Review

Into The Breach Review: A Mechanized Masterpiece

  • First Released Feb 27, 2018
    released
  • PC
  • NS

Destroy all monsters.

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In 2012, Subset Games released FTL--a strategy roguelite whose best moments were when everything worked like a well-oiled machine, but also when you were frantically trying to adapt to dangerous, unexpected situations in the spur of the moment. Into The Breach, Subset's sophomore effort, again has you enacting carefully planned strategies. The difference is that when the going gets tough, Into The Breach's turn-based mechanics and tactical tools allow you to improvise precisely, and respond purposefully, with perfectly choreographed counters in an aggressive ballet that feels amazing to conduct again and again.

In a world where giant monsters called Vek threaten the earth, humanity has devised equally giant, human-operated mechs to combat them. Humanity has also invented time-travel technology to give pilots the opportunity to go back in time and start the whole conflict over, should the worst happen. You command a squad of three mech pilots whose purpose is to deter the advances of the Vek, one region at a time, through four different island stages with the ultimate goal of destroying their hive.

In each region, your primary objective is to stop Vek from causing collateral damage--each civilian building destroyed depletes part of the game's overall power grid meter, and if it hits zero, your game is over. However, Vek almost always outnumber your squad, with even more continually spawning in, which makes wiping them out entirely a difficult task. Into The Breach is a tactics game with an emphasis on deterrence and creatively mitigating damage with the limited tools at your disposal.

It's a daunting task, but there is one central feature that makes this process enjoyable and manageable: Every action the enemy will make in their next attack phase is clearly telegraphed through the UI during your turn. You can see which tile a particular Vek will hit and how much damage it will do, meaning you can assess your priorities and the response options you have available, then take direct steps to address the fated outcome. In the critical moments, just before a Vek flattens a hospital, you might dash in and tackle it out of range, and into the firing line of another Vek. Or, if your mech lacks close-combat abilities, you might move into harm's way to prevent the building from destruction. You might notice that more Vek will be spawning from the ground, and decide to throw a boulder on the tile to stop them from emerging, or shoot an off-the-mark missile, letting the explosion push another Vek on top of it.

Knowing the exact outcome of each action means that Into The Breach feels like a game of violent chess, in the best way possible. Each turn will have you pondering over possible moves and outcomes, threats you can feasibly attend to, and pieces you can afford to sacrifice--common characteristics found in any good turn-based tactics game. But because the possibility spaces of Into The Breach skirmishes are so confined (every battle takes place on an 8x8 grid, just like a chessboard, filled with impassable squares) decisions can be reached quickly, and momentum rarely comes to a standstill for long.

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What also makes these decisions so entertaining to consider is not just the novelty of the way different components can interact in delightful ways, it's the certainty of how they will interact. Into The Breach is a tactical game that features a relative lack of probability, uncertainty, and risk. Attacks will always connect and do a distinct amount of damage, the grid-based scenarios mean units move and take actions in exact distances, and nothing ever occurs without at least some warning. The transparency and amount of information communicated provide great peace of mind, since every action you take will go as planned.

The only exception is that when a Vek attacks a building, there is a tiny chance that the building will withstand damage. The probability of this happening is related to your overall grid power and can be increased, but the percentage value is always so low that this rare occurrence feels more like a miracle when it happens, rather than a coin toss you can take a chance on.

The game's time-travel conceit also has a part to play here--you have the ability to undo unit movement, and each battle gives you a single opportunity to completely rewind and re-perform a turn. It's possible to execute your most optimal plan for each scenario every time, and the result is that turns in battle can feel like choreographed moves in an action movie, a confidently flawless dance of wind-ups, feints, counters, and turnabouts.

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You can unlock up to eight different premade squads, each comprised of three unique units, which focus on entirely different styles of combat. The diversity here is significant enough that each team calls for distinct strategic approaches. The default squad, Rift Walkers, focuses on straightforward, head-first, push-pull techniques. The Blitzkrieg crew works best when corralling Vek together in order to execute a lightning attack that courses through multiple enemies. The Flame Walkers focus on setting everything ablaze and knocking Vek into fire for damage-over-time en masse. Each different combination of mechs can completely change how you perceive a battlefield; things that are obstacles for one squad could be advantageous strategic assets for another.

But where the possibilities of Into The Breach really open up is in its custom and random squad options, and the imaginative experimentation that comes from putting together unique all-star teams with individual mechs from different squads, along with your choice of starting pilot--whom all possess an exclusive trait. You might have a team composed of a mech who shields buildings and units, one that freezes anything on the map into a massive block of ice, one whose sole ability is to push everything surrounding it away, and a pilot that can perform one additional action each turn if they don't move. Can you complete a run of the game with that custom squad of pacifists? The game's structure makes these unorthodox options enjoyable challenges that are legitimately interesting to explore.

