Once more … dear friends, once more
There’s a definite challenge in reviewing Into the Breach. The game first released in February of 2018 for the PC to near universal acclaim and the Switch release trailed 6 months after. In that time the reviews, “let’s-plays,” and Twitch streams have come fast and furious, so it’s likely you already knew whether or not you wanted to get Into the Breach before it even landed in the Nintendo eShop.
The Vek are invading and a strike force of giant robots are our only defense! In a surprising twist, our brave mecha pilots won’t rest after saving the world just once. After every victory (or defeat) they’ll pass through a dimensional breach and enter another timeline where they’ll face the threat of the Vek again, and again. There’s a lot to enjoy, so long as you can weather more than a few failures.
Into the Breach is inspired by the “roguelike” style, so it embraces consequence. There are no save states, no take-backs, and every decision matters. It can lead to analysis paralysis, as you weigh the possible outcomes of each choice and try to think two or three rounds ahead but fortunately, it’s just a game. It’s quick to restart and try again, as long as you don’t mind losing some new gear and a pilot or two. Easy come, easy go.
It’s a tight loop of picking gear and battlefields and fighting the Vek. Maps, enemy units, and power-ups are randomized to provide variety, but if you aren’t excited by that core gameplay you may find it repetitive. I enjoyed the hours I spent with it, but in time I expect Into the Breach will fall into the background, overshadowed by flashier games. However, it’s one I’ll come back to on occasion for a few bite-sized rounds of gameplay.
A new player might feel frustrated at the start. There is little in the way of tutorials and some tools can only be learned through experimentation – though there is a simulation mode where you can test weapons and mechs on target dummies. Just knowing the mechanics of an ability however doesn’t mean you understand the strategy. Fortunately, hours of YouTube videos and player strategy guides can fill in the gaps for anyone not interested in learning from painful experience.
Control of the battlefield is often more important than weaponry. Proper positioning denies the Vek the advantage – in more ways than one, since you can sit a mech on top of one their “emergence holes” and keep them pinned underground. Shoving a high-powered leader into the path of a meteor or the edge of a spreading acid pool can end a dangerous encounter immediately. I found I would pass over damage upgrades or enhanced weapons in favor of abilities that let me move mechs and ram Veks to the best places on the board.
Into the Breach comes to us from Subset Games, the studio that created FTL, a game in a similar vein with a tight loop of play, relying on simple decisions with long-reaching consequences. It features their distinct style of pseudo-retro graphics, reminiscent of the pixelated 16-bit games of the Sega Genesis and catchy tunes to match. Child of the ’80’s, I felt comfortable with the style and added the soundtrack to my library.
It’s a minor quibble, but I had some difficulty getting comfortable with the various buttons and controls. After a while I didn’t need to keep reading the on-screen indicators, but I had a few mistaken button presses that cost me a mech or two. This game would have been an excellent opportunity for the developers to make use of the Switch’s touch-screen controls (perhaps ahead of a tablet release?)
Into the Breach is a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch, slotting into the space left by the lack of a new Advance Wars title and in the time lag between the Rabbids: Kingdom Battle expansion of the past summer and the new Fire Emblem game slated for the spring. It provides quick pick-up-and-play strategy with basics easy to understand but full of options that lead to a long learning curve and good reason for multiple replays.
Into the Breach currently sits at a 90 rating on Metacritic. I agree with the majority of reviewers, it is an excellent game and well worth playing. My personal ranking is A: The game far exceeded my expectations. An interesting concept well executed and deserving of its acclaim.I agree with the majority of reviewers, it is an excellent game and well worth playing.
Game software was purchased from the eShop by the reviewer.