Into The Breach Review Switch

Into The Breach Review [Nintendo Switch] – A Masterclass For Indie Strategy Games

Sometimes you play a game that oozes a certain type of magic. It’s not always immediately clear why it does so either, but you succumb to the feeling nevertheless as it draws you into its intricate web of splendour. It’s a rare feeling, one in which only a handful of games have given me admittedly but it’s one I experienced while playing Subset Games’ Into the Breach. A strategic indie title that has, to some surprise, arrived on the Nintendo Switch without forewarning.

Into The Breach Review Switch

It’s tempting to say that the Switch finally has a new Advance Wars, at long last, but that wouldn’t really give Into the Breach credit. While obviously similar in its turn, grid-based gameplay, Subset Games offers its own unique take on the winning formula. No longer do you have command of an almost endless supply of troops and tanks to manoeuvre across the battlefield… Instead, you defend earth from the Vek enormous creatures that are breeding beneath the planet with just three ‘mechs’.

Into The Breach Review Switch
Every move has to be considered carefully. Good luck, commander.

Each mini battle that takes place is essentially a fight for survival, a ‘hold them off until they decide to run affair’, across a number of different turns. During these battles, your job is to effectively minimise the damage to your power grid, protect your pilots and complete the available objectives in the smartest way possible. The penalty for a destroyed power grid is a literal Game Over and pilots killed in combat will not return. Buildings on the map are integral to powering the grid, so guarding them is important, but you also need to push back the Vek and smash those bonus objectives too success here bestows reputation (upgrade) points, life is tough without them. In other words: your movements are very limited, yet there’s an awful lot to do.

Yes, much like XCOM, Into the Breach does a remarkable job of making you feel helpless and guilty against your determined attackers. Every resource counts, every decision is questioned, every movement potentially your last. You did well, but remember that single building that was destroyed? Well, hundreds perished inside of it. It’s this state of vulnerability that makes it so thrilling as you just about pull off a victory, allowing you to ever so slightly upgrade your mechs with greater durability or additional moves.

Into The Breach Review Switch
Giant insects infest the earth. It’s a nightmare worth living.

Subset Games ensures a punishing sci-fi journey then; Into the Breach won’t be for everyone, even on the easier settings provided. However, like great strategy titles before it, precision, intelligence and skill are rewarded. Of course, losing to the Vek, as your precious power grid is depleted, isn’t the end of days when the majesty of time travel is involved. Upon defeat, your mechs are transported back through time, to before the point you were overwhelmed, and you can do it all again. The extra catch involved here? One, and only one, of your experienced pilots, can come with you. That’s multi-timeline Ralph for you (my longest serving pilot).

Making your way through each of the islands in Into the Breach demands you learn the mechanics thoroughly. You can reverse a move once per battle, true, but that really serves as a warning that you should be doing better. A large portion of the strategy focuses on using your environment and the unique abilities of the mechs. In lieu of directly attacking a Vek, a more efficient move might be to push it into the sea and drown it. Setting alight the monsters will perhaps validate a long game approach, but, alternatively, maybe you should have shunted two of them into one another. It’s a combined game of chess and billiards, and this is partly where that aforementioned magic starts to reveal itself.

Naturally, with a game of this calibre, the magic transpires in other more observable places too: the simplistic, retro visuals impeccably crafted and synthesised with the harps, cellos and sullen electric guitar riffs of the soundtrack which composer Ben Prunty describes as his, perchance, most ‘personal’ of all. One thing is for sure, the end of the world has seldom been this wholesome or inventive.

The even better news is that once you’ve vanquished the aliens and saved the earth, there’s so much more to see. New mech squads are available to purchase, think of them as extra chess pieces, which can radically change how you play. There are multiple pilots to recruit each with individual skills, a hard mode that demands just shy of perfection, and earning achievements serves a real, tangible purpose: it’s the currency used to buy these fresh squads. Numerous run-throughs are inevitable and encouraged.

Into The Breach Review Switch
New mech squads mean hours of fun. Forget your life.

The Switch version of Into the Breach is close to identical to its PC brother. It’s distinct, clear and attractive on the screen, with the UI from PC making it over in a rather perfect fashion. There’s some added HD Rumble support, for good measure, that subtly enhances the overall effect, but everything else is exact. Regardless, whatever platform you play Into the Breach on, quite simply, you should just play it. Did I mention that it’s a masterpiece?

Party Hard Tycoon [PC] – A Strategy Game Sorely Lacking In Strategy

Party harder

Some of the best ‘tycoon’ games put you in tough spots and force you to make decisions. Theme Hospital and Theme Park would ask you to make choices about what items you wanted to buy and where you wanted to place them whilst also asking you to take care of hiring staff and dealing with events, like flu pandemics or broken down rides before they got out of hand.

