Fright of the navigator – Into The Breach’s most powerful but most cowardly mech pilot

One thing I didn’t say much about in my starry-eyed review of the sublimely elegant turn-based strategy game Into The Breach was its metagame.

A campaign takes an hour or less, but the business of earning new types of mech and new pilots to drive, fly or teleport them will last you months. I’m a long way off unlocking everything, though I do have a bit of a head start from beta builds, but already I’ve found the pilot I will spend the rest of my life with. Isaac Jones, you complete me. Or rather, your game-changing ability does.

In every Into The Breach battle, you can have one last resort you can turn to. A button that resets all your actions during the space of that turn, thus undoing calamitous decisions such as the sudden death of a mech or circumstances conspiring to wipe out humanity come the next turn. The snag is that you can only do this once per mission. Spend it wantonly and you have no more do-overs, and will have to live with whatever terrible consequences might arise in the next couple of turns – and such is Into The Breach’s clockwork-tight design that the entire situation can alter drastically within the space of one turn.

Enter Isaac Jones, who was given to me as a one of a choice of three rewards for acing every objective on an island.


I very nearly skipped right past him in favour of a free couple of Power units, because I’d had a good enough run so far that my starting pilots were all alive and had levelled-up once, but then I read the text underneath his anxious, goateed face.

Text I couldn’t quite believe I was reading, so disruptive did it seem to rules I have lived with in Into The Breach for quite some time.

“Gain 1 extra ‘Reset Turn’ every battle.”

You have got to be shitting me. A free do-over. This changes everything.

Pilots are rare finds in Into The Breach, obtained only via occasional drop-pods or, as I had done, pulling off a perfect run on an island. Once found, they can join you on a campaign if you’re happy to replace an existing pilot with them (and can be a godsend if you’ve lost a pilot – mechs can carry on without a driver, but the AI controlling them causes a few nerfs), but, beautifully, they’re also unlocked for use in any future attempt.

So the dawning of Isaac here means that, in any ITB run, I can enjoy that bonus reset.

Maybe later I’ll unlock someone with an even more startling ability, but right now Isaac’s reset handily beats Ralph’s bonus XP, Camila’s smoke and web immunity (though that is pretty hardcore), Chen’s free move after attacking and Harold’s push adjacent tiles while repairing skills. Isaac, be mine forever.

Unfortunately, there’s also a big downside to Isaac. Not in terms of ability – ITB doesn’t do pilot handicaps – but in terms of personality. He’s an abject coward. And a whiner, too. This makes him much more chatty than the average pilot, as he’s forever expressing dismay at the presence of more bugs or claiming he’s not capable of handling military technology. He also stutters in what sounds like constant fear, although in one line of incidental dialogue he claims this is a result of a science experiment gone wrong. I’m not sure I believe him.

The yellow-belly even complains when I use his power to turn back time.


Jeez, dude, get over yourself. We’re only trying to save humanity, y’know?

Isaac, in other words, has godlike powers but is deeply annoying. I am certain he has been deliberately designed to be this way, which is a quiet masterstroke.

One of the smaller things I really dig about Into The Breach is how the unseen civilians greet the arrival of your mechs with awe, and you then proceed to play in stoic near-silence: the epitome of a selfless hero. Isaac’s whingeing undermines that, in a way that reminds me uncomfortably of Judge Dredd having to trek through the Cursed Earth with Rob bloody Schneider in tow.

It’s brilliant. Isaac changes everything – well, not everything, but I’ve already survived a half-dozen missions I otherwise wouldn’t have thanks to that magic dual-reset – but boy do I now crave the company of someone who’s a bit more on-message. So I can’t wait to see who I dig out of the next time-pod. Just please let them be an optimist.


  1. crazyd says:

    My favorite so far is a pilot I named Scar Faceman. He’s Armored, which lets me absorb a point of damage before I actually get hurt. He’s ridiculously useful for tanking.

    I find that I rarely use my Reset, and don’t think I’ve ever felt a need to do it more than once. I plan out my moves pretty precisely before I execute anything.

