Thoughts on Into the Breach's Squads

So, I've been playing a lot of Into the Breach lately. It's a fantastic game, and highly recommended to anyone who enjoys turn-based tactical games, or puzzle games (which I might argue it's more of the latter). There's a lot of little details about it that I think make it an extremely well-designed game, but that's not what I'm here to discuss today. No, I'm here to talk about the game's different squads.

For the uninitiated, you control a squad of three mechs in every run of Into the Breach. The game comes with eight unlockable prefab squads, plus custom and random squad options, and even a "secret" squad. I'm only going to focus on the eight primary squads here, as they are the ones that are clearly orchestrated to synergize in some pretty interesting ways. I also found that I liked different squads more or less than others, and I don't think all of them are equally powerful. So this is also serving as a ranking of how much I liked each squad personally (not always an indicator of raw power, though that's a big factor). I'm listing them in order from most to least favorite, and briefly describing what I like and dislike about each one.

A pair of important notes here. First, I've beaten the game on normal with all eleven squads (the primary eight plus the three special ones), so these thoughts are based on how I felt squads compared on that front. I have beaten the game on hard with a couple squads, but not all yet, so these thoughts apply only to normal difficulty for now. Second, there are some pilot abilities that can alleviate some of the drawbacks in various squads. However, I'm giving my thoughts on the squads proper, not any pilots or additional weapons that can improve them. Take that for what you will.

Anyway, let's dive in! Hope you enjoy reading, and let me know if you have different thoughts on any of the squads!

EDIT 5/31/2018: See spoiler block for updated thoughts after playing more!

I've played the game a lot more since first writing this, primarily on hard. A brief updated ranking with a few thoughts:

  1. Rift Walkers. Still the best- got a perfect game with them on hard (4 islands no casualties), and it wasn't even that hard.
  2. Steel Judoka. A lot of people seem to disagree here, but they are so versatile. I played 1 game with them on hard, 4 island victory with 1 casualty, didn't break a sweat. So good and so fun.
  3. Rusting Hulks. They're a lot more versatile than I first thought, though Pulse Mech is still borderline useless most of the time, and one of my least favorite mechs in the game. The other two mechs make up for it though, and are both among the better mechs in the game. They make this squad much better than I first thought.
  4. Flame Behemoths. They struggle a more on hard, as fire damage does not scale well. But I still love using them.
  5. Hazardous Mechs. Still lots of fun, not much has changed here. Their range and damage output is crazy good.
  6. Frozen Titans. Not much has changed here either, though the Ice Mech's freeze weapon scales well to higher health enemies and higher difficulties. It's kind of OP sometimes.
  7. Zenith Guard. I still struggle with Defense Mech a lot. I rarely have a good use for it, and unlike some of the other squads with a useless 3rd mech, the main 2 aren't good enough here to carry the team. I've had by far the toughest time with this squad outside of the Blitzkrieg, especially on hard.
  8. Blitzkrieg. Still the worst. Gosh I hate them so. I feel it even more on hard.

1. Rift Walkers

Simply the best.
Simply the best.

They're just the best. Despite being the starting squad, and also the most straightforward and least thematic squad, the Rift Walkers are, in my opinion, the strongest and most versatile squad in the game. Each of the three mechs deal good damage, and all of their attacks push at the same time. That means you have good killing power, but can also push enemies out of the way whenever you can't kill them or prefer to rearrange the board. These mechs all have decent range and mobility to boot, and when you put it all together they can find their way out of almost any situation. I don't really have any drawbacks to them; they're not fancy, but they get the job done. And really, Combat Mech might be the best mech in the entire game. Turns out punching shit to death just works.

2. Steel Judoka

The only squad that can possibly rival the Rift Walkers is the Steel Judoka. This squad comes with a passive effect that causes enemy Vek to deal more damage to each other, and all three mechs come with attacks that can push enemies around. The clear theme here is to arrange enemies so that they kill each other for you. That's a surprisingly powerful effect to have, especially since it scales nicely throughout the game as Vek both gain more health and deal more damage. This squad's raw damage output is not quite as strong as the Rift Walkers, which is the main reason they're not as good to me: in the rare cases where the Vek don't line up well, it can be harder to deal with them. Also, I think Judo Mech is a bit of a weak link more often than I'd like, as its Vice Fist can be tough to use in tight spaces. All that said, this is still a really reliable squad with a lot of board manipulation potential. I like using them a lot.