Into The Breach maintains a roguelike structure of procedurally generated trials and permadeath, but when a campaign goes south not all is lost. If a mech is destroyed during a battle, it will return in the next, only without its pilot and their unique trait. Too much collateral damage is game over but means you have the chance to send one of your living pilots--experience points and bonus traits intact--back in time to captain a new squad, in a new campaign. The game is difficult, but starting over isn't tiresome because your actions so directly determine outcomes, and you always feel you can improve. And individual battles are so swift and satisfying that they become a craving that you'll want to keep feeding over and over.

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The clean and understated surface elements of Into The Breach complement the precise nature of its mechanics. The simple presentation, as well as the sharp UI layout, is attractively utilitarian and serves as a crucial component of the game's readability. There is no explicit plot outside of the time-traveling conceit, but the flavor text--small snippets of dialogue for each mech pilot and island leader, whom you'll encounter again and again throughout multiple playthroughs--adds a modest but pleasant facet of character to contextualize the world and round out the overall tone.

Into The Breach also shines on Nintendo Switch, where all of the content from the PC version remains intact. The game's UI and miniature battlefields, both of which scale incredibly well on different monitor resolutions, unsurprisingly make the transition to the Switch's handheld mode flawlessly. The visuals are sharp and readable, the loading times are instantaneous and on-par with the PC version, and the addition of controller rumble to accompany on-screen action serves as an enjoyable touch.

For seasoned players who have experience with Into The Breach on PC, there will be a short teething period as you become accustomed to the gamepad-centric controls--no touchscreen controls are available. The left analog stick serves as a mouse cursor replacement, but thankfully, there's a very capable and adjustable snapping behavior that comes into play during battles, which instantly centres your cursor to the middle of a grid tile and allows you to sweep across maps quickly. The face and shoulder buttons are dedicated to discrete commands, and the D-pad behaviour is also adjustable--you can either use it to instantly cycle between units (up and down) or enemies (left and right), or change it to use as a sequential tile selector.

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The smart control design in the Switch version means that commands and turns can still be performed very quickly. It only took me about five islands' worth of battles before they became second nature, and I was able to come close to the speed I'm used to with a mouse and keyboard shortcuts. As a whole, the performance of Into The Breach on Nintendo Switch is very capable, which is a blessing, because the game's stellar, irresistible game design perfectly suits a device that lets you play it everywhere.

There is so much strategic joy in seeing the potential destruction a swarm of giant monsters is about to unleash on a city, then quickly staging and executing elaborate counter maneuvers to ruin the party. Into The Breach's focus on foresight makes its turn-based encounters an action-packed, risk-free puzzle, and the remarkable diversity of playstyles afforded by unique units keeps each new run interesting. It's a pleasure to see what kind of life-threatening predicaments await for you to creatively resolve in every new turn, every new battle, and every new campaign. Into The Breach is a pristine and pragmatic tactical gem with dynamic conflicts that will inspire you to jump back in again, and again, and again.

Editor's note: This review has been updated to include our experience with the Nintendo Switch version of Into The Breach -- August 30, 2018

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The Good
Empowering tactical system makes you feel completely in control
Diverse array of playstyles and challenges offered by the variety of individual units and flexibility of squads
Clean and effective audiovisual design
Highly replayable
The Bad
N/A
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Edmond Tran has spent over 100 hours with FTL across different platforms, and 40 hours with Into The Breach so far, with a copy provided by the developer. He's still hanging out for that spiritual successor to Front Mission 3, though.
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Avatar image for zerohournow
Zerohournow

I liked FTL but I found this one pretty dull and repetitive. You're really at the mercy of some RNG and there isn't much room to improvise, you really typically have only one option and just have to use trial and error until you find it. Do not expect FTL, this isnt close.

Avatar image for realguitarhero5
realguitarhero5

Great game. Definitely a fan of having it on my Switch

Avatar image for everson_rm
everson_rm

I cant take this review seriously.

A pixeletade "grid" strategic game, witch graphics much worse then i saw on Tactics ogre ON SNES, more then 20 YEARS AGO!!! Not to mention gems like FFT, Front Mission 2 and a few more.

But hell, by theese standards, Shining Force 2 on GENESIS would get a review of 12/10!

Yeah, the game is good, but not a 9/10 game.

Avatar image for normanislost
normanislost

@everson_rm: as a huge fan of FM3 (nearly as much play time as FF7 over the years) this isn't like that those games, this is more of a puzzle game really

play it instead of bitching about (especially about graphics lol) try it because it's very good, doesn't have the life span of FTL but is very good

Avatar image for doorselfin
doorselfin

@everson_rm: I love Front Mission and Tactics Ogre, but Into The Breach is absolutely its own unique thing.