    • Tacroy says:

      Yeah the turn reset isn’t very useful IMO. I mean I just lost a mech because I didn’t remember that fire damage happens before everything else (so a Vek died, and one of my mechs took the 3 HP shot the Vek was going to otherwise block) and there’s no way back from that because it happened during the enemy turn.

      I can’t imagine ever needing more than one turn reset, honestly.

      • Crafter says:

        I have just finished the first island, so I have played maybe 1 hour in total ?
        Reset is a bit useful for me as a way to test out how the rules play out without risking to lose 1 hour of campaign.

    • Tuidjy says:

      I’m with you on that one. This is the most useless ability of them all. When you are just starting, sure. But now I have my moves planned until the end of the turn. This game has no random component. Needing one turn reset is a sign of distraction. Needing two is a sign of habitual carelessness, if not worse.

      Isaac is firmly bottom tier. Trust Alec to go through the roster, and pick out the most controversial choice to drum up a discussion.

      There are pilots with some real abilities, like going trough enemies, moving after firing, firing twice without moving, etc. Paired with the right mech, those are game changing.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        I agree it’s a “useless ability”… but really. All these big headed people saying they “beat the game easy in one sitting” must never have clicked to the left when they meant to the right… and the objective get blown up.

        I don’t really call it a game, waiting 1 or 2 hours on a playthrough, to loose it all because “permadeath/rougelite” in a *puzzlegame*. It’s rather easy to slip with the mouse… and yes, I did do it 2 times in a row, 1st was not knowing dropped Vek also explode (I was assuming as it was off the map, it negated that effect), so I reset, and then clicked to the left, instead of to the right, causing more damage instead of less. XD

        I know it’s my fault, but that don’t make a “game”, it makes a frustration engine. Just as adding a grinding mechanic alone does not make a game (though I am 100% tempted to make a troll game for Steam that is purely a number counter going from 1 to infinity ;) ).

        PS, that includes slipping on the shop (no “undo” on purchases :P

        • HamMan says:

          You should be learning from your mistakes, not blaming the game for it.

          What I love about this game is that it’s highly tactical and most fails are your own fault, not some “rng”. The game gives you all the information you need and you should think carefully about your every move. Don’t just attack enemies blindly, but instead you should think what will happen after your move and if there’s a better move you can make. If things are going bad, there’s always some way to turn things around or reduce losses.

          People are too hasty these days. They want to beat games as fast as possible and move on to the next. Into the Breach requires you to play it slow and use your brain, and I love that.

          • Alberto says:

            That’s how I feel everytime I die in (masterpiece) Brogue. The game tells you every bit of information you need, so your death is your fault and your fault only.

            When it’s well used, it’s as great as a healthy rng (darkest dungeon)

          • Minicow says:

            It’s like you didn’t actually read the comment you’re replying to at all.

    • MajorLag says:

      I’ve only got 11 hours in the game, and a single 4-island victory to show for it, only played with the Rift Walkers, but I rarely touch the reset. I have to have overlooked something or suddenly realized a much better way to handle the turn, and that just doesn’t come up often any more.

  2. Rituro says:

    Appreciate the insight. Disagree completely.

    Isaac’s second reset is indeed a powerful ability. However, it’s powerful in the way training wheels are powerful for a bike. Eventually, you have to become a better rider and ditch the training wheels to get more out of your bike (as I strain the metaphor to its limit).

    For my money, Brittany is the star. (Camila is a close second.) A free shield right off the bat means whatever Brittany pilots can now serve as a crucial barrier against one Vek, regardless of damage. That’s massive, especially when you find yourself trying to manage more than one Alpha Vek in the later stages of the game and need to protect the grid at all costs.

    (FWIW, having just completed a two-island victory before work today, Camila in the Rusted Hulks is god-tier good.)

    • wwarnick says:

      Yeah, I think training wheels is a good metaphor. However, even some experienced players still like having that option. I don’t, but I’m the guy that takes multiple hours to finish a 1 hour game (according to the author) because half the time I’m sitting there thinking through my strategy so that I don’t make a mistake that I’d need to reset.

