Wouldn’t life be simpler if you could just abandon the timeline and do everything all over again? Into The Breach says yes, sometimes, assuming you can survive at all. The Earth is being invaded by hideous insectoid aliens that want nothing more than to lay waste to everything and everyone on the planet. It is up to you and your squad to try and take them down, the good news is that you have as many chances as you need, the bad news is that you can only send one pilot through the time rift, you’ll always sacrifice two people just to make it back. Of course that relies on one of your units surviving the battle that cripples your squad.
Into The Breach is hard, hard in a way that few games are, hard in a way that makes it so compelling you won’t even care. Every death is part of the leaning curve; every single mistake is permanent and you’re just going to have to turn it around if you get a building or a unit destroyed. If a building gets destroyed it effectively brings you closer to the end of humanity, so it is better to let your mechs take the hit. Afte all even if a mech gets taken out in a match you will still have it afterwards, the issue is the soft inner core, the pilot. The pilots won’t survive getting trashed, so if a mech gets taken out then that pilot is gone forever, if you can’t find a new pilot then an AI can take over, but they lack the bonus skills of their flesh and blood counterparts.
This isn’t a game where you can grind through it and just get better equipment, going back in time doesn’t allow for that. You can unlock different squads to use and you can buy little things here and there, but the only thing you can really take with you is experience. Beating the first island is so much better for this, the same is true of every little victory. When the only thing that gets you through each time is your strategy, it’s much easier to take the credit for, you weren’t overpowered you just made better decisions. It is so very gratifying to overcome the challenges that face you when the only thing you can really rely on is yourself.
In order to swat the invading bugs you need to pay close attention to what they are about to do. Each attack they make is signalled, your attacks can move them so that your units and the buildings that are your lifeblood survive. You can even move them into the path of a different bugs attack, just like the classic saying, that’s two giant insectile aberrations with one stone. If you want to make it through a battle without any losses then you’re going to have to think ahead. Think of it like an incredibly violent chess match.
If you succeed in liberating an entire area then you will be gifted with the chance to upgrade your mechs, maybe with some new weapons, maybe with some new skills, but most of the time just with some more health. It feels great to go into the next set of battles with more firepower at your disposal, though it also makes every match more tense than the last. As you do better and become better the price you pay for losing is that much higher. Each run asks you the same question: are you getting better or are you just lucky?
The visual style of the game harks back to games like Advance Wars; it lets you know that you are in for a challenging but rewarding strategy game just with the way it looks. The visuals combine with the incredible soundtrack by Ben Prunty to make an experience that looks great and sounds even better. Every battle is a joy to be a part of, a frustratingly hard beautiful joy.
Into The Breach is a fantastic example of how you can play around with an established genre. Taking turn-based strategy and letting you see what is about to happen changes everything about what would normally play out. The feeling of intellectual superiority you feel when you outsmart the aliens is incredible and will keep you playing through every loss you will experience. Best of all the bite-size maps fit onto the Switch so perfectly that the idea of playing it on a PC is absurd. This is a game made for a handheld, and damn is it good.
Version tested: Nintendo Switch – Also available for PC & Mac