I recommend you give it a shot (if you can find it in yourself to bear the graphics) and let us know what you think of the actual game. Thanks for leaving a comment!

Staff
Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Having played this game and won many runs, I would say that the player's success strongly depends on the CPU enemy making really bad moves in what its Vek does, have Vek spawn at useless places or just have lousy Vek spawn.

There are few RNG rolls, but there are still elements of luck, namely the CPU randomly goofing up in its decision-making.

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julianboxe

Game is a blast. Really well thought.

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Mad_max911

Im gonna go buy an Amiga again. Seems those games are awesome.

Avatar image for darth_zaramoth
darth_zaramoth

Been playing this game today. While fun and entertaining its also absurdly difficult. There were many times when I got pushed into literally unwinnable situations because my 3 units couldn't be everywhere at once, especially when theres like 5 enemies attacking 5 different targets that you're supposed to defend. Also, the "life" bars not resetting from island to island is utter BS.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@darth_zaramoth: Having seen runs by people who make good decisions, I would say that if you have 5 enemies on-screen, your opening moves might have been very bad.

However, I do agree about the power grid bit. It would have been more prudent for the corporations to each have their own power grids; even with a narrative excuse, the shared power grid seems stupid to me from an operations management standpoint. It likely is just there to be the equivalent of the "hull" meter in FTL. (The developer even said this in his video in Fantastic Arcade 2017.)

Avatar image for aiat_gamer
aiat_gamer

@Gelugon_baat: Legit question: Do you play games these days? Seems like you spend pretty much all of your time just watching others play...!

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@aiat_gamer: I still do - I spend that time on games with very complex gameplay, like Klei's Oxygen Not Included and Paradox's Stellaris.

That said, I will always watch others' videos on games that I am interested in before deciding to play them.

Avatar image for doorselfin
doorselfin

@darth_zaramoth: It's all about deciding where your priorities lie! Keeping your power grid up is definitely part of the overall strategy, and sometimes you need to sacrifice mechs to stop the grid from going down.

That said, don't be ashamed to turn it down to Easy to get a good feel for a team.

Staff
Avatar image for radavast
radavast

We really need this mobile. iOS or Switch would be instant buy for me.

Avatar image for MARl0
MARl0

@radavast: Your wish has been granted! It's on Switch today!

Avatar image for radavast
radavast

@MARl0: Oh yeah!! Have still not played it waiting for this version! :)

Avatar image for sixsixtrample
SixSixTrample

@radavast: I would never put my Switch down if it was on Switch. I bought it for PC and will probably buy it for any other platform they release it on just to give them more money.

This is an absolutely fantastic, fun, difficult game.

Avatar image for nefphlegm
nefphlegm

Is this for the 3DS?

Avatar image for aiat_gamer
aiat_gamer

@nefphlegm: No

Avatar image for Abdulrahman1981
Abdulrahman1981

It should be a mobile game

Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

PC master race...love those 4k graphics.

Avatar image for pyro1245
pyro1245

@Bread_or_Decide: I think it's funny that 4K only became a buzzword after consoles started to market it.

Most PC users don't give a shit about 4K for gaming. It's great for productivity though.

Avatar image for dr_derogatory
dr_derogatory

@Bread_or_Decide: Don't forget the 362 fps! The console peasants just can't understand!

Avatar image for julianboxe
julianboxe

@Bread_or_Decide: Thing is, PC games can be used both for amazing 4k graphics in triple As, and for strategy and rpgs that never go to consoles, or indie games like this.

So yes, PC master race indeed. Although sometimes we do miss that especial "exclusive"( wich was why I bought a ps4 just for Bloodborne...).

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Now, I would be attacking any shallow asshole who points at this game's graphics, but I have reminded myself that there had been games in the tactical turn-based subgenre of strategy games that have raised the bar with more-than-decent gameplay and more-than-decent graphics.

That would be the rebooted XCOM series. Much as I like to rag on how certain gameplay things are simplified in the first game and how the second one still uses one too many RNGs, those games (especially the second one) really raised the graphics bar, or at least reinforce the argument that a game can have alright tactics-oriented gameplay, decent complexity and cutting-edge graphics all at the same time.

Of course, there's the counter-argument that different developers have different staff sizes and budget amounts.

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@Gelugon_baat: The game is artistically consistent, it's serviceable and clear. You could of course disagree with the direction, but I see no reason to disregard the game due to that.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@RogerioFM: I would definitely not disregard the game for that, because graphics rank very low on my list of priorities for game design.

Still, the bar has been raised, even for pixel art games, and to accept anything lower than the bar is to lower standards because of bias.

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@Gelugon_baat: I wouldn't say it's 'lowering' the bar, but simply accepting there are better graphics and move on to enjoy the things that matter. If I have to 'lower' my standards to enjoy a game with great gameplay but has subpar graphics that doesn't bother me... fine by me.