      That’s only my preference. I see no problem with people playing differently. Choosing the reset means you do without some other cool perk, so it’s a tradeoff. As for me, I’d much rather have a perk that would assist me with my strategy than allow me to undo a mistake.

      • Kitsunin says:

        It’s supposed to be only an hour long? Yikes, maybe playing so slowly is why I always win. Maybe I should use a chess timer.

      • MajorLag says:

        Yeah, that “hour long” comment doesn’t seem right to me either. Each island takes about an hour I think, meaning a whole campaign takes 4 and a half or so. Maybe Alec is playing on easy, or maybe I’m just really slow. I don’t use reset very often, so it’s possible I just spend a lot more time thinking things through.

        • Xocrates says:

          One of the squads has an achievement to beat 2 islands in less than 30 minutes, so a successful 1 hour campaign should be possible.

          My average for a successful campaign is about 2-3 hours so far(depending on the number of islands I make), however if I average the length all my unsuccessful campaigns (i.e. most of them) I can buy the “1 hour campaign”.

        • Pilchardo says:

          I’ve played two campaigns so far and have clocked up 16 hours of play time. I think that averages out at about 30 minutes per mission. I do admittedly tend to get a little crippled by analysis paralysis but I really can’t imagine finishing an entire campaign in an hour.

          On the subject of resets, I probably do use one per mission when I realise I’ve messed up. Having another available would certainly be nice but possibly not at the expense of something more interesting.

    • Xocrates says:

      I was going to say something very similar.

      Essentially, his ability allows you to recover from mistakes… which you should be trying to avoid, not planning to do. You’re trading an in-game advantage for an out of game safety net.

      Like, sure, it’s useful when learning to play the game and for the occasional brain fart, but generally speaking the 2 power units are more useful (and I’m 90% sure I actually took them over him, since I recall seeing him in game, but don’t actually have him unlocked).

      Among the ones I do own, Camila is my go to (don’t have Brittany) since crowd control immunity on your frontline is just so damn useful – not least of which because it essentially wastes an enemy attack when they try it.

    • Nixitur says:

      Yeah, I first found Camila in a Rusted Hulks run. I put her in my Pulse Mech, equipped her with Smoke Bombs and just went extremely to town. When I upgraded the Storm Generator to deal two damage, the bugs stood no chance.
      Granted, it was an Easy run, but it was still by far the most overpowered I’ve been in ITB so far.

    • Shadow says:

      Training wheels indeed. The Reset Turn mechanic is useful, but two instances of it is wasteful once you accrue a measure of skill. Once you’ve done a few runs, you’ll likely wish you had a pilot with a more consistently handy ability.

      Personally, I recall only a couple of cases in which a second reset would’ve helped. Maybe. Considering my thoughtful, patient approach, if I’ve already burned the first use and I’m still in trouble, chances are the mission is inevitably FUBAR.

    • LagTheKiller says:

      Great game, but second reset option placed as master tier was almost certainly used as comment bait.
      Armored is good for brawlers which frequently put themselves on the enemy line like judo mech, and godsend for leap mech. I however love immunity to web n smoke especially for rustalkers and all primes as i can put myself as a bait for all webbing tards then slip to attack something else. Close second is enemy passing and deploy anywhere. … if only it was free, even non damaging only pushing.
      I know that push is 75% time more useful than straight dmg.

      Also anyone who plays teleportation mech u are sick fuck who loves to drown the bastards. And I want to shake your hand.

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      Yeah, the key thing is that his ability only helps you undo mistakes – if you’re playing at your best then you gain nothing from him.

      Archimedes is one of my favourites because his move after attacking means he can almost always get out of the way, so you don’t have to worry about terrain effects, etc., or get in the way, if you want to block a projectile or spawn.

      Another that can be really useful is Harold with his repair push – it’s essentially a zero-power version of the Repulse weapon which doesn’t need a weapon slot. It also combos really well with the Repair Field passive (repairing one mech restores health to all of them), particularly if you’re blocking a lot and/or using self-damage weapons in your squad.

