“That’s it?” I said as I pushed my chair back and away from my gaming PC and literally scratched my head.
That was my reaction a few days ago upon completing Breached, a new science fiction game developed by Drama Drifters and published by Nkidu Games Inc. I glanced at the clock again. Had I really just completed the entire game in two and a half hours? Yep. Unfortunately, since I hadn’t really learned much about the game’s backstory I’d felt rather cheated, and so played it again. I feel that most of us gamers have experienced that feeling—that in order to justify the time that we feel was wasted, we go in for yet another play through, hoping to gain more of what we felt we might have missed.
After the second play through, which took me a whopping one and a half hours, I again pushed my chair back, still mystified. I figured that the second time I’d learned maybe one or two percent more about the backstory. This is because the way that you “learn” about the protagonist is done through a wonky system of collecting journal entries. But let me back up and break down the game in more detail…
Breached tells the tale of a spaceship pilot who has apparently crash-landed on an alien planet, and wakes up just four days into his eleven day cryogenic nap. Unfortunately, his ship has been breached (get it?) and is running low on good old oxygen. Within the first few minutes, your stranded pilot’s goals becomes clear (probably the only unshrouded facets of the game), which are to somehow repair your broken generator (and therefore replenish your oxygen supply) as well as find a way to refuel your ship. Breached creates a sense of suspense by only giving you a week before all of your ship’s clean air runs out, so you have to constantly make the most out of your time.
Breached is rather straight forward in its gameplay. Every day, you wake up and write journal entries. Some of the words that you choose then open up previous entries through hashtags, which you can read in order to supposedly learn more about what exactly is going on. After that, you fire your drones up and remote-pilot them, traversing the alien landscape in order to try to scavenge for resources that will enable you to accomplish your two prime objectives. This is where Breached becomes more convoluted.
As you jet your little squirrely drones around you may just catch the attention of mysterious glowing orbs of energy that hang out on the planet. When this happens, the orbs will lock on to you and try to envelop your drone in all of their destructive glory—thereby destroying them. This means that any progress that you’ve made in collecting resources will be all for naught. Since my drones never got taken out by any of the dastardly orbs I’m sure that I saved a lot of time, but I see how even losing one drone could really set a player back, and perhaps cause a rage-quitting episode or three.
Flying drones around in Breached also causes you to grow drowsy. In fact, everything causes your character to get more and more tired. Pouring over the multitudinous journal entries also saps your energy, as well as trying to find the correct chemical balance for your fuel mixture. In fact, I’d say each of these three main tasks will drain you of about an equal third of your total daily energy.
The latter task—trying to come up with the perfect mix for fuel—is an exercise in frustration punctuated by brief moments of relief. This is done by going out with your drone and scavenging elements called Alpha, Beta, and Gamma, and then returning to your space ship and going through their collected contents, which are contained in one of three limited slots that your drones have for storage. From there it’s a game of trial and error as to which mixtures come closer to blending together successfully. It’s this mixing and matching that became more of a dull chore than anything else, and I feel that the developers could have done something other than this to liven up the tedium of what I considered a glorified high school chemistry task.
The visuals of Breached are one area that the developers really paid attention to. The alien landscape certainly looked spectacular, with barren stretches giving way to both craters and serene hills. There are also some alien structures that you’ll come across in your drone’s journeys, which look both intriguing as well as slightly unnerving. The first time I encountered one of them I sat there for a while and tried to discern if there was any movement around it. But the more I played, the more mundane my travels became, as you never get to learn more about them besides their bizarre appearance.
It would be so cool if I could get my character to don a spacesuit and go outside in a first or third person view and explore the landscape by myself—I kept saying to myself. And in retrospect my feelings still echo that sentiment. Breached could have been a much more interesting game if players were allowed to explore the planet through the main character instead of drones. I’m not sure if this was due to budgetary limitations but it would have made for a better gaming experience.
I will say that Breached has an interesting premise as well as a few good ideas, but fails to engage the player in any meaningful way. Like a bait and switch game, the more that I collected and read through journal entries hoping to learn about who I was and why I was here, the more befuddled I became. The disparate entries are delivered in a haphazard and un-chronological way so that the more your read them the more confused you become. I kept hoping that perhaps I would find a few entries that made sense and that would enlighten the backstory, but instead I just grew more confounded. That in turn gave way to frustration. Especially after the second play through when I realized I hadn’t learnt much beyond my first one.
This is a subjective review, however, and perhaps other gamers will glean more about the game through the journals than I was able to. Still others might be intrigued enough to want to take those drones for trips while trying to outwit the enemy orbs. And who knows, there may be some chemistry buffs out there that will just love trying to meticulously pair up the elements required to synthesize fuel. For me, at least, I felt that Breached was a moderately entertaining game with some tedious game play elements that are okay for a onetime play through. Whether or not that is worth the game’s price tag will be up to the individual gamer.
Breached features some updated graphics are pretty to look at, but in order to get the most out of them you may want to invest in a decent gaming PC:
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