The PC strategy classic from the creators of FTL comes to Switch and its ready to take over your gaming life…
Up until relatively recently being addictive was one of the greatest compliments you could bestow on a video game. Before the days of Fortnite and loot boxes the fact that a game could be so engrossing as to make you forget all other concerns was seen as the ultimate accolade. Nowadays things are more complicated, but we still have no hesitation in admitting that we are addicted to Into The Breach – and thats not a problem its a positive.
Into The Breach is the latest from Subset Games, creators of FTL. Although the details are entirely different the game has a very similar approach, with very simple graphics and rules matched with rock hard difficulty and random elements inspired by roguelikes. It might not sound very appealing, but the deceptively deep gameplay that results is what leads to the aforementioned sidelining of normal social interaction and bodily functions.
Although there are obvious comparisons to be made with strategy games like Advance Wars and XCOM, the specific influences for Into The Breach are Square Enixs Front Mission series and the movie Pacific Rim. The games backstory is told in a few short sentences but involves invading alien kaiju called Vek, which you have to face down with giant robots and other more mundane military equipment. The trick though, is that should you fail – and you will fail – you then get to travel back in time and try again.
The games roguelike influences mean that maps are randomly generated, on a small eight by eight grid, and you start each mission with your squad of three vehicles beaming down and preparing to face off against the Vek as they tunnel up through the ground in usually infinite numbers. Into The Breach is a turn-based strategy, so you get to move each character once per turn and either fire or perform some other action such as repair.
Different vehicles have different weapons, with chess-like rules about range and deployment, but the controls really are as simple as that. The Vek are under similar restrictions but have a tendency to target cities and other buildings first, which is far more dangerous than when they just go after your robots. Unlike many modern action movies collateral damage is the most serious obstacle to your overall success, as the game monitors the overall grid power of each island you fight on and if it drops to zero its instantly game over.
Most Vek attacks involve a one-turn wind-up and if you see them targeting a building you have to drop everything to either knock them out of the way or take one for the team. Many attacks involve a robot or enemy being pushed back a square, which has all manner of tactical implications – from stopping new Vek from spawning to knocking them into the ocean or into the path of one of their own attacks.
Each map also has secondary objectives, such as protecting a train or destroying a dam, and can also involve help or hinderance from things such as friendly fighter support or extra tough enemies. Completing these extra objectives is usually the only way to recover more grid power, which can be vital for your long-term success.
Failure is built into the games mechanics though, and when you are defeated you lose everything except for one pilot which you can take back in time with you and try again. Pilots earn experience as they fight, which can be used to level up their robots equipment and activate new abilities like flight or special attacks. These can also be added to by keeping an eye out for time-travelling drop pods and making sure theyre not destroyed.
By completing in-game achievements you can unlock other squads and cosmetic options, so despite the high cost of failure there is a constant sense of progression. Not least in your own rising confidence and expertise, as you find yourself planning out strategies before a match even starts. Or in those rare minutes when youre not glued to the screen, playing the game.
As with FTL, the art design is disappointingly uninspired and manages to make giant robots and kaiju as visually unexciting as possible. The old school pixel graphics are fine but most of the Vek are just giant bugs, and except for the ones that are ripped off from other sources the robots are similarly unimaginative in terms of design. Ultimately it doesnt matter, but we do wish there was a little more panache to Subsets visuals, especially as thats the games only real flaw.
The low-tech approach and instantly accessible gameplay means the game is a perfect fit for the Switch, to the point where other console versions havent even been announced yet. Oddly theres no touchscreen support in handheld mode, but the analogue stick controls work fine and it all becomes second nature within minutes.
The screenshots and videos may not look very inspiring but Into The Breach gets the maximum amount of gameplay depth out of the very minimum of inputs, creating a strategy game where one more go is uttered with such insincere frequency that youll wish you really did have time travel powers – just so you can fit in a few more games.
Into The Breach
In Short: An almost perfectly formed strategy game, that hides near infinite variety and depth beneath its deceptively simple presentation.
Pros: Elegantly designed interface is instantly accessible but with amazing depth of gameplay. Great use of roguelike elements, with plenty of variety and a good sense of progression.
Cons: The art design is disappointingly unimaginative and the random elements do start to repeat a bit too early.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed) and PC
Publisher: Subset Games
Developer: Subset Games
Release Date: 28th August 2018
Age Rating: 12