A Bad Walk, Ruined
HIGH Cutting loose with the Death Ray for the first time.
LOW Just about every minute of it.
WTF You named a heroic character Chivington, of all things?
The core conceit of BE-A Walker: Battle for Eldorado goes back to the Battle of Endor from Return of the Jedi, where a bunch of tiny stone-age aliens defeat the battle machines of the domineering Empire. Now, it seems clear to me that the side of this battle that would be interesting to play would be the tiny aliens, because defeating high technology by hitting it with rocks never gets old, and because winning as the pilot of a giant war machine is boring. Unfortunately, as is evident from the name, BE-A Walker takes the opposite approach, and this fundamental mistake causes many of its problems.
BE-A Walker turns out to be as boring as one might expect given the premise of a steel death machine sent to kill primitive people. Aliens stream onto the screen, the titular ambulatory tank mows them down with lasers, shells, missiles, or a literal death ray, and if the weapons are dry or overheated, stomps on them. The player has to manage the walker’s oxygen supply and react, to some extent, to the specific kinds of aliens or colonists, which adds a little depth. However, both the combat and upgrade systems devolve to maximizing the efficiency of mass slaughter, which I don’t find all that interesting.
The weakness of the concept is magnified by other decisions. Controlling the walker, for example, is a miserable affair.
BE-A Walker is a true “walking simulator” in that the primary mode of interaction is to carefully perform the physical motions – lift foot, tilt forward, place foot – necessary to walk. Keyboard controls use WASD for this (A and D to tilt, W and S to raise or lower the left or right foot) and I found this didn’t gel mentally. The controller layout is more intuitive, with the left stick controlling tilt and the left and right triggers controlling the respective legs. However, I found it physically uncomfortable to use this scheme for any length of time, which limited most play sessions to an hour or less.
Although the physical details of walking are a huge focus of the control scheme, walking itself doesn’t seem to be of great importance except for a few abysmal minefield segments. Although the presumed tactical argument in favor of a technologically difficult and top-heavy vehicle like a walker is that it’s ostensibly more nimble and capable of handling rough terrain than, say, a tank, every level in BE-A Walker is a flat corridor. There is no topography, nor any obstacles other than large, screen-blocking foreground objects. Incredibly, the walker cannot even turn around, so that the only way to deal with the numerous enemies that attack from behind is to perform a moonwalk backwards, often through a huge fraction of the level, trying to stomp them.
The tedious, uncomfortable business of playing BE-A Walker probably couldn’t be saved by any narrative, but what it has manages to underachieve nonetheless. Here again, the choice to play the walker proves to be a mistake, as BE-A Walker tries to tell an anti-colonial story it simply can’t muster. Because it’s about a technologically advanced murder machine (and really just the machine, as the pilot has neither lines nor even a name in dialogue), it must be embedded within the viewpoint of the colonists. As a result, it succumbs to colonialist tropes, from “savages” who hurl themselves senselessly against invaders whom they mistake for mythological figures, to a ‘white savior’ figure who goes native.
Incredibly, this character is named Chivington. I hope this is not a terribly misguided attempt to reference the actual historical figure John Chivington, a US Army officer infamous for ordering the massacre of 200 unarmed Cheyenne at Sand Creek in 1864. It’s a heck of a coincidence if not, though.
Aside from these deficiencies, the story is also a continuous downer with few heroes and no real victories, right up to the story-mandated death at the end. The whole experience is thoroughly grinding and unpleasant, but presented in such a silly way on so many levels that it cannot possibly sustain its own aura of seriousness.
There’s very little to recommend BE-A Walker. The control concept just doesn’t work, and the design of the levels and encounters is abysmal. The core of its problems is due to choosing to focus on a colonial Goliath rather than an aboriginal David, but even on its own terms almost every aspect of BE-A Walker misses the mark.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Tequilabyte Studio and published (for Steam) by Games Operators. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on a home-built Windows X PC equipped with an AMD Ryzen 2700X processor, an ASRock X470 motherboard, 32 GB RAM, and a single GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card (driver version 446.14). Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game has been rated M by the ESRB. BE-A Walker contains Violence and Blood & Gore: both human and alien enemies are exploded into bloody chunks by ordinance or crushed by the walker’s feet. This is such a constant feature I probably would not recommend any child be allowed to play it, although I would likely rate this game T.
Colorblind Modes: No colorblind modes are available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Sound cues are moderately helpful in identifying when a new wave of enemies is about to start, but are otherwise dispensable. All dialogue is presented as text or subtitles. Text cannot be resized, and a large portion of it is green-on-green with a color palette I occasionally found difficult to scan.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. Screenshots of KBM and controller layouts are shown below.
Currently Sparky works as a scientist in Rhode Island, and works gaming in between experiments and literature reviews. As a writer, he hopes to develop a critical voice that contributes to a more sophisticated and interesting culture of discourse about games. He is still waiting for a console port of Betrayal at Krondor.