Everyone once in a while, a game comes along that you weren’t expecting. I had heard about Into the Breach. People raved about it. I looked at screenshots. It looked ok I guess. Turn-based I heard. Rogue-like. Deep strategy. I’ve heard it all before. It is my cup of tea on paper, but something didn’t really grab me. It came out on Switch. I took a punt.
Into the Breach is amazing.
I’m not sure I can recommend it highly enough. It is everything that I had heard about, and more.
The concept is simple. Giant insects are taking over the world. You are going to fight them using giant robots. If you lose, you jump ‘into the breach’ and attempt to save the world all over again in another timeline. So it’s a mech game? Well kind of.
The aliens are attacking on islands. Each one has a number of zones. Each zone is an individual fight – And you just have to survive for five turns. That’s it. Simple. Each turn, you can move each of your three mechs once, and attack once. Then the aliens go. But, here is the hook – you see where they are going to attack, before your turn.
Let me explain. You move, then the aliens move. Then you see where they are going to attack. Now, you take your turn – do you kill them before they attack, do you move out of the way, or do you start doing some, as I like to call it, “clever shit”. You see, you have a number of buildings to protect. If they take too much damage, it’s all over. If all your mechs die, it’s all over. If one dies, you lose the pilot but get another mech if you survive the zone, but your pilot might have accrued experience which gives them additional skills worth keeping. So you see, you need to make some decisions.
Every turn is a puzzle. A tricky scenario might have four aliens on the map (always taking place in a one screen grid affair). They might all be attacking four different targets, but you can only make three moves. Maybe you block a building at the expense of a mech. Maybe you take out three, but leave one to do some damage to a structure. Maybe, just maybe, you take one out. You hit another, which pushes him a tile over, which based on the turn order means that alien will now hit another. That will kill that one, freeing up potential damage for your last mech to jump over the final alien, dropping electric smoke administering damage over time and oh my god this game is amazing.
Every mech has their own ability, or abilities. It could be they push enemies across tiles, back tiles, forward tiles or do straight damage. Maybe it’s damage over time. Maybe they freeze an alien, maybe they jump over and drop bombs, or shield other teammates. Each team has a theme really, but you can customise them to create your own. The teams have cool names. By doing special challenges (such as clear an island without taking any building damage) you earn coins, to unlock other teams.
With more teams, comes more ways to play. As you complete zones on islands, extra objectives give you chance to earn energy (energy = protection for buildings, run out, game over) or cores (which can power up suits and abilities for your mechs). Reputation can be earned which can be spent as currency at the end of each island, to buy more energy or cores, or weapons for your mechs.
There’s so much game in here it’s crazy. Die early (or finish a world) and you go into the breach ready for the next timeline. Sadly, you can only take one pilot with you – so chose your most experienced (or most favoured) to play on or make your next timeline easier.
The best way I think I could describe Into the Breach is chess with mechs and insects. You need to think two to three moves ahead at all times. Not only your position, the position of the enemies but there are other elements. Freeze robots, dams to blow up, volcanic eruptions, disappearing floors due to seismic activity. It is simple, and it is complex. Battles can be over in a few minutes as each zone lasts only the five turns – with the overall war continuing for over an hour. Even the length is in your control, do you attempt the final island after clearing two other islands, or go for all four islands – with increasing difficulty with each one, but with increasing resources at your disposal to combat the threat.
Into the Breach is possibly the best example of how deep a game can be without overwhelming systems, manuals to read or ages to get into the action. It’s instant. Satisfying. Challenging. It might be the pinnacle of game design. You need to play it.