‘Into the Breach’ vs ‘FTL’ — The New Subset of Roguelikes

Jeremy Ray
Games Indie Games
Games Indie Games PC Gaming

With the release of Into the Breach, Subset games has brought joy to PC gamers. The response is amazing. If anyone expected FTL vs Into the Breach to be a case of slight graphics improvements over FTL, they’d better think again. It’s an impressively different kind of game for the studio to tackle, and it cleverly manages to inject its own DNA at the same time.

FTL was, quite literally, a game-changer. Since its release, it seems anything involving a ship is borrowing elements of the Subset formula. Certainly it didn’t invent the idea of crew manning stations, but it’s become kafkaesque. FTL itself was described as a roguelike, but now we deal with FTL-likes.

Into the Stars brought the formula into 3D. The Early Access Abandon Ship so heavily wears this influence on its sleeve, you can barely see the actual sleeve behind it. Space Rogue, Convoy, the list goes on.

Meanwhile, Subset have sailed on to nicer beaches. Not content to rest on its laurels, Into the Breach brings a unique take to a new genre for the team.

Top-down, turn-based tactics is a long jump away from real-time weapons management and life support prioritisation. It also has the ghost of Advance Wars hanging over it. People have been begging for a game like this for a long time, but any potential suitor is going to be held up to that gold Nintendo standard of old.

Add in the creative challenge of maintaining a laser-like focus on positional play, and we’re talking about wildly different games here. But somehow, Subset manages to thread a common theme through both of these.

There are the obvious roguelike connections. But we’re talking about something that’s becoming a bit more unique to Subset. We briefly mentioned in our review that this studio is becoming known for this style, and it’s worth a bit more exploration.

Into the Breach Vek laser quadruple kill
Nice of the Vek to line up.

Normally, games that have an overworld or some kind of metagame will zoom in for missions that are more self-contained. Think of the JRPGs you’ve played, or any grand strategy game. Smaller missions affect the wider game, but there’s no hard fail within them.

Both FTL and Into the Breach are unique in that every mission is also a chance to die. No potential last-minute, life-saving roll of the die. No zooming back out to the metagame to regroup. The health bar hit zero, so you’re done. Start again.

This creates a very strong connection between your mid-mission actions, and what would normally be meta-level progress indicators. You know — and you feel — how detrimental it is when your ship or your cities take damage. If it’s possible to come out of a battle unscathed, you can almost taste how well that’ll set you up.

By contrast, most roguelikes have you engaging in combat seamlessly. No missions, no metagame. It’s one solid blob of content, and there’s a limit to how many things you can manage when you only have one play area, one UI, and one perspective.

There are so many things to manage in Into the Breach which could potentially have an affect on your “health” bar of city power. There are more of these factors than you usually see in a roguelike, and indeed more than in FTL.

Your pilots, along with their XP and skills. Your mechs, along with their power reactors and components. The extra weapons you’ve picked up along the way. Any additional, overcharged power that contributes to your cities’ defence roll. Instead of FTL‘s life support systems, in Into the Breach you have to consider every possible positional threat.

Granted, the turn-based nature of Into the Breach allows it to give the player more to consider with every click. It’s been compared to a Chess game many times, and rightfully so. Games like Civilization allow themselves to inundate the player with choice a bit more because they know the player has time to scratch their chin.

Once thing is for certain, though: In the FTL vs Into the Breach battle, Into the Breach is easier.

A glimpse of FTL‘s final boss is one of the most “nope”-inducing experiences I’ve had in gaming. To get all the way to the end of the galaxy just to see this behemoth with almost every technology, outnumbering you in every kind of gun, is enough to make you want to put the iPad down.

However, with a spoiler warning about Into the Breach‘s final encounter, we beat this on our first attempt. It’s not even a boss fight — more of a double mission. Whereas each scenario in Into the Breach is designed to spiral out of control with you barely hanging on until everything disappears on the fifth turn, this one just continues. No chance to recover — just five more turns.

It’s harder than a normal mission, but it’s no capital ship boss fight.

Losing personnel is also more of a death sentence in FTL. There’s a certain point beyond which the game is hopeless, if you’ve lost enough crew. Into the Breach is happy to let you just miss out on XP, waiting to replenish pilots when you can.

Of course, it’s not really a competition. The FTL vs Into the Breach exercise is fun-filled folly. We wholly recommend you play both of these games. FTL has enjoyed a few years of post-release porting to different platforms, and its nature makes it perfect for a touchscreen. Into the Breach is only available on PC for now, but we expect it to similarly be brought to touch platforms before long.

Jeremy Ray
Managing Editor at FANDOM. Decade-long games critic and esports aficionado. Started in competitive Counter-Strike, then moved into broadcast, online, print and interpretative pantomime. You merely adopted the lag. I was born in it.
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