After its successful Kickstarter campaign, inbetweengames' All Walls Must Fall entered Early Access on Steam last year, but late last week that part of the development process finally came to a conclusion and the full version was launched. Having previewed the early access version, we readied up to return to East Berlin for another dose of Cold War action so we could see how much the game has changed.
It's the year 2089. The Cold War endured for almost 150 years and West and East Berlin are using futuristic time-shifting technologies to watch each other's steps, so when there's the looming threat of devastating nuclear attack, both sides send their best agents back in time to stop the culprits, silencing them in the shadows. Here we take on the role of Stasis agent Kai who investigates the Berlin nightlife, especially its gay scene. He talks with DJs and interrogates various contacts, all the while searching for hints that may possibly lead to the terrorists. Why we're searching for clues in these clubs we don't actually know for sure, however, but the soundtrack and crowded dance floor beckon us to investigate.
The developers describe All Walls Must Fall as ''Xcom meets Braid'', and with that description, you can probably get an idea of what the game's all about. While the tactical combat and reliance on cover reminded us of Xcom: Enemy Unknown, we also use our incredible time-bending skills to manipulate time and space, as we saw in Braid. Kai utilises three different skills to change the flow of time around him, rewinding his own past actions or those of his enemies. He's going into battle against hostile security guards and drones, using different weapons, although this is pretty standard stuff like pistols and shotguns. The thing you have to keep in mind the most while fighting, however, is the amount of remaining time units, because every action drains this valuable resource. Winning a brawl or uncovering a new room will automatically grant you more time energy to make use of Kai's powers, though, so it's a balancing act.
In All Walls Must Fall time is proverbial money. The amount of time left on the clock at the end of a mission determines how many credits you earn, which can then be invested into unlocking and upgrading new abilities, weapons, or even augmentations. When you get Kai decent armour he will take more bullets before dying, for example, while the use of pheromones increases his chances of making security fall for his flirtations. I mean, how else is he supposed to get the information he requires?
The dialogue system is a simple mini-game but it's a neat little change of tone to the action we so often find ourselves in. If a guard notices you doing something suspicious you have the choice to scare them away, fraternise with them, or earn their respect in order to evade a battle. Making the wrong decisions or being overly blunt will lead to a fight, but with Kai's time-bending powers you can turn back the flow of time and try out another answer, Life is Strange style. Again, this will drain your remaining time units and if you play too recklessly you can easily find yourselves empty-handed.
The first contact with the time-bending mechanic was kind of bumpy and for that reason we often failed in the middle of combat without any time left, so it definitely takes some getting used to, but once you manage to learn the systems and put that into practice, All Walls Must Fall really does shine and manages to get you into the flow.
The decent customisation options for the character, paired with the procedurally generated club layouts, ensures replayability, but if that's not enough to keep you entertained, you can always make use of the permadeath feature to try and increase the challenge. Those who want the game even more hectic can turn on the timer as well, which lowers your remaining time every second you're not actively doing something (although if you go for this option make sure you're a quick thinker with reflexes to match).
Other than that there isn't much else to do in All Walls Must Fall. The procedurally generated clubs and Kai's interesting time manipulation abilities are entertaining for sure, but the story around all of this doesn't quite keep up. We'd also liked to have experienced more of this dystopian vision of Berlin, and up to now, the developers haven't delivered their version of the west side of the city (but they will at some point in the future...).
We've also encountered a couple of issues, so the game is by no means perfect. Even with their random nature, the clubs look very much the same, for example. Ultimately, the strength of All Walls Must Fall rests in its pacing and variation. Daily challenges, the permadeath feature, and the procedurally generated levels will speak to those who like a tactical challenge. If you can live with some minor issues and enjoy challenging and tactical games, All Walls Must Fall is surely worth making time for.