Into the Breach
Into the Breach is a turn-based tactics game about predicting the future and fixing the past. It puts you at the head of a time-travelling squad of heavily armoured mechs trying to save Earth from an invasion of gigantic insects.
The game’s battles pitch three of your mechs against a swarming number of insectoid ‘Vek’, on an 8 x 8 grid. Your goal isn’t specifically to destroy your enemy, although that’s the ideal outcome. Instead, you’re tasked with protecting multiple buildings on the map for a certain number of turns. Each destroyed building knocks a chunk off the region’s power. If the power grid hits zero, you have to start the whole campaign again.
In any other tactics game, this restarting would mean playing for another 20 hours to restore your progress. However, Into the Breach’s strategic minimalism aims to get the most out of the fewest components. Each ‘battle’ lasts around ten minutes, and it’s possible to conquer one of the game’s four regions within an hour. It also cleverly bakes failure into the experience. If you’re defeated, you can select one of your mechs to return to the future, retaining all its experience and abilities, making your next run slightly easier.
What’s most impressive about Into the Breach, however, is the tactical nuance baked into a handful of mechanics. The Veks, for example, are pretty stupid, telegraphing all their movements for the next turn. You know where they’re going to shoot, what structures they will attack and where their next clutch will spawn, allowing you to create surgically precise responses.
At the same time, however, the Veks always outnumber you, so you can’t deal with everything they throw at you on a one-to-one basis. That’s where the game’s other key system comes in. Your attacks don’t just do damage, they push and pull opponents around the map. Hence, you can
use tank shells to push enemies away from buildings they’re about to attack, or into the ocean to kill them instantly. One particularly satisfying move is pushing an enemy onto another spawning enemy, preventing the spawning enemy from surfacing onto the map, and damaging the Vek stood on top of it. Of course, this system can work against you too, as you might accidentally push an insect into a building, destroying it in the process.
This crowd-control mechanic is where Into the Breach’s true tactical satisfaction lies. Every move you make has a shockwave effect that not only affects the board state, but echoes forward through time. Gradually, the game teaches you to think three moves ahead, all to solve a problem in the past. The fact that Into the Breach can explore such a mindbending idea in just 230MB of space is mind-blowing.