Apocalypse Series Computer Game Reviews

Apocalypse Series #13: Into The Breach

With the current COVID-19 pandemic occurring at the time of this writing, it seemed appropriate to take a look at some games that prominently feature the end of the world as we know it, or at least the post-apocalyptic landscape of the time after. In this installment we will be looking at Into The Breach released by Subset Games in February 2018.

The apocalypse this time is giant bug-like monsters, known as the Vek, that have long been breeding under the ground. In fact, they’ve already rampaged across the surface and destroyed the human world! You control a small squad of soldiers, piloting giant mechanized battle suits (mechs), who travel back in time to change the outcome and save humanity. In many ways this is no less outlandish than zombies, and wouldn’t feel out of place in the realm of Japanese manga (comic books).

This science fiction themed game plays out via a streamlined turn-based strategy system. When first starting the game, you get to pick your set of units to play through this timeline. Each unit has a different combat ability to use against the Vek. Initially, most units are locked, but you can earn coins by completing specific goals, which can then be spent to unlock other unit sets.

You can also create custom squads out of the units that you have unlocked.

The set of units you choose drastically alters how you need to plan for each fight. Some units may only be able to attack adjacent enemies, while others shoot projectiles in a straight line, yet others are able to arc shots over allies, while some units have abilities that are not direct attacks at all – such as being able to pull one unit next to itself via a grappling hook. You can also unlock new pilots, which have their own abilities that can further impact how you play.

After picking your units, there is a choice of which one of three islands to begin your campaign against the Vek on. You fight across these islands one at a time, with the difficulty of the remaining islands scaling up when they are attempted second of third. This balances out your units gaining improvements and your pilots gaining experience, which leads to them leveling up, further increasing their abilities.

There is also a fourth island, which is locked until you have completed the initial three.

Each island is broken down into separate mission areas. Each of these areas gives different rewards for defeating the Vek or completing bonus objectives. Stars represent how much reputation you gain with the faction controlling the island. These stars can be exchanged for various upgrade supplies, after clearing that island of Vek. The Circle icon, next to the star on the top menu bar, represents upgrade Cores to enhance your mechs.

The Power Grid essentially represents your life bar. If enemy units attack civilian buildings, it decreases. If it reaches zero, then you lose this timeline and need to start a new game. Grid Defense is the chance that a building will resist damage when attacked, preventing Power Grid loss.

Completing mission objectives with the lightning bolt symbol will refill one unit on the Power Grid.

Combat plays out on a relatively small rectangular grid map. The exact number of squares can vary from area to area. When starting a mission, you first decide where to place your units from a selection of potential starting map tiles, with the initial enemies and objectives clearly visible.

This is the Blitzkrieg squad load out, starting the Old Town mission from the prior screenshot.

After you confirm your unit deployment, the Vek get to move and lock in their planned attacks. Your units then get to move and make active attacks on your turn. When your turn ends, the Vek’s attacks trigger, then they move again, and lock in their next planned attack. This repeats each turn until the set number of turns for victory have passed, your units are all destroyed, or your Power Grid hits 0.

This visual aid might help clarify things… or, maybe this just merits more explanation.

In the screenshot above, two flying Vek had moved to either side of my Boulder Mech and planned to attack it, while the third Vek is targeting a civilian building. On my turn, I have just moved my Boulder Mech unit out of the way of the incoming attacks and have targeted an attack toward the third Vek.

You might notice a couple of small cracks, with red arrows pointing up, on a pair of map tiles. These indicate that new Vek will emerge from the earth at these locations on the following turn. They can be blocked temporarily by placing a unit above them, but this will cause one point of damage to a unit. The number of green bars above a given unit is how much health it currently has.

While this may seem easy at first glance, as you always get to react to the upcoming enemy actions, in playing the game you will soon find that it quickly gets complex to plan out appropriate actions. The actual overall goal of most missions is to simply last a set number of turn. Ideally, you want to do this while completing bonus objectives and preventing civilian casualties, not to mention keeping your units alive. Trying to balance these conflicting goals is what makes the game difficult and interesting.

Experience, or XP, is earned by defeating Vek during a mission.

You can undo your last movement, which helps if you accidentally click on the wrong square. Once per map you can also reset the entire turn, so if you realize that you made mistakes earlier in the turn then you get one shot at fixing them. Thematically, you are doing a small jump backwards in time.

The maps are fairly varied, with different layouts and effects. Some map tiles may be water, which is fatal to non-flying Vek, while others can be impassable mountains. Forested map tiles can be lit on fire by attacks, causing damage each turn to any units in them. Some maps also have allied units you can control or hazards that may kill units that don’t move out of certain areas.

Leveling up your squad members give various bonuses, such as higher Grid Defense in this example.

Completing a mission gives you the objective rewards for that map and unlocks new neighboring map areas. After you clear a certain amount of missions on an island, there will be a final mission against a boss Vek. If you defeat it, then the island is cleared and you can go on to the next one.

Repeating this over and over is pretty much how the game plays. While this repetition may sound monotonous, the difficulty of the game, and the various pilots and giant mechs that you can unlock, give it a good amount of replay value. There are multiple difficulty levels, so you can also make the game even more challenging by setting it to Hard mode.

One pilot managed to survive the first boss fight. Not off to a great start with this campaign.

You should be able to get a good idea of the game’s art from the screenshots above. The art is simple and serviceable, with the stronger element of the game being its mechanics. This game is from a relatively small independent development team, so if you prefer AAA titles that challenge your graphic cards with high definition animations then this may not be for you.

There are multiple sound tracks for the game, most of which have a fast tempo and futuristic vibe. I personally like the music and feel that it does a good job in setting the atmosphere of the game. The sound effects are also well done, in that they mesh well into the game and don’t distract from the experience.

Overall, I enjoy Into The Breach and give it a “B+” rating, or 8.5/10 stars. If you like turn-based strategy then you should enjoy this title, plus it does tend to go on sale on Steam during their regularly scheduled events. If you are more into shooters or fast action, then this title may not be for you.

Into The Breach is available on Steam, GOG, and was recently released for the Nintendo Switch. If you want to check it out, there are links to various stores on the developer’s website here.

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