Try to imagine, if you can, a game that combines elements of both FTL: Faster than Light and Slay the Spire. That’s right, a sci-fi, ship-based, deck-building adventure game – sounds good, right? Well stop imagining and download the Breachway demo from Steam and you can experience that very thing.
I’ve been playing the Breachway demo ahead of Steam Next Fest, and it’s intriguing to say the least. Not only is it fast-paced, it’s interesting too, putting you in command of your own ship and crew and sending you out into deep space in pursuit of the mysterious Signal.
You have two ship options in the demo, and they’re not wildly different. The onus here is on outfitting your vessel with weapons and other devices, then assigning crewmembers to activate those devices. Each device, be it a laser cannon or your defensive shields, then has cards attached which act as either mods or functions.
So your weapon system for example can be used to fire either a laser pulse or a catalyst pulse, and each round you’ll either attack the enemy or bolster your own defences. Your power is divided between three sections, Weapons, Shields and Support, and you can balance the three each round to allow for more or less power to each. So if you need an extra attack, you can put more power to your weapons systems at the risk of reduced shield capacity.
If you or an enemy manage to break a piece of equipment, it takes three full turns to repair, leaving you vulnerable and, often, desperate. Some attacks are specifically marked as Precision attacks, meaning you can target specific areas on the enemy to focus your damage. Special cards like missiles take longer to land, but do massive damage.
Each victory will award you new cards or gear, and you can take on crewmembers periodically. While you have a limit to how many you can assign at once, you must have a crewmember man a device to bring its cards to bear in the next battle. Again, this forces you to consider how you want to play and what you might need.
The demo mentions different crewmembers affecting different narrative outcomes, but there isn’t much story on display in the demo. Being able to forge your own story and build your own adventure out in the galaxy is exciting, and there are few card-battling games that feel as immediately satisfying to play.
It being a roguelike means it’s fairly easy to get to grips with the core combat, as repeated failures will only teach you more techniques. Once you begin to get your head around equipping different cards and subsystems it starts to become quite intuitive.
Breachway is pretty good looking, too. There’s a chunky, cartoony art style, and the ships are interesting, the card art vivid and colourful. Outside of combat the exploration feels bare-bones at this point, as you simply travel from point to point and some of them have combat. The galaxy map is pretty basic, but that’s all likely to change through early access.
Whatever happens, Breachway is showing solid potential, and if developer Edgeflow Studio can flesh out the non-combat sections and continue to build on the already promising foundations, Breachway could be a card-battling game to watch.
Breachway is heading into early access on March 22nd 2023. The demo is available to download now.