SPOILERS: This Into the Breach squad tier list features screenshots of every playable squad as well as information on the game’s various pilots and other hidden secrets.
After 100 hours of gameplay and a 100% completion rating to go with it, Into the Breach is my favourite video game of 2018.
Rather than parrot the same sentiments from my review though, I’d now like to share my personal tier list for every squad in the game, as well as a few tips for using them on Hard difficulty. As such, these pointers assume that readers have a good understanding of Into the Breach and its mechanics.
As the only squad to occupy the highest tier, most newcomers will be keen to learn what it is about the Frozen Titans that affords them such a decorated standing on this list. The simple answer to that question comes in two words: Ice Mech.
The strength of this squad’s Ranged mech is hard to overstate because of the tempo it can generate under favourable conditions as well as the assistance it can offer when trying to avert an ugly situation. The ability to instantly freeze any target (shielded or not) has many helpful applications and the Ice Mech can do this right from the beginning of the game with its Cryo-Launcher.
A frozen enemy loses its prepared attack and is kept immobile until it gets freed by a stray bump or direct attack and this will be the case regardless of the enemy’s health. This makes the Alpha Vek (who love to appear early on Hard difficulty) far less dangerous as one shot from the Cryo-Launcher is sometimes all it takes to remove them from the mission completely and the same goes for bosses! Freezing targets can have other helpful applications such as protecting faraway buildings or objectives from being destroyed, holding Burrowers or Diggers in place, or even protecting a trapped ally from being disabled.
Another important benefit of freezing is the fact that it keeps enemies on the map. This may not sound like a positive thing at first, but consider that each map has a maximum limit of Vek that can be in play at one time. If several slots are being taken up by frozen enemies then it limits the number of additional threats being spawned in. This is extremely useful no matter what difficulty you’re playing on and even better is how frozen Vek are considered targets for other Vek to pursue. Vek love to break their allies out of the ice and for every enemy attacking ice, you’ve got one more enemy that’s not attacking one of your precious buildings or mission objectives.
This effect is so strong that it warrants balancing which is why the Ice Mech itself is also frozen after it performs an attack with the Cryo-Launcher. Under the worst circumstances this means only being able to fire the weapon every other turn, but there are plenty of tricks players can use to avert this. One of the best examples is attacking whilst the Ice Mech sits atop an emergence hole because you’ll get to freeze a target, block a Vek from spawning, and keep your mech active for the next turn. And all of this in a single activation with a mech that can fly!
Other tricks involve the use of the squad’s Mirror Mech whose two-way Janus Cannon can potentially shoot a Vek and shatter the Ice Mech’s prison in a single shot. If you really want to break things though, you’ll need to use either Bethany Jones or Mafan as your Ice Mech’s pilot as their inherent shields will negate the self-freeze effect entirely. Firing a Cryo-Launcher every turn will end missions very quickly and it’s by far the easiest way to unlock some of the game’s trickier achievements.
Aside from the awesome advantage brought about by the Cryo-Launcher, the squad’s other mechs are also solid performers with good upgrades and damage potential. The Aegis Mech can deal the coveted 2 points of damage from the beginning of the game and the Mirror Mech is good for neutralizing multiple targets at once.
The weaknesses of this squad are tough to spot, but it’s important to note that their pushing game is not very strong and all of that freezing makes it hard to clear the common objective for killing seven enemies. The Mirror Mech can also frequently get into a position where it can’t help firing upon buildings, so don’t let the utility and power of the Cryo-Launcher go to your head as positioning will continue to be important.
Despite being unlocked from the beginning of a fresh save file, the Rift Walkers are among the strongest squads in the game.
The main reason for this is their relative lack of weaknesses because although they’re a little slow and unable to fly, each mech here can grow into a dependable power house and every one of their easy-to-use weapons is able to push Vek around the board.
The Combat Mech’s Titan Fist has a base damage of 2 which will ensure instant death to the Hornets, Leapers, and other weaker enemies that crop up early in the game and the +2 upgrade will allow the mech to one-shot certain Alpha Vek too. The Force Amp upgrade (which enhances push damage) is a stellar choice if you can find it because of the squad’s strong pushing game and it only gets better if you upgrade your Artillery Mech so that it can safely attack buildings.
Because of their standardised design, the Rift Walkers don’t have any special tactics to take into consideration and neither do players need a time traveller in order to exceed with them. This is an excellent squad for beginners and experts alike, but be sure to upgrade their movement scores as soon as you get the opportunity.