Bias.... we're all biased towards something.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@RogerioFM: The keywords that you have said are "subpar graphics that doesn't bother me".

I will tell you a personal experience - or attempted experience - that I have had with Dwarf Fortress. I thought that I could play that game, because I thought that ASCII graphics wouldn't bother me one bit as I was (as I thought) graphics-agnostic.

Within the only 20 minutes that I have had with that game, I referred to the list of symbols ten times - some of them are for symbols that I should have learned earlier.

After having a severe headache from arching and bunching my eyebrows too much, I decided that the game is just not for me, just because of its visuals.

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@Gelugon_baat: I tried DF for some times, yeah, that's a case where the graphics are difficult to get into. I might give it a chance in the future with a graphics tile set.

Avatar image for aiat_gamer
aiat_gamer

@Gelugon_baat: But that counter argument does not work here, I highly doubt that after the huge success of FTL, these guys are in any way strapped for cash. I would not want a highly detailed 3D games, but at least a better looking pixel art. The game has barely any animations, no effect and very simple looking environments.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@aiat_gamer: I do agree that I have seen way better pixel art. Heck, as a pixel art game, FTL looked rather drab for its time too.

Having seen the developer videos for this game, I get the impression that graphical impressiveness ranks very, very low as a priority for Subset Games.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@aiat_gamer: They sold lots of licenses for FTL of course, but keep in mind each license is at most US$15 or equivalent when the game debuted - and that's not counting discount sales and price drops over time, and that FTL has been in so many pay-what-you-want bundles, and Advanced Edition was offered as a free expansion to anyone who had the original version and the default package of the game was also upgraded to Advanced Edition too.

(You did consider Advanced Edition, right?)

Also, the developers took a long hiatus. Both of them went on vacation.

In other words, I doubt that they accrued lots of profits to fund the development of Into The Breach.

Avatar image for aiat_gamer
aiat_gamer

@Gelugon_baat:If one guy can make this:

https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/iconoclasts-review/1900-6416840/

Surely these guy can afford one good pixel artist. According to Steamspy, FTL has sold around 2.8 million units. If even 500 thousand of it was full prices, we are talking at least 5 million dollars. I am sure they made at least twice as that. There is NO WAY they could not pay for one guy to draw some good pixel art for them.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@aiat_gamer: Oh, I know about super-talented single-person developers alright - there's the bloke who made Spirit Engine 2 and the one who made Dust: Elysian Tail. Yet, I doubt that either of the two programmers of this game and FTL are competent artists and animators.

(By the way, the writer for Iconoclasts is awful. Mark Pay, who programmed, drew and wrote Spirit Engine 2, is a far, far better writer.)

Steamspy may have given you those numbers about overall sales, but again, how can you be sure than even less than a quarter was full price? Like I have said earlier, this game was offerred on discount many, many times, and were in many sale bundles.

(Also, some of the Steam licenses might be obtained via redemptions, which makes things even murkier.)

I have also said earlier that I have the impression that the developers don't care much for graphics beyond the serviceable.

Avatar image for RedWave247
RedWave247

I LOVED FTL and put far more hours into than I'm willing to admit.

That said, I can't say I'm all that interested in this game. I find I rarely have the patience for these kind of tactical games - similar to Final Fantasy Tactics. Still, it looks pretty great and I'm sure the people who it's made for will dig it. Maybe the dev's next game will be more up my alley.

Avatar image for off3nc3
off3nc3

What a sad day it is , when GS rates 9/10 with N/A Bad notes about an indie pixelated game.. You guys are losing it.

Avatar image for Nightflash28
Nightflash28

@off3nc3: God forbid a reviewer bases is opinion on how good the gameplay is instead of how realistic the graphics are...

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@off3nc3: I would agree with what you wrote - if you would point out something that is bad about the game.

Now, that said, looking at the list of the games that you played, I expect that you would point at the game's graphics. If you do that, then you are a shallow person.

A game's visual designs should serve its gameplay functions, first and foremost, not to make it look pretty.

Of course, you can make the argument that a game should be awesome in its every aspect and we should not lower our standards.

P.S. Also, you scored a 10 for Mass Effect: Andromeda. What the **** were you thinking?

Avatar image for RedWave247
RedWave247

@off3nc3: If it's half as good as FTL, then it deserves this score.

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@off3nc3: Were you ever abused by pixels or something what you have against them?

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Into the Breach More Info

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  • First Released Feb 27, 2018
    released
    • Macintosh
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    Control powerful mechs from the future to defeat an alien threat. Each attempt to save the world presents a new randomly generated challenge in this turn-based strategy game.
    7.8
    Average Rating26 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Into the Breach
    Developed by:
    Subset Games
    Published by:
    Subset Games
    Genre(s):
    Tactical, Turn-Based, Strategy
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Language