  3. ComradeJohan says:

    I always remember in the splendid racing game GRID, there was a point at which you can unlock a second driver for your team. They have varying skills and demand varying amounts of money or a cut from the winnings.

    But there was one, I do not remember his name; whether through artifice or RNG, his skills were all almost maxed out and he asked as little as the bog-tier drivers for pay.

    Of course, I signed him on at once.

    I was greeted in the next race by the most annoying, overwhelming, grating Texas drawl. Every time he did the slightest thing, or I did the slightest thing, he was brought to comment with that incredible accent – the comments themselves were not overly repetitive or lame, but I could not overlook the voice in which they were delivered. This was an American Accent, weaponised.

    He lasted two more races until I replaced him with a dutchman four times the cost and with a quarter of the skills.

    • Pharaoh Nanjulian says:

      I have a chap called Tomas Strezenecki. He’s all right, but he has a nonchalant eastern European drawl.

      His most common comment is: “Oh, I see you – you’re just behind me.”

      Thank you, Tomas.

  4. Skiddywinks says:

    So rarely use the reset that it seems like a waste of a pilot to me.

  5. mgardner says:

    Agree with what others have said. Reset is only useful if you are playing too quickly or prone to making mistakes (since there is nothing random that happens DURING your turn). If he let you reset to a PREVIOUS turn, suddenly that becomes useful.

  6. BooleanBob says:

    Get in the fucking robot, Isaac!

  7. AmazingPotato says:

    My favourite unlocked pilot right now is [redacted for mild spoilers] who lets you replace a mech repair ability with a 2 damage melee attack – after an island, it’s possible to cram two actual weapons into the same mech so you have a damage powerhouse, which is tremendous fun.

    • DarkFenix says:

      That one’s a great pilot for a science mech, something that normally doesn’t have a damaging attack. Sometimes it’s not enough to have two attacks and a push, sometimes you just need to punch three bugs in the face.

  8. Coming Second says:

    Harold or Archimedes for me. Repair + bump = the ultimate spawn blocker. As for getting a free move after a kill: is there a game where that essential mechanic isn’t powerful?

    • poliovaccine says:

      To prove your point, I’m pretty sure the Fallout perk that does that was actually nerfed at some point, maybe the Jsawyer mod, I forget where I heard that – but I can see that, cus I remember taking it for simple lack of a better one, not realizing how good it was til the next time I used VATS. I thought it was a bug before I remembered. “Grim Reaper’s Sprint,” I think it’s called, unless that’s a different one. As far as a “free move” it means “in VATS,” since each kill refills your AP. But yeah – stupid useful.

  9. Discosauce says:

    Having a blast, finally got to the fourth island then got trounced. Question: Are pilot level up stats (not the special skill) always the same or randomized each run?

    • Rituro says:

      I believe they are the same.

    • Tuidjy says:

      I am reasonably sure that they are random, at least, they are if you rename the character. I have the default character on two different computers, with +2hp on one, and +1 reactor on the other.

    • DarkFenix says:

      Completely random. I’ve seen +2 health, +1 move, +3 grid defence, +1 mech reactor. I think that’s the extent of it, and I’ve never had one duplicate so I don’t think they can.

  10. Rindan says:

    I’m almost positive that there is literally no need for the reset button. It only resets the turn you are on. Because it only resets the current turn, there is nothing new to learn any time you hit the reset button.

    When a turn starts, you can literally look at the board, plan the move in your mind, and know exactly how the turn will look when it is done. The only reason why you should ever need to hit the reset button is if you don’t plan your moves in your head before making them, or if you make a mistake.

    Literally every time I hit the reset button, it is because I made a dumb mistake I could have foreseen. Honestly, I think the game should just let you hit the reset button as many times as you want. I don’t really see much virtue in forcing people to plan it on in their head, rather than use the board. It just slows the game down making me do it in my head.

