Tactical prowess shines in this wonderfully crafted experience.
From the first few minutes in Subset Game’s new entry in the turn-based, tactical world, Into The Breach’s influence and heritage is obvious. The pixelated look, its blocky user interface and, thankfully, its mechanical design all scream of the 2012 hit Faster Than Light (FTL) and by no means is that a bad thing.
Like its predecessor before it, Into The Breach gives players a basic crew of three pilots to tackle a series of missions along somewhat limited paths which will regularly end in death and failure. However, instead of flying through different solar systems, Into The Breach is a bit more down to Earth (quite literally) but no less exciting. Spaceships are swapped for hulking, glorious metal mechs, your missions take place across five islands (each island giving you about four to five missions before each ‘boss’ fight) and instead of the alien/pirate foes to blast into shreds, you’ll instead blow apart the exoskeletons of the Vek.
In every aspect, Into The Breach is fantastically simple.
You’ll travel back in time to tackle the Vek before they destroy the Earth and each of these battles take place on an eight-by-eight grid which has a randomised layout of power buildings, obstacles and environmental effects (these change depending on what island you’re on). It forces you to improvise and make a new plan for each battle. Take the first island, which within each mission will have its own special event like a tidal wave which sweeps from one side of the grid to another, an air support drop which kills everything in its zone of fire or a dam which can be destroyed, gushing water across the map.
The missions themselves will usually have more than one objective which, if completed, will reward you with extra power (more on that later) and reputation which is used as a currency to gain new weapons and abilities for your mechs – increasing your killing efficiency.
Finding innovative ways to kill the Vek is an important part of Into The Breach, as you take two actions every turn for your mech: move and fire (like a basic version of XCOM). Although it’s simple you’ll often be outnumbered, and due to the limited number of actions, each mission turns into a micro-puzzle lasting about seven minutes (although one lasted around two) as you try to maneuver yourself and the Vek for optimum result. This makes each action incredibly important and with about five rounds each mission, some may require you to just see the onslaught out.
Enemies’ attacks are displayed to you (you can’t see where they’ll move, though) so you can be a big bully and force the Vek into positions where they will attack themselves. It makes you feel like a smug git as well, which I’m all for.
You’ll start off with a squad of mechs which combine well with their unique skills and as you progress through the game collecting medals – gained from completing tasks – you can purchase from an ever-expanding roster of mech squads. Those who become familiar with the systems can then create their own squads, adding a layer of customisation and variation to each playthrough. Some might choose mechs which deal high amounts of damage while others might opt for stalling and pushing.
In order to use your robots fully, you’ll have to acquire mech reactors which can be gained from leveling your mech or missions. Like power in FTL, the reactors are sparse and have to be allocated to certain abilities carefully. The new weapon you’ve got needs two reactor cores but you want more health as well; you can’t have all three. The parallels to FTL flow from Into The Breach as you redistribute the reactor cores between missions if you want a change of tactic for the next mission.
The most obvious similarity between FTL and Into The Breach is the power grid. Acting like the ship’s health bar in FTL, the power grid is your overarching status. If reduced to zero, it’s game over. The way it empties is similar to FTL: in each mission the Vek will target aforementioned power buildings which house hundreds of civilians, and each building hit reduces the power grid by one. It becomes a careful balancing act, trying to ensure the Vek don’t eviscerate the civilians but making sure your mechs stay healthy. Alongside your power grid the number of civilians you save at the end will count towards your overall score.
I felt Subset Games slightly missed the mark with the aesthetic. It could do with a few pops of colour here and there but that’s a minor, personal gripe. The beauty of Into The Breach lies within the mechanics and how wonderfully they’re intertwined, creating a devilishly simple but deep experience any turn-based game fan will love – or a great starting point for those new to the genre.
There are several other features I love within this fantastic game but I’ll let you discover those oil-soaked nuggets of joy for yourself!