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REVIEW / Breached (PC)

 

Even the awakening procedure that opens Breached is fraught with questions and mystery. A cloud of intrigue settles as you’re presented with lines of code and a boot up screen. These questions don’t go away either; they’re still very much prevalent at the end of the short experience. The story goes that as protagonist Corus Valott, you’ve just awoken from a frozen state to find your planet deserted. With just days to curate your survival, you are tasked with building resources for your escape and investigating just what happened while you were out in this sci-fi mystery from Drama Drifters.

 

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The entire plot is text-based, delivered through stored logs of information through which keywords allow you to delve deeper into the mystery. Clicking a keyword in one snippet will bring up a search for every log with that information in it, allowing you to slowly build a picture of your own situation. While this monologue style of information greatly enhances the atmosphere of loneliness and desperation, it does little in the way of in depth plot understanding.

In fact much of the text you will encounter on your first try will skim the surface of a story, the depth of which is relied upon to hook your interest. And yet, it’s very difficult to muster the motivation to relive this experience multiple times as intended, but more on that later. What this style of plot deliverance does afford however, is a surprisingly realistic learning process. With a computer interface set up, and mouse controls only, your physical undertaking of the game will mirror the exact same actions of the protagonist as they surf the digital log books, and allocate their resources accordingly.

 

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This realism is carried over into the second section of the game, exploring the deserted landscapes around you via a remote controlled drone. These action sequences are integrated into the resource management portions, and provide fun, smooth, and intuitive gameplay as a welcome break from your strategizing and investigating. These drone sections allow you to gather resources to repair your capsule and generate fuel for your escape, though they’re infested with electromagnetic anomalies that will have to dipping and diving across the intergalactic landscapes to escape.

And escape is your only real option here – with no weaponry aboard the drone, once you encounter an enemy, fleeing is your only hope of survival. They’ll keep you alert though, and though evasion is wholly passive, they provide enough of a threat to have you twitching at the helm. Navigating through crevices, over jumps, and around bizarre structures, the drone gameplay is easily the best part of the Breached experience. Exploring these maps feels like a strangely peaceful dream, and the polished impression of the simplistic mouse controls adhere.

 

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Unfortunately the resource management computer interface section’s gameplay doesn’t quite live up. Running on a computer that could deal with much more than this title requires, Breached‘s interface stutters here. Though perhaps part of the design, the laggy mouse icon becomes frustrating after an hour’s play and much of that first hour will be spend randomly clicking keywords only to trigger the next line of information rather than searching the databases. With no guidance, a lot of your initial play won’t make much sense to you. I didn’t find out that the bar on the side of the screen, for example, was your day progress until around the 40 minute mark, which for a game designed to last a couple of hours was fairly significant.

It’s in Breached‘s atmosphere and visual design however that it makes up for its often problematic storyline deliverance and resource allocation qualms. Don’t let some visual stuttering and up close texture issues put you off the gorgeous landscapes available for your exploration. With some fairly dynamic maps to traverse, the quality and variation of this game’s visuals will astound from afar. Even small design elements come together to brilliantly convey a sense of distant realism – camera glitches, for example, when leaving the realms of the map are a genius way of maintaining the boundaries of the play experience while not breaking immersion with the game world.

 

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It’s the soundtrack that makes the atmosphere so compelling however. Mimicking the minimalism and sparseness of the gameplay mechanics and the game world itself, the winds of the distant planet and the disorienting soft, low hums of the computer come together beautifully to fully encapsulate the loneliness and technological backdrop of this experience.

Breached has been designed to be played multiple times. From its snappy length, to its strategical undercurrent, the player is supposed to be working out how to survive based on their actions and decisions in previous attempts. However when lengthy storyline logs don’t yield much information, and drone maps don’t change the locations of their resources, replaying the experience becomes tedious quickly. The title provides a good few hours of entertainment but no more.

 

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Though Breached has the potential and the ideas to be brilliant, it falls short in the way it skims the surface on many of the most interesting aspects of its story. On first play through you will be hooked by the questions raised throughout the experience. But the fact that these questions are never really answered taints the experience. Drone sequences are engaging and incredibly fun, while the atmosphere is the real selling point of this sci-fi mystery.

 

 

 

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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