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All Walls Must Fall

All Walls Must Fall is a Tech-Noir Tactics game set in Berlin 2089, where the Cold War never ended. read more

All Walls Must Fall Preview

Author: Dakota Gordon
13-Nov-2017

Category: Preview

In the year 2089, life is a grim and colorless world where the Cold War never ended. Coerce and shoot your way through baddies to complete various missions, all in the hopes of preventing a nuclear fallout. If that doesn't sound thrilling enough, time travel is the new norm! Reverse mistakes and unravel the stakes at the click of a key!

All Walls Must Fall Preview

Introduction

There is a lot to like with All Walls Must Fall, especially considering the game has yet to be completed. A clear indication of the developers putting their all into the core mechanics that make the game flow, like a finely-tuned machine. What exists currently scratches the surface of what a full-fledged game of this caliber can achieve with enough variety, something that is unfortunately lacking in its current build. It is what it wants to be, but little more; with some creative ambition, it can bloom into something phenomenal.

I admit I have very little experience with games like All Walls Must Fall, and starting the game up for the first time, I was overwhelmed with the number of things to recall and account for as I rolled through the tutorial section. Fortunately, those tutorials gave enough of a foundation for me to know the basics, and the rest came through experience and intuition. In hindsight, it shouldn't have bewildered me as much as it did, but I felt it necessary to preface this by stating my inexperience—if not complete ignorance—of isometric strategy games... aside from Fire Emblem: Awakening, but that's not the topic at hand.

All Walls Must Fall Preview. Do as they say

Story

Any narrative focus surrounding this game is almost moot considering the game isn't finished. That in and of itself is reason alone to not put much weight into the story of the game in its current form, though indulging oneself to every bit of dialogue and conversation doesn't harm the experience in any way. The player controls Kai, an agent for a mysterious organization called S.T.A.S.I.S., who is trying to prevent a nuclear fallout by rooting out the one (or ones) responsible for the inevitable destruction. Time travel is a granted commodity for Kai, who uses the concept for his mission in bits and pieces, though normally instructed by a shady higher-up. (I'm getting vague Orange Moon vibes.)

In the most sincere way possible, most of the background context of the game is simply a placeholder for what the game presents: a dark, down-and-dirty shoot 'em up with strategy tactics and time travel hijinks. Through most of my time playing the game, I had no idea what was going on or why anything I did really mattered. I simply enjoyed playing the game and having some quirky dialogue to spew to see the reactions of others or to more efficiently complete a mission. It almost doesn't matter what the story is, as I never bothered to wonder who Kai is or why he's working for S.T.A.S.I.S., or whether the company is really doing what it's doing for the betterment of Earth. Of course, this is all within the first half(?) of the game available, as the cap here leaves on a narrative cliffhanger, encouraging more intricacy for future installments. The missions present are abhorrently straightforward, and it isn't until the end when actual important characters become noticeable to the plot at hand. What's there isn't exactly encouraging, but this may not be a setting where story is all that integral to the game's success.

Gameplay

What may come as no surprise to fans of the genre, All Walls Must Fall features point-and-click movement priorities, confirmation for actions, and lone trigger keys that cue special conditions and abilities. Almost like a multi-faceted and electronically-syndicated game of checkers, with the addition of Fallout-esque cartoon-y graphics and endearingly blunt dialogue. There is no controller support for this game, only the aid of a keyboard and mouse give it a distinct feel of old-fashioned PC gaming. In its entirety, the game has that feel of something inspired by great theories of the past.

All Walls Must Fall Preview. Quite the charmer, Kai is

Figuratively and literally, time is of the essence. One's ability to manipulate time travel—though here it is more accurately traveling back in time—is a core feature to its mechanics, something that is also delivered, in part, by time. All Walls Must Fall is a great subject for speed runners, as the game even encourages one to complete missions as quickly as they possibly can. Extra bonus points at the end, which can be used as currency to upgrade one's abilities and weapons, are rewarded for quick completion of missions. For the most part, the time traveling ability is used for un-doing mistakes and/or better handling situations, with little to do in terms of being important to a mission's specificity. Despite being advertised as a fanciful feature, it provides very little to the overall gameplay, which is disappointing, but there's still development left.

