Game: All Walls Must Fall
Kaleidoscopic lights flash, techno beats float between sweaty bodies, and the Cold War rages on. All Walls Must Fall is nowhere near the mainstream RPG. Don’t be fooled because it may seem like your typical mission based item-unlocking cyberpunk styled time manipulation adventure, but in reality? It’s so much more than that.
Indie trio inbetweengames hails from YAGER, the dev team who brought us Spec Ops: The Line and very nearly Dead Island 2 (which may still be happening if Deep Silver is to be believed). But All Walls Must Fall is a very different kickstarted kettle of fish, indeed. Swapping third person shooting for isometric, Unreal Engine-powered tactical operations transpiring within a rather clandestine gay nightclub, inbetweengames is killing two birds with one progressive stone; in this version of Berlin, propaganda and surveillance are the norm, and your job as a secret agent of Eastern temporal agency STASIS is to infiltrate clubs and interrogate suspects. It all sounds a bit complicated, but the grid-based gameplay runs very smoothly. The only exception to this is the jarring background fizz, which you can readily fix by tuning the maximum music loops on the audio menu.
The gameplay rests on three central pillars: combat, conversation and time manipulation. Players are free to play their own way, and the procedural generation of All Walls Must Fall guarantees you’ll have randomised AI behaviour each time, which is great. Play your cards right, and you’ll be able to sweet talk your way past the bouncer, but raise too much suspicion (displayed in an a responsive bar chart) and he turns hostile, forcing you to defend yourself in a slowed-down pistol showdown.
Gunning down enemies is easy so long as you’re standing outside the trajectory of their bullet. This is true even if you play with permadeath equipped, because your movements are contingent upon timed ‘beats’; imagine a turn-based tactics arrangement without being locked into battle where you can premeditate every action in slow-mo like the Matrix. All Walls Must Fall offers leniency, too. If you miscalculate your approach, and end up dead, or would rather try and avoid the combat you accidentally stumbled into, you can rewind time and try again. However, you can only rewind so much and so many times; spending ‘time’ consumes ‘time resources’, which is a currency you’re awarded at the completion of a mission depending on mission time, number of casualties, and so on. Imposing a limit like this works because it creates a sense of urgency and thrill.
The unusual set up gets addictive. I found myself relishing in the different ways I could streamline my movements to earn a better currency score, which you require to buy new weapons and abilities from the shop. It’s a fine little game loop, and I love the way inbetweengames frame a story of blackmail around solid gameplay rather than push it to the forefront. It’s got a diverse cast, but they’re actually doing something intriguing and noteworthy, something of substance. There isn’t a massive range of weapons, and like some other players on Steam, I too experienced the inexplicable start-of-mission death that (permanently) erased my progress through the first two scenarios. A manual save feature would improve this issue. Another more minor issue is on-screen displays from mission-related events still lingering in the mission complete screen, but like the save system, I’m betting these loose ends will be tidied up throughout the course of All Walls Must Fall‘s early access run, and hopefully before any future content drops.
In its current state, All Walls Must Fall plays like an exciting spy thriller, but not without some technical flaws. The tight, mission based expeditions and time mechanics gel together very well, and the flirty conversations add a certain spice. Despite a limited weapon range, the core gameplay is strong (and kinky) enough. A bug-free save system on the other hand would do wonders.
Full Disclosure: A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for purposes of this review.