Into the Breach Review

By Blair Nokes on September 28, 2018

Subset Games are the incredibly talented team behind the highly received game, FTL: Faster Than Light. It was a brilliant take at letting people fulfill their inner childhood dreams of being a captain of a starship, expertly woven into a roguelike styled game. Six years after their debut, and they’re back with Into the Breach. It’s not uncommon for developers who strike gold to try and recapture that essence and try at another game in the same genre. Rather than feeling comfortable with familiar territory, Subset Games decided to try their hand at turn-based Strategy RPGs, and have done so in a way that’s both easy to understand, yet provides a steep learning difficulty that in turn makes the experience both engaging and highly challenging.

Into the Breach is set far into the future where all of humanity fights an army of giant monsters known as the Vek. You are a grizzled soldier who sends themselves back in time to hopefully prevent the invasion from happening. Imagine a plot that’s equal parts Live, Die, Repeat, and Pacific Rim; that was what I had in my mind throughout my playthrough. Like FTL, the game is broken up into a sequence of hubs, or islands; each with their own number of scenarios that have you protecting the island leaders on whichever island you happen upon, and hopefully protect the resources and thwart the Vek’s invasion. You are given a metric for the Power grid on each island, and as you continue you playthrough, any damages incurred to civilian buildings will result in the loss of a certain number of bars in the grid; losing all bar on the grid will result in a game over, forcing you to start the game over.

They use time-jumping in a very clever way, in that if you fail one mission, your character ejects themselves from that point in time and you start the entire game over, with a twist – you get to retain the current experience you earned and abilities to give you an edge in your next run. This may sound daunting to a new player, but the challenge is exceptionally rewarding, and the concept of restarting with a sort of pseudo new-game-plus model becomes an interesting test as you’re both positively and negatively reinforced for your failures. To prevent the feel of grinding out your playthroughs, each mission within an island is randomly generated, to deter players from constantly going through the motions. It also plays into the concept of time travel, in that your alterations have changed the course of history, and that you’ve created new timelines that are minutely different each time you enter the breach.

You begin with three types of mechs, each with their different ranges and mobility. The Combat Mech attacks in one of the four directional tiles directly in front of them, the Cannon Mech is a tank-class and shoots in straight lines, and the Artillery Mech is another ranged class but lobs rockets, allowing you to shoot behind obstacles. Each mech has the possibility of moving enemy Veks a tile due to impact. This can be strategically incorporated as enemy Vek will swarm around nearby civilian structures or tie you up with webbing to keep you stationary as they prepare an attack for their next turn. Direct impact can push enemies into each other which deals residual damage, but pay attention to where you hit an enemy, as they could be pushed back into an ally mech to damage them, or worse, pushing them into a civilian structure and killing the civilians you’re meant to save. The Artillery Mech can push enemies in any of the four directions, which is great when you’re facing larger clusters, but it’s also another attack to be especially careful of.

There will be other types of mechs you unlock as you progress through the campaign, and each of them have their own benefits and detriments depending on how you assemble your squad, and the types of terrain you may face .

Each island will have different terrain and weather factors for you to adapt around, or utilize to your advantage. Some levels will have minefields that wandering Veks may stumble upon .Other levels may have dams you can break down to flood two rows of tiles, to prevent and land-based Vek from moving forward. Veks will automatically die when pushed into water. It’s a great idea to give you so many versatile ways to dispose of enemies.

Like FTL, this game is not easy. There is a considerable learning curve required even at the very first mission. The trick is to not be discouraged when you die, and understand it’s not worth it to restart your save file when certain experiences carry over to your new breach. Enemies will overwhelm you if you make incorrect moves and plays, so be careful when you select your movements, and know that the ZL button can undo a move if you don’t feel comfortable with the placement. I can tell you now, it will feel very disheartening to make that one wrong move in a game where you feel you’ve done everything right, and have that be the play that ends your game. Players who thrive on that kind of a challenge will feel right at home with the game’s difficulty, and it feels quite rewarding when you execute each turn as correctly as possible.

There will be certain missions when pods drop onto the battlefield, and it’s typically imperative that you try and retrieve it as fast as you can. They contain a myriad of unlockables for your mechs, improving their strength or adding new attachments that offer different perks.

The game’s visuals have a crisp look to them, and remind me of the classic Advance Wars games for the Gameboy Advance. The pixel-art aesthetic gives the game a distinct look, coupled with its subtly detailed animations. The port for the Nintendo Switch shines, as the game’s user interface and miniature battlefields have been scaled exceptionally well on the Switch’s different docked and undocked resolutions, and the game’s loading times are near-instantaneous. One missed opportunity I feel is the lack of a touch-screen support.

Final Thoughts

Into the Breach was an instant classic when it first released, and the same can be said for its port to the Switch. If you’re looking for a game that can dish out a significant challenge and offer a very clever take on time-traveling, this is definitely worth it.

Into the Breach was reviewed using a Switch Digital Copy provided by FTL: Faster than Light. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
Great take on time traveling and alternate timelines.
Making the most of your mech’s abilities can be incredibly satisfying.
There is a ton of replay value, thanks to having your experience carry over from game overs.
Very steep learning curve for new players.
Lack of touch screen support is a bit of a missed opportunity.
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