    • Toadsmash says:

      The number of times I made a fatfinger misclick that cascaded into catastrophic results is basically the entire reason I gave up on I/I XCOM Long War. THAT is what the reset button saves having to put up with, and it’s something the genre could do with more of.

      • Ghostwise says:

        Uh, you’re not supposed to say that in a video game website comment section.

        You’re supposed to boast about how your clear intelligence, awesome skillz and genital tensile strength make you superior to the writer. It’s… right in the handbook. Here. Paragraph #2, page 1.

      • Nixitur says:

        Yeah, I think that’s Rindan’s point. Why then is it limited to once per battle?

    • Chriller says:

      > Because it only resets the current turn, there is nothing new to learn any time you hit the reset button.

      I’m not sure. I have (only twice so far) tried killing an exploding vek, and when my building resisted the explosion I reset the turn and did it again, with the same result. So either I was incredibly lucky or the game also resets the random seed to its previous state and you can actually gain information. (Of course for it to be useful you want to do it the other way around, I just reset the resists since they are more rare.)

  11. vahnn says:

    That is a nifty ability, but not one I think I’d ever take. I beat the game 5 times already, 4 on easy and once on normal… And I didn’t even realize that you could reset your entire turn. I know pressing Left Shift could cancel movement orders (but not action orders). Just noticed the button at the top of the screen this last game I played, it blew my mind. There WERE about 3 times where I committed to really bad moves, even one where I had planned out the perfect move, but then executed it in the wrong sequence and got a mech killed. But ultimately I feel that ability is not needed.

    My favorite pilot so far is a guy I got as a perfect island reward as well: Silica. His ability: If you don’t move, you can take TWO ACTIONS IN ONE TURN. Stick him in the right mech, and you have some enormous firepower on hand! The main drawback is that it requires 2 power to activate the ability.

    • Nixitur says:

      That sounds amazing, especially when combined with attacks that move you around, anyway. I’m now imagining full-range smoke bombs on that pilot and that’s kind of ridiculous.

      • SquidgyB says:

        I’ve found Silica along with the Flame Behemoths to be a potent combination.

        Fully trained, Silica gives you an extra reactor pip and an extra move off the bat. Having him in the Prime flame mech lets him upgrade to 2 range for the first battle. As soon as you get a couple of reactor cores he really shines – sit him in the middle of the spawn area and hope most Vek target him, and use the science guy to bring enemies into his range.

        Also, using the science mech to teleport him into place doesn’t count as a move, so you can usually still get him close enough to the enemies to hurt them.

        Artillery with the Flame Bomb (5 tiles of fire) thing really help with this strategy, or having the spawn point tiles already burning so the Vek spawn on fire.

        I’ve been playing the Flame Behemoths exclusively for a few days now, they’re definitely my favourite mech team up to now.

  12. Nixitur says:

    People are kind of ragging on the Reset Turn mechanic, but there are two very specific use cases where it does actually do more than just save against misclicks and strategies that weren’t fully thought out.
    One is achievements. If going for an achievement puts you in a bad spot, you can reset your turn, but still keep it.
    The other is a bit trickier, so I will put it through Rot13 for spoiler purposes.

    Vs lbh uvg n ohvyqvat va lbhe ghea naq tevq qrsrafr snvyf, lbh pna erfrg gur ghea, naq gur punapr trgf ebyyrq ntnva. Guvf znxrf zrpuf juvpu ner cebar gb sevraqyl sver (yvxr gur Ynfre Zrpu) zhpu zber ivnoyr.

    I wasn’t able to confirm this for myself, I have only read about it. But it seems likely, in any case.

    • Xocrates says:

      I don’t think people are “ragging on the Reset Turn mechanic” so much as pointing out having more of it – while certainly useful – is not actually powerful.

      I certainly use it a lot, and would even appreciate if the game gave you infinite resets, but I would not take the option of an extra reset over something that gave me a gameplay advantage.

