Games of 2018: Into the Breach my friends, with all-consumingly brilliant strategy

Into the Breach
Into the Breach is out now for PC and Nintendo Switch

Following our list of the 50 best games of 2018, we are now counting down our top ten releases across the year and reflecting on our time with each game. At six it is FTL creators Subset Games' compelling sci-fi strategy. Let us know your experiences with the game, if it deserves its slot and what might have taken its place. To join the conversation simply log in to your Telegraph account or register for free here.​

When William Shakespeare’s King Henry V coined the deathless cri de coeur, ‘Once more unto the breach, my friends, once more,’ he was, of course, referring to the body-strewn battlefields at the siege of Harfleur rather than an isometric 8x8 playing field populated by pixelated mechs and insectoid alien adversaries. The Bard presaged a lot of things in his writing but niche strategy video game titles would have been a stretch even for his powers.

And yet Shakespeare’s sentiment could not be more apposite here: Into the Breach is tactical warfare reimagined as a rogue-ish, turn-based puzzle game and it’s arguably the most addictive release on this list - no mean feat given Dead Cells is already here, hanging out on the corner and selling wraps of moreish Metroidvania crack for a few bucks a throw.

As with many turn-based strategy games the obvious influence here is chess. Each of Into the Breach’s units has its own unique movement and attack patterns, and understanding the ways in which they interact with and influence each other is crucial to success.

Perhaps less obvious is the pivotal role positioning plays. The evil Vek’s intentions are signposted in advance allowing you to affect their outcome, and many of your mechs’ most interesting weapons allow you to push other units around the map. As a result battles can often feel more like intricate sliding puzzles in which you’re mentally manipulating each individual tile on the board in order to reveal the bigger picture at the end of each turn.

Developers Subset Games (of indie darling FTL fame) have crafted a tactical complexity to rival the very best strategy games, then, but their most dazzling move is one of their simplest. The masterstroke, I’ve come to realise, was limiting each skirmish to only a handful of turns. Most comprise around half a dozen and you’ll achieve victory by making it to the buzzer with at least one of your three units, and enough generators to power them, intact.

Not only does this result in incredibly intense, perfectly pitched bite-sized battles in which nothing or nobody outstays their welcome, but it also engenders a dangerously deceptive air of pick up and play which will almost certainly result in you resurfacing some time later bemused, bewildered and several hours of your life worse off.

Into the Breach first emerged on PC in February and then Nintendo’s Switch at the end of the summer but, shamefully, I’ve come so late to this particular party that all the cool kids had long since moved on and the only booze left in the kitchen is an untouched bottle of Ouzo nobody will own up to bringing with them.

To say it’s subsequently got under my skin would be an understatement; in truth this all-consumingly brilliant game poses almost as serious a threat to my family Christmas as would a wildcat walkout by Amazon’s delivery men. Once more into the breach, my friends…

The Telegraph's best games of 2018... and now it's time to have your say

1. Red Dead Redemption 2

2. God of War

3. Tetris Effect

4. Monster Hunter: World

5. Return of the Obra Dinn

6. Into the Breach

7. Forza Horizon 4

8. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

9. Dead Cells

10. Marvel's Spider-Man

What has been the standout game for you this year and why? We want to hear what your top picks are from 2018 and why it made your year. Fill in this form for a chance to feature in our readers' rundown. We will tally up the votes and run a Telegraph reader’s list alongside our 50 best games and our critic’s pick of the top ten games of the year. 

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