There’s a budding number of games that are less traditional experiences and tend to think outside the box. Think of it as the “art film” of the video game world. These games have unique concepts or they simply provide a unique experience. Breached is that type of game except that it doesn’t let go of the roots of popular contemporary titles and genres. It’s one part exploration sim, one part survival, and one part intermixed storyline that you have to uncover to reveal (think Her Story). At the same time, I don’t want to oversell what is a relatively basic concept and experience, probably to its detriment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean to steer clear. It is a larger concept tightly wrapped into a shorter, somewhat vacant, experience.
Your setup is that you awaken from cryosleep with a broken generator and no fuel to get home. Upon looking at your surroundings you are on a desolate planet, the year is 2245, and you’re not quite sure how you got here. Throughout the initial playthrough of Breached – and for those who it appeals to this will definitely not be your only one – there’s a lot of piecing together to do. Like many survival titles, that first go is merely learning the mechanics and trying to figure out how best to achieve your goal. You have seven “days” for which to accomplish two main goals (fix generator and refine fuel), but most of your actions use up a percentage of the day. It’s broken into three main activities: exploration, reading/writing your journal, and lab work. The journal uses no percentage to your day and is the database for all the data that will tell you a brunt of the story, so feel free to soak it in and get what you can out of the overall plot. Exploration will use up 40 percent of your day’s time and the lab work mostly makes up 30 percent per action. This means that you can either do 3 lab activites, two exploration activities, or a combination that best suits your needs. It’s a challenge to accomplish your goals in the given time period, one I must admit took me three attempts to achieve, but there’s a decent amount of down time while exploring.
Clearly most of the work in this title was done on the exploration sequences. There are four main areas for you to explore with your motorized drones and allow you to navigate the planet surface in search of resources. The controls consist of either using a mouse or thumbstick to navigate the surface along with a forward and break button (on either your mouse or gamepad as well). Whenever you encounter an item that can be collected, which will be identified for you by icons as you approach it, the item will be auto-collected if you’re not moving and within a certain proximity. Your drones can carry up to three items and there is a decent amount of different items scattered across each area. This exploration, especially on your first go, is great. Vast sand dunes are decorated with abandoned stations, odd sites, intricate landscapes, and other unidentified items that inhabit the planet. Running around in these areas is a great feast for the eyes while also tugging at your curiosity, but unfortunately it doesn’t last. That first hour of looking around is magical, but then when the brass tacks of finding the specific items you need for your task come around it gets monotonous. You start to realize how much open space there is in every area and the lack of a good way to seek certain items starts to become a bit boring and thus wanes your interest. If you want to stay focused don’t dare play this game with a cell phone nearby or a second screen desktop, because you’ll be tempted to tune out. It’s really a shame because the sites are a thing of wonder.
That longing for more complicated content is the rub. There’s just not that much to this game. Granted, it’s priced accordingly for a shorter more experimental game, but I guess I’m left wanting to see more with this concept. As it stands Breached gets you ready and wets your appetite, but it just can’t serve the purpose from start to finish. Sure there’s content as a reward for achieving your goal, but it’s a lot of work for a seemingly light payoff that I’m not sure many will endure. You will not only lose interest as you’re trying to accomplish your goals – especially fixing the generator because you are on an Easter egg hunt for those components – but you can also get frustrated by the tedium as well. In a time where we are bombarded by the same concepts, the same sequels, and even the hint at a new IP (intellectual property) gets me excited, Breached is a breath of fresh air. If you’ve been searching for something different that is trying to wonder off the beaten path of game design, it’s worth your time to pick it up despite the leaner content. For the more traditional gamer, however, it’s nothing more than a flash in the pan that may or may not justify its existence.
Final Score: 3 out of 5
A review code was provided for the purposes of this review. Breached is available starting today on Steam for $6.99 on Windows platforms. A “Futurist Edition” is also available for $8.97 that includes the soundtrack and a digital art book, which is well worth the upcharge if that holds interest. Each playthrough should take 90-120 minutes, but the time to explore all of the content will vary.