Into the Breach is a Good Game everyone should play [GG #6]

The GG series highlights Good Games everyone should play at least once, with links out to fantastic writing. Scroll down to the bottom for a list of previous GG posts — and if you enjoy these, considering sharing them with a friend. You can subscribe here.

Over the holiday I padded my Switch library, rinsing the sale for games that I already owned elsewhere but that I knew I’d love on a handheld console. There were a bunch of excellent games for around a fiver each — Into the Breach (2018, PC, Switch) was one of them. It’s a strategy game, but if you’re not into the genre, don’t let that label put you off.

What is it?

A turn-based game where you move tiny mechs around a small grid, trying to stop aliens from destroying buildings. It’s often likened to sci-fi chess, in that each of your mechs, and the aliens, have defined, predictable move sets. What’s probably most memorable about it is, first, the fact that enemies telegraph their moves one turn ahead for you to plan around, and second, that playing flawlessly is pretty much impossible: you’ll often be forced to pick the least-worst option (do you lose a mech, or let an alien crush a building, killing civilians and bringing ultimate defeat nearer?)

What makes it so good?

Its simplicity. In laying out the enemy’s next move, it turns every turn into a mini puzzle — and gives you plenty of tools to solve them. You can manipulate enemies by hooking them, tossing them over your head, freezing them, setting them on fire, laying down smoke, or using countless other moves that vary based on what mech squad you’re using. The most satisfying outcomes are when you’re able to move enemies so that, on their turn, they attack each other, rather than your mechs or the civilian buildings. Everything is explained on the screen, so you’re never left wondering why a turn resulted in a given outcome.

Where can I buy it?

On PC, it’s currently cheapest on the Humble Store: £5.69 / $7.49.

On Switch, it’s about £11 / $15.

Extra Life… (bonus questions and links to brilliant writing)

Any tips for beginners?

Yes, three key ones:

1) Control the middle of the map. Your mechs can’t move very far, and keeping them central when possible will help you respond to any eventuality.

2) Check, check, check the upcoming order of enemy attacks. At one button press, you can see what order the enemies will attack in. This can often be the difference between a game-ending mistake and a genius move.

3) Prioritise battles with reputation (stars) rewards. As you progress, you pick which battles to take. The basic choice is between reputation and power for your power grid (if it hits zero, because buildings have been hit too often, it’s game over). Unless your running low on power, pick reputation every time, because at the end of each island you can spend 1 reputation for 1 power anyway.

Links to great writing about Into the Breach

A: Alex Wiltshire’s (@rotational) glowing review for PC Gamer captures my thoughts pretty perfectly: “Exacting, agonising, challenging, and intensely rewarding, Into the Breach delivers in the tiniest package the most perfectly formed tactics around.”

B: Wiltshire, prolific Into the Breach correspondent that he is, also wrote this detailed analysis/interview for Rock, Paper, Shogtun, on why the game’s user interface is so good, and so central to the player’s enjoyment.

X: Another interview with the developers, this time by Maddy Myers (@MIDImyers) and Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) for Kotaku, on how the Into the Breach team nearly gave up halfway through making it, and how they had to cut several huge sections. Text excerpt, with a longer audio interview attached.

Y: A classic ‘making of’ piece by Kirk McKeand (@MckKirk) for VG247.

Previous GG posts

GG #1Hades (2020, PC, Switch)

GG #2Dishonored 2 (2016, PC, Xbox One, PS4)

GG #3The Witness (2016, PS4, Xbox One, PC, mobiles)

GG #4Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010, PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)

GG #5: Disco Elysium (2019, PC, Switch soon)