      • unacom says:

        I also use it a lot, because this ability encourages me to try different approaches to a set-piece problem.
        What I really like about ITB is how it makes you think about resources (pilot abilities, gear and grid-points). It feels much broader than FTL, where I think I found “my way” and “my gear” and stuck to it. ITB is much more fluid. It feels like a good game of tafl.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        I think a better method, would be giving players infinite turn resets, and making this character offer a once per battle reset to first turn or 2 turns back reset.

        That way you’d still have permadeath no quicksaves (why? Why have this?) mechanics, but also have the option to do over small sections.

        • HamMan says:

          So you’re pretty much asking for the game to be much easier since you can fix any mistake?

          What’s great about this game is that most fails happen because of your own mistakes, not “bad RNG”. It’s not something in what you should play fast, rather you should think carefully about your every move. If you use your brain, then you will realise that there’s always some way to get you out of trouble.

          And permadeath is there to put pression on you. It’s supposed to force you to be careful with your moves, since if you mess up bad you can’t go back. Still losing doesn’t matter much. All pilots you find are unlocked forever, and the items and upgrades are so basic that you can beat the game without them.

          And the campaign is a pretty short one, not something like Caves of Qud where you can lose days of playtime if you die.

  13. Time4Pizza says:

    My pilot can drop anywhere on the map when deploying. Furthermore, he does one damage to all adjacent Veks when deploying. Now that’s a solid ability.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      A character that freezes into ice would be a “solid” ability. ;)

  14. Wormerine says:

    I found him very helpful so far, but I feel his usefulness will diminish as my skill as a player will grow. The more I play, the better I can predict the outcomes of my actuins and the less I feel the need to use rewind. It reminds me of Decker from Inv Inc. with his cloak as a “out-of-jail card”. It seemed to good to not get when I started playing. Didn’t take long, before Decker became the least desired agent as his cloak became less and less useful. In a long term I imagine turn rewind will be used to cancel stupid mistakes, rather than give the turn another go.

    • Coming Second says:

      Decker’s cloak makes him a useful starting character regardless of skill level. Many’s the run where he was the one who got past the obnoxious security arrangement in a Holding Facility mission to bust out the vital third agent.

      Inter though, there’s the worst kind of training wheels character – one with an ability so good you’ll feel like your arms have been cut off the first time you don’t have it.

  15. Cederic says:

    Umm. Regarding annoyance:
    “is deeply annoying. I am certain he has been deliberately designed to be this way, which is a quiet masterstroke”

    No. Designing a part of your game to be annoying is, well, annoying. It’s a great way to encourage me to find a game that isn’t annoying. There are plenty out there. I want a game that’s fun and doesn’t include annoying things, especially intentionally designed annoyances, and particularly when they’re the sort of annoyance that forces me to leave public venues in real life because that’s the socially acceptable alternative to violence.

    So can Isaac be stfu?

    • HamMan says:

      Dude, chill.

      You’re getting way too salty about that.

      Each pilot not only has their own unique ability, but a unique personality as well.

      Making Isaac the way he is was probably a joke from the developers to give you a small “nudge nudge wink wink” for using a “baby mode” character, or a parody of how sciencists are presented in some science fiction: cowardly eggheads who don’t like combat.

      • Cederic says:

        You misunderstand. I don’t have an issue with how Isaac is portrayed. I don’t even care that he has a stutter.

        I do care that Alec (who almost certainly has higher tolerance levels than me) found him annoying, and wanted to point out that this is not good game design.

        Nudge and wink all you like, but if a game annoys me I stop playing it. Life really is that simple. In this case, I have to decide whether knowing in advance that a small part of the game will be effectively inaccessible to me should stop me buying it in the first place.

        But hey, you’re welcome to tell me to chill again and continue your snide comments about salt. That’s not annoying, just juvenile.

  16. Jekadu says:

    Ah, I see the “git gud” crowd is here early.

  17. Nosebeggar says:

    Chen Rong is great when you put her into the Grapple Tank of the Blitzkrieg squad. Place an enemy to complete the chain-lightning and move away before it damages you. The second best in my opinion is the pilot that grants flying.

  18. Smaug says:

    I like the Samurai dude, armor is pretty good when you get one of the self-damaging weapons.