Breach & Clear: Own Every Angle
Breach & Clear is a squad-based tactical strategy game, a genre with extremely deep roots in video gaming. It can be difficult to surprise players with this genre, and given how hardcore many of its fans can be, not even necessarily desirable. Breach & Clear does an impressively good job of walking the line between traditional mechanics and new ideas, bringing in some thinking from outside the genre that makes it feel like a fast, fresh experience.
The game starts by having you choose which force you want to use. Several different countries and special force operative groups are represented, which already gives the game a leg up on a theme that typically focuses exclusively on Americans. It doesn’t make much of a difference in gameplay terms, providing a modest change to your stats, but it’s nice to have the option even if only for the player’s personal narrative. Worry not, as more significant choices are right around the corner.
Next, you’ll have to choose your squad. At the beginning, you can pick four different characters. Their names and appearances are again mere cosmetics, but you’ll also have to pick their job classes, which determines their strengths, weaknesses, special skills, and how they’ll grow as they level up. You’ll want to consider your squad build carefully, but don’t fret too much as virtually every team is viable.
Initially, you won’t be able to afford to buy any new gear, so all you can really do is head out on some missions. These missions come in three different types: Terrorist Hunt, Bomb Defusal, and Escape Plan. The game will show you the ropes in a tutorial before letting you loose, presenting a simple Terrorist Hunt. Missions can take place in a number of different locations and have several difficulty settings, but much of it needs to be unlocked as you go.
At first, you’re limited to Afghanistan as a location and the first three difficulty levels. You’ll eventually unlock two more difficulty settings, and locations in Russia, China, Turkey, Germany, Mexico, and Columbia. Each of those locations contains several missions, so if you want to clear everything, you’ve got quite a task ahead of you. As each location has a slightly different setting for its missions, you’ll have to adapt your strategies and loadouts carefully.
This is probably as good a time as any to introduce the core gameplay. This is a turn-based strategy game, but the way it plays out is somewhat unusual. You give each member of your team their orders, then watch them all play out simultaneously. You need to tell each soldier where to move, the route you want them to take to get there, and which direction to point their weapons. The aim here is to try to set things up so that every possible angle is covered by at least one member of the team. Since you have no idea where the terrorists are hiding in most cases, you need to be very careful to avoid losing any of your squad.
At first, things are very straightforward, but each mission gives you rewards that result in the gameplay opening up in a lot of ways. Stars unlock new locations, levels, and difficulty settings. Experience points level up your squad, which increases their stats and every so often grants them a new special ability. Finally, cash can be used to buy new weapons and gear that you can kit out your soldiers with. As the maps get more complicated and the enemies get stronger, it becomes more important to make full use of the tactical options afforded to you.
While on paper this is quite similar to a typical strategy RPG, the simultaneous action of each turn and the cinematic presentation make Breach & Clear feel like something a lot more fast-paced. Another way it breaks from the norm for this genre is in how it has no actual story. The game was originally tuned for mobile play, placing much of the long-term enjoyment on mechanical rewards over narrative ones. Compared to the usual games in this genre, Breach & Clear does not demand that you invest large quantities of time into it during each session. Fire it up, clear out a mission or two, unlock something new, buy a new piece of gear, and close it when you need to do other things.
This is perhaps why Breach & Clear has been able to find so many fans. Its gameplay is complex enough to make you think, but immediate enough that it may well appeal to those who normally bounce off of games like this. Powering up your squad over the course of the game is extremely compelling, and you get oddly attached to them in spite of the lack of any sort of story context or character development. With plenty to do and lots of different ways to approach things, Breach & Clear seems to always have a battle ready and waiting for you whenever you have a little time.