By: Michael Dao
The proliferation of tablet devices has changed how we interact with the internet and our digital media in profound ways. Just a few years ago, people would be found on the subway commuting to work with their mobile phone in their hands, inevitably playing solitaire or some such game. As touchscreen phones rose in prominence, mobile games got more complex and one could argue better. Angry Birds is certainly a long stone’s throw away from that Snake game pre-installed on my very first cell phone, one of those indestructable Nokias. Fast forward to the present day, and the landscape has changed somewhat again. Though a large number of people are still fiddling with their mobile phones, a goodly chunk of them have been replaced with either e-readers such as the Kindle from Amazon or the Nook from Barnes and Noble, or full on tablet devices, such as the iPad from Apple.
Having a relatively inexpensive and powerful device with a moderately sized touchscreen will change how we interact with our games for sure. The first application that comes to mind is that of board games. When the iPad was first released, there was a Scrabble application that used the iPad and then iPhones or iPod touches to hold that little stand that has all of the letter tiles on it for each player. Kind of ridiculous, yes, but it was a glimpse at just what was possible with the proliferation of smart, wireless devices. Following Scrabble closely were tablet adaptations of popular board games such as Puerto Rico and Ticket to Ride. These were little more than copies of an existing ruleset which was then made to work with a touch interface without too much fuss. Though fun, these games didn’t really move the bar in terms of innovation.
The good news is that developers are realizing that tablets will be a great place to start building innovative strategy games. The form factor of the device and how it is used in peoples lives lend it to being the perfect device for asynchronous turn based strategy games. A tablet owner can easily play a few turns before bed, maybe a few more on the toilet, and a bunch on the subway commuting to work. At this past PAX East, Firaxis announced that they would be porting their critically acclaimed strategy game, X-COM to iOS. The announcement was one of those things where after the surprise faded, everyone just kind of went, “Huh, that makes a ton of sense. I wonder why no one’s done this sort of thing sooner.” But here’s the thing, people are.
Breach and Clear is an tactical turn based strategy game from Gun Media. I got a chance to play it at PAX East and I really like what they’ve done. I think for smaller or less experienced teams, they all want to make a game that reaches so far, that things start being left cut and the final product is poorer for it. Cue the Eddie Izzard bit about the British high school guidance counselor telling their student to, “Scale it back a bit.” The best titles often take a single really great gameplay mechanic and distill it to its purest form. Look at Jetpack Joyride from Halfbrick Studios. You control a guy with a jetpack and you press the screen to make him go up, and you let go to make him fall. Along the way you avoid bad things and collect coins, and the occasional power-up. The same is true with Breach and Clear. The player controls a team of elite special forces, and is a turn based tactical game where the object is to do just what the title says, breach and clear.
The game starts out with the player looking at a building and choosing the entry points for his or her squad. Using the respective device’s touchscreen, waypoints, movement paths and firing arcs need to be set so that the troops entering the building can take down the inhabitants without suffering any casualties of their own. It actually plays out much like the mission planning portion of the original Rainbow Six first person shooter, and that’s not a bad thing. The planning portion was actually more fun than the shooty bits – as they say, I love it when a plan comes together, and whoever plays the title will certainly feel that sense of satisfaction of completing a level. The game will ship with a multitude of levels, and will be free to play, supported by in app purchases.
Breach and Clear will be available this year.