As the name suggests, this squad is all about burning your enemies to a crisp with fire-based weaponry. Dealing damage over time may sound like a risky prospect at first, but similar to the Frozen Titans, you’ll find this unique form of offence generates good tempo when harnessed correctly.
After all, a burning enemy with 1HP is a problem that solves itself and once again it means the Vek have one fewer slot open for spawning fresh troops as long as that Vek remains alive. Because of this it can sometimes be beneficial to keep a burning enemy alive rather than toasting it with your Flame Mech’s Flame Thrower as fire damage is always the first thing to resolve during the Vek activation phase.
If you’re playing with this squad on Hard difficulty then it’s essential that you review the effects that fire has on a tile as well as the unique benefits it brings over the course of a 5-turn mission. Whilst buildings are surprisingly immune to fire, other assets such as Renfield Bombs and Disposal Units are not, so always check your targets before firing.
Overcoming the big health pools of the Alpha Vek can cause stress during the late game too, which is why it might be a good idea to prioritise the Meteor Mech’s +2 damage upgrade sooner rather than later. If you’re struggling, then Kazaaakpleth’s innate 2-damage melee attack can work wonders when he’s piloting the speedy Swap Mech.
Having the Science class available can also be quite handy for certain upgrades. Shielding or freezing capabilities make for excellent support options if you get lucky. Even without these upgrades though, the Swap Mech has good prospects for teleporting Vek into other hazards not least of which being the carpet of fire that you should be trying to spread over the entire map. Take advantage of your mechs’ fire immunity and spread the flames as far as you can. Healthy Vek won’t voluntarily enter a burning tile, so use this logic to your advantage by spreading fire to tiles that are adjacent to buildings and objectives as well as tiles containing emergence holes.
This squad does have a major weakness in that it struggles to accomplish objectives that involve destroying objects. Whilst more uncommon than the objective for destroying enemies, parameters that involve destroying mountains or dams for instance are going to be very hard due to fire immunities, so it’s best to try and avoid missions featuring those objectives wherever possible.
The Zenith Guard are one of the most powerful squads in the game in terms of raw damage and yet they can sometimes struggle to get over that early game hump.
The Laser Mech’s multi-hit Burst Beam is a terrifying weapon that can carve through multiple Vek in a single attack. This devastating laser can one-shot the bulkiest of enemies and it’s not totally dependent on upgrades to do this either, it’s just that the same also goes for any allies or buildings standing in line of the linear beam. Fortunately the ally vulnerability can be patched out with an upgrade, which is good because this is one weapon that you’ll definitely enjoy using.
Once you’ve dealt with the Burst Beam’s drawbacks though, you’ll also need to contend with the Charge Mech whose self-damaging attack doesn’t pair well with the mech’s meager health score. The Charge Mech benefits from a defensive pilot such as Mafan, Abe, or Ariadne, who are all good at mitigating the self-damage from Ramming Engines.
The Defense Mech is also a good tool in this sense as its Shield Projector can protect both buildings and allies alike. The Shield Projector is perfect for nullifying self-inflicted damage or careless Burst Beams and it’s helpful even when there are no threatening Vek within range of an objective. A good tip with the Defense Mech though is to try and replace its Attraction Pulse weapon as soon as possible. The Science mech doesn’t have anywhere near enough health to be dragging targets across its own hull and pulling enemies into water or lava tends to be much harder than pushing them is.
If you can manage all of this whilst taking into account the squad’s weak pushing game, you’ll be in a good position. Not many Vek can withstand a constant assault from Burst Beams and Ramming Engines, so be be sure to keep your most valuable pilots healthy because their help is needed to propel Zenith Guard to the tier they’re in.
The Rusting Hulks are a mid tier squad whose power and flexibility has situational concerns.
The setup is similar to the Flame Behemoths in that players will be relying on indirect damage caused by secondary effects. Both the Jet Mech and Rocket Mech have attacks which create smoke; a persistent tile modifier that nullifies the actions of any unit standing inside it. With the addition of the Rocket Mech’s Storm Generator, smoke will damage enemies in much the same way that fire does and thus it makes an effective way of gradually wearing the Vek down.
