In All Walls Must Fall, the new timebending turn-based strategy/dating sim from inbetween games, time is the only currency that matters. Set in a version of 2089 where the Berlin Wall never fell and Cold War tensions remain high, All Walls puts players in the role of an East German secret policeman on a quest to stop a catastrophic explosion that’s going to level the city in three hours. Or perhaps cause it.
The game is intriguing and oblique at the moment, and it’s not entirely clear whether the player’s actions are meant to be real or simulations – are the flying numbers and jagged edges simply a stylistic choice by the developers, or is the experience set in the recreation of a pre-disaster Berlin as powerful people try to determine what happened?
It would certainly explain the main character’s impressive time-control powers, which he employs to win gunfights with armies of thugs and restart flirty conversations until he manages to say the right thing.
All Walls Must Fall is set exclusively in and around a large number of gay nightclubs on the communist side of the wall. The player looks down on them from an isometric perspective, and orders their character around a grid-based world, using cover and dodging bullets as they blast their way through security guards and mobsters on the way to whatever their current objective is.
The combat system is incredibly clever – while it might seem oddly slow to go turn-based for a game about controlling a single character, the developers have created what is possibly the fastest turn based-game I’ve ever encountered. The player starts each level with a reserve of Time Units – moving one step costs one, running one space costs five, and hacking things (doors/cameras/drones) costs a whopping fifty.
Running out of points won’t end the game, but since time powers (such as undoing moves or reversing the world around the player) cost time units, levels become far more difficult to complete. The kicker is that each time the player finishes any move, a counter starts – if they don’t make another move within five seconds, they’re docked ten time units. I’m sure there’ll be an easy mode in the finished version that turns this timer off, but the way it forces quick situational assessment and rewards bold moves is a great feeling that sets it apart from most turn-based titles.
Players regain time units by hitting enemies, entering new rooms, and completing objectives – the idea is to have as many stored time units as possible at the end of levels so that they can be converted into currency to purchase new powers and weapons.
Each one of AWMF‘s missions takes just a couple of minutes to complete – there might be two or three gunfights, a conversation, and then it’s time to run back out the door and drive off to the next assignment. There are some roguelike elements as well – players can take just three hits before it’s game over and they lose all their progress, and the modular nightclub levels seem to be randomized with each new game, although it’s a little hard to tell since they’re all so similar.
This brings me to the only real drawback to All Walls Must Fall at the moment – the visuals. While the world is compellingly drawn, there’s absolutely no variety from level to level. The various dance clubs have different layouts, of course, but their walls and floors feature the exact same textures, and all the men dancing in the background all look exactly the same. It’s an interesting look, to be sure, but after seeing the same room a few dozen times I started to wish for some different colors or pieces of furniture.
Another weird choice is to render the main character and all of his enemies without any animation. While background clubgoers have simple animation cycles, all of the key characters are cutouts that move instantaneously from standing to walking to aiming to lying on the ground, dead. Again, this could be an aesthetic choice, but it’s a little jarring to see flat avatars pasted into a 3D world – especially since my only real frame of reference for that technique is the Paper Mario series, which would be an unfortunate thing to compare this to.
While I wasn’t able to complete all of All Walls Must Fall‘s levels in my three attempts, I came away impressed by its speed and depth. Dancing around incoming gunshots, kicking down a door, stepping inside, and then reversing time so it’s still closed behind me, then using an SMG to blast apart a series of drones – this is all more immediate and thrilling than I’m used to in the world of turn-based strategy, and I’m interested to see what else they come up with as development continues.