As a short and experimental bit of storytelling, Breached is easy to rate as a success. It’s an immersive, accessible and well-written science fiction adventure with an inventive execution on what could be a worn premise. However, as a game, it falls short. Drama Drifters have created a compelling debut with a lot of potential, but it’s all over too soon. Breached often feels a little too constrained in its design for its own good.
Your character, Corus Valott, awakens from cryogenic stasis only to find that your only means of survival (and escape) from an unknown planet have been sabotaged. You spend the game locked in a dark room, lit only by the three computer screens in front of you. Since the game takes place in first person, you enter as confused and disorientated. Thankfully, the interface is intuitive enough and before long you feel as claustrophobic as your protagonist surely does. There’s a simplicity to the game’s controls that assists in this effect.
Breached doesn’t allow you to do anymore than turn your head between the different command screens in front of Valott – but that’s all you really need. The mouse is used to both interact and navigate between the different screens at Valott’s desk. The game keeps things simple, providing you first with a journal to chronicle your depleting mental health and then with a remotely operated laboratory that you can use to synthesize chemicals and crack open probes you recover.
The main tool for survival in your arsenal is the array of remotely piloted drones you can send out to the ruined settlements on the planet’s surface in search of both raw materials (used to make fuel) and mechanical components (used to repair your oxygen generator). The earlier elegance of the controls persists here, with the left mouse used to accelerate and the right to slow down.
In the looming shadow of No Man’s Sky, it seems planetary exploration is all the rage in game development these days. However, Breached is very limited expression of this idea. There are only a handful of zones to explore, though they are big enough that exploring them feels like a worthwhile endeavor. Still, it’s these surface expeditions that make up the bulk of the gameplay. With a healthy variety of ruined habitation structures, spaceships and mining equipment scattered across the planet’s surface, it’s easy to get lost and really feel the pressure Valott expresses in his journal entries. It’s a windswept wasteland that invites you to try and uncover its secrets.
Beyond fuel and mechanical parts, the biggest resource at your disposal in Breached is time itself. You only have a matter of days before you run out of supplies and you can only squeeze so many actions into a day. Frustratingly, the only way to learn how much of your energy each action takes is by doing them, and there’s very little room for mistakes. This means that beyond the rigors of trial and error, there’s not a lot of reason to replay this one. The levels and puzzles in the game don’t change from playthrough to playthrough, and given the bent on logical solutions, there’s little challenge in returning once you know the answers. The puzzles in the game are driven by logic and the resources in each level are set from the get go, so once you know the solution, there’s little challenge in it.
That’s not to say the game doesn’t have other challenges. While the surface of the planet is uninhabited, it isn’t without hazards. There are floating orbs of various shapes and sizes who wander around each level. Getting close to these ‘electromagnetic disturbances’ interferes with your control of drones and getting too close will result in your connection to the drone being terminated entirely. Given you only have a week’s worth of supplies before you starve, every drone you lose counts. You feel every failure and it only takes two or three before you’ll have a doomed playthrough on your hands.
The high stakes here lend these orbs a sense of menace that is augmented by the visual filters that come into play when you encounter them. The camera on your drone stutters and freezes while your thrusters cycle out of your control. It’s a shame that developer Drama Drifters didn’t go the full mile and visualize these anomalies as something a little more intimidating or indecipherable than simple orbs.
Across the board, that’s the biggest issue with Breached. It all falls a little short of what it could be. The core experience is inventive, easy-to-learn and atmospheric, but with a length of little more than an hour, there’s nowhere near enough of it to stick.
This review is based on the PC version, which we were provided with.
The story is well-written and the exploration sequences compelling, but Breached is too short for either to get the development and depth that they deserve.