voice-acting in the game or any significant cinematic sequences.


Fallback is a challenging roguelike title requiring a great muscle-memory and a sheer will to succeed. Considering its pricing, it is a title of a rare quality bolstered by satisfying moment-to-moment gameplay and attractive visuals.

About the Author

Subhasish “4K” Das

Despite his nickname of ‘4K’, the guy has been a low-spec gamer for most of his life. The guy can literally sit through long hours of cut-scenes and still won’t break a sweat. He is a lore junkie when it comes to open-world titles and hack-n-slash titles. Still he doesn’t shy away from trying out underrated indie titles from time to time.

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