Preview: All Walls Must Fall (Pre-Alpha)
With so many game developers getting funding from Kickstarter these days, it can be a little difficult separating the good from the bad. Benchmarks are rarely a signifier of a great game – more than it is an indication of a gap in the market. And Inbetweengames’, a small team comprised of some who worked on Spec Ops: The Line and Dead Island 2, newest property: All Walls Must Fall (AWMF) certainly lands in this field.
Playing host to a futuristic Cold War strategy game with procedurally generated levels and music, their initial Kickstarter campaign target was reached a mere three days after opening and they are now looking to raise extra funding to introduce extra features to the game. Their closed alpha build of the game will be available from early May, but leading up to their Kickstarter campaign, the team invited us to have a nose around the early build to see what’s what.
The great thing to say about the game at this point is that all the core concepts are present. When I was playing it, the only thing that was absent – and understandably so – was the actual plot of the game. Instead, I played through missions that offered allusions to the underlying plot of the game. However, the title does a lot of this work for you – AWMF suggests that the plot involves the player trying to bring an end to a prolonged Cold War.
The idea of the game is complicated somewhat, as agent and protagonist Kai is stuck in a time loop that sees him perpetually trying to avoid a nuclear war breaking out – this concept is made even stranger as Kai must avert this disaster by frequenting nightclubs to carry out a series of missions. It’s this delicate balance of sci-fi, political thriller and a frankly strange setting, that raises the intrigue of what the game’s final campaign will be. So far, we’ve only been given the essential components of the plot – but the ingredients look good so far.
Being a strategy based game, AWMF presents players with different approaches to the specific tasks. Additionally, whilst combat is certainly available in the game, it is by no means the primary outlet for players. Instead, you can use subversion to gain access and opportunities, taking form in conversing with bartenders and bouncers, and hacking security cameras and doors means there’s a chance to handle missions in a non-lethal capacity. Though if things go awry you can always shoot people in the face.
If you choose to rock up to a nightclub in the game intent on violence, you’ll enter a square tiled combat layout which incorporates a turn-based combat system. You can move Kai around the environment, allowing you to take cover or try a manipulate the enemies into grouping together allowing you to pick them off quickly. A nice touch was the destructible environment of the nightclub’s interior. A guard’s missed shot may work to bring a wall down which open a new route either for you to use or for a few more guards to run out of to see what all the commotion is.
There’s still a lot of work to be done in balancing the lethal and non-lethal approaches – obviously – as I found that at times when I was simply walking through a club, having behaved impeccably thus far, guards would still try to shoot on sight.
This is very much the case with the dialogue options as well – a feature that can be massively enjoyable when executed correctly. At the moment, the pre-alpha only demonstrates a portion of conversations – meaning that chatting to bouncers and bartenders is incredibly formulaic. It’ll be interesting to see how the developers deal with this facet of the game as they must balance original dialogue with meaningful choices and consequences whilst considering the context of the people you speak with. It won’t be an easy thing to accomplish and at this time there’s not much to suggest that it’ll be a standout aspect of the game.
However, as I said, the core concepts of the game are in place and this is shown most notably in the combat system. The combat can seem a bit slow initially, sure it gives you time to plan your course of action, as you manoeuvre Kai around the environment and consider how to take out the enemies – but it can still be slow. A nifty feature called the Drop seeks to inject the thrill of victory with something a little extra. After you finish a shootout, the game will rewind the event and play it back as one fluid scene. I spent about five minutes carefully moving Kai and forcing my opponents into a narrow hallway before wiping them out with a shotgun and it was strangely satisfying being able to re-watch all my moves played out in real time.
As well as basic weaponry, AWMF also boasts some handy time manipulation skills. These vary from simply rewinding a short event – like a conversation – to “tracing back” Kai’s steps, which enables you to approach a segment of a fight in a different way whilst keeping all previous events in place. These skills, which are acquired through a black-market setup, seem like a better-realised version of those explored in Quantum Break and whilst they don’t have the aesthetic appeal of Remedy’s title, they seem far more useful within the strategic nature of AWMF.
At this point, a lot of what I’ve written is subject to change. Aspects that I’m concerned about may be fixed, and the features that impressed me may be extremely different when the final product arrives. So whilst it’s too early to possibly give a verdict of All Walls Must Fall, what I can say is that the build that I’ve played left me wanting to find out more. It’s by no means perfect but there is promise in the features of the game that could allow for an immensely intriguing and enjoyable game to come about. Only time will tell.
Inbetweengames Kickstarter is still open, if you’d like to contribute, you can visit their page here. A closed alpha release of the game will be available to contributors from early May, with a target release of the final game for September 2017.