Into the Breach is Subset Game’s second game and follow up to their wildly popular debut, FTL: Faster Than Light. Much like FTL, Into the Breach is a sci-fi rogue like adventure, although this time, the emphasis is on turn based battles between time traveling mechs and the insectoid aliens called “Vek” (and sometimes mech against mech in point of fact). In fact, I would call this something akin to FTL meets Starship Troopers meets Pacific Rim meets The Terminator meets Time Cop. So, how does Into the Breach stack up?

Story

The story, written by Chris Avellone, is quite a bit less substantial than most if not all of Avellone’s previous work (Pillar of Eternity, Planescape: Torment, etc…). In fact, he was even the creative director for Fallout: New Vegas. Being one of the great writers in video games doesn’t mean you always write full RPG stories though. Into the Breach is more pulpy in nature and the story is fairly lite. Where you really see Avellone’s influence more than anywhere else though is with the inclusion of pithy and sarcastic dialogue, such as there is in this game. Although Into the Breach isn’t really about story overall, the story is in fact the perfect motivation and I can find no flaws in it outside of the fact that there was an opportunity to really build the story up further than it has been already.

So, the story features a trio of soldiers from alternate timelines/the future going back in time and traveling timelines with their Pacific Rim sized mechs to fight off the Vek, an alien race of insects that is destroying the world in each timeline. Your goal is to fight them off, find out where the source of the Vek is to found, and destroy their hive. Then on to the next timeline to do it all over again.

8.5 out of 10

Gameplay

Gameplay in Into the Breach is surprisingly complex. Well, maybe it’s not so surprising to fans of FTL. Grid based tactical combat is the order of the day here. The standards are there: a small battle maps featuring enemies, obstacles, traps, and various objectives such as protecting power plants or terraforming a map, killing “x” amount of enemies, and so on. Accomplishing the goals set to each region will grant you corporate favor, energy, and power cores (that function as the points for upgrades).

There are ten different mech units that can be unlocked via finishing timelines and unit objectives, which vary amongst the ten based on their specific skill sets. These give you coins that can be spent to unlock the mech units. You begin with one and will earn the other nine pretty quickly. Their specialties range from specific elemental damage to flight, melee or ranged combat, healing and buffs, etc…and each unit is well balanced with three mechs that (typically) includes a heavy mech, a medium/light mech, and a support mech. You can also create your own custom units using any previously unlocked mech.

Each mech has its own specialty and its skill trees (represented by modifications to the mechs) have two upgrades each (and two modification slots per mech) along with one available upgrade to both health and movement. Health is obvious and is counted in points. Most mechs start with between three to five health and this can be upgraded via modifications as well as the mech pilot’s level and attendant buffs.

Speaking of pilots, these are the time traveling heroes in the game. They can and often do die. Should this happen, and you haven’t recruited a new pilot (this is typically either done via the occasional time capsule that will fall onto the battle maps or as an island reward for not failing any region goals), the mech’s A.I. will take over until a replacement is found. This is not ideal however as the A.I. doesn’t gain experience and abilities. Pilots on the other hand do gain levels (three is the max level presently). Each level comes with a buff that is passed along to the mech, be it extra health, armor bonus, movement bonus, or other abilities. After a timeline is completed, you may choose to take one pilot along with you to the next timeline. this obviously provides you with a bit of a starting bonus as your pilot is already going to be leveled up to some extent if not outright maxed out.

There are a couple other aspects to the game. You have to maintain energy supplies to power and repair your mechs. If your energy ever falls to zero, you will have failed the timeline and will need to start a new one. Fortunately, you can still take one of your pilots with you if you so choose. You also save people’s lives with each region and island you clear, and this essentially functions as a high score leaderboard type thing. Each island is divided into regions, and once you have cleared enough regions of Vek to have three contested areas left, the Vek will surge up and destroy some of the lands you just cleared, culminating in a direct attack to the island’s corporate headquarters, which you will have to fend off. This is the boss fight for each island.

Your goal ultimately is to kill off the Vek from each timeline. You accomplish this by clearing “Corporate Islands” of the Vek presence. Islands are functionally nations, each with it’s own specialty, terrain, regions and government. Each island’s CEO functions as your point of contact. You go about the slaughter of Vek through grid based tactical combat maps. It’s group turn based (meaning all the Vek will move, then your entire group will go, then any environmental effects will go off, then all the Vek will go, rinse and repeat until the battle is over. There are also a limited amount of rounds available to conquer each region. Once the timer is down to zero, combat stops and any objectives left unfinished are failed. That might seem unforgiving, and on hard difficulty, it is without question incredibly difficult, but the timer itself is generally not an issue unless you’ve been bogged down in battle and the objectives weren’t battle related, and even then, you will generally fall backwards into completing objectives anyway.

I would like to note for y’all that starting with easy and moving up to hard is the way to go. You can still lose on Easy difficulty, but it’s better for learning the game mechanics. By the time you get to Hard, you will be fighting/fending off far more enemies, and any mistake you make could potentially cost you the game (and definitely will repeatedly lol), so it’s good to have some experience before leaping off the edge into the unknown.

There are even more aspects to gameplay that I haven’t covered here, and that should give you a good indication as to the depth that can be found within.

All in all, this is a flawless game. No technical issues and perfect gameplay. 10 out of 10

Graphics

The graphics Into the Breach brings to the table are going to be no surprise to FTL vets either. This is a really nice looking game with very cool animations, nice artwork during the cutscenes, and an overall cool feel to the graphics in general.

Into the Breach-TiCGN

A bit pulp, a bit anime-ish, solid isometric imagery….this game does everything well from a graphical perspective. The set pieces look very cool and the actual character designs have a nice, almost watercolor quality to them. This is a visually pleasing game without a doubt. Not groundbreaking, but nice.

8 out of 10

Audio

The audio is all ambient and combat oriented outside of the soundtrack itself, which has an almost whimsical, Borderlands/Firefly-esque, mysterious quality to it. Really, really nice and something I personally have not grown tired of at all after fifteen or so hours spent with the game so far. Everything sounds great and there is a solid vibe to the game overall. Unobtrusive but relevant.

9 out of 10

Verdict

Into the Breach may be the single most addictive game I’ve played in a long time. Each playthrough will take around an hour an a half to two and a half hours depending on how many islands you decide to clear before taking on the final boss battle. The islands never change and the objectives, while random, are fairly consistent, but despite this fact, the level of variety with mech units, pilots, upgrades, etc….compel you to play just one more time to see what the next combination can do against the game.

An easy must own must play recommendation from me.

8.9 giant alien insects being ravaged by time traveling mech units sent back to stop the Vek depredations, out of 10 possible. We couldn’t find the remaining 1.1 insect warriors. They must have bugged out…..