Somewhere in my pre-review scouting around I found a comment that essentially boiled Breached down to “an existential sci-fi survival game.” That remark convinced me to throw my hat in the ring and give the game a ride. After all, I’m a huge fan of the movie Interstellar. I even liked The Fountain—it doesn’t get more existential and science-fictiony than that, right? I have a Bachelor of Arts, I can do artistic– my expensive slip of paper says so.
Having completed the game twice now (a three-hour endeavor for those counting) “an existential sci-fi survival game” is probably the best phrase I could borrow to explain Breached in TLDR; as well.
Breached introduces you as the survivor of a loosely-explained cataclysm on a generally-unnamed extra-terrestrial planet. You wake up to find yourself punted from hibernation sleep due to a broken oxygen generator and lack of any fuel left to power it. With both critical parts non-functional of the whole you have but eight days to salvage and craft your way towards functional life support.
So really just like any other Monday after a long holiday weekend.
In those eight days you must utilize remote drones from the relative safety of your hibernation pod to scour the nearby land to find the parts and raw minerals you need to not only fix your oxygen generator, but create the correct blend of fuel to power it. This itself wouldn’t be too difficult an endeavor if not for the gravitational anomalies that call your once proud city home. These gravitational anomalies like nothing more than to play havoc with your drone video feed and suck you in to their iridescent, distorted and uncaring maws.
As each day progresses you interact with and watch the journal of your survivor as he copes with the events that led up to the gradually-better-explained-cataclysm and his tormented thoughts on being the only likely survivor left on the planet. There is interaction here where the key words you click in the journal decides the tone of how the entries are written. Eventually this same mechanic on day 0 will determine the character’s final course of action at the end of the game.
At this point I have to mention that my personal enjoyment of Breached was in taking the time to read these journal entries and clicking on every subsequent clue that was offered via hash/meta tags on each new log entry. The exploration aspect of the game was enjoyable enough but grew a bit tiring by the time day 8 came around. The gravitational anomalies in exploration add much-needed difficulty to the “survival” task of the game, but became a bit frustrating to maneuver around your 6th time (or more) out. Drone controls are very simplistic in that you can only turn left/right with the mouse and go/stop with left click and right click. This creates a feeling of very restricted field of view from the drone which can otherwise give a PC gamer used to fast/easy vision manipulation a serious headache.
This limited field of view is clearly a decision on the designer’s part and it fits with the overall artistic representation of Breached as a whole. With a single play-through weighing in at only one and a half hours, it’s also a mechanic which doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The story, as revealed by the eight-days of log/journal entries is a bit heady—it’s where the “existential” part of the review comes in. This is fiction that’s showing you a story, and not just telling. It leads you to invent or conclude some of the story on your own as opposed to spoon-feeding you one day at a time. It’s artistic, and it works with the overall vision of the game sets out to achieve.
Breached has that decidedly intelligent-independent feel and ultimately doesn’t disappoint. After an hour and a half some of its systems come to a welcome end, but even-so that fits in perfectly with the story as it’s being told by a slowly-tormented sole-survivor. To say more would rob you of revelations the story has to offer. If you do chose to give Breached your hard-earned money, make sure to take the time to read the log-entries and go back over the game after its conclusion in “story mode” (a mode where you’re free to explore the story without the exploration) to make sure you didn’t miss something that brings the bigger picture into perspective.