Party Hard Tycoon is aiming to capture that Theme Hospital vibe here. It asks you plan a party, get the right equipment, food and entertainers into the right venue and then place them accordingly so your bash goes off without a hitch. Sadly, the game is littered with problems, the worst being that there’s no interesting decisions to make and throwing parties isn’t as fun as curing someone of ‘Bloaty Head’.

Some positives firstly though. Party Hard Tycoon sure has a style to it, similar to the developer’s previous game ‘Party Hard’. The characters are tiny, pixelated caricatures that are pretty recognizable even though they’re barely larger than 20 pixels tall. Punk rockers, the members of The Village People and a whole host of pop culture icons are recognisable as they rock up to your rocking party.

Throw a party that’s ‘hype’ enough and you’ll eventually have Darth Vader turn up.

The loading screens also contain some lush visuals and the music is pretty good too. Which is handy given that this is a game all about partying, where music is vital, and also given the fact that you’ll be hearing the same tracks quite a few times over.

It’s a setup

So the setup is that you’re a party planner, new to the scene, and you’re looking to make a name for yourself. You set about doing this by… planning parties, obviously. You’ll start with small venues, like houses and rundown squats where only 10 or 20 people will show up.

Along the way, you’ll get some messages from random people who are all about partying and will want you to throw a shindig that meets their certain criteria. For example, some woman wanted me to throw a party that had 2 laser projectors installed at the venue whilst another time a Rastafarian chap wanted me to throw a reggae-themed party that had 4 dining room tables placed for the party goers.

You see, these challenges aren’t really complicated and they don’t force you to do anything ‘exciting’. Placing laser projectors and dining room tables is all about clicking twice and making sure you have enough money to buy the items in question. They don’t really change anything.

Which can be said of pretty much every decision you make in this game. Sure, you’re tasked with hiring a venue, selecting a theme and then hiring three members of staff to help you with the party, but these decisions aren’t interesting. They all make basic sense – if you’re hiring a rundown squat, a punk theme will be good. If you’re hiring a fancy country house, maybe a more ‘classical’ theme would be better suited? The obvious answer is yes.

You’re then also asked to place some decorations if you want, but I couldn’t see any tangible benefit to this. Green lines were drawn between the two palms tree I just plonked down, which I assumed was good, but I honestly had no idea.

Buying better gear means you can throw better parties. Which isn’t really much of a strategy, is it?

More importantly, you need to place music equipment and food stations. This is also a boring decision to make because it’s not much of a decision at all. If you can afford a better speaker and if your venue has enough electricity to power it, then you buy the better speakers. If you can buy the fancier food table, do that. The more expensive lasers are more ‘effective’ so grab them. There’s no trade-off, no tough dilemma and no engagement from doing any of this. The better things are better, so it’s better to use them.

Let’s get this party started

After you’ve placed all this stuff you click ‘start party’ and watch as those nicely drawn pixel partiers strut into the venue. This is where a frantic game of plate-spinning kicks off as you try and keep the party running smoothly, right?

No.

The party takes care of itself as whether it goes well or not has been decided already. Remember those ‘better speakers’ I mentioned? They add to the ‘hype’ of the party, with more hype leading to happier revellers. So if you could afford the better gear, your party will be better and if you couldn’t then it won’t. Simple as.

You can do a bit of fudging to make your party go better by telling your staff what to do, but this is, again, a totally unfulfilling series of clicks.

There’s just no reason not to keep telling your photographer to keep taking photos as soon as his cooldown stops. There’s no strategy to ‘using him at the right time’. None. Keep snapping away, Mr Photographer. Keep dancing for everyone, Mr Dancer. Keep refilling the tables, Mr Waiter. Keep on keeping on.

After the party’s finished you get told how many people ‘liked’ it and as a result, you can ‘level up’ as a party planner. This means you can unlock a new venue, a new theme or a new member of staff to use at your next party. This could be interesting, but whilst the venue, theme and staff members differ from party to party, the game never changes.

Does it matter what day you throw a wild party out in the middle of the woods? Yes.

On top of the throwing parties, part of the game has another layer where you stare at a calendar and a map. The idea is that on different days there are different ‘types’ of partier ready to have it large in different parts of the town. So this would be an exciting chance to plan just where you’re going to throw a party and just what sort of party to throw, right? You can see that all of the rich kids are going to be up for it on Tuesday, in the Upper East side of the city. Time to plan a big bash!

Nope.

Waiting to throw the perfect party isn’t actually a part of this game at all. This is because the ‘hot spots’ of where people are actively are pretty random, meaning there’s no planning and no decision making. Also, the venues you have at your disposal don’t move about, meaning that if there’s a large crowd of punk rockers looking to mosh in the South of the city, that’s tough luck. Because the ideal venue is located in the North. So there.

In the end, you’re left with a game that’s really repetitive and doesn’t ask you to do anything of real consequence. There’s no strategy, no decision making and very little impact to your actions. You simply throw bad parties until you can afford better speakers.