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Breach: PAX West 2018 Impressions

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Outfoxed and I weren’t quite sure what to expect when we headed to our Breach demo at PAX West. “Co-op action RPG” says so much and so little, after all, with the way that gaming development has expanded in the past decade. With the game only freshly announced before Gamescom, there was little to go by and little to expect, other than knowing that QC Games was formed by some former Bioware team members.

When we left, we were positive it was the best new F2P title shown at PAX West.

At its core, Breach is a 4v1 multiplayer arena, but to leave it at that would be unjust. To start with, the game’s modes aren’t mandatorily 4v1; you can play solo or with up to four additional friends (five total) in a match. Whether you’re alone or with friends, you can choose to play as the Veil Demon (though this can only be one person per match) or as any regular character.

This is not a “slay the big bad and win” style 4v1, because the Veil Demon is technically unkillable. There’s a touch of Dungeon Keeper here instead. The Veil Demon is an unkillable spirit that can be seen but untouched, and can use a variety of powers and talents to grief and attack players. The Veil Demon can also possess any of their units freely, moving in (and out!) of a minion to empower them and cause some tactical pain on the party. This includes taking control of the boss at the end of the match, and talents prove a crucial choice that can determine a win or loss.

Breach Screenshot

The Veil Demon is incorporeal, though Mages can still see them moving around.

It is also not a proper arena, where the map and the objectives are straightforward. The map we saw felt more like an arena shooter map: large enough to not feel confined to a single space the entire match, but small enough that the space you use is intimate. Rather than racking up points in traditional match styles like deathmatch or capture the flag, the Mage team moves throughout the map and attempts to complete specific objectives. Each objective takes part in a relatively small area, and can be decided for the Mages or the Demon. So the match proceeds, through a series of objectives that each make an impact on the match as a whole. Some decisions can even influence later rooms.

It’s kind of a crazy amalgamation of Evolve: Stage 2, Overwatch, and Left 4 Dead with a dash of your average MOBA.

Outfoxed was the one to take the driver’s seat for this demo, so I’ll let him share his experiences.

First of all, there are classes.  Many classes. So, so many classes.  The team has already put together along the lines of 24 classes, each with a huge range of abilities and roles.  I decided on Elementalist for the playthrough, which was a support build that had a meteor ability, a quake that could slow enemies, a sphere of water that boosted my regeneration, and an ablative shield to protect my team or myself.  The ultimate ability I had was a major heal and regeneration field.

The idea is to let players customize their experience based on what they prefer to do, and from what I played, they’ve done a marvelous job of doing just that.  Obviously not everything had been implemented just yet, but even in the current state the game was a lot of fun. There were five sections to the map we played on, each with a different objective.  Not every map will have the same experience either, because the paths you take depend on whether or not the mages or the demon takes the sector. Branching paths in a co-op action RPG is almost surreal in its own way.

Breach Screenshot

We battled in the end against the Egyptian God Ra himself.

Oh, and one other thing that became immediately apparent:  teamwork is absolutely vital. The game really does seem to bank off of communicating with your team and working together.  Lone wolf types my find themselves a bit frustrated here, because the whole point of the Veil Demon is to wreak havoc on the everyone else.  For instance, ours was fond of putting up walls at most every doorway, blocking some people off from the others. If you leave your team behind, you’re going to get overwhelmed by the monsters, and likely cost your team a point.

The final node on our map consisted of a major boss encounter.  This was everything you’d expect from any sort of RPG encounter — large attacks to be dodged or countered, multiple phases, and a huge health pool to name a few.  The demon, meanwhile, tried to make sure our attention was off the boss as much as possible by summoning minions and turrets to make us miserable, and so the boss could hopefully pick us off one by one.  It’s encounters like this one that truly made the game stand apart, for me.

Watching a full 4v1 match play out was just as fun. There was a lot of heat yelled out at the Veil Demon (those walls caused a lot of salt – but they could be jumped over!). Seeing a mixed team play the game for the first time, I could only imagine the intensity for serious long term players and eSports enthusiasts. While I have some concerns about the balance of so many classes, I’m also glad to see such a large starting roster.

Breach is in early development, so there’s a lot that can change. But from what we saw, Breach is everything Evolve could have been and more. It’s an evolution of asymmetric gameplay combined with an arena shooter. Keep an eye out for more news about it on the official website – and of course here on MMOHuts!

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