It’s hard to overstate how much I love Into the Breach. I can give the easy stats: how many pieces I’ve written about the game, how many hours I’ve put into the various platforms (somewhere north of 2800), how much I’ve evangelized the game since its release in early 2018. I’ve been playing it steadily since the week it came out, what seems like eons ago. A couple of weeks back, Subset Games released a massive content update: Into The Breach Advanced Edition, which boasts new missions, new pilots, new enemies, and much more.
It’s a huge package, and really the first new content the game has seen in about four and a half years (there have been a couple of updates with small tweaks in the meantime, but not new content like this).
If you haven’t played before, briefly, it’s a turn-based tactics game (you may say a tactics puzzler with some light immersive elements!) that puts you and your squad of three mechs on a 64 tile grid against an overwhelming enemy force of giant bugs. Instead of defeating every enemy, you instead need to survive five waves per battle and protect civilian buildings. While you are almost always overwhelmed by the sheer number of threats, you also have near-perfect information to make sound strategic decisions — the game’ UI shows you everything that will happen on an enemy turn, and in what order).
There’s a small, satisfying narrative layer, with a time travel frame story and lines of dialogue from your pilots, all of whom have their quirks and personalities that again tie into special abilities they have on a the field. Overall, Into the Breach tickles my brain in a way no other tactics game — and really, very few games of any kind — ever have.
As an athlete, I’ve always been more defensively minded, so it makes some measure of sense that I’d find this sort of approach enjoyable. Playing a battle in this game is just such a crunchy and ridiculously satisfying experience to puzzle your way through a given situation, deny the enemy its will, turn their own attacks against them and send the little fuckers packing.
It’s everything pleasing about solving a difficult puzzle, and it gloms directly on to other satisfying feelings in other areas of my life. Finishing a really difficult run (and really nailing it) feels a little like submitting an opponent in a grappling match, or properly diagnosing and treating an unstable patient. It’s a long road sometimes, but it’s worth every moment.
I was excited, but a little anxious once I heard about the new stuff — the core game is about as well balanced a game experience as I’ve ever played, though I fundamentally trusted Subset to playtest extensively. I was more afraid of the sheer volume of new stuff, and whether the core design principle at the game’s heart: play defense, identify and prioritize threats, take your (calculated) shots, and above all, survive — would be tweaked In some way that just didn’t jive as well with my brain.
After a couple of weeks with the Advanced Edition, I can happily say that I needn’t have worried: and I have hundreds if not thousands of hours of more Breaching in my future. The new content is a feast — and it complements and supplements those core design principles brilliantly.
I’ve really only just started to dive in. So far, I’m playing with all the new features turned on (you are able to toggle new content to suit your experience: enemies, missions, pilots, abilities, etc), but I’ve only gotten my hands dirty with two new squads. In the first week, I focused on the Heat Sinkers, who rely on the new “boost” feature pretty heavily. This week and last, I’ve been messing with the Arachnoids, who are built around an ability to spawn an arachnoid mech on a kill shot, which turns into a useful unit with a melee attack of its own.
It took me a couple of days to really get my bearings, especially as someone who was used to using artillery mechs to move pieces around the board from far away. Likewise, some of the new enemy designs had me stumped: several “bounce” to other tiles, which cost me several games when I failed to take those actions into account. I certainly didn’t think I was an expert at the game, but I have a fairly advanced understanding of the game’s mechanics after a couple of thousand hours. These new features got me a few times at first, then made me very excited — look at all these other strategies, these other valid ways to play, all these other paths to victory!
Learning new mechanics — especially this many new mechanics — and new features was briefly overwhelming, but now I’m in the most satisfying possible space to be in with a game (or any new skill set): learning rapidly and just absorbing information like a little sponge. It’s intoxicating, at least for me and the way this game hits all my buttons.
After a couple dozen hours, I know I’ve only just scratched the surface here, and honestly, that’s fantastic. This is a buffet for me, and for every other fan of Subset’s brand of puzzler, and I couldn’t be happier with it.