Into the Breach review

It is the end of everything. Alien bug monsters have trashed the planet, the scorched detritus of humanity’s hubris – non-stick pans, fizzy drinks, and cat memes – now drifting into oblivion on the galactic winds. But, crouched in the rubble and dust of otherwise inevitable annihilation, we remember our history. We remember what we’ve learned from the totally for real documentaries of other wars almost exactly like this one.

We remember Starship Troopers.

We remember Pacific Rim.

We remember The Terminator.

And we’ve got a plan.

Game info
Genre: Tactical strategy
Platform/s: PC
Reviewed on: PC
Developer: Subset Games
Publisher: Subset Games
Distributor: N/A

In Into the Breach, you control a squad of three robo-mechs who must go back in time and save the world before it’s over, effectively creating an awkward ontological paradox in which the world was never tripping on the brink of cataclysm anyway, and you wouldn’t have gone back in time to save the world before it’s over in the first place, so the game’s premise is already busted but that’s like a whole other discussion and besides, I’m probably over-thinking it. If you don’t manage to save the world – and you won’t manage to save the world, because Into the Breach was developed by the studio whose previous project was the spaceship fail sim FTL: Faster Than Light, and this one is more of the same – you simply reboot the timeline and start over, keeping one of your pilots as a sort of consolation prize so you don’t feel too despondent about it.

The campaign plays out as a series of turn-based mini-missions, each one resolved in about five to a million minutes, depending on how much you um and uh on important decisions like which robo-mech to move on what space, whether or not to use your one reset per encounter to move it back, and the existential crisis in between. What’s unique about Into the Breach compared with something ostensibly similar like XCOM or Advance Wars, is that the enemy’s next turn is displayed during your own, so your job is to counter-manoeuvre the bad guys before they even manoeuvre. It’s not actually as bamboozling as it seems, however, and in the absence of random, unexpected events to blame, the game’s real ingenuity is that a loss is entirely your fault because you knew what was going to happen, jeez.

I dunno. Maybe explain it again, but with more crayons, please.

Fundamental to your ongoing resistance efforts is the preservation of a power grid, which maintains its current level between missions. If a building is wrecked, you lose power, and if you lose too much power, you can’t use the microwave and you die. Or something like that. I dunno, but who would even want to live without a microwave? The on-screen power grid status indicator is a constant reminder of the potential consequences of messing up, and starting a mission with only one or two units and the sombre prospect of a cold curry in the time machine makes for some very anxious moments.

As you complete objectives, you’ll also unlock different robo-mechs and pilots with their own distinctive abilities, tech, and engagement protocols, so you can keep things interesting from one campaign to the next by mixing up your combat drops for some diversity. It won’t make the game easier, though.

93Combining equal parts simple and complex, Into the Breach is an innovative, unconventional puzzler that requires lateral thinking, deliberation, and a lot of persistence, and in the end (and every other end), invariably exposes only your own inadequacy to save humanity from extinction, and that’s why you work at the bank or whatever. Everybody needs that kind of affirmation.