Occasionally here at Player2.net.au, we will play something that deserves your attention but probably doesn’t need a full review written for it. Be it DLC for the latest AAA title, a little indie game or even an Android/iOS title. We play these titles for a blockbusting amount of time (2 – 5 hours) and report back to you the reader on what we found. So grab your popcorn and settle in for the latest episode of Blockbuster Gaming.
Blockbuster Gaming – Into the Breach
One of the first users that I followed on Instagram is a South African artist, Lorraine Loots, who committed to a project called “Painting for Ants”. In the project, she decided to create one miniature painting per day for 365 days. Each painting is not only extraordinary in its detail, but is presented next to her art instruments – a pencil, a pair of scissors, or a fine paint brush. At that moment, her paintings feel even more wonderful to the observer.
In the same way, Into The Breach feels like the miniature painting of Subset Games, not only intricate in its own detail but measured more remarkable in comparison to their previous game, FTL.
Let’s be clear that the detail in Into The Breach turns many of the recent tactical staples on their heads. The story presents a very easy duality in its first steps – your three mechs are sent on missions to deter the invasion of an alien insect horde called the Vek. The hope of this expedition is not only to destroy these invaders permanently but also to maintain the populace and economy (translated into buildings and power symbols) to ensure that there is something worth fighting for. The story stops you from just destroying the enemies and encourages you to focus on what you will be saving instead.
This changes your tactics considerably, and Into The Breach’s game mechanics compliment this nicely. Your three mechs (each starting with a random pilot that levels up over time) have weapons, but the challenge is to use them to do more than destroy. As various Hemiptera and Odonata populate the map, you are afforded five turns to minimise damage and, if needed, to kill. Most buildings have a power symbol – if an enemy successfully attacks a building, you not only lose civilians but also a bar off of your Power Grid. While your mechs are repairable between battles, the Power Grid is an overarching health bar for the entire game. If the Power Grid reaches zero, it’s game over as you send one of your pilots back to the beginning and start the game again. It is brutal but also is a valid reminder that the rest of the planet is impacted by your actions, and preserved by wise choices. They are not just waiting in isolation, twiddling their thumbs while you mop up some bugs – it is as real for them right now as it is for you.
You are afforded some ways to determine your strategy each turn. As the enemy turn is always first, you get a good pre-empt of the intentions on their next turn and can move your mechs accordingly. Your turns are as much about placement as they are about attacks – a well-placed mech may prevent a Vek from tunnelling to the surface, or take the brunt of an attack meant for civilians. Similarly, your attacks may be better served to push approaching Vek away instead of dealing damage. At the end of a successful mission, you are rewarded with additional power for your Power Grid. It is challenging, and easy to make mistakes, but rewarding when you succeed once where you failed before. Even better is that your success is measured by the preservation of life, sometimes through the sacrifice of one of your own.
All of this is presented on an 8×8 square map – randomly generated, lovingly detailed, and insanely focused. As each mission starts, your “spectators” shout encouragement from their skyscrapers. Some maps have their own challenges, such as protecting a moving train, surviving a tidal wave, or destroying a high-powered Vek. But each of these small maps feed into each other, creating a grand experience and challenge to reach the end of the game. At the end of each chapter, you can spend collected currency on upgrades for your mechs or additional pilots to help with the fight ahead.
Into The Breach has given me faith again in the polish and the promise of the indie game developer, and reminds me that amazing things can be achieved on the smallest of canvasses.