Developed by Drama Drifters
Published by Nkidu Games
Available on PC through Steam
Suitable for ages 13+
Looking at the Steam Store screenshots, it’s hard to tell just what exactly Breached is. It’s a credit to the unique visual style of the game, as the aesthetic masks what’s essentially a scavenger hunt mixed with landmines. Mechanically simple, there’s a mystery behind Breached that permeates the entire product. Where you are, what you are doing, what happened, and how to succeed will present itself to you in pieces, requiring you to figure out just how it all comes together.
Wow, what a bland and uncharacteristically serious tone for Ted to be reviewing a game! Yeah, I know. The fact of the matter is, that for such an interesting premise, the game just doesn’t muster up my fucks. It’s a functional game that certainly has stuff to uncover, but the actual act of uncovering that stuff is dry, repetitive, and vague. It’s a killer combo that packs into a punch that knocks it right out of my sights.
It’s hard to pick a primary issue with Breached. I’m tempted to say that the biggest problem is the bland gameplay, but it wouldn’t be so bad if there was some kind of direction. The game will never tell you where to go, which would be fine if these large open maps didn’t have such nonsensical level design. If the levels were designed with some hints as to where important objectives were, then exploration could be fun! But if the world were designed with clearly defined roads and pathways, it wouldn’t feel “natural,” which might hinder the emergent nature of the narrative. If it doesn’t feel natural, it would ruin the story. A story that I will never fully uncover, because playing the game was dry, repetitive, and vague.
It’s sad, because like I said, the actual mechanics are quite simple. The game is broken down into a series of days, starting with a text log that will reveal a bit more about the game’s world. Certain words will be highlighted, which you can click to develop the story in that direction. It has a kind of choose your own adventure vibe, but without the ability to keep your thumb on the page to come back to it. After it’s done, certain underlined words can be clicked that will lead to other journal entries. This will lead to a chain of maybe half a dozen stories, delivering bits and pieces of the world. It’s effective, and easily my favorite part of the game. If this were the entire game, I would gladly click away until the conclusion.
After reading about it, you explore the broken and desolate world of Breached through the eyes of a drone. Your mission is to collect up to three resources before returning to base. Resources range from basic materials abundantly available to specialized finds in the most hidden corners of the map. Maps are large, require a lot of exploration before deciding how best to use your limited hold. You can spend as much time as you want in a zone before returning, so it can take a long time to see every nook and cranny.
When I say a lot of time, I mean a LOT of time. Getting to every peak and inside every crevasse is as difficult as it is pointless. Several times I spent thirty minutes trying to get through a series of obstacles, only to find that nothing of value awaited me at the other end. Call me picky, but if I am going to jump through hoops to get through your series of magnetic anomalies, slingshotting off of one to pass by another and get to a distant mesa, I expect there to be something there. It’s not like I was breaking the game either, shooting over mountains into places they never intended. These were fully developed areas with their own structures, obstacles, and pathways. There was just nothing there.
I can accept a few dead ends, but most of the game was spent darting past “anomalies” to get to a room full of nothing. It’s a frustration made even more annoying by the game’s controls. As the drone, you can only move forward in the direction of your camera. There’s no strafing, jumping, or back peddling, only floating forward. The previously mentioned anomalies are balls of light that cause electrical disturbances, sucking you in while distorting your visuals a lá Slenderman. It’s an interesting take on mobility that immerses you in the role of a drone for about ten minutes before becoming annoying.
This would be made less frustrating if the visible pathing wasn’t terrible. It seemed to be up to pure chance whether or not a slope could be floated up or if there was an invisible wall. Several times I would float up what I thought was a cleverly disguised hidden path only to find it abruptly end. It’s just pure, broken level design.
Once you are done wrestling with all of that and get back to the base, you find that it will all be in service of a bare bones fetch quest. You need to collect materials to research a project, and use certain elements to guestimate a solution. Through analysis of the results, you’ll reach a solution. You only have a certain amount of actions in a day, so you have to weigh the cost of research with the value of more exploration. Every day, you lose some oxygen, giving the game a timer. What happens after that, I don’t know. I got to the point where I fully understood how the game worked, but couldn’t bring myself to play it anymore to see how it all shakes out.
Between the poor design, frustrating controls, nonexistent objectives, and repetitive puzzle, the only redeeming quality was the story. There is something very interesting beneath the layers of Breached. The game is only $7, so it’s not too much to see if it pulls you in. If it does, I commend you. Let me know how it ends.