FTL: Faster Than Light developers Subset Games have created something truly remarkable with Into the Breach; a turn-based strategy that game manages to create divergent, unpredictable scenarios without relying on randomness. Subset’s latest offering follows in the footsteps of FTL by creating tense standoffs where the systems tell the story.
The Cliqist Discord is basically just us nerding out over these bug crushing stompy boys at the moment. As such, we’ve decided to make Into the Breach our Game of the Month.
The initial concept for the game came from the team watching superhero movies that seemed to shrug off city-wide destruction. In Into the Breach, every building leveled by the Vek brings your Mechs one step closer to shutdown. Aside from randomized creature spawns, the only chance element in the game is the ‘Resist’ mechanic. This provides a small possibility that city blocks will survive one of the Vek’s attacks.
“Prior to including the ‘Resist’ mechanic, if you knew you were going to lose the game from the next enemy attack, there was no reason to hit End Turn.” Artist and designer Justin Ma told Cliqist.
“You would likely want to just abandon the timeline and try again without watching the grid go down. This was a very unsatisfying way for games to end – with a whimper rather than a bang. We initially designed the Resist mechanic to resolve this issue. By allowing you to always have a minor possibility of surviving, it made the last moments of a run more palatable. We also didn’t want the player to rely on this mechanic in any way so it was clear we had to keep the chance numbers very low.”
This design choice, says Ma, highlighted an interesting point about the psychology behind random chance.
“…as much as players are bothered by failing a 95% chance shot in XCOM, most take no issue with a 5% chance effect where the result is in their favor. If they never make a decision banking on the success of a luck based roll, they will only be pleasantly surprised when it works out in their favor.”
Bridging the Breach
With many of the story elements in games like XCOM arising out of these random chances, it’s an incredible achievement that Into the Breach can feel so narratively involving. Perfect turns feel like a balletic coordination between your team. There’s a real sense of your pilots forging battle bonds over each splattered bug.
Smatterings of lore from Chris Avellone and an incredible soundtrack from Ben Prunty go a long way towards creating the atmosphere, but it’s ultimately the tense, puzzle-like dilemmas that create the real story of Into the Breach.
“We were once again attempting to have a light touch with the lore and storytelling.” Says Ma
“We wanted to create an interesting setting and atmosphere for those who were interested, but allow others to entirely ignore the text and focus on the gameplay if they so desired. This created a lot of challenging design problems but I feel we were mostly successful at our goal.”
Justin has mentioned elsewhere that a major challenge in designing Into the Breach was teaching players to get comfortable with sacrificing their mechs and pilots. With the eight unlockable squads on offer, and countless potential combinations, the game can vary hugely depending on the player’s loadout. Justin’s favourite squad? Blitzkrieg – a trio of mechs headed up by a lightning whip-wielding walker that can clear the board of Vek in seconds. “Though” he admitted “the Frozen Titans is a close second”. He also enjoys “making odd combinations of squads like all Swap Mechs”.
The Future of the Breach
With FTL having received an enhanced addition update (Which is currently free with purchases of Into the Breach), do the team currently have any plans for similar additions?
“We don’t currently have plans for any major content additions or expansions. Our first step is to provide post release technical support.Then we’ll move on to bringing the game to Mac and Linux. After that we’ll look into other options like porting, localization and tweaks or minor additions. We’re a very small team – with only full time 1 programmer – so we have to take things one at a time.”
Not that we’re likely to run out of new ways to bring the fight to the Vek anytime soon. Personally, I’m three islands into a four island run with the Flame Behemoths, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the scent of BBQ’d Kaiju.
Make sure to check back on Cliqist soon for more Into the Breach content. Oh, and if you want to come share strategy tips talk about your favourite pilots with us in Discord, find out how here.