Into the Breach - Critique
A simple grid of 8 by 8 squares is enough to offer a lot of tactical depth. Into the Breach , the new game from Subset Games - to which we owe the legendary FTL: Faster Than Light , revolves around incredibly varied strategic turn-based battles, pitting your trio of mechs against titanic monsters. Regularly, Into The Breach pushed me to my limits and made me think about how to come out alive from this quagmire. And during these occasions, succeeding in my mission was a real moment of exaltation.
With its subtly detailed animations aside, Into The Breach feels like a simple mobile game, with its colorful, pixelated graphics - though, to be honest, I wouldn't be against a port to smartphones so I could play it anywhere I go. . On the surface, it is only a matter of moving units to strike, bombard, push or shoot at waves of watches emerging from the bowels of the earth, using an XCOM-like movement system - one move or one turn attack - fairly common since 2012. But the way its myriad rules interact with each other makes learning its subtle combat system some of the most rewarding tactical experiences I've played in decades. years.
During the runs of Into the Breach, with Rogue-like inspirations (understand by this that it is not possible to save and reload a game in case of a problem), each choice you make gives the impression of be important, especially after playing for a while and unlocking new options. Each squad of three mechs has its own unique abilities: you start with the Rift Walkers which consist of a close combat robot with repulsive blows, a tank whose fire can also knock back the enemy, and 'an artillery unit that can attack enemies in a square while pushing back those placed on adjacent squares. Then you then unlock the Blitzkrieg trio, consisting of a mech decked out with an electric whip that hits anything that finds around its main target, another with a grappling hook that can grab enemies and move them on adjacent squares, and a third one equipped with rockets that deal heavy damage to their targets, push them back on the horizontal axis and can even block a square. Not to mention the Flame Behemoths and Frozen Titans , whose specialties you can easily guess, but which also come with some subtleties that we enjoy experimenting with in-game. You can even create your own squad by mixing the mechs unlocked during adventure, a practical thing to invent new strategies.
In addition to that, you have to choose a pilot among 13 different characters, to be unlocked gradually. Each comes with a unique ability, to assign to the mech of your choice and which allows you to boost your tactical combinations, even before you have improved the members of your team. For example, if you choose to place pilot Abe Isamu at the controls of a Charge Mech from the Zenith Guard (a robot that can attack from a distance), his special power negates the damage that your Iron Titan inflicts on himself. while attacking. Whereas if you place Silica in a Boulder Mech , you can launch two long range attacks during a turn which - if you are well positioned - can block two squares at once. (The other two pilots you start with are relatively dispensable, although it can be worth giving them some experience and upgrading them to unlock small bonuses.)
Then, you have to choose the island, among the four proposed, that you want to visit first. A decision not to be taken lightly. Certainly, the ground conditions on each are generally predictable: for example, you will always find ice storms and snowy expanses on the Winter Island, flammable water and foliage on the Green Island, dunes conducive to clouds of dust and thunderstorms on the desert island, or acid lakes lined with conveyors on the technological island. The enemies and other bosses that you will face on them are however renewed with each game, which forces you to study your mechs to identify which of them is the most able to counter-attack. I particularly hate enemies who throw spider eggs capable of paralyzing mechs located around the squares they fall on ... before turning into yet another target to knock out. Consequently, in order to increase my chances of survival against them, I was initially forced to flee from these formidable opponents until my team was strong enough. And if my team doesn't deal a lot of direct damage, pitting myself against bosses that can divide too early usually ends up in Game Over. Fortunately, you can increase your chances of success by avoiding the toughest fights while you're ready.
Once you arrive on an island, you must then choose the region on which you want to fight, and this according to the risks, secondary objectives and natural dangers, but also according to those you must complete to access the regions you want to fight. you are aiming (and for good reason: you can only attack the neighboring territories). Since it is only possible to participate in five battles on each island before the final boss leaves his cave, you must be sure to make the right choice: are you aiming for improvement points or wish- you only increase the power of your " power grid " (your life gauge) in order to better withstand future assaults? And is it really worth completing more complicated missions to achieve both of these goals at the same time?
Obviously, it's on the battlefield where things get really interesting. Enemies always move first and plan their attacks in advance. A situation that turns each turn into a real puzzle during which you must find the best way to prevent monsters from destroying vital targets, or deflect their attacks on their allies by moving them around the grid. The order of actions can help you, or on the contrary, disadvantage you; pressing the Alt key allows you to get information about the order in which enemies will attack, which allows you to create situations that suit you. For example, you will find yourself in a situation where your enemy will feel like they are in a strong position, knowing that on the next turn, another enemy that you have carefully moved will destroy them even before they are. time to move. Conversely, attacking an enemy will often move him to another square (which one? This depends on your type of attack) and if you have not taken this into account in your calculations, you may find yourself in a situation that prevents you to achieve your combo. And this kind of unfortunate situation often happens until you have mastered the combat system perfectly: for example, you will not have taken into account the dune of a square which, when struck, generates a cloud of dust which prevents attacking from this position.