However, smoke does not travel with targets like the burning status does and whilst your mechs are immune to damage caused by the Storm Generator, their systems will still shut down whenever they enter a cloud. For this reason it is almost impossible to play as this squad without the help of Camila (the pilot who is immune to smoke and webbing) otherwise a map clogged with smoke will be as hard for you to operate in as it will be for the Vek!
Fortunately Camila is a top tier pilot because her ability to negate webbing is not recognised by enemies. The Vek will still try to web Camila’s mech which results in a wasted attack for them and greater freedom for you. When used with the Rusted Hulks you can reliably place Camilla anywhere, but the high manoeuvrability of the otherwise fragile Jet Mech is a natural fit. Its range upgrades allow you to make awesome strafing runs that further spread the blanket of smoke. This can be especially useful during the final mission where you’ll regularly be facing five threats at once.
A smoke heavy game may be hard to reclaim when things start going badly, but it’s quite a marvel to behold when it does work.
One of the few squads in the game who can challenge Zenith Guard for the mantle of ‘most damaging’.
The defining trait of the Hazardous Mechs is their frontline units who damage themselves after every attack performed. Whilst this creates some tense and stressful moments in the early game, longer campaigns can present numerous opportunities for softening those self-inflicted wounds.
The easiest method comes by upgrading the Nano Mech’s Viscera Nanobots augment. This is central to the squad’s core gameplay as for every enemy a mech kills, they will receive health back and that bonus is granted even if the attacking mech would have been disabled via self-damage.
Having one of the defensive pilots on hand can certainly help, but your first purchase should probably be a health upgrade. Luckily, the movement qualities of your Leap Mech and Nano Mech are superb, as are your prospects for pushing Vek onto more advantageous tiles.
Curiously the Hazardous Mechs are affiliated with Detritus Disposal and yet working for that faction in-game is a tough challenge. Detritus maps are notorious for their A.C.I.D. tiles and this causes a major problem for these mechs because their self-damage is also boosted if they’re coated in the green stuff. If you’re playing a shorter campaign then it’s safer to just avoid the Detritus maps altogether and make controlled use of A.C.I.D. with your Nano Mech’s Projector weapon instead.
No squad in the game can make attacks this devastating and yet there will be more times when a simple miscalculation brings everything crashing down. The Hazardous Mechs are not very flexible and you can see this in how the Leap Mech damages things around it (buildings included) and how the Unstable Mech really hates to attack from or into tiles containing flammable forests.
As such, whilst this is a squad whose raw power is nearly unmatched, you will need to exercise patience and care when looking to produce their best results.
The very definition of a middling squad, Blitzkrieg will have their work cut out for them in most sessions.
Central to the squad’s operation is the Lightning Mech and its Electric Whip which conducts its damage through almost anything adjacent to the initial target. With an ideal setup including the upgrade to chain damage through immune buildings, this can result in some spectacular attacks that, under the right circumstances, can simultaneously lay waste to more enemies than even Zenith Guard or Hazardous Mechs could hope to kill in one go.
Both the Lightning Mech and Boulder Mech can deal 2 damage from the start of the game, which is very handy, and the latter mech’s Rock Accelerator weapon can even leave behind obstacles for blocking spawn points and connecting chains for your Lightning Mech.
It all sounds so wonderful for Blitzkrieg at first until you begin discovering challenges that other squads seldom have to deal with on such a consistent basis.
Their first problem is the weak Hook Mech. A Brute class mech that can’t deal any damage to begin with is problematic as it leaves you overly reliant on the other two mechs for removing enemies from the field. Its armoured shell is certainly nice and you can see the intention of the mech acting as a conduit for Electric Whip chains.
Its Grappling Hook is an incredibly lacklustre weapon that’s very hard to use offensively and its sole upgrade to shield allies is too situational to consider wasting a reactor core on it. Since the Electric Whip and Rock Accelerator both cap at 3 damage, longer campaigns are going to be much smoother if you can find something else for your Hook Mech to shoot with every turn.
Whilst the Boulder Mech is more useful in this sense, it has the unfortunate problem of being very fragile. When the Lightning Mech gets the ability to chain attacks through buildings, it severely limits the number of tiles that the Boulder Mech can safely stand on. This problem is even worse when the incoming damage gets upgraded. Even if you do manage to create the perfect chain, you may be risking the lives of your pilots or other vulnerable objectives in order to do it.
