Oh boy, another chance to talk about crowdfunding! Here’s the rundown if you’ve somehow missed my take on it over the past four years or so: a fool and his money are soon parted and crowdfunding as an institution is designed to make that parting as quick and painless as possible. It was real good at doing that about half a decade ago and has steadily become less of a get-rich-quick scheme over the years; gamers learn slowly, but they do learn.
Cool, now we’re on the same page. Crowdfunding isn’t always bad, though, as sometimes cool stuff comes out of it like spaceship-based rogue-’em-up FTL: Faster than Light. That game sold, the creators made another game, now we’ve got Into the Breach and we’re going to talk about it.
The world’s coming to an end! As always, evil insects are doing the deed; this variety is called the Vek. You can stop them, but it’s going to take a trip to the past to make it happen. Pick a pilot, pick some robots, hope you unlock some more of both in this particular playthrough, send them all back in time and hope that humanity can beat the heck out of the Vek. Slight issue with this plan: robots didn’t exist in the past, so the capability to keep them running is somewhat limited. Run out of power and, well…you probably shouldn’t run out of power.
You’ll take the fight to the Vek by picking an island and a location for the battle. Into the Breach is a turn-based strategy game with an interesting twist: turns take place simultaneously, but the Vek get to plan their turns first. That might sound bad, but in reality it’s your greatest advantage, since you can see what the bugs are planning before they do it.
This means that this is a game that’s all about hilarious positioning tricks and other such tomfoolery. If a bug’s about to gnaw on a power plant and cost you some much-needed juice, for instance, you don’t have to just sit there and take it. Fight back! You’ve got several robots with different attacks and stats, so get a walker up there and punch the bug! Maybe you’ll kill it, but even if you don’t, the direction of its attack won’t change and the punch just moved it out of the way so it’s probably not hitting anything now. Better yet, why not punch it into another bug to damage them both? Even better than that, why not punch it so that its attack hits another bug instead of the power plant?
A properly executed plan is a glorious demonstration of Murphy’s Law as everything that can go wrong for the bugs does. Bugs fly into each other, launching attacks into their comrades and sending them flying into deadly water. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility, and in this case that means that your mad planning skillz give the game an excuse to place you against drastically overwhelming odds. If I just made Into the Breach sound easy, well, I’m very sorry about that, because it’s not the case whatsoever. Dealing with one bug isn’t bad. Dealing with three is doable. Dealing with three bugs, one of which is buffing the others, and several that are about to emerge as well? That’s more of a problem.
Failure means starting over in true roguelike fashion, so be ready to learn through adversity. Thankfully there are numerous upgrades to collect and neat bonuses to unlock. In particular, it’s great to unlock a new set of robots to start with; each set has different capabilities that allow you to approach the game in a different way.
This is a nice, crunchy bit of bite-sized strategy that plays well and is also well-served by its presentation. You’ve seen retro pixel art every week or so for about a decade now, so don’t expect to be wowed by innovation, but Into the Breach’s graphics accomplish their goal of allowing you to quickly and effectively survey a battlefield and compose plans. Likewise, the sound and music are basically exactly what you’d expect, but done with a significant level of polish. In particular, the soundtrack is solid and memorable.
If every game to come out of a crowdfunded project had been as great as FTL: Faster than Light, the gaming landscape would be significantly different today. Likewise, if every follow-up to all those successful crowdfunded project were as great as Into the Breach, we’d be even more spoiled for choice than we already are. I’ll laud the praises of this sort of short-session, low-overheard game for as long as there are people to hear me; in an industry packed with epic cinematic blockbusters, it’s great to have a nice, dense chunk of gameplay like this. For these reasons and more you should probably check this one out.