Blend together giant mecha anime, time travel, and grid based combat, and you have Into the Breach.
If that’s not enough to make you close this review and instantly buy this game (which is really cheap, on top of everything else), stick around and we’ll try to grease the wheels a little further.
Into the Breach is the second game from FTL creators Subset Games, so the pedigree here may be another reason to insta-buy this title.
Here, instead of piloting a spaceship to stop rebels, you pilot mechs to stop insectoid monsters known as the Vek.
To do this you’ll be taking turns trying to squash the Vek on an 8 X 8 grid. The Vek telegraph their attacks a turn in advance so you know exactly what they’re going to do, and you must use your mechs’ combination of damaging and moving attacks to stop them.
To make matters a bit more complex, you’ll need to protect buildings which act as your health – if too many fall the game ends, and damage done to them are persistent through the five possible levels.
To make matters a bit easier, you have the ability to redo a turn once per combat, and if things go completely wrong you can use your time travel abilities to abandon the doomed timeline and start new from the beginning.
You’re able to pick up Into the Breach’s mechanics very fast and you can beat the game’s final boss and level within 40 minutes if you’re good, and a bit lucky.
The real genius here is how those few mechanics play off of each other and all the subtly within. A great example are the unlockable Rusting Hulk mechs. They do very little damage and instead whittle the enemy down with chip damage and clever board manipulation.
You may also think that the grid, at only 64 squares, would be limiting, but the sheer amount of moves, attacks and more you can pull off on it every single turn is astounding. Sometimes 8 X 8 is actually too big, and you prefer some of the maps where hazards make blocks inaccessible.
Or take the Zenith Guard, whose main mech fires a laser that devastates everything in a row of tiles. Your other two mechs need to shield buildings and push enemies around to compensate for collateral damage, and to make sure as many Vek as possible get hit with that laser.
This is all to say that Into the Breach isn’t just one of best designed games of 2018, it’s one of the best designed games ever. The amount of fun you can have eking out victories from single attacks or squares in unparalleled, and it will easily convert over those who usually hate strategy games.
If you were worried about the short amount of time to “beat” the game, don’t be. The entire premise of Into the Breach relies on you continually going back in time to save various versions of the world.
To make that experience more entertaining (outside of the intrinsically enjoyable combat) there are 27 mechs to unlock, new pilot archetypes to find, and an ingenious sliding difficulty scale.
Aside from the regular Easy, Normal and Hard (which mostly affects the number of enemies you’ll face), the player gets complete control over when they will fight the final boss. Unlike other games where this is possible, you never get to a point where you can stomp the enemies thanks to play time.
As you go further into the game, making your mechs more powerful, the enemies upgrade with you. The reason you’d want to delay the final fight is to unlock some of the late-game gear, and to increase your score.
Remember those building mentioned earlier? They also contain humans and each life you save nets you points. More levels and harder difficulties mean more people and more score.
Really the only problems with Into the Breach are the fatigue you’ll feel from playing. Scrutinising over turns and trying to optimise every move is mentally taxing, and you can burn yourself and swear off the game for a while after a heartbreaking defeat. It’s also very possible to lose an hour-long run because of a single misclick.
After 16 hours we’ve unlocked all the regular mechs, had our fair share of campaign wins and losses, and still turn the game on now and again just for the hell of it. We don’t think it’s going to be the hundred hour game FTL was for many people, but but Into the Breach is still brand new and we could see DLC and expansions in the future.
Top all of this off with a great soundtrack and this game is impossible not to recommend.