Into the Breach is one of those turn-based games that play more like a puzzle than a strategy. While there are, of course, tactics in the use of mechs and weapons on the battlefield, often one single push that changes enemy position can turn a perfect victory into an awful defeat and vice versa.
And it’s also amazing how all the gameplay conventions are woven into the story. Not that this is the first game that uses time travel as an explanation of reloading the game but it’s really cool how “resetting the timeline” is complemented by “time-pod” bonuses that drop on the battlefield. And you can even bring advanced pilots from the past. Or rather the future. That is your past.
Still, playing each timeline (let’s call it in the game’s own term) is pretty straightforward. You fight against the swarm of giant insectoids called Vek by completing various missions on one of the world’s four islands.
Interestingly enough, you don’t need to kill every single enemy. In fact, the battle is considered won if you have just survived for five turns. So it’s far more important to keep your mechs intact and protect buildings from damage. Especially buildings, as they provide energy to the defense grid that keeps a larger part of Vek ravaging horde at bay. And any damage to the grid persists between missions.
Additional tasks include terraforming – raising mountains and turning forests into the desert by special installations. Also clearing path for a moving train (probably the most pain in the ass mission), protecting additional “special” buildings, “special” vehicles that actually join your three-mech squad and sometimes can support you with additional firepower and abilities. There is even a mission where you need to preserve certain enemies. How are you supposed to do that?!
Well, lucky for you, enemies don’t attack the same turn they move. And the trick is to do something with them before the next turn they’ll bring damage to your precious ‘grid’. To destroy them is just one solution. Many weapons can push or pull enemies, so their next attack will be in vain, or even better – damage their own. Fire deals damage and water outright kills Vek if they found themselves on burning or flooded tiles.
All your timelines belongs to us
There are many more nuances, but you get the idea. It’s like the chess game, where a clever move can completely turn the tide. Except you have the advantage of becoming stronger with each successful mission and getting bonuses through time-travel shenanigans.
And just like gameplay looks deceptively simple and straightforward, all other parts of Into the Breach are also more than meets the eye. The style looks pixilated, like in the games of the 90-s, but the resolution is actually higher than it seems and allows for some details. Each sprite on the battlefield and each background screen drawn in a clean and visually appealing manner.
You have even some banter during the battle between your pilots, authority characters (four of them to represent each island) and a local population that can shout something right from their buildings.
Those are just a few lines that appear for a couple of seconds, but even they contribute to your immersion. And btw they are context-sensitive – you are praised for good moves, scolded for bad decisions… And some comments about Vek or mission progress can reveal interesting details about the characters and the world.
All You Need is Think
Into the Breach is an exemplary indie game that offers more with less. Deceptively simple mechanics and premise provide a possibility for deep tactics in chess problem-like missions. And distinct style appeals to fans of old-school and modern indie alike (and reminds of anime for some reason).
There are some nitpicks. Like random that can screw you with very inconvenient spawn during the mission or bad weapon choice when you complete the island. And lack of multiplayer or tools for user content. But no game is perfect.
Still, if you’re either up for some nostalgia or for the memorable indie experience. Or simply want to kick some mutant bugs with giant robots in turn-based chess-like battles – this game is recommended for you.