Constant crise and permanent death are threats every step of the way with Into the Breach, but with a trio of time traveling mechs you have all the time in the world to plot your next move.
Upon first glance, Into the Breach looks like a turn-based tactical strategy game, and though that’s the kind of categorization you’d find on Steam, the truth is this plays more like a puzzler. Due to the time travel slant the sparse plot takes, you are given perfect information. Each turn the enemies move and “announce” their next attacks, but you can move and engage before your enemy’s actions occur. Nothing that can hurt you is left to chance.
The basic premise at play is that you are controlling three pilots sent back in time to prevent the planet’s destruction at the hands of the “Vek,” giant alien bugs. Your goal is less about exterminating the critters than it is about protecting civilian life. Skyscrapers scattered about the map can be targeted by Veks, and if damaged it hurts your power grid. This represents your “game over” bar, and it doesn’t automatically replenish between battles and if it hits zero you’re done.
As you continue, you can recover time pods, randomly dropped onto maps, and complete objectives to either restore the power grid or earn reactor cores used to power up abilities and weapons. There’s a handful of pre-made mech groups to unlock, and you can mix them up in a custom squad or, if you’re feeling brave, go into battle with a random selection. The premade squads work well with particular mechanics. While the default squad does decent damage and is focused on physically pushing units around, other squads are focused on things like setting fire to the map or negating incoming attacks by dropping smoke onto tiles. The different groupings do a great job nudging you into new playstyles and keeps the game feeling fresh.
I do wish the game’s plot was expanded upon more than simply being an interesting premise. There is never any sense of lasting progress or a satisfying conclusion. Save the timeline or fail, either way there’s always another one in peril. Flavor text that pops on screen is a nice small touch at first, but quickly becomes repetitive. None of this takes away from Into the Breach’s exceptional gameplay, but to me leaves room for an expanded version down the line somewhere.
It’s been a long time since a strategy game has bounced me back and forth between stress, relief, and despair so often and rapidly. Rarely have I become powered up to the point that any particular battle felt more than me weathering an overwhelming storm. Fighting through wave after wave knowing every outcome is 100% a result of my decision leaves me satisfied in a way few other games have ever been capable of.