The world has been destroyed. The monstrous insectoid Vek came from below and overran everything, obliterating civilisation in an unstoppable wave of devastation. The remnants of humanity stare helpless into the mandibled maw of imminent oblivion. We will not find salvation in this moment. Rather, you must take a squad of elite pilots into our recent past to combat these creatures before they brought about the fall of man. Fear not failure nor death, for we will send you back again and again, until a new future is secured.
Here's how this turn-based gem works: every locale you visit is represented on an eight-by-eight grid on which you control three powerful mech units against waves of the giant insectoid monsters. Each grid is a combination of buildings, a populous to protect, pick-ups, and random environmental effects that can harm you and the Vek. Your goal on each grid is simply to destroy the Vek, but there are also optional mission objectives that grant upgrade points or additional power. Power is very important, as it is persistent for an entire run, and when it is all destroyed or depleted, you fail. Various buildings provide power, so protecting them is a primary objective in each battle.
The beauty of the combat is how simple it is on the surface: move, attack, end turn, repeat. However, there is depth here that is frankly staggering. It is a game of chess, where reacting to a threat is never going to win you the fight.
The advantage you have over the Vek is your increased granularity of control, and the fact that you can see what the Vek's next turn will be. Your units can be moved in any order, and the only limitation is that firing a unit’s weapon will ends its turn, much in the way it does in the new XCOM games.
Attacks always hit and inflict a consistent amount of damage, and most weapons also shunt a target to an adjacent space, or even across multiple spaces. Doing so may push a target into another enemy for additional damage, out of range of a friendly unit, off a cliff, or into the path of another enemy's attack. Any limitations in the combat are there by design, forcing you to think differently about how you approach each conflict. Unsurprisingly, the order in which you use your units is one key to success.
Into the Breach is game fueled by death, but as with many rogue-derived titles, failure is not the end. Pilots that survive a failed mission are teleported back to base and can be assigned to subsequent missions with any improvements they have attained, and any tech that is unlocked can also be used by your mechs in future missions.
Of all the roguelike games I have played, Into the Breach best integrates the conceits and mechanics of the genre into the game world itself. It also helps to have Chris Avellone onboard as writer, and while the actual text in the game is minimal, it provides more than enough personality to make the world feel like a real place. As a result, the consequences of your failures have a surprisingly emotional impact.
The strategic options available in Into the Breach only really became apparent to me after my fourth death, but once I learned to approach its puzzles in a new way, I was completely and utterly captivated. It is nothing short of genius, and demonstrates just how well Subset understands the turn-based genre, and its audience. Into the Breach might just be the most elegantly designed game I have ever played. I adore it.