3. Flame Behemoths

KILL IT WITH FIRE
KILL IT WITH FIRE

Despite lacking any direct damage out of the gate, I think the Flame Behemoths are not only surprisingly effective, but a ton of fun. They come with a passive effect that makes your mechs immune to fire, and then have a lot of ways to set the board on fire and push enemies around. As I've found in my time with the game, being able to push enemies is often more useful than raw damage, and with this squad your enemies will also take constant passive damage from fire as you push them around. Also, Swap Mech just might be my favorite mech in the game. It's uncanny how powerful its Teleporter is in almost any situation, and to me it's the only mech who can rival the Rift Walker's Combat Mech. My main concern with the Flame Behemoths is that fire damage doesn't scale well to higher health enemies. It's possible I may change my tune if I tried for a four-island hard victory, but from my current experience this squad is awesome.

4. Hazardous Mechs

On paper this may sound like a crazy pick to have in the upper half, but I had a lot of success, and a lot of fun, with the Hazardous Mechs. Yes, they damage themselves when they attack, and don't even have higher health to make up for it. But their passive effect that heals them every time they kill an enemy is not to be underestimated; it even brings them back to life on the spot if they kill themselves while killing a Vek. With that freedom to be more reckless, combined with good damage output, great range, and pushing effects on all three mechs, the Hazardous Mechs are more powerful and versatile than they have any right to be. My main concern is that they can be, well, a little hazardous to others. They almost have too much range and pushing effects, and it can be hard to avoid damaging buildings in tight spaces. But if you are mindful of that, this squad is a blast.

5. Zenith Guard

The Zenith Guard is one of two squads based around lining up enemies for the prime mech's attack, in this case being Laser Mech's Burst Beam. It goes through multiple units, and can dish out stupid amounts of damage in the right situation; possibly the best raw damage in the game. But I also found it to be less versatile than I wanted: it can be hard to avoid hitting buildings, and it lacks any pushing effect. How much you get out of this squad depends heavily on how often you can line up that laser, and I think the other two mechs have contributing issues. Charge Mech's Ramming Engines is your best pushing ability and deals decent damage, but hurts itself without a good way to heal. And Defense Mech's Attraction Pulse is blocked by other structures and units, which makes it more difficult to use effectively than I expected. There's certainly a lot of potential with the Zenith Guard, but they're held back by some situational caveats.

6. Rusting Hulks

Unfortunately smoke only gets you so far.
Unfortunately smoke only gets you so far.

The Rusting Hulks rely more on disrupting attacks with smoke than dealing damage or pushing. And smoke can be powerful, shutting down any enemy's attack regardless of its stats; Jet Mech's high mobility makes its Aerial Bombs the star of this squad. Yet while smoke is helpful, sometimes you need to be able to actually kill shit, and that's where this squad struggles. Their direct damage output is modest at best, and while they have a passive effect that makes smoke damage enemy units, smoke neither travels with enemies nor scales well to higher health enemies. On top of that, smoke still prevents you from attacking. So once the board it littered with smoke, I've found it hard to line up attacks how I'd like. Finally, I really wish Pulse Mech flew, like comparable non-damaging mechs in other squads. I like the Rusting Hulks overall, but it's hard not to see where other squads outperform them in a number of comparable areas.

7. Frozen Titans

The Frozen Titans are a goofy squad. In some ways I find them charming, but they just don't hang with the other squads in any meaningful way. To me their main weakness is a lack of pushing ability, which may be the worst of any squad. Only Mirror Mech can push, and given that its Janus Cannon shoots in both directions, you have to worry about hitting buildings (or allies) with it a lot. And their damage and mobility are about average, certainly not good enough to make up for the lack of pushing effects. Most hit or miss is Ice Mech. The ability to freeze enemies is very powerful, but freezing itself proves tricky. If you can line it up over an emerging Vek or in the line of another Vek's attack to break the ice, it's pretty great. But other times it just takes itself out for a turn. There's really nothing about the Frozen Titans that they do better than other squads, even if I kind of had fun with them.

8. Blitzkrieg

Simply the worst.
Simply the worst.

Fuck the Blitzkrieg. They're the only squad I do not like, and the only one I had any trouble winning with on normal with. But boy did I struggle. This is the other squad built around the prime mech's attack, this time being Lightning Mech's Electric Whip. This attack chains through adjacent units to deal damage to all of them, and is the squad's main source of damage. But the caveats are numerous. First, the chain will hurt your own units, which will become a necessary evil at some point. Second, Hook Mech is almost useless for any purpose other than extending your chain, all of which is very situational. Third, and most importantly, YOUR CHAIN WILL DAMAGE ALL OBJECTIVES. Nothing can prevent this either, so any mission where you have to defend trains, bombs, tanks, etc. is drastically harder, as you cannot use your main damage-dealing mech to clear anything adjacent to an objective. It sucks, big time. And without building good chains for the Electric Whip, nothing about the Blitzkreig is as good as other squads, be it damage, pushing, or mobility. In my opinion, this is easily the worst squad. Boulder Mech deserves better.

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