by Travis Fahs1
Breach & Clear Review
Breach, Clear, Repeat
Turn-based strategy games have always been about managing resources – limited moves, health, and items – to achieve a goal with what you have. Game development faces many of these same sorts of challenges, and every decision comes with sacrifices. Frozen Synapse sacrificed representational graphics almost entirely in order to develop a game that had real longevity. Breach & Clear arrives with detailed 3D graphics and massive amounts of gear and fiddly stats, feeling like a more robust game on the surface, but the weight of these additions has taken its toll.
Breach & Clear puts you in command of a small four-man squad tasked with entering an interior and defeating the enemies within. It feels broadly similar to Frozen Synapse in that you plot a course for you units and then watch the action play out in real-time. Movement is grid-based, but you’re allowed to give units multiple waypoints, and control a unit’s line-of-sight as the move in order to cover the room and avoid letting an enemy slip by. The blend of tactical decision-making and real-time results actually feels pretty true to the subject matter, rewarding a smart approach rather than nimble maneuvering.
The action is presented well, at least superficially. It uses the popular Unity engine for graphics that are solid, if not especially impressive, and it occasionally uses a close-up cinematic camera, showcasing character models and animation that could hold up in a shooter. More disappointing, however, is the lack of any kind of story, or anything to really add continuity or context to the mission.
Even worse, the missions themselves are horribly repetitive. While each stage offers a unique layout, and gradually increasing challenge, as of right now, they all have same objective – to clear enemies – and many of the same sorts of environments, both visually and functionally. You’ll see a few different areas, of course, but expect to see the same props and buildings over and over. Don’t expect radically different terrain or unique environmental challenges.
The gameplay itself never really develops a lot of depth. A lack of mechanical depth is not really a huge problem, and Breach & Clear’s mechanics are actually quite solid. Things like movement speed, cover, and line-of-sight are all considerations in navigation, and provide plenty to chew on. The problem is that the developers don’t adequately find ways to complicate this through the level design once the basic strategies have been mastered.
There is plenty to buy and upgrade, at least. You’ll be able to level up your characters between battles and buy them new gear. There’s a ridiculous amount of guns to choose from, and hardcore military nerds will probably be very happy with the selection. Again, the problem here is not so much lack of content, but lack of variety. Upgrades don’t mean tactical depth; sacrifices do.
Grayed out options in the game’s menus hint at better things to come, and there’s certainly reason to be optimistic. There’s a very solid foundation here, there just isn’t enough to exploit it – yet. If the developers make good on their promises, and the “coming soon” signs offer the kind of depth and variety this game needs, it could go a long way toward making this a more well-rounded experience.
Summary: Breach & Clear is a nice looking game with some solid mechanics, but not enough to really give the game depth or variety.