Cranes and excavators tower over a deserted alien landscape like skyscrapers. Mysterious obelisks and arches dot the horizon. Metallic colossi sprout out of the earth, decaying remnants of a dead world. Sentinels of pure electromagnetic energy roam the desert.Breached is a hybrid science fiction adventure game grounded in the legacy of Russian existentialist literature, particularly Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Stalker. You wake up in a damaged pod, suffering disorientation after a stint in long term hibernation. All you know for certain: your shelter is falling apart, your oxygen tank is low, and you’ve got eight days to come up with a survival strategy. Across the game’s three large maps, your mission is to guide a drone to locate materials for repairing your ship and synthesizing fuel.
Developer Drama Drifters wants you to feel the weight of that command chair; both the player and the protagonist are seated the same way, glued in front of screens, experiencing things remotely. It makes great use of the medium to draw a powerful parallel.
At the same time, Breached handicaps itself with the triviality of its gameplay loop, one that focuses too heavily on the banal moments that a short story would cut out. Minigames and mechanics are alternately vague and slight.. This leads to a well-conceptualized piece of science fiction that might’ve worked better in print.
As with all the game’s controls, you pilot your drone using mouse clicks. Unfortunately, you’re either flying at unnecessarily high speeds or standing still.That’s helpful when you’re zooming across an expansive desert and you only need to maneuver around the alien obelisks and construction equipment that dot the landscape. It’s frustrating when, for the third time in 20 minutes as you are forced to navigate tiny cliffsides to reach caches, you fly off a cliff that houses the capsule you need to win the game. It’s even worse when you need to carefully avoid the game’s electromagnetic anomalies. If the drone touches an anomaly, your turn is over. Your turns are very limited over an in-game week, so if you lose more than one drone, it’s essentially guaranteed that you’ll lose the game.
Exploring Breached’s large maps for resources can be equally agonizing. There’s a radar system that lets you know how close you are to the nearest resource, but there’s no way to tune that radar to any of the specific materials you need to collect. Without that guidance, you spend a lot of time wandering aimlessly, praying to find what you need. Given that you need a lot of fuel and many parts to repair your ship, this becomes yet another tiresome act that weighs Breached down.
Breached begins with a tight, simple setup: You wake up from suspended animation and have eight days to repair your shelter with drones and science before you run out of air and die. You play the game in first person two ways — as the protagonist seated in front of a bank of screens, trying to synthesize fuel and hack modules, and as a remote drone on an island, trying to gather resources and survey the damage.
The abstractions of a video game’s interface become a means of conveying the sci-fi experience in Breached. Most recent survival games are sandbox titles, challenging you to live as long as you can, however you can. There’s a lot less to do here than in a big sandbox, but what there is has been implemented in ways that contribute heavily to atmosphere. Being stuck in the chair, relying on what little is still accessible to the drones, is winningly claustrophobic.
During each of your allotted eight days, you must choose between three different actions that can be performed from your command chair. You can pilot a drone to a zone of the island and harvest mineral resources and artifact capsules. You can hack a capsule to get parts to repair the shelter’s generator. Or you can try to synthesize fuel for the generator from the minerals you collect in the drones.