Into the Breach
Chess has always had a checkmate across my heart, though I've never truly been sold that the concept carries into video games effectively. You either spend your time waiting for an online friend (who's gone off to have a bath between turns) to make a move, or you're playing on a local console, passing a controller around which becomes redundant if you own a physical board - which I do, including travel set... and themed sets... please don't hurt me.
In Into the Breach the remnants of human civilization are threatened by gigantic creatures breeding beneath the earth. You must control powerful mechs from the future to hold off this alien threat. Each attempt to save the world presents a new randomly generated challenge in this turn-based strategy game.
Each game within Into the Breach takes place on a miniaturised cartoonish grid that visually appears to take influence from the Advance Wars series. Skyscrapers (which act as your health) are dotted about sporadically, whilst other significant landmarks (often related to the current objective) appear from time to time which you'll be tasked with protecting for additional resource points that can be spent on upgrades or grid power.
As the battle begins, you must decide where to place your mech team of three, which initially consists of an artillery, tank and close range physical mech, around the map. Per round, you are able to perform up to 2 actions, the first being to move and the second to perform an attack or action. Once you have performed an attack or action with a mech, this cannot be undone, though the game does allow you to utilise a minority report-esque glimpse of how each move may turn out before you go ahead with it, which may induce temporary analysis paralysis in some that fellow board gamers will know all too well. To further this, you are able to see where the Vek - the insectoid invading race - are preparing to attack, giving you an opportunity to resolve all actions i.e. save the cities in the Vek's current path of destruction and / or your own mechs lives before the round is wrapped up.
At an outside glance, the straightforward gameplay and simplistic visuals do a brilliant job at hiding the deeper strategising elements. The chess-like feel to Into the Breach mentioned earlier quickly becomes apparent whilst proceeding to the next round and seeing a glaringly obvious mistake you are now unable to undo, unless you use the time reversal ability that is only available once per island (each island contains four challenges) to reset the actions performed in the previous round. Once that's gone, you'll have no further safety nets to support you.
Defend the Cities: Civilian buildings power your mechs. Defend them from the Vek and watch your fire!
Perfect Your Strategy: All enemy attacks are telegraphed in minimalistic, turn-based combat. Analyze your opponent’s attack and come up with the perfect counter every turn.
Build the Ultimate Mech: Find powerful new weapons and unique pilots as you battle the Vek infestation across Corporate-Nation islands.
Another Chance: Failure is not an option. When you are defeated, send help back through time to save another timeline!
As mentioned above, there's a further time travel element to the game during Game Over that takes you back to square one, allowing you to bring your best surviving teammate along for the ride. Beyond the storyline, which is fairly simplistic, you are encouraged to work towards increasingly challenging achievements which in turn unlock coins enabling you to purchase new mech sets and mix up the gameplay further. Some teams are more challenging than others and will completely rewrite the way you tackle hostiles and terrain.
Into the Breach may not be the newest indie title out there unless you were waiting for it to come out on Nintendo Switch, in which case it's been available for a month now. I recently took a 10-hour flight and I certainly had my hands full with the Vek for a good portion of the journey.
PC players rejoice, you can also pick up Into the Breach on Steam (Windows and Mac) here
Platform Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date Aug 28, 2018 (Switch), Feb 27, 2018 (PC)
No. of Players 1 player
Category Strategy, Role-Playing, Board Game, Puzzle
Publisher Subset Games