A few years ago I played a little game called Into the Breach, a title about time-traveling mech pilots jumping from timeline to timeline to save every Earth they can from an alien menace known as the Vek. It’s a turn-based tactics game with roguelike elements that presents you with short but challenging battles that push you to make tough decisions between a number of priorities and objectives. As a tactics game, Into the Breach is my perfect match. The fights are bite-sized but every turn counts, each mech squad has unique strategies to master, and every pilot has a skill only they possess, creating lots of opportunities to experiment with different combinations of mechs and pilots to optimize your play and save a timeline in danger. Into the Breach is one of my favorite games of all time, so when I learned that a new update was coming with a ton of fresh stuff to do, I literally had to stifle a scream at work.
The new update is called the Advanced Edition and is totally free if you already have Into the Breach. It comes with a lot of new features: five mech squads and four new pilots, sure, but also additional weapons, new mission types, new Vek to battle, and new learned skills the pilots can discover as they level up. For this first impressions of the new update, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on a single three-island run I completed using one of the new squads with all of the advanced edition features turned on (although I did not play on the new difficulty mode, appropriately called “unfair”). I’ll talk about the squad I tried out, the new pilot I met as well as the new pilot skills, and of course the impact of having new mission types and enemies to deal with.
Let’s start with the meat: the mech squad. The new squad I tried out are called the Bombermechs. All mech squads in Into the Breach come with three unique mechs, each with a default weapon that defines its playstyle. The interplay of all three mechs together create a number of viable strategies to use when dealing with the Vek. As you can imagine, the Bombermechs are a squad built around access to bombs, but what exactly those bombs bring to the table is more interesting than just blowing up some stuff. In fact, in my experience I found that to be their least interesting/useful function. Both mechs that don’t specialize in bombs benefit more from having additional units on the battlefield, and bombs fulfill that purpose.
The core of the Bombermechs is of course the Bombing Mech, which can lob one (two after an upgrade) walking bomb onto the battlefield. The walking bomb is an additional unit that can move and attack; attacking destroys it, and if it is not destroyed by the end of the enemy phase then it will simply fall to pieces on its own. The walking bombs do 1 point of damage to all four adjacent tiles – this can be useful for clearing lots of small enemies like spiders/spider eggs but because of the possibility of damaging buildings, this attack can be hard to pull off. But again, the bombs are barely there for actual bombing. As expendable temporary units, bombs are perfect for blocking Vek emergence spaces without risking harm to your core team. But even more than that, they are really there for your other two mechs to play off of.
One is the Pierce Mech, which fires a bolt that passes harmlessly through one target and then deals 2 damage (upgradeable to 3 then 4) to a second target. Both units get pushed back one tile. This is convenient because you can safely shoot through an ally or building to damage the enemy behind them, or push two enemies while also dealing damage to the second one. But in cases where there’s only one enemy to target you won’t deal damage, or if there’s an enemy with a building behind them the building will take damage. Placing your bombs in the way in these situations will allow you to damage the target you want to while avoiding damage to the target you don’t.
The third mech is my favorite: the Exchange Mech. This mech switches the position of an adjacent target with any other allied or enemy unit on the field. Both units maintain their current orientation, so you can for example move an enemy who is attacking to the left to a tile where there are no buildings to the left – or even better, an enemy to the left instead. You can also switch an allied unit on a dangerous tile like water or where a lightning bolt will strike and flip them with an enemy so that the enemy gets killed instead. The walking bombs set by your Bombing Mech give you more options for flipping positions. Unlike enemy units, you have control over where they are placed prior to exchanging them, and unlike your mechs, switching them into a position where they will take harm doesn’t have repercussions for your team.
I had a great time with this squad. It took me a couple of missions to realize how their true strategy isn’t about bombs as bombs but rather about bombs as expendable pawns that give you greater control over unit positioning. Each time I discovered a new possibility or a new little tactic I could employ felt fantastic, just like the satisfaction of learning some of the trickier squads the first time I played the game. They fit in perfectly with the older squads, not feeling too overpowered and not feeling redundant either. And part of the fun was trying to figure out which pilots that I had access to made the best fit for each mech.
