Into the Breach Review

Screenshot of Into the Breach
Sometimes you have to deal with environmental hazards like the tsunami in this level

Quick Info
Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
Developer: Subset Games
Publisher: Subset Games
Release Date: 27 Feb 2018
Time played: 6.7 hours

Roguelike with a dash of giant mechs and turn-based tactics

Into the Breach is a roguelike where combat is resolved with turn-based tactics gameplay, similar to games like XCOM (in fact, the developers have stated that the success of XCOM: Enemy Unknown gave them faith to proceed with a new title in this genre). In the game, you lead a squad of three giant mechs that time travel into the past to defeat creatures known as the Vek. The Vek are intent on destroying Humanity and it's up to you to protect islands that are owned by various corporations and to eventually make your way to the Vek Hive and exterminate their presence on Earth, once and for all.

Subset Games is one of the indie success stories of the early 2010s with the release of their critically acclaimed starship roguelike FTL: Faster than Light in 2012. Buoyed by the success of FTL, Subset Games didn't rest on their laurels and decided to work on another roguelike called Into the Breach which was released 6 years later in 2018. The game was also well received by critics achieving a Metascore of 90 and a "Very Positive" rating on Steam where 94% of the 11,660 user reviews are rated positive. Critics praised the game for its addictive nature, its original, tactical gameplay similar to Chess, and its well-designed maps. Criticisms were made about the limited incentive to replay campaigns, balancing issues and a lack of variance with respect to upgrades and mechs.

I liked what Subset Games did with FTL: Faster than Light and I also liked Ben Prunty's soundtrack on that particular game so having both the same developer and composer pair up for another game already piqued my interest. The fact that Into the Breach is a turn-based tactics title as well was an opportunity too good to miss. With some credit I received for Christmas in 2020, I made sure to grab it while it was on sale.

Screenshot of Harold in Into the Breach
Harold makes an astute observation about the game 

For the thinkers

While on the surface Into the Breach appears to be a turn-based tactics game similar to XCOM, it probably has more in common with puzzle games or chess. This is because there is less random chance in Into the Breach (no 100% chance shots going awry here) and most of your time should be spent deliberating on how to move your pieces in order to defeat your opponent with the perfect play. This isn't really a game for people who try to wing it and hope to recover later on in the battle. If you make a mistake early on things tend to just get worse from there. The game is very unforgiving with respect to mistakes so it's just as well the game gives you the opportunity to undo unit moves as well as the ability to reset the turn during a battle (but you can only do this once).

I already find roguelikes a bit of a challenge so despite playing on the easiest difficulty, I still had trouble when reaching the penultimate island. Usually, I would get to a stage where the Vek would overwhelm me: they would destroy a lot of buildings and cause the power bar to drop to zero which restarts the campaign. It took me several restarts before I finally noticed that you don't actually need to complete all four islands prior to the final island. Once I discovered this shortcut (i.e. you only have to complete two islands before progressing to the final island) it actually made things quite easier (since the game also scales the difficulty depending on how many islands you've completed). So I was very grateful that the game was at least designed for n00bs like me in mind, otherwise, I'd have never completed the game.

Screenshot of Into the Breach when you lose a campaign
When you lose the campaign you can choose to save one pilot for the next timeline

Trolley Problem

It's not bad enough that you have to worry about keeping your mech pilots alive and ensuring you achieve the mission objectives in order to earn reputation (the currency used to upgrade your mech abilities), but you also have to worry about protecting civilians. The Vek are intent on not only destroying key structures but also any apartments housing civilians. If too many of these apartments are destroyed, the power grid collapses and the power grid is the only thing keeping your squad of mechs functional. It basically acts like a sort of "life bar". Once the power grid collapses the campaign is over and you have to restart again. You'll be able to take one mech pilot with you but all the progress you've made with respect to upgrading the mechs or other mech pilots will be gone forever. Every time you make a decision in this game you will be faced with a dilemma proving again this isn't the sort of game you want to be gung-ho about when taking your moves: you need to plan multiple steps ahead.

Steam Goodies

The Steam version of the game (which is the version being reviewed) happens to not only have 8 Steam Trading Cards you can collect, but you can also earn 55 Steam Achievements too. The game happens to run on the Steam Link too and I've confirmed it works well with the Logitech F710 controller.


Into the Breach is a turn-based tactics game that has more in common with Chess or puzzle games than it does with XCOM and while that may be great for those competent with strategy or puzzle games, it's not so much fun for those who lack the patience to make the perfect play. If you are in the market for this kind of game though, you'll find a solid title with appealing pixel art, many mechs and abilities to play around with, and a top notch, atmospheric soundtrack thanks to the talents of Ben Prunty.

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