Each mech here is also quite slow and their potential for pushing the Vek around is the worst out of any squad in the game. It can be a pretty rough ride, but I find that inserting Harold Smith or Kazaaakpleth into the Hook Mech can unlock some much-needed utility. These pilots’ innate abilities offer this mech a nice alternative to the Grappling Hook and you’ll be improving your ability to push at the same time; perfect for enhancing chains and getting cheap hazard kills.
Blitzkrieg are heavily dependent on their upgrades to perform well and they’ll struggle in long campaigns without additional support. Give them these boons and they might just live up to their name with some fast and hard-hitting strikes.
The Secret Squad might be the only big disappointment that Into the Breach has in store, even if it is only intended as a bonus extra.
The idea here is certainly a cool one as players take control of their very own cyborg Vek aliens. The Beetle, Hornet, and Scarab, are your minions now with each one performing exactly as they would when controlled by the AI.
Sadly these mechs start out incredibly weak with not a single one of them able to deal 2 damage without extenuating circumstances in play. The first island might actually be the hardest stretch for this squad as they struggle to kill enemies and satisfy objectives. Fighting your first boss with underpowered troops can be a harsh experience because you’ll be particularly reliant on water and A.C.I.D. to assist with kills.
Another problem with this squad is the double-edged sword that is their unique Vek characteristic. These mechs cannot equip pilots and so there’s no smoothing things over by using a banked time traveller. There’s also a power penalty on any new weapon or augment that doesn’t belong to their built-in pool. Ouch!
These niggles make life hard and I’m not sure if the added capacity to shrug off deaths (Vek cyborgs only lose XP when they’re disabled) mitigates things when you should be avoiding death as much as possible anyway. Still, this squad has a better time recovering from bad plays than most would do, which is good considering the low health pool of its units.
What makes the Secret Squad playable are its range of quality upgrades that confer large range and damage bonuses that will ensure each cyborg can reach a respectable base damage of 3 when fully kitted out. This is a superb situation to be in late game and it only gets better when you consider that each cyborg can reliably push enemies with its basic attacks. A Force Amp augment would be undeniably expensive due to the Vek malus, but the potential kickback in terms of raw damage might just be worth it if you’re lucky enough to find one.
On a different day I might rank Steel Judoka above the Secret Squad, but as it stands, I can’t think of a squad who struggles to overcome those early game blues more than this one does.
A common trait of lower tier squads like this one is their inability to deal more than 1 damage with their starting weapons. The Judo Mech is an impressive specimen considering its high base stats and Armoured trait. The only problem is its Vice Fist weapon whose over-the-shoulder throw is unreliable and exempt from additional push damage. The Vice Fist is better when used in tandem with a more reliable Prime class weapon and that requires more shopping.
The Siege Mech has a dangerous artillery volley whose building immunity upgrade is expensive and unfortunately quite necessary, and then you have the Gravity Mech which is comparable with the Hook Mech in terms of weakness. The Gravity Mech is similar to Zenith Guard’s Defense Mech in how its basic weapon merely attracts other targets towards it. Without any other basic actions, the Gravity Mech struggles to be useful, and even though it has a sturdy body for a Science class mech, the Grav Well weapon can’t be fired on adjacent targets.
The supposed ace in the hole here is the Gravity Mech’s Vek Hormones passive augment. This bonus enhances the damage that Vek deal to each other and so the intention is for you to create these instances of friendly fire using the abilities of your squad. Unfortunately that style of offence, whilst extremely useful when it comes up, is very hard to arrange, and unlike other gimmicky squads such as the Rusting Hulks or even Blitzkrieg, it doesn’t work as consistently. Sometimes enemies will travel clear across the map where there’s no hope of them hitting their friends and in those common cases, the upgrade just sits there doing absolutely nothing.
Steel Judoka is a squad where you often have to tear everything out to have a decent chance of winning, and it keeps some of their otherwise impressive mechs from excelling when the game is at its toughest.
If you’re looking for an advantage, consider examining your collection of pilots. Kazaaakpleth is a good option for dealing more damage and Harold Schmidt is one of my favourites in the Gravity Mech because his innate ability to push can be very useful for nudging Vek into hazards or into the path of other Vek attacks.
Another crucial tip is to make Detritus the first island you visit. These levels are coated in A.C.I.D., which is superb for overcoming a low damage output early on. The mission featuring the Disposal Unit is also the easiest and most XP-rich mission in the game. Take those early stars because you’ll really need them!