Into the Breach received a kaiju-sized free update last week, formally called Into the Breach: Advanced Edition. It essentially added an entire game on top of the existing base game, which was already one of the best tactical RPGs ever. In other words: RIP my social life.
Developed by the makers of FTL: Faster Than Light, Into the Breach is basically Pacific Rim: The Game. Giant insects threaten the planet. To fight them, you control a trio of mechs, each of whom have unique abilities, directing them in turn-based combat around a gridded battlefield. There are roguelike systems, too: At the end of each run, win or lose, you can start a new one with one of your three mech pilots, who would’ve leveled up and earned randomized stat-boosting passive abilities along the way..
Into the Breach has been around the block, having first come out in 2018 for PC and Switch, but I only just discovered it this year. It has absolutely subsumed my “free” gaming time. I’ve played more Into the Breach than I have 100-hour open-world RPGs like Horizon Forbidden West or 100,000-hour live-service commitments like Halo Infinite. By its nature, the game compels repeated runs. You start with just one squad of three mechs. By completing various challenges—ranging from general goals like “beat the game” to specific tasks for each squad—you can earn coins, which you can then spend on unlocking new squads. It’s an ouroboros of dopamine, like the best roguelikes.
Before last week, I’d completed 46 of the 55 challenges in Into the Breach, and unlocked all of the squads save for the final “secret” squad (which Google tells me isn’t really worth the grind anyway). Following last week’s release of Advanced Edition, there are now 70 challenges. Uh-oh.
These challenges are included with Advanced Edition, which adds four new mech pilots, five new squads, 10 new enemy types, a dozen missions, and nearly 40 new weapon types. (Here’s the full rundown, for those who wanna get into the weeds.) Obviously, I must finish every single one of these new challenges, which means I’ve gotta learn how each of the new mech teams works. But so far, Into the Breach has been kicking my ass to the same degree it did when I first started playing.
Here are the new squads:
- There are the Bombermechs, which come with tools designed to move enemies around the battlefield.
- Cloud tiles typically stop a unit from taking their turn. The Mist Eaters aren’t just unaffected by clouds, but actually heal HP from them.
- Arachnophiles can turn defeated enemies into smaller, unpiloted mechs.
- The Heat Sinkers absorb fire tiles to gain stat bonuses.
- Though it has the coolest name, Cataclysm is the riskiest: You can turn tiles into bottomless pits, inadvertently killing anything standing on them—even your own teammates.
It is telling that, at the moment, the Into the Breach fan wiki currently has “TBA” listed under the “strategy” section on each landing page for these squads. I’ve been playing more or less nonstop since late last week, and I’ve still only finished a run with one of these: the Mist Eaters. (I keep getting this close with Cataclysm, only to make one wrong decision and send one of my mechs tumbling to its doom.) On one hand, losing over and over is maddening, especially when you’re playing a game wherein victory had previously become second nature. On the other, this precipitously steep uphill climb makes Into the Breach feel like an entirely new game.
This is mostly because of the new squads, yes, but it’s also in large part due to the newcomer enemy classes. There’s one annoying fucker who moves in two directions, for instance; trips me up every time. There are three more who imbue stat bonuses onto all of their allies, in some cases turning the tides against you into insurmountable odds. I’m still trying to make sense of the new missions, which give optional objectives to each procedurally generated map. One of them adds gale-force winds. (You can imagine how that ramps up the difficulty for Cataclysm.) I’m still figuring it all out, still combing through what’s been added, but it’s already a lot, to the point where I can sense as many combinations and possibilities as there are in the base game.
Oh, yeah, and Advanced Edition’s scored with two additional tracks from composer Ben Prunty, the same type of deliciously crunchy prog rock that underscored the base game.
The lesson here is clear: What is old can be new again. Developer Subset Games has marketed this release with the tagline, “unto the breach once more.” But I’m not sure I ever left. And at this rate, I’m not sure I ever will.