All Walls Must Fall is described by its developers as being a “tech-noir spy thriller.” Being a fan of both noir and spy thrillers, I was more than happy to take a look at it. Developed as the result of a very successful crowdfunding campaign, this early access game certainly lives up to that description; this access is so early that only a portion of the eventual feature set is in place. While the game is not complete, it is far enough along to get a feel for the vision of the developers and extrapolate where this game may end up.
I’m a “jump right in” kind of guy, which is a good thing in this case, because the paucity of instructions is notable. That’s par for the course on early access games, but even having been forewarned by past experiences, I dove in and soon found myself in the deep end of the pool long before learning how to tread water. I’ll share my early experiences soon, but for now I think I might try to share the mood of the game as evidenced by the art and music.
The game is set in the East Germany of the year 2089, but is rendered in the stark, sharp look of the Soviet 50's. Yes, a century after the Berlin wall was, in fact, torn down, there is still an East Germany. So what gives? Well, in this world the Cold War continues on unabated, a century and a half after it started. As my character stands on a cold, snowy street, there is a flash off in the distance, quickly followed by the blast of what was presumably an atomic bomb. Just my luck. I die, of course. It would by no means be the last time that happened!
But wait! Miraculously, time rewinds ten years, just like that. At least from my perspective. “Oh,” I think, “it must be a time travel game.”
And so it is.
The next thing I see is a speeding car screeching to a stop in front of a nightclub. There’s a rhythmic bass-heavy beat emanating from the club. My avatar, a big brute of a fellow with what appears to be a prosthetic right arm, is standing by the now parked car. My view is an isometric rendering with a POV from above, looking down at an angle. As I move the mouse around, a square moves around under the cursor, and the square trails a line going back to my character. Ah, it looks a lot like a turn-based kind of thing. As the mouse cursor reaches the front door of the club, I am presented with a menu that identifies the door as a “Locked Door” and offers “Interact” as a menu item. Clicking on it causes me to walk step-by-step (square-by-square) in a herky-jerky, stop & go walk that is oddly in pace with the beat of the music. Ah, it's a turn-based game that moves quickly.
Concurrently, what appeared to be an energy bar counts down one digit per step. I pause to think about what to do, but not for long - I lose 10 energy units every few seconds just from standing still. That’s a bad sign; I hate being rushed.
Clicking on “Interact” on the locked door menu gave me three choices: Force Open, Hack Open (-50), Talk to Bouncer. I didn’t want to force it open with the bouncer standing right there, and I assumed (correctly) that choosing to hack the lock would cost me 50 of my rapidly depleting energy reserve. I chose to talk to the bouncer. That presented me with four possible responses to his objections to allowing me to enter. The choices ranged from belligerent to conciliatory - not quite ready to get into a fight, I went with conciliatory. It worked, but having convinced him to allow me entry to the club, my responses were graded as “flirty” and he professed interest in meeting me again later. Hmm.
Once in the club, I started to navigate through the rooms. My assigned mission was to find and kill a man named Dragon Müller. He was reportedly hiding in a locked room. As I made my way into the dark and noisy club, I couldn’t help but notice that it was populated almost exclusively by men, half of whom were not wearing shirts. Hmm.
The club was quite large and consisted of art rooms, bars, dance floors, and a mysteriously locked door. My directive was clear: Müller was to be found in a locked room. That’s what those of us well-versed in noir spy thrillers refer to in the vernacular as a “clue.” As I forced the door open (no one was looking), I immediately found myself in Combat mode. What? How?? Rats! Combat was not what I was hoping for as a rank amateur in this world. The result was predictable: I died. Fortunately, I am a time traveler and I was able to ‘undo’ my untimely and brutal demise. It cost me gobs of energy points, but that quick undo gave me time to take cover behind some valuable and bullet resistant statuary. From my semi-protected perch behind a plinth, I was able to kill both Müller and his (I must say) incompetent bodyguard. Mission accomplished, I quickly ran out of the club and escaped in my waiting car. My date with the bouncer would have to wait.
On to the next mission: “Interrogate Müller.” Uhhh, what? Didn’t I just waste him? Yes, yes I did. But… time travel. Works in mysterious ways, right? After all, this is a game, not a documentary. As I arrived at a different, yet eerily similar, club, I tried a less flirty type of conversation with the bouncer. It didn’t work, so I forced the door open. A display of brute strength - would that ingratiate me as well with the bouncer as the flirty words did?
No. No it did not. It did get me into the club, though, and I proceeded to hunt down and interview the irrepressible Mr. Müller, but the bouncer was quite irate as I made my exit. So irate, in fact, that he killed me. And this time there was no undo option; I was dead. Dead, dead, dead.
So dead, in fact, that I had to completely restart the campaign. So, not only dead, but kinda angry as well. I went ahead and restarted the campaign, flirted with the bouncer again, and entered the club thinking that retracing my steps from the first time would be a piece of cake. Well… not so much. It was a completely different club this time around, leading me to believe that the innards of the clubs are procedurally generated with some randomness thrown in. I got slightly less angry - replaying a completely regenerated level wouldn't be too bad. Once.
I did well enough the second time around to leave the club with some leftover energy points. Those, as it turns out, also act as a form of currency in the shop. I used mine to buy a shotgun.
The missions in this early access version vary a little bit - look for bombs, find contraband, deal with that Müller guy, but they all seem to happen in the same type of club. They do get progressively more difficult, though, with more bad guys and a pesky drone. I got killed a lot, even with the ability to go back in time. Amazing how many times I managed to repeat, or even exacerbate, the mistake that got me killed. The third time I got killed out of a campaign was the last. I hope the release version is a little more forgiving.
While I only encountered on type of building, the developers have a roadmap to add new stuff as their crowdfunding money grows. The concept is way cool, and even as a turn-based game it moved quickly enough to feel almost real time, although I’m not sure that “real time” has any actual meaning when you can travel through time.
I am looking forward to watching this game grow.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.
My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.
While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.
My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.