Breached is a sci-fi, survival, exploration game recently released by indie developer Drama Drifters. You play as Corvus Valott, who has been awoken from cryogenic sleep early due to his base taking damage. The year is 2245 and you are now stuck on an alien world. You have to use drones to gather materials and capsules to repair the base in order to survive, but that is easier said than done considering the strange beings on the planet’s surface destroying the drones any chance they get. Visually, Breached captures the isolated feel well, with each map feeling alien and strange and sometimes desolate. The controls are simple and easy to pick up and the music is ambient and helps reinforce that total feeling of loneliness. What Breached does, it does well, but does it do enough?
The first thing seen in Breached is a bunch of diagnostics. It runs up the screen, telling you different things about the base and that there is something wrong. From here you get to choose options which effect the initial game set up such as which time system you want, the longevity of stay, and which augmentation you specialise in. Choosing these leads you to Corvus’ journal and the home base menus. In his journal words run across the screen telling you his thoughts on his current situation and what he plans to do about it. It is in this text based narration that we get all of the story and exposition. In these parts, certain words will be highlighted in different sentences. When you click on one a new part of text will show. These are the choices you make within the game, changing the way it unfolds, in a way similar to a ‘choose your own adventure’ novel or even other text-based games such as Zork. While the narrative is strong and well written, it doesn’t engage with the player in the way that Zork might. This is due to how choices are made within the game. Simply clicking on a word and watching text unfold disassociates the player from the action, even if it is simply text. You suddenly become very aware that you’re at a computer, playing a game, instead of feeling like you’re a part of the game itself.
Faster than a speeding bullet
How many dudes you know roll like this?
From the home base menus you can cycle through your materials gathered list and allocate them to different repair jobs as well as go to the map screen. The map screen allows you to choose different locations to explore on the alien surface. Graphically the game is nice, running on Unreal Engine 4, and the locations capture the strange world the game is set in. You explore these locations through the use of drones. Controlling the drones is easy enough: pressing the left mouse button accelerates the drone forward and pressing the right mouse button slows it down and breaks. To collect materials and capsules you simply drive up to them, aim the cursor and wait until it is collected. Each drone has only three inventory slots with which to hold materials gathered. Once these are full you must drive the drone back to the deployment sight. Navigating the maps isn’t as simple as just finding a material or capsule, harvesting it and moving on. Peppered throughout each location are beings known as magnetic anomalies that patrol around different sections of the map. They’re essentially giant, buzzing white balls that seem to be attracted to the drones. If the drones get too close to the anomalies, or the anomalies catch the drones, the screen starts to play up and eventually blacks out. You just lost a drone. While this does add a deeper layer of playability to what is already on offer, it essentially boils down to a game of tiggy or hide and seek.
Thanks for the reminder
When I first booted up Breached I was hit with a reminiscent feeling, something similar to when I first played Journey. It’s a slow, methodical game that is as much a meditation on isolation and loneliness as it is about exploration and storytelling. It feels like something out of the pages of an Arthur C. Clarke novel, but while the narrative is interesting the gameplay just isn’t as engaging. Journey told a small story using interesting gaming mechanics that allowed the player to relate to their personal protagonist. Breached is closer to an interactive novella with minimal gameplay elements. While controlling the drones is fun, it becomes monotonous after a while as it essentially boils down to doing the same thing just in different locations. The text-based narrative is done well and the branching paths offer several different endings, but I didn’t feel inclined to play the game again after I finished it as I felt it didn’t offer much more than what it did on its initial play through.
What Breached does, it does well. It offers an interesting text-based narrative with an intriguing mystery. It’s also graphically up to scratch and gameplay is easy and intuitive. But in the end it doesn’t offer anything more than what you find when you first play the game. Dodging white buzzing balls while you try and gather materials, and cycling through menus and text is essentially what the game boils down to. The story is well written and implemented, but the gameplay elements can’t keep up with it. It’s a small, intimate game, which will appeal to some people, but if you’re looking for something like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter or Firewatch, you won’t find that here.
Reviewed on PC