By John Messer, E23 Reporter

Most people may not recognize the name Subset Games, but most in the video game world will recognize “FTL: Faster than Light.” The 2012 indie darling made by the two-man development team of Subset Games appeared on many people’s top five video games of 2012 lists. This writer has over 500 hours invested in the space-sim rogue-lite.

The title screen of "FTL" shows a few ships above a dark planet and menu options.

The title screen of “FTL” (screenshot by John Messer)

The studio got praise once again when they released the updated “Advanced Edition” for “FTL” in 2014. Not only did it expand the game extensively, it was offered free of charge for anyone that owned “FTL.”

Then, in late February this year, the dynamic duo of artist Justin Ma and programmer Matthew Davis released another powerhouse title: “Into the Breach.” In every way, it shows the same degree of polish as “FTL” had. It’s no clone either. While still a rogue-lite, it offers a different gameplay and atmospheric style. In “FTL,” you’re navigating a spaceship through hostile territory, and in “Into the Breach,” you’re time traveling over and over again, trying to stop an alien invasion of Earth with a small team of giant robots.

Not only is the game’s premise exactly this writer’s flavor of awesome and insane, but it’s the perfect crutch for the gameplay. It pairs nicely with the try-again-try-again-try-again gameplay of the rogue-lite model. With only ten hours invested, I can sufficiently say that Subset Games has a genius handle on the genre. I have yet to encounter a bug in the game or an unfair mechanic. Titles with teams of hundreds and millions of dollars couldn’t dream of a result like that, and just two programmers with an out-of-pocket budget pulled it off. It’s amazing, the kind of release you don’t expect in the days of day-one updates.

The title screen of "Into the Breach" shows menu options and a robot overlooking an urban wasteland.

The title screen of “Into the Breach” (screenshot by John Messer)

The game is turn-based and has strong comparisons to chess. You have to factor in the predicted actions of the enemy monsters, the terrain, the environment and the abilities of your mechs all while keeping in mind your objectives. Whether you’re saving a train, defending a power plant or just there to kill as many monsters as possible, you always have to protect the civilian buildings. Lose too many, and that timeline’s wasted and you need to try again. “This timeline’s toast, opening time rift” your characters exclaim as monsters overrun humanity.

I cannot recommend this game enough. The soundtrack, open-ended story, gameplay, art, price (only $15) and ease of access (available on Steam) are all as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen. This turn-based strategy game is my early frontrunner for game of the year. Get it today. Every second you don’t own it is a waste.

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