- Released: 2018
- Played on: Switch
- Also available on: PC, Mac
- Time to get into: 30 Minutes
- Time to complete: 40 Hours
- Multiplayer: No
Into The Breach is a turn-based strategy game that is deep and challenging but also straightforward to understand and easy to pick up and play. As such, it has found a perfect home on the Switch – it has more common with Advance Wars and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle than it does huge strategy titles like Civilisation. Into The Breach also brings in touches from roguelikes and puzzlers to supplement the strategy elements and the result is a game that you’ll play through over and over again but experience slightly differently each time. Into The Breach is not spectacular or exciting but it builds it own kind of drama and it’s perfect for whiling away the hours on the go.
Into The Breach sets up you and your squad of 3 mechs as the last line of defence for humanity against a subterranean foe called Vek. There’s a bit of an attempt at a back story but it’s nothing worth writing home about. Each level consists of a grid where these Vek will emerge from underground and your band of misfits is tasked with fighting them off. Or more interestingly, in actual fact you rarely have to completely defeat the Vek in any level to complete it. It’s more a case or surviving. Into The Breach is very much more about the whole war than any individual battle so your goals in each level are more likely to be about defending certain buildings or positioning your mechs to prevent Vek from emerging from underground than destroying all enemies. Even then, these goals don’t have to be completed for the level to end and you move on. This is where the roguelike elements come to the fore. Each mech has a health bar but gets repaired between levels. However, you have an overall health bar called Power Grid and its only game over when this drops to nothing. When it does, you are sent right back to the beginning to start over. Your ultimate goal is to survive long enough to reach a final face off against the Vek and detonate a bomb underground that will destroy them. However, your path through to this final battle is procedurally generated each time. It all works very well: each play through can last between an hour and about 4 hours, depending on your choices and your difficulty setting, so a balance is found between every decision you make being important and it not being too bad to have to start over from the beginning.
This final element of Into The Breach, the puzzle aspects, come in due to the sequence of turns that happen in the game. The key is that the Vek move into position and telegraph what their attacks will be just before it is your turn. You then get a chance to retort before those attacks take place. As a result, your turn is focused on figuring out the best way to prevent the Vek‘s attacks from causing damage to your mechs and buildings, rather than necessarily causing maximum damage. Although that does help, of course! But often times your attacks will be more about moving one of the Vek away from something vulnerable. Many times I spent absolutely ages just staring at my Switch screen going through multiple iterations of scenarios: how can I use my 3 moves in this turn to minimise the damage I take from the Vek‘s next turn? It’s a great combination of things – I feel like it has taken a while to explain even just the basic principles of the game but somehow Into The Breach quickly becomes a game that is straightforward to play. I think this is in how it makes a lot of a few elements: each individual part, like where I can move or how much damage I will do, it simple and clear and quick to pick up. However, the almost infinite number of ways all these things can be combined keep each new battle or new war fresh. When you first start playing you can concentrate just on how each of these pieces work and overtime build up an understanding of how all of this is playing into the bigger picture, across turns, battles and the war as a whole. I have been waiting for another Advance Wars for years but Into The Breach fills that gap beautifully.
In fact, I find it difficult to criticise any elements of Into The Breach at all. The only thing keeping it back from being totally outstanding is that it’s just not that exciting or spectacular. You’ll note the lack of the ‘Highlights’ video at the top of this review: this is not just chance, but what is good about the game simply doesn’t look that great on screen! Nothing truly remarkable happens. In fact, it’s almost your job to prevent anything remarkable happening! The basis of success is to keep the Vek at arms length long enough to reach the final cut scene. The only time my heart really raced when playing Into The Breach was the first time I beat the game on Normal difficulty. I had made it all the way across the 4 islands, through to the last turn of the final battle but for the longest time I couldn’t see any way in which I could prevent the Vek ending my campaign at this last hurdle. I looked and looked and considered and considered until finally I thought I could see a way that I could survive! I played out my turn and let the Vek do their worst: I survived and they were destroyed by the final bomb. It was a joyous moment! But compare and contrast this with the first time I beat the game on Hard difficulty. I had really played well and done such a great job: I had powerful upgraded mechs with powers that complimented each other well and plenty of Grid Power going spare. The final battle was largely a procession as I just did enough to stop the Vek and it was over. To be clear: I loved this game and played it a huge amount: it is not boring. I’m just explaining why all my other praise doesn’t get Into The Breach five stars. It’s the definition of a four star game: everything in it great, but none of it is awesome.
It may lack the ultimate wow factor to make it stand up with the greats but Into The Breach is a supremely well thought out and executed game. You’ll have a great time making sure that your battles are just as well thought out and executed yourself. Down with the Vek!