Into The Breach (PC Review)

On 14 September 2012, indie studio Subset Games saw the release of their debut video game FTL: Faster Than Light on Steam. The sci-fi roguelike game, which features the work of just 6 people, took the gaming world by storm thanks to its accessible gameplay and immensely rewarding skill curve and learning process.

And now, all these years later, the moment has arrived where we get to experience Subset Games’ follow up to FTL. It’s called Into the Breach, and it’s fantastic.

Into the Breach is a completely different game from FTL, though they share a core: they’re both science fiction games within the roguelike genre, where a full campaign will only last two hours or so, and death for your characters is permanent. That’s where the similarities between FTL and Into the Breach end.

In Into the Breach, you begin play as Ralph Karlsson, the pilot of a huge mech who has failed to save the world from the invasion of a gigantic insectoid race known as the Vek. But defeat isn’t the end, because Karlsson is a Rift Walker, capable of travelling back in time to try and defeat the Vek once more. This provides a reason for the roguelike gameplay, unlike most other games in the genre; when on the brink of defeat, you can choose one of the pilots in your squad and send them back in time to try again.

Your squad will consist of three mechs at any given time, and they’re divided in to different classes. You’ve got your melee range mechs or your artillery style robots, and even more that provide utility rolls like giving your team shields or manipulating the movement of your enemies. You unlock specialist pilots like Karlsson as you play, and each will provide different bonuses to the mechs you place them in control of. Additionally, through earning achievements, you gain an in-game currency that allows you to unlock new squads of mechs.

The drastically different tactics and play style of each squad is refreshing and opens up hours upon hours of replayability, especially considering that you can customise your own squad by cherry picking bots from different teams, or even create a squad of random mechs for a next level challenge.

You control your robots in turn-based combat, and though each mission you accept along the road to clearing the world of Vek has the same victory condition, they come with a variety of optional objectives that you get rewards for completing. The game’s brief tutorial takes no more than a few minutes to complete, and you come out of it feeling you’ve got a solid grasp of the games fundamentals. I’d strongly recommend the tutorial to new players, even if you’re a veteran of strategy games.

At first, Into the Breach feels deceptively simple. Combat takes place on an 8×8 grid, and the movement capabilities of most of your bots will allow you to traverse the entire map in 2 or 3 turns. You move and attack with each of your mechs once per turn, and attacking causes that mech to no longer be able to move. The majority of attacks your mechs can perform will not only damage the Vek, but also cause them to move, potentially by shooting them with an explosive shot that slides them back a square or by throwing them over your head so they land behind you. Units take damage when they collide with terrain, or each other, and successfully pulling off a ‘two birds with one stone’ type attack is immensely satisfying.

The enemy take their movements before you and decide where they’re going to attack, and by moving and attacking tactically with your mechs you can thwart the Vek’s efforts before they even attack. Mastering this is vital, because your main objective in each mission isn’t necessarily to kill all of your enemies, but to ensure that you can defend the buildings full of civilians that are placed around the map, for a certain number of turns. You could theoretically win every battle without killing a single Vek, though they continually spawn throughout the mission so the odds would be stacked against you.

You can even stop the Vek from spawning. The race of subterranean beasties take a full turn to burst out from the ground, and if you can place yourself (or another Vek!) on top of the tile they’ll emerge from, you can prevent a new enemy from joining the battle. This damages the unit that’s already in play, so it’s just one more layer of strategic depth for you to implement in your battle plans.

Protecting the buildings in each mission is your main goal. Failure in Into the Breach is only reached when enough buildings have taken damage from the Vek to deplete the world’s Energy Grid, which loses one bar of energy each time a building takes a hit. You’re able to restore the Energy Grid by completing objectives in missions and buying upgrades at the end of each of the game’s four islands, but keeping it as healthy as possible is key to ensuring a long-lasting campaign. If you can restore energy to the Grid while it’s full, you’ll increase the Grid Defence, a statistic that will allow buildings to occasionally withstand damage from the Vek.

Into the Breach continues Subset Games’ trend of making incredible use of the images they present. Simple and retro in style, the graphics ensure that the battlefield remains free of clutter, and that every enemy, mech and building is given a distinct, instantly recognisable look. Even before you sink hours in to the game, you can identify what different enemies will do at a glance. The Scorpion Vek can pin your mech down with a sticky web before it strikes, while the Hornet Vek is incredibly mobile and can fly over chasms and water.

Every weapon and Vek are given their own identity not just by their visuals, but by the crisp, memorable audio. And on the topic of audio, Ben Prunty makes his triumphant return to Subset Games’ latest title. Best known for providing the music for FTL, Prunty provides yet another soundtrack that will keep you company through victories and failures across the dozens of hours and hundreds of attempts you make at fighting off the Vek.

The term ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ is thrown about quite a lot, but I feel like it’s incredibly true for Into the Breach. The tutorial ensures that you enter your first campaign equipped with the tools you’ll need to navigate your way through a horde of supersized bugs. As of the time of writing, my 10 hours have led me to victory 3 times… and I’ve lost 20 timelines. And that’s just playing on easy. The main difference between the game’s three difficulty levels is the rate at which the Vek will spawn, leading some scenarios to get completely out of hand.

So here’s to the next 10 hours, and the 10 after that. I appreciate Into the Breach for being so accessible and providing gameplay that fits your speed, as only a turn based game can. This is a title that takes the RTS genre and peels away the downtime between actions and rewards. While FTL sometimes relied on luck a bit too much, Into the Breach is one hundred percent about the strategy you decide to utilize. There’s a different mech crew for every different play style, from the aggressive to the downright Machiavellian.

There’s just no end to the praise I can give to Into the Breach. The ‘massive robots versus huge monsters’ trope is executed perfectly, as at home here as it is in any anime or Hollywood blockbuster. The gameplay is punchy and tight, the graphics and audio are crystal clear and give every different terrain, building and unit it’s own identity.

Like FTL, this is a strategy game with serious legs, and we’ll be playing Into the Breach for a long, long time. Subset Games have put to rest any possible idea that they might be a one-hit wonder studio with another title that will go down in history as one of the best strategy games available. The game only costs around £11 so, whatever price you put on your time, you’re guaranteed to get a sizeable return on your investment with Into the Breach.





  • Easy to follow thanks to crisp video and audio design.
  • Different squads provide near endless replay potential.
  • Incredibly easy to pick up, but has a huge amount of strategic depth.


  • None.

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