Subset Games, developer of 2012’s indie darling “FTL” return with “Into The Breach”, a whole six years after. With impressive expectations, can lightning strike twice for the two-man team?
“Into The Breach” is a difficult game to describe. It’s a turn-based strategy title, but also so much more than that. It’s a roguelike, but every scenario feels handcrafted. It’s smart but never obtuse. You take control of three units – a mech, a tank, and an artillery weapon. Your mission objectives vary, but the general setup is that you’ll deploy onto a grid and attempt to destroy skyscraper-sized monsters.
If that all sounds very Pacific Rim meets Front Mission, you’re in the right ballpark. Unlike traditional strategy games, however, each mission features randomised elements and layouts, as well as a unique turn structure. The game’s visuals provide all the tactical information needed, but all within a beautifully retro aesthetic.
The monsters you battle are unable to move and attack in the same turn. They can move to a target and prepare to attack, whereas your own units can do both. The idea that it would remove all challenge is a notion that you’ll disregard quickly – these monsters are as tough as they are numerous, and the ever-shifting battlefield means more will emerge as turns progress.
While you’re able to see where a monster’s attack will go, you’ll need to move them using each of your unit’s unique attacks to push them from one square to the next. You can kill ground-based monsters by knocking them into the water, for example, or deal bonus damage by smashing enemies into each other. Learning each mechanic and implementing new strategies on the fly is as rewarding as it is challenging, while some enemies need to be prioritised over others such is their reach.
Complicating things further are the cities and structures you attempt to protect. These act as your health bar, so while your units aren’t entirely expendable (each can be levelled up), you’ll find that at times you’ll make tough choices between sacrificing a unit simply to save a building from being destroyed. There are other considerations – resources can be claimed from the field or destroyed by the opposition.
The sum of all of these parts is a constantly shifting scramble around the board, each unit dealing damage and pushing enemies around, with each battle won feeling like a close-fought victory and each defeat feeling like a lesson. Defeat isn’t the end, however, as you’re able to send one unit back in time to re-attempt a run.
With each mission lasting less than five minutes and each complete run-through approaching an hour, Into The Breach is perfectly suited to the Nintendo Switch’s ability to play on the go or at home with a TV. It also takes advantage of the console’s HD Rumble to make every input feel satisfyingly tactile – be it units dropping onto the battlefield or artillery sending a monster into a mountainside.
Into The Breach is a refreshing take on turn-based strategy, and easily among the best games of 2018. It’s story of fighting against the odds is backed up by constantly evolving gameplay, a wealth of tactical options and a near endless amount of replay value. It is truly not a game to be missed, particularly for those with a Nintendo Switch.
*Retail copy purchased by reviewer*