Fortunately, it is possible to undo its various actions as long as you have not validated your attack. Also, once per mission, you are allowed to reset the turn (twice per mission if Isaac Jones is with you). This allows you to experiment with several tactics before engaging in combat, which makes learning some complicated mechanics much less painful than it should be.
Ensuring the survival of your mechs is not the most important thing during a run, however. Civilian buildings on the map represent your health - the generated power grid - and if they take too much damage, you can lose the game. It is therefore most often wise to take damage with your mechs , even if it means losing one of your pilots in combat - which is then replaced by an AI whose level cannot be increased ( increasing a pilot's level allows, among other things, to obtain random bonuses such as movement or additional damage points). Learning when to sacrifice a mech by placing it between a threat and civilians, and when to take damage directly, is part of the elaborate and balanced act of the game.
Civilian buildings are also the only places where a random element comes into play during Into The Breach battles, since they have a chance to resist enemy attacks. The chances of resistance are initially 15%. A statistic that can be increased by building up power and filling up your power grid gauge. Everything else is concrete: there are no critical hits, no misses, or events that are not planned a turn in advance. There are no nasty surprises, the only unpredictable thing is the chance that some action will work in your favor.
The cards in Into The Breach are not randomly generated, but there are several factors that make them appear different every time. To begin with, there are various secondary objectives, such as protecting a train crossing the map, or even using an acid launcher to destroy all the mountains on the map. Other cards have natural hazards that you can use to your advantage, such as a tidal wave capable of ravaging enemies across a whole row of squares, thunderstorms that can destroy anything in four randomly hit squares, or ice storms that freeze anyone in their path. It also happens sometimes that a time capsule runs aground on the map. You can either collect them or prevent enemies from destroying them before the mission ends. Successfully completing any of these tasks earns various rewards, such as new abilities, additional resources, and even new pilots. Since a mission usually only lasts five turns, completing all of these objectives in a limited time adds extra pressure.
Since you can only have three mechs on the map (unless you equip a small deployable tank or, in some missions, defend weaker allied units), each part is not to be overwhelmed. by enemies that emerge from the ground continuously. If five enemies are attacking you and only three mechs answer the call, that means two of your mechs have to find a way to stop two enemies from attacking - and that's not an easy thing. This is typically the kind of situation that leads to complicated choices, such as saving a building full of civilians, finishing off an enemy, or preventing another monster from coming out of the ground by placing a mech on its spawn point. So yes, you might take a point of damage. But it's not expensive to pay to be able to start the next round with one less enemy to correct.
Some situations, on the other hand, make it seem like victory is impossible, especially when the enemy AI decides to ignore your mechs and focus their shots on buildings - which cannot be moved. During your turn, you can predict where they will move by clicking on them to take a look at their range, but sometimes they happen to do things you cannot predict. When that happens, the victory lies in your ability to limit the damage received as much as possible. And since partial victory is possible, even when you've failed an objective, it's ultimately not the end of the world. But more often than not it is possible to win a game, even when it seems lost in advance, and that is the best feeling I have experienced playing for the title.
At the end of each island, you can spend the collected resources on purchasing various upgrades that can significantly change the way your mechs behave in the field. Most of these upgrades are borrowed from other mech squads, allowing you to create hybrid units. To this are also added other powers, such as an ability that allows you to hit each enemy on the map once per mission, or a passive power that creates a dome of protection around buildings after having received a first hit (useful to prevent a second attack from hitting the target). Like FTL's virtual store, whose list of items changes randomly, this system forces you to rethink your strategies and improvise, rather than recycling the same tactics over and over again. This gives the game great replayability.
Into The Breach only misses one opportunity to offer a more dynamic storytelling, which here is limited to a few sequences of dialogue between your pilots and the governors of each island. Two parties that are content to celebrate your victories or lament your losses. When it comes to history, each part sounds the same, which - compared to FTL which is constructed a bit the same way - makes them a little less memorable. The possibility of making your pilots travel in time to include them in its next game (which you win or lose) brings a little originality to the universe of Into The Breach .
The final mission, which is divided into two phases, also lacks a lot of scope and struggles to distinguish itself from previous boss fights. This one benefits from a fairly linear construction, no matter how many times you play it. This mission is definitely not easy - it took me a dozen tries to complete it, and on several occasions I was only one lap away from achieving victory. But after playing it a few times, I really feel like this is the most routine part of Into The Breach . The game ultimately finds its salvation in the fact that at this precise point in the game you have collected so many different equipment and abilities for your mechs that the way you fight your enemies is very different.
I also have to talk about the soundtrack, written by FTL composer Ben Prunty, which features the familiar electro / low-fi style - which is not a bad thing. The composer is indeed very good at creating an SF musical atmosphere, and I could easily listen to his music every day without it becoming repetitive.