Breached (PC) Review

By Jordan Hurst 19.08.2016

Review for Breached on PC

Breached is an exploration game with survival elements and a piecemeal narrative that's a lot less meaningful than it thinks it is. In other words, it's a conglomeration of indie gaming's most divisive habits. The plot sees its 23rd-century protagonist awaken from suspended animation after his shelter's oxygen and fuel reserves are damaged. With his limited time, he must navigate the futuristic wasteland that surrounds him using remote-controlled drones, scavenging resources and avoiding mysterious magnetic anomalies while attempting to piece together the events that led to this point. This Pikmin-meets-Her Story premise is spectacular, but it deserved much more love than it got here.

At first glance, it seems like the perfect project for a team with a minimal budget to undertake. The drones' hovercraft-style propulsion is basic "snap to terrain" movement programming, and the enemies appear only as spheres of coloured light. This, combined with the fact that most events are conveyed through text and graphical filters, means that scripted sequences could be accomplished very simply without lessening their impact. The drones may have an unorthodox control scheme that accelerates sluggishly but can stop on a dime, the collision physics may be totally weightless, and the admittedly appropriate sound design may get fairly dull after a while, but it almost doesn't matter. The game is so well-presented that the atmosphere of being separated from this beautiful but inhospitable setting by a thin layer of technology still shines through.

Unfortunately, once the actual gameplay gets underway, all hopes of entertainment steadily evaporate. Its first and most obvious fault is that it quickly reveals itself as nothing but a collection of shallow fetch quests. From the outset, players are given two tasks: open supply capsules for parts to repair the oxygen generator, and gather minerals to synthesise fuel. There's a tiny bit of strategy in prioritising different capsules with different probable contents, but it doesn't make unearthing them any more enjoyable. The magnetic anomalies that form the only obstacles merely exacerbate this tedium. They "attack" by disrupting the protagonist's video signal and pulling drones to their demise whenever one passes near. It would be a lie to say that desperately trying to escape one's magnetism isn't engaging, but they're so unpredictable and inconveniently placed that they're more irritating than anything.

Screenshot for Breached on PC

It doesn't help that huge chunks of the game's three areas contain nothing but magnetic anomalies, even when their structure suggests they should be hiding something more valuable. All three of them exhibit this flaw, though it's not overly frustrating in the case of two of them. The third one, conversely, is set in a mesa-filled canyon, with seemingly everything worth finding located on the upper levels, which can only be accessed by taking highly specific, barely noticeable paths upward. Exploring this place is the definitive nadir of the entire product, but at least it looks gorgeous. The level design in general is quite realistic, helping make its eerie stillness inexplicably striking.

The greatest disservice Breached does to its own concept, though, is fail to see it through. It feels like this should be the first two hours of a much more complete game. It's easy to fall into the trap of assuming that those two scavenging objectives are intended as an introductory mission - the map that scavenge locations are selected from clearly shows dozens of additional grid spaces, and each capsule contains a unique sci-fi tool that might easily have some future gameplay purpose - but they actually comprise the entire game. The anomalies are similarly underused. The different colours they exhibit presumably indicate some altered behaviour or ability, but if that's the case, it's far too subtle to actually be noticeable.

Speaking of which, would you like to know what the significance of the anomalies turns out to be? So would everyone else, because the game certainly doesn't want to offer an explanation. The story commits a lot of sins, but ignoring many of its own driving questions is easily the most severe. Not that the questions it does answer are really worth solving. The most significant one - what happened to the civilisation you're poking around the ruins of? - ends up being so bland that even the vagueness with which it's delivered can't incite the imagination to come up with something more interesting. There's a few different endings depending on some final actions, but each one is as anticlimactic and ultimately meaningless as the last.

Screenshot for Breached on PC

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

The developers technically made a smart design decision by limiting the player's available timeframe to eight in-game days (or a couple of real-world hours), because it facilitates unlocking all the endings through multiple playthroughs. However, those eight days are so incredibly dreary and underwhelming that most players will be immediately discouraged from doing so. Considering that only a new form of disappointment awaits at the end of each path, however, that's probably for the best. The commitment to a unique, indelible atmosphere in Breached is admirable, but it absolutely cannot carry the entire experience, especially not when the rest of that experience is so dry and under-realised.

Developer

Drama Drifters

Publisher

Nkidu Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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