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Tactical Breach Wizards: Demo Impressions

Written by Harry Ted Sprinks

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Tactical Breach Wizards

Tom Francis is somewhat of an indie darling, with his first game, Gunpoint, blasting onto the indie gaming scene in 2013 with its combination of well-designed puzzles and immersive, noir-themed gameplay. Tom Francis was later responsible for the addictive sci-fi rogue-lite, Heat Signature, which allowed players to breach spaceships and take out foes in all manner of ways, almost like an immersive sim.

Operating as Suspicious Developments and working with a handful of talented contributors, Tom Francis now spearheads the development of Tactical Breach Wizards, a promising linear game that looks to be a short but sweet experience for fans of turn-based tactics games like Into The Breach. In fact, Tactical Breach Wizards seems to take several pages from Subset Game’s mech-themed rogue-like, like allowing players to undo their actions to find the best solution. Though, Tactical Breach Wizards also has players progressing through an intriguing narrative, meeting quirky characters, and… Blasting enemies out of windows.

Tactical Breach Wizards is a brain-scratching turn-based tactics game about a scrappy team of SWAT-style characters with a vast array of powerful magical abilities, working together to uncover a conspiracy and take down powerful wrongdoers. Despite its similarities to Into The Breach, the developers have stated clearly that Tactical Breach Wizards offers more diverse player turns with a more forgiving gameplay loop. As a result, it’s possible that not all fans of Into The Breach will appreciate this truly unique title.

Tactical Breach Wizards wastes no time getting players into the action, starting things off right in the middle of a high-stakes hostage extraction that takes place during a flashback. Both of the characters featured in this flashback are immediately distinct despite a lack of voice acting, thanks to snappy dialogue and bold personalities.

However, for players that want to get into the action even faster, Suspicious Developments has them covered; dialogue can easily be skipped at any moment. Those that do skip the witty dialogue, though, will be doing themselves a disservice, as these characters are immediately likeable.

This flashback doubles as a tutorial that’s thankfully sparse on large blocks of text, opting to allow players to learn as they play. However, strict objectives ensure that players can’t progress without an understanding of the game’s core mechanics. It’s also worth noting that the presentation on display is immediately impressive, with satisfying animations, memorable character designs, and interesting environments.

After the fast-paced flashback teaches the basic rules of engagement, players are dragged back to the present day, where they meet a new character: Jen, a private investigator who doubles as a powerful witch. It’s here where things really begin to take off, as Jen is a particularly well-written character who’s tremendously easy to like. What’s more, this is where Tactical Breach Wizards lets down the guard rails and throws players in at the deep end.

Trapped in a police station under siege, the player is tasked with battling through a series of modular zones, each of which features its own puzzle built out of enemies, collectibles, and interactable objects. It’s here that players will get a true taste of Tactical Breach Wizard’s gameplay loop, pulling off combos with the two characters they now have control of, working to shut down reinforcements and take out enemies as quickly (and creatively) as they can.

One of the most immediately noticeable strengths of Tactical Breach Wizards is the diversity of actions players can take on any given turn. Just with the two available characters in the demo, there’s already an array of interesting decisions for players to make. With more characters in the mix, Tactical Breach Wizards is sure to allow for many approaches.

So, that just about covers the basics of the gameplay. What about the rest of this neat little package? Despite its short play-time, the Tactical Breach Wizards demo does an admirable job of cluing players in on the narrative. This story is told through a combination of character dialogue, minimalist cut-scenes, and a detective-style map that has players connecting the dots with red yarn.

While I won’t go into too much detail on the narrative, other than to say that what’s there is gripping enough to make me curious, I will say that the presentation of this narrative is ingenious. Because Tactical Breach Wizards treads the line between a story-driven experience and a crunchy, tactical puzzle, it would be easy to turn those away who aren’t interested in the narrative. However, since all the character dialogue and cut scenes can be skipped, players can choose to ignore the story entirely. Furthermore, those who do want to experience the story will get a diegetic experience bereft of needless exposition. At least, these are my assumptions based on the demo available on Steam right now.

As far as everything else goes, Tactical Breach Wizards is a well-rounded product, at least as far as the demo goes. Each level treads the line between accessible and brain-scratching, with some tricky bonus challenges that are particularly satisfying to complete. The environments are also surprisingly diverse and frequently had me on the lookout for well-placed windows that I could happily chuck enemies out of… Non-lethally, of course.

While there’s little in the way of progression on show in the demo, it does give players a taste of a simple level and perk system that looks to be sturdy enough to provide interesting choices and satisfying upgrades. There’s also a variety of outfits that players can give their characters, provided they’ve gained enough confidence to wear them, something that’s achieved through completing the aforementioned (and entirely optional) bonus challenges.

The soundtrack to this tactical madness is a particular highlight, sounding like a combination of 80s sci-fi thriller music and smooth jazz. The various sound effects used throughout the game are also perfectly serviceable, providing plenty of weight to each action.

To be honest, this demo mostly just left me wanting more. The only complaints I do have are few, such as the game not allowing mouse-looking with the camera. While this isn’t terribly annoying (you can just use WASD instead or move/rotate the camera with the left and right mouse buttons), it does feel like an accessibility oversight. Without spoiling anything, the boss fight at the end of the demo is also somewhat underwhelming due to it being rather easy, accounting for the bonus challenges. However, the character design and introduction of the boss is certainly memorable.

Conclusion

Overall, Tactical Breach Wizards is looking to be worth the wait, and the demo is almost certainly worth checking out for any fan of turn-based tactics. However, even newcomers to the genre are likely to find plenty of fun in this title’s accessible systems. Tactical Breach Wizards is set to release sometime in 2024, with a public demo currently available on Steam.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Harry Ted Sprinks

With a deep love for strategy games that began when he first played Stronghold as a kid on his parents’ home computer and a passion for linear narrative games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead and old-school shooters like Blood and DOOM, Harry loves video games of all shapes and sizes. His knowledge of games new and old is broad, but Harry’s biggest passion is indie games, which he loves to champion in his writing. Harry’s favorite games include old-school rogue-likes like Caves Of Qud, older RTS titles such as Red Alert 3, modern classics like Halo 3, and survival-horror games like Resident Evil. When he isn’t writing or playing games, Harry can likely be found developing small games of his own or making music. Although Harry enjoys the occasional AAA game, his attention is primarily focused on representing indie games.