Platforms: PC (reviewed) and Mac
You awake from the middle of suspended animation only to realize that the shelter that’s protecting you from a planet that wants you dead is severely damaged. You’re too weak to go out on your own and you have only eight days to repair it before you die. Unable to leave the safety of the shelter, you’re forced to use the few drones that are still operational to explore the few areas of the island still accessible to you as you look for supplies to repair your generator and synthesize fuel. You’ll explore a lifeless wasteland and try to piece together what happened during your time asleep. If the premise intrigues you, much as it did me, you might be disappointed in what you discover in Breached.
While inside the capsule, you have three screens to flip through – one with your journal entries, one that allows you to break down capsules you find for parts and check fuel synthesizing rates, and one to select one of the three areas to explore with your drones. While in the capsule, you’re limited to those three screens, but it’s also where all of the narrative takes place.
Your journal tells you a little about Corus Valott, the poor bastard you find yourself playing as, and the state of mind he’s in. Each day, Corus will write an entry in the journal. You can pick from highlighted words in his journal passages as he writes them and the next bit he writes will vary the way the next part comes out. Once the entry is done, there will be a hashtag that will lead to more entries that correlate with that hashtag and those entries might have more hashtags. It’s a parsed down version of seeing a hashtag, having no idea what it means, checking it out, and then finding your way into some weird corner of Twitter.
Controlling the drones is a simple process since they only move forward. Using a mouse, you control the way the drone is facing and you accelerate and brake with the respective left and right mouse buttons. Using a controller, the left thumbstick handles which way you look and the left and right triggers substitute for the mouse buttons When you find supplies you want to pick up, you park close to them and the drone will automatically pick them up after a few seconds of waiting. You’re limited to picking up three things per venture, so the name of the game is identifying the supplies that are most important for you on each trip.
While maneuvering in the wastelands, that were what appears to be a once thriving colony, you’ll encounter floating balls that are identified as “magnetic anomalies.” Some of them will pace back and forth in set patterns while others are stationary. These anomalies serve as the only obstacle to your exploration. Get close to them and the drone’s camera will become distorted and the engines will start to overheat, causing you to be pulled back and forth from it. You can keep trying to move away from it and, as long as you didn’t get too close, you should be able to break free. Touch one of them though and you’ll lose connection with your drone, causing you to lose any of the supplies that you’ve gathered on that outing.
And this is where Breached starts to unravel a bit.
Each of the three tasks you do lowers your stamina meter by a set percentage – using a drone uses forty percent and crafting uses thirty percent. This at first will add some tension to your actions, but it eventually feels like little more than trial and error. Breached almost requires you to play through multiple times because, unless you get incredibly lucky, you’re not likely to get your shelter repaired before you run out of time on your first try. Once you figure out where the things you need are, what combinations of them you need, and how best to spend your daily allotted percentages to get what you need for your shelter, it becomes repetitive.
My problem wasn’t with the repetition itself so much as it is in its payoff. It hints at a world that never really explains enough to be fulfilling. You’re given glimpses into what was going on before your deep sleep but never really given the answers that you want. In your journal, there are hints of forbidden experiments and fighting factions, but you get only the smallest amount of information on them no matter how many hashtags you chase down. Ruins of settlements and machinery litter the landscape that are never addressed. The areas you explore are hauntingly beautiful (both artistically and graphically) in their way. Inanimate objects desperately wanting to tell you how things went wrong. Crashed aircraft, damaged shelters devoid of life, and what looks like gigantic construction equipment are strewn about throughout the three areas you can explore, but you never get the payoff that these things tease.
Breached is a cryptic sci-fi adventure that puts too much emphasis on “cryptic.” I enjoy needing to piece things together rather than having them thrown in my face, but how little is ever explained does the narrative no favors. It’s a fatalist look at humanity’s future, or at least the future of one member of humanity as he finds himself the sole bit of life on the island he’s trapped on. There’s probably some metaphor about how technology is isolating humans from one another in there, but I’ll leave that speculation to the more “high-minded” of us. The presentation of Breached is an interesting way to tell a story. Unfortunately, its story is missing so many pieces and weighed down by tedium that I’m left thinking it might not be in the right media. A more fleshed out novel of what Breached is trying to do would be right up my alley, but Breached, as a video game, really isn’t.