iOS, and especially the iPad, have been a real boon for the strategy game genre. Games like Great Big War Game, Ravenmark, and most recently the amazing PC ports of Frozen Synapse and XCOM have shown that not only can this platform do strategy, but it can do it fantastically well. Breach & Clear, a new game from Gun and a former creator of the Call of Duty games, promises to up the ante. Claiming that they want to change the way people think about mobile games, the developers want to bring AAA production values and creativity to hopefully force us to reevaluate how we interact with our touchscreen gaming devices.
Those are bold claims and laudable goals, but we’ve already been shown just what can be done when developers stop thinking of iOS as the gaming ghetto, and Breach & Clear isn’t able to reach the grand heights it’s going for.
Breach & Clear is a strategic military game where you take control of an elite special-forces squad as they take down terrorists across the globe. The gameplay focuses on the tactic of quickly entering and clearing an area of hostiles as efficiently as possible. Each squad member can have a different speciality (there can be medics, fireteam leaders, breach specialists, etc.) and each of them have different tactics for you to use. Breachers, for example, are explosive experts and are great for quickly subduing the enemy, while a fireteam leader can help boost the stats of those around him. You can even use UAVs to get a better lay of the land if you want to. It’s up to you to decide how to use them in the best manner possible, and it’s a lot of fun finding classes that work well together and that fit your style.
Your turn is divided into two stages, planning and execution. During the planning stage you decide how you want to divide up your troops and where to place them, choosing their movement paths and whether you want to use any special tactics to get a leg up. The game’s marketing of “owning every angle” means that after you set a troopers movement path, you can set extra waypoints along the way, which in turn also allows you to change your soldiers’ point of view as they move.
Point of view is absolutely critical here, as ending a turn pointing in the wrong direction or firing the wrong way has the potential of opening you up to a whole world of hurt. Being hyper aware of, and using, your surroundings is an absolute necessity to winning the day.
Breach & Clear also offers a pretty deep level of customization. Your soldiers gain experience as they level up and they can upgrade key stats as they progress. You can buy and equip different kinds of clothes, consumables, and armor, and at a workbench you’re able to customize weapons to such a degree that the essentially become a whole new beast. Unfortunately, I found that messing around with weapons and armor didn’t have much of an effect on my success, but changing stats shows obvious and marked changes in how they perform. Even though customizing your weapons and armor didn’t seem to do much, I have to admit that it was still a heck of a lot of fun having the option to do so.
All of these options and deep levels of gameplay are all well and good, but they happen to be in service of a game that quickly becomes repetitive. With the exception of the level designs, which are really well done, every level is played exactly the same. You choose your tactics, choose your positions, choose your path, hit the Breach button, and then watch the action unfold. There is very little variation to the gameplay, and after a while you might find yourself getting kind of bored. The lack of any kind of story to put anything in context here just adds to the problem. You have no idea as to why you’re doing any of this, who you’re fighting or even who your soldiers are. Different kinds of gameplay missions and locations are promised in the future, but for the moment you simply have one style here, and it can get rather old.
Breach & Clear is a game that seems incomplete, and I almost get the impression that it was brought out a little undercooked to hit a release date instead of waiting until it was finished. There’s a wealth of options for you to play around with, but they seem largely useless, and after doing the same thing over and over again with little change (and little need to change your strategy), marching onward to finish the rest of the game might seem like more of a chore than something you’re looking forward to completing.