For each run of Into the Breach, you begin with one pilot who has warped on from a different timeline. As you find time pods on the battlefield or complete islands with all objectives met, you get opportunities to add more pilots to your crew. Pilots that are not the generic units who begin with your time traveler each have a personal skill, and all pilots (unique or not) have two skills they can gain on level up. The Advanced Edition has added new skills for leveling up as well as four new pilots with unique skills. Now I only got to meet one brand new pilot, but I did get to try out a couple of the new skills.
While the mech squad I tried didn’t feel more or less powerful than any of the classic squads, I will say that the new pilot skills generally feel more powerful than the old ones. The old skills were real simple affairs like +1 move, +2 HP, or +3 grid defense. Meaningful improvements, absolutely, but small and static. The new skills either more closely resemble unique pilot abilities (more powerful and more situational) or they seem to combine multiple skills into one. One of my pilots for example had the skill Skilled, which has the effects of both move+1 and HP+2. Another got a skill which heavily resembles Lily’s Impulsive personal skill that granted +2 move on the first turn, but also gave the Boosted status on the first turn. A Boosted unit deals 1 more damage or heals 1 more HP on that turn. The new pilot I picked up, Morgan, has a personal skill that grants Boosted status every time you get a kill, allowing you to earn that damage boost and then keep it going for the duration of a battle if you play your turns right.
The Advanced Edition doesn’t just give you new tools as the player – it also puts new tools in the arsenal of the Vek in the form of new enemy unit types as well as new mission objectives. We’re not just talking one or two new enemies either – I met about half a dozen during my one run and I know there are others I didn’t see. One of the new enemies I faced was even a hive leader (essentially a boss unit). The enemy types have distinct new designs as well as interesting functions they bring to the table. Two new enemies have recoil on their attacks, pushing themselves backward and potentially damaging a unit or building behind them as well as in front (or across the map, in the case of the ranged Moth units). Starfish attack diagonally, allowing them to hit in unusual patterns other enemies can’t manage and making repositioning less effective in some circumstances. Mosquitos smoke out the tile they are going to attack, leaving a frustrating hazard to work around for the rest of the battle. Similar to how the new mechs felt like they fit right in, these enemies largely bring in mechanics that already existed for your mech squads and ask the question: what if the bad guys could do that?
On top of fighting new types of enemies, you also have new mission types and missions objectives to deal with. Tired of rescuing trains, breaking dams, and terraforming the land? You can still do that stuff but there are plenty of new possibilities as well. Some concepts are relatively simple and play off of elements that already existed in the game, such as a mission with a ton of forest tiles that rewards you for setting at least eight of them on fire. Others invert requirements you are used to dealing with: instead of “kill at least 7 enemies” you have “kill no more than 5 enemies,” or you have “make sure this building gets destroyed” instead of “make sure this building gets protected.” My favorite new missions to find were the ones that bring whole new mechanisms onto the playing field. For example, the very first mission I played started with all of my mechs at only 1 HP, but the battlefield was covered in repair platforms that could restore their health to full. Using one of those platforms for all three mechs was one of my objectives. Another mission I really liked featured fake buildings that were rigged with explosives – when a Vek tried to target that building and damage it, you could set off the bomb and blow them to smithereens instead. And since the old mission types are still around too, these new missions add a lot more variety to your playthrough and add to the pool so that across multiple runs, you shouldn’t have as much of the same activity taking place again and again.
So far I am loving the Into the Breach: Advanced Edition. It adds more of what I loved about the game in a way that feels authentic to and balanced with the original experience. The fact that it is free is absolutely wild to me – I would gladly pay for an expansion of this quality, and many games do charge money for less or worse additions to their original experience. If you’ve played and enjoyed Into the Breach before but aren’t sure if you’d want to go back, I encourage you to try it out; the new mechs, new missions, and new enemies create an experience that feels new while still offering the same strong mechanical core without disrupting what made it work so well in the first place. I for one am looking forward to trying out the remaining squads, and perhaps revisiting some old favorites with the new pieces in play to see how much it refreshes that experience as well. So thanks for reading, adventurers, but for now it’s time for me to head once more…Into the Bre- *at this point a Vek chomps off my head for ending yet another Into the Breach article with this tired pun*