Similar things can be said about the use of upgradeable merchandise, which can be bought from the store, automatically loaded after every completed mission. Purchasing different time travel tricks (all to do with rewinding) and weapons, all of which have upgradable states for better efficiency, yet no real razzmatazz. Level 1 to level 2 to level 3; the same benefits are simply boosted until they cannot be boosted anymore. In terms of weapons, I've found that the starting pistol is more than enough to get one past the initial campaign, doubly so if one purchases all three weapon slots available. I would think that the difficulty of the game becoming more rigid would motivate one to purchase other weapons, yet here there is little reason to do so outside of pure curiosity. At this time, the game is too straightforward with its ideas to strive for a more nuanced style of gameplay and immersiveness. Whether this is all that important is up to one's preferences, but I feel it could be more versatile.

Whimsically wacky or not, the basics have very few flaws to its algorithm. Overall difficulty is a touch too easy, but I've found myself in perilous situations with no escape where I've had to abort a mission. Enjoyment can be found with the manner of fight-or-flight capabilities of the game's code, allowing choice for the player to either mow down enemies with bullets or persuade them into letting them pass quietly. A combination of both is always a lovely attrition, but there are times when I'd rather do one or the other, and the game lets me do so with ease. Without a grandiose story or extensively-branching paths to victory, All Walls Must Fall delivers enough simplicity to remain fun in repeated playthroughs—only not for long spurts.

All Walls Must Fall Preview. Right in the kisser

Graphics and Audio

Inappropriate to state as this is, I was immediately reminded of The Sims in general aesthetic when playing All Walls Must Fall. It may be the isometric camera angle or the ability to click a location and confirm Kai's movements, but the life simulator stuck in my head for a long while (and in some way helped me to acclimate to the control scheme). Otherwise, the aforementioned Fallout-esque cartoon-y presentation of Kai and NPC's are what the player will be seeing most. It almost reminds me of a game within the After Dark Games collection; that sort of quirky, yet simplistic style of color and conformity to the environment that oozes charm. If only the environment struck in the same way.

Within each campaign, the environment and layout of a single map changes, ensuring that no mission is the same with each playthrough. What changes, however, is what room is located in what part of the building and nothing more. Every mission, every map, is a dark cloud of a plain building full of dance clubs, empty hallways, laboratories, and secret rooms. It rarely changes dependent on the mission and doesn't change enough through each campaign to really justify a lack of transparency. A Robot Named Fight! does a lot more with making its environments more distinct with each run by changing the layout of the rooms, what's present within them, and the manner in which the player can proceed within them. All Walls Must Fall simply plays musical chairs with pre-built rooms, which proves demotivating for players who want to experience something truly fresh with every playthrough.

All Walls Must Fall Preview. Run, Kai, run!

Music within is also rather hit-and-miss, as a lot of it is atmospheric in order to enhance the experience, with a lot of that immersiveness being cut with the limited story. To be frank, I don't really recall a lot of musical bits here, only what plays just before combat mode is triggered and within dance club portions of the building. The most one can say is that it fits well enough with the gloomy setting, as a lot of music is sacrificed for the sake of building atmosphere—dark and empty atmosphere. There is no emphasis on style a la Hotline Miami, only a desire to match the mood with the silence of somberness.

Conclusion

Fun can be had here, and I had a lot of it with my time in the game. However, the game definitely needs work in its flexibility to become appealing to more than the inexperienced player. Of course, with it only being so far along, one can have faith in the developers providing more to come with time, yet what I see here at this time is a game that is not yet recommendable on creative merit alone. Core gameplay is fine, the mechanics are fluid, and the presentation is certainly memorable enough. What it needs to push it over the boundaries is the juice to make the machine run for a very long time; the ingredients necessary to make a meal more than one solid flavor. It's a pretty good bowl of soup. Perhaps with time, that bowl will become more flamboyantly spiced with oodles of noodles and bombastic buffers.

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