How do you make a hard decision? Choice is something baked into a lot of games. Triple A titles boast harsh moral concepts to puzzle over. Shooters task you with picking the best load-out. INTO THE BREACH lets you make your own choices, and heavily rewards your strategic thinking.
Developed as Subset Games’ sophomore effort after FASTER THAN LIGHT, INTO THE BREACH shares much with its predecessor. Both games require not only patience but a desire to stick with and learn from them. That’s something that you don’t see very often in video games these days.
All Systems Go
With a relatively simple interface, INTO THE BREACH is immediately inviting. There are no multiplayer modes, no complicated tutorials. The story is simple: giant insectoid monsters are invading the Earth, and it’s up to your team of equally giant robots to stop them.
After you pick your forces, the game shows you 4 islands, 3 of which are blacked out. Each island is in need of saving, but can only be unlocked one at a time. Each island sports a different climate and a different leader in charge. They run the gamut from the first island’s kindly leader to the second island’s more cantankerous, and even the third island’s robotic advisor.
Each island has its own set of objectives that you must complete, from defending a moving train to freezing and protecting rogue robots. When you complete these objectives, the game gives you stars to spend. After each island is freed, these stars can be spent to upgrade your forces.
Drop INTO THE BREACH
Combat in INTO THE BREACH is disarmingly simple, at least with the default squad. As you play, the game teaches you its systems without holding your hand. Once you pick your map and drop in, the bugs are already waiting. They move first, and move themselves into position to strike. Then it’s your turn.
Do you defend the building full of people? Do you move out of the way for a better shot? Therein lies the center of combat in INTO THE BREACH. The bugs are just bugs, telegraphing their moves. It’s how you react that really makes the game shine. Your mechs can move and attack. However, if they attack they can’t move afterward. This causes situations when you might have to sacrifice one to save civilians.
Now, if you’re thinking, “why would I care if I mech is destroyed?” You have a valid point. However, each has a pilot, and you’ll want to keep them alive. Not only can you install new parts but your pilots also level up. As they kill more bugs they gain more skills, whether it’s more movement points, more health, or even better abilities.
Being careful, though, is the name of the game. Once the mech goes down, the pilot dies — permanently. The mech will return next round, piloted by an AI. The pilot, however, is dead and you lose all of their skills and experience.
Winning and Losing (A Lot)
Your overall objective is not only to destroy the central hive but protect your own infrastructure. Your power level is “The Grid,” which keeps your forces active, and in the fight. Civilians populate buildings on the map, and it’s your job to protect them. Each time the bugs destroy a building, the bar reduces by one. Once that bar ticks down to zero — it’s Game Over.
All is not lost, however. INTO THE BREACH has a mechanic up its sleeve to help you. As the bugs crawl up from the ground in a final assault, your remaining pilots evacuate their mechs. You can then choose one of them to stick around for your next play-through. This means that they’ll carry over all of their previous skills and experience into your new game.
You should expect this to happen a lot at first, and if you’re easily frustrated this will be a sore spot. The game is about learning, much like its predecessor.
On the winning side, beating at least two of the four islands will unlock the “Final Island.” This volcanic island will task you with defending your squad, first above ground, then below. The final stage sees you in the center of the hive defending a bomb from wave after wave of bugs. After the timer winds down and the bomb explodes, you’ve done it.
Over and Over and Over Again
The game doesn’t end there though. Your pilots, once again, teleport INTO THE BREACH and you choose one of them to bring into a new game. The aforementioned Rift Walker squad is only one of 8 to unlock. Each brings their own strengths and unique talents to the table. From frost powers to electricity, the variations are numerous.
Unlocking each squad requires coins, which you get from achievements. These range from fun to infuriating. Each squad has 3 achievements specific to their talents, and there are ones for beating the game a certain way. I’ve only unlocked 5 out of the 8 squads, and I’ve been playing for over 13 hours, so they will take time. Obviously some achievements were far easier to earn than others, but still be prepared to take some time.
The Little and Big Things
With all of these systems in place and the immense choices, it’s easy to overlook the little things. Each pilot has their own unique personality, which makes losing them all the harsher. The pixel graphics are charming and each biome looks gorgeous in its own way. Each unit stands apart from the others, while the bugs are easily identifiable by a quick glance.
One of my favorite little features is when you first drop into the battlefield the people in the buildings cheer in text form (one old man says “get my glasses!”). It’s small and incidental but just shows the care that went into making this small game so charming.
It’s Never the End
If you were wondering when PACIFIC RIM UPRISING was going to come up, you can stop waiting. The game releases right near the movie, clearly not a coincidence. While not officially a tie-in, this is the best PACIFIC RIM game we’re going to see. Historically, video games based on this franchise have been… shoddy.
All we’ve had so far is the crummy mobile tie-in and the officially licensed Xbox arcade game, neither of which captured the film’s atmosphere. Fans of the movie have been clamoring for any kind of PACIFIC RIM video game, and this will certainly scratch that itch. Even if you’re not a huge fan of giant robots smashing giant monsters, the game has plenty of tactical combat and harsh choices to keep you interested.
With its quaint graphics, a large number of unlockables, and strong combat this game should keep you enthralled for a long time to come.