Something is afoot in the clubs across East Germany. A conspiracy has brewed and a cataclysmic event befalls this futuristic spin on the communist state. Having just released into Early Access today, All Walls Must Fall is set in a 2089 where the Berlin Wall never fell. Following a nuclear catastrophe, the state brings its temporal manipulation STASIS division into action, stepping time back ten hours to uncover the catastrophe and stop it in its tracks.
It’s a mish-mash of classic sci-fi and time travel tropes in that regard, right down to your Stasis trooper being a muscly guy with a cybernetic arm – you can practically imagine it being Stallone or Schwarzenegger in an 80s action romp. It’s a cool setting, especially with the game’s dark, ‘Tech-Noir’ infused graphics, its nightclubs filled with crowds tha mill back and forth from room to room, bar to dancefloor. If anything, the way the game plays is cooler.
With an isometric viewpoint, it looks like XCOM and other turn-based tactical games, but it’s actually much more like Superhot, as every step you make sees the world tick one step forward at the same time. It’s closer to being a real time action game, albeit one that can stop and pause for a moment to let you consider your actions. Of course, the game doesn’t let you simply sit there for hours on end, as it quickly starts to saps some of the time manipulating energy from you.
Combat is a blend of fast and furious gun battles and considered tactical play thanks to this, encouraging you to take cover and then pop off shots at enemies. Your agent’s got unerring accuracy, so you have absolute certainty in hitting his target, aided by the game shifting to asking for confirmation and warning you of incoming fire when in a combat situation, so you can reconsider.
Should you slip up, it’s hardly game over; with three time manipulating abilities available to you, if you have enough energy. Initially it’s simply stepping the game back a moment so you can perform a different action, but you can unlock further abilities to shift the game time back while you remain in place and the opposite, to shift yourself back but not the game. Three simply abilities, but they offer up plenty more tactical possibilities, including brute forcing your way past enemies by constantly resetting the world to before you were discovered.
However, there’s often a better way to go about things. Getting into a club often has you confronted by a bouncer who’ll initially refuse you entry, and you have a few options to try and talk your way past him, such as intimidation or making him laugh.
It’s a somewhat vague system initially and you can easily anger them until they’ll attack you, but you soon figure out which phrases seem to work best. I got good mileage out of intimidating them as an agent of the state, saying we would go after their family, or bluffing my way through with the vague assertion that I had something to fix.
At this moment in time, All Walls Must Fall is a little one note thematically. Every level I’ve seen in the Early Access release takes you into a German nightclub, having you try to get past the bouncers and then explore the building while searching for your objectives. As soon as you manage to complete the task at hand, you will face some enemies one way or another in combat, whether it’s an alerted guard stood next to your car or every single enemy in the club deciding that, while you might have intimidated them earlier, you’re fresh meat now.
On the one hand, it pushes you toward the game’s intriguing combat, and can lead to some brilliantly fraught action film moments, as you battle your way through to your car, while dozens of enemies send bullets your way from behind. On the other, it would be nice to be able to complete missions where you’ve worked hard to avoid detection or talk your way out of each situation and not have to run and gun.
Of course, that’s what the Early Access is for with regular content updates and expansions on the way to release. Drones, for example, are a new addition here compared to the Kickstarter alpha demo, both as enemies or as hacked allies, there’s a new mission type where you have to kill or coerce a group of enemies, more connected mission chains that give us a glimpse of where the game is headed, and so on.
I’m eager to see All Walls Must Fall take that next step, building upon its futuristic settings in new and interesting ways.