Inbetween Games bill their All Walls Must Fall as a “Tech-noir tactics game”. While not untrue, it feels like a coy evasion. Yes, it’s a dark sci-fi game set in an alternate future where the cold war never ended and the Berlin wall still stands. There are cyborg upgrades, and a grim neon-on-concrete aesthetic. True, there is time travel. There are even turn-based gunfights against swarms of human and robotic enemies, and now a greater focus on RPG-style progression mechanics, thanks to a recent major early access update.
But I can’t think of any other cyberpunk games set almost exclusively in German gay nightclubs, a facet of the game that has gone largely unmentioned until the most recent trailer, seen after the jump.
Hairy, bear-y time-travelling agent Kai fits right in with the setting. Thanks to a conversation system not entirely unlike Deus Ex: Human Revolution, stealth takes on a more social aspect than most games. You can sneak past some guards, but others you’ll have to bluff past, intimidate or just straight-up flirt with. Remember, if anyone grills you about the robot arm, just ask if they’ve ever seen ‘Iron Fister XII’ with a wry wink. Plus, if that doesn’t work out, you can always just roll back time and try another angle.
Rugged, manly charms will only get you so far, though, and when a fight breaks out, the game transforms into a bizarre hybrid of XCom and Crypt of the Necrodancer. You and your enemies dart between clearly defined cover, but there are no dice rolls; Kai is a very good shot, and the emphasis is on pinning targets with rapid fire while using slower, deadlier aimed shots to put them down. Enemy bullets travel slower than yours, taking several turns to reach their mark, allowing you to dodge and weave between gunfire, but taking a single hit is costly. Inaction carries a price as well, as you only have a few seconds to plan and commit to each move, or suffer a resource penalty.
The best part of any gunfight is after the final shot is fired and no more hostiles remain in your line of sight. Once satisfied with the outcome, you hit a button to drop the beat. Time rewinds to the beginning of the encounter, and replays the entire combat sequence for you in real-time, every shot and move synced to the pulsing electro music. Ideally, you want every fight to play out perfectly, and so long as you have some Time saved up (a resource generated by exploring the map and winning fights, and expended through movement and special actions), you can rewind the clock, undoing damage done.
Between missions, you spend your mission completion bounty – speed, efficiency and other factors affecting it – on weapons, cybernetic upgrades or healing, if you took damage during the previous run. Then it’s off to the map to pick another procedurally generated mission to undertake, the difficulty escalating through the course of the (currently) ~2 hour campaign – although the full game will likely be somewhat longer and have more moving parts, a shorter-form campaign does lend itself well to the roguelike elements at play here.
All Walls Must Fall is a refreshingly strange game. There are familiar elements here; the cover system from XCOM, Deus Ex’s conversations, and maybe even a dash of Crypt of the NecroDancer, but all combined, it stands out as something new. Maybe Klei’s Invisible Inc. would be the closest point of reference, but this is a much faster, more aggressively paced game, and an interestingly compelling one even in its current, partially complete form.
All Walls Must Fall is available now via Steam Early Access and is half-price, down to £5.49/€7.49/$7.49, until Monday, November 13th.