Berlin, 2089; the Cold War never ended and the Berlin Wall still stands. A nuclear bomb has gone off in the city. It’s up to you and your STASIS operative, Kai, to travel back and forth in time on a single night to figure out who was behind this attack. An attack which threatens to throw the world out of balance and turn this 150 year old Cold War, Hot. All Walls Must Fall.
A thumping techno beat drives you forward through the Berlin Nightclub scene, in a world coloured in the neon blues and greys of a cyberpunk dystopia as your backdrop. All Walls Must Fall is an RTS game which describes itself as taking inspiration from X-Com, Braid and SUPERHOT rolled into a compelling Tech Noir Spy Thriller.
Created by Inbetweengames, All Walls Must Fall sets you up as the Controller to a Secret Time Agent called Kai (you are acknowledged as such by the characters within the game). From your unique perspective outside the game’s timeline, you give Kai orders to carry out the mission given to you. Game time moves forward when you perform an action — attacking, hacking, walking — all of which depletes your Time Resources. These resources are stored for your use during a mission, and on harder difficulties, will deplete while the mission time ticks forward, not just when making choices.
Take too long, and Time will run out.
It is possible to regain some of this resource back however by exploring an area, or winning fights against enemies. You quickly learn the value of Time as a currency, as it powers a lot of your Time Manipulation skills which help you overcome your mission objectives a lot more swiftly. These skills are unlocked as you progress with Kai, allowing you to manipulate time in a variety of ways.
Rewind time, rewind yourself, control your surroundings and experiment during your missions and combat. If something doesn’t work, use your skills to reset and try again.
Did you fail a conversation and now the doorman is hostile to you? Rewind, and choose something else to say to him; maybe a little flirtation would lead to a better outcome? Walk through a door fully armed and set off the alarms? Rewind time, but keep yourself stationary on the other side of the sensor and make it so it never happened.
As long as you have the Time Resources available to you, you can correct your mistakes. This is a key concept of All Walls Must Fall, it makes you move and consider your options. Then reconsider them when things haven’t gone right.
Levels are procedurally generated, using an interesting — albeit small pool — of game assets, which paint the scene. The mechanics encourage you to think on the fly, and adapt to the situation as it unfolds before you. Coupled with the RPG element of upgrading yourself and your weaponry as you progress — you’re presented with the ability to choose a play style that you want. Is kicking down doors with all guns blazing in an anarchic ecstasy of violence your style? Or going for the more subtle approach? A Film Noir detective who intimidates, flirts and runs to avoid combat altogether.
It’s there for the player to choose.
One stand out feature for me is how, after a successful combat encounter, you’re presented with a replay sequence of the entire fight. The UI disappears, save for a scoreboard which tallies your shots and combos, while you sit back and enjoy the fruits of your violent labour. Bullets tear across the screen and heaving, sweaty bodies dance the night away as Kai fights for his life to the beat of the awesome music.
Impermanent and fleeting, the two dimensional models live and die in a cartoon show reel fashion against their three dimensional cyberpunk backgrounds, and it’s gorgeous.
Although much praise must be given to the design aesthetic of All Walls Must Fall — it is a very interesting and unique style — it could also be an issue for some people. The UI did take some getting used to on an initial play through; the neon lights, colour palettes and the glitchy aesthetic sometimes made it difficult to concentrate on the text and action on screen. Especially during some busier moments with a lot of enemies spawning into the nightclub with lots of NPCs dancing away. It’s an aesthetic that does work, but perhaps an option to turn down or completely turn off glitch and lighting effects would be beneficial.
Whilst there can be a lot happening on screen for a player to observe, the game does try to ease this by highlighting enemies in a punchy orange. Any incoming hazards are also picked out in the same orange lighting which enables you to read the playing field and bit better. It is also generous in warning you if an action you’re about to perform will lead to your Agent taking damage. A handy visual tip will pop up when your Agent is in cover and he is protected from in the form of a kite shield. This helps greatly in deciding your next set of moves.
Overall, this is a rather fun turn-based tactical game, although I did wish at times I had the room to see more of the world and experience more of it. There’s an old Kickstarter page which describes how, if it ever achieved it’s later stretch goals, more missions would become available, as well as new playable characters, unlockable skills, and level designs. But with a small team to begin with, all of whom have moved onto other projects since the game’s release, it’s doubtful that this will ever come to fruition, which is a shame.
All Walls Must Fall, whilst a short experience, offers a window to a view of a clever cyberpunk dystopia, playing out scenes of a single night of raving clubs, sweaty dancing, and temporal violence. If you’re aware of its limitations, and are looking for a new strategy game to buy with interesting mechanics and visuals, All Walls Must Fall would be a good addition to any strategy collection.
All Walls Must Fall is available on Steam now.