‘Pit People’ vs. ‘Into the Breach’: Which strategy game is best for you?

Andrew Shermoen

Last week, I played two new dramatically different indie turn-based strategy games. Both are a fun and worth the low price of $15 on Steam. Let’s take a look at The Behemoth’s “Pit People” and “Into the Breach,” the second game from developer Subset Games.

“Pit People”

“Pit People” is the fourth game from The Behemoth, whose previous projects include “Battleblock Theater” and “Castle Crashers.” Compared to “Into the Breach,” “Pit People” has a much heavier plot.

That said, describing the story is a nearly Herculean task. The player controls Horatio, an honest blueberry farmer whose life is thrown into a quest for revenge when a planet-sized, apathetic teddy-bear God arrives and kills his child as the farm is being destroyed by bandits. Horatio embarks on a quest collecting friends who have vengeful wills of their own to enact. Bird-headed bandits, trips to Tinkletown (a giant toilet bowl embedded into the side of a mountain), and a shark-headed greaser gang are obstacles along Horatio’s quest, but with your help he can defy the bear-god and bring peace to the kingdom.

The tone of “Pit People” is reminiscent of irreverent cartoons like “South Park,” but with even more absurdity. It feels like the kind of game Monty Python might make if they were in the business. The story is light on thematic depth overall, but makes up for it with laugh-out-loud moments and fantastic visual gags. “Pit People” also oozes style with its unique music and creative, if slightly awkward, character design. The game’s animated cutscenes are especially fun and beautiful. The game’s world would be marvelous as the setting of a television series.

Gameplay mechanics, though, are not as fantastic. Its turn-based matches last far too long and, while the weapon and character systems are detailed and operate well, gameplay is a stale and slow experience. Characters barely move across the colorful, beautifully detailed battlefield on which the player surrounds multiple enemies to strike them down. The bulk of gameplay centers around giving your party’s characters a strategic variety of weapons with special attacks that differ based on equipped armor and weapons. Characters with shields make for good frontline players to block ranged fire. Characters with swords or axes perform poorly against enemies wearing armored helmets, but do great otherwise. Characters with nets can stun enemies for a turn, so they are only effective with weapons that can operate at least one tile away. The gameplay has good complexity, but overall will be a challenge for people with minimal understanding of turn-based gameplay. Even still, most players will find the combat sections to become stale after a bit. Once you learn the mechanics of how to win in a fight, most of the combat situations will be a walk in the park.

For the most part, “Pit People” is a game lacking in gameplay depth, but bursting with story. The characters are hilarious, the dialogue from the villainous bear-god is side-splitting and the visual gags and design are covered in bright colors and memorable imagery.

Rating: 4 out of 5

“Into the Breach”

What “Pit People” lacks in deep and complex gameplay, “Into the Breach” more than makes up for. This puzzle-game of positioning and board manipulation has more in common with chess on steroids than it does with a standard turn-based strategy game.

“Into the Breach” takes place in a world at war. Humans have suited up in giant mech suits and robotic artillery to repel a gigantic insect enemy known as the Vek that is emerging from the ground, attacking cities and endanger the human population. Think “Pacific Rim” with giant scorpions and hornets. The Vek have one goal: destroy the centers of power on the surface so they can invade and become the dominant power on the planet. As the protagonist, you have a trick up your sleeve: whenever you fail you can go back in time and try all over again.

“Into the Breach” is light on story. The real bread-and-butter of “Into the Breach” is its gameplay. “Into the Breach” consists of several different gameplay segments on eight-by-eight grids. Vek emerge from the ground and the player must use a squad of three mechs to displace the Vek on the battlefield, or simply eliminate them over several rounds.

This is where “Into the Breach” becomes more of a puzzle. The choices you make are based on what is most advantageous to you. At the top of the screen is your Power Grid of health, which has seven bars in total. These bars, essentially the squad’s overall health, will be removed if buildings are destroyed by the Vek. Pushing them out of the way of these buildings becomes the core gameplay loop of “Into the Breach,” but the way the different Vek attack and the way the battlefield changes during a single round of the game means you will have to constantly adapt to new strategies. Should I push this Vek off into the water killing him instantly, or should I find a way to push him on top of a space where an emerging Vek will appear next round? If a Vek attempts to emerge from a tile occupied by other Vek, it will be unable to emerge, and the blocking Vek will be damaged.

In this way, “Into the Breach” is essentially chess. It’s all about how to make two moves out of one turn. Combine this heavy chess-like gameplay with a complex RPG-style unlock system, and the depth of “Into the Breach” starts to shine. Add to that the fact that many battles in “Into the Breach” feature changing weather mechanics and the challenge of defense-minded Veks, and you realize that “Into the Breach” is jam-packed with a huge variety of things that make every battle feel like something totally different that you must learn from and adapt to on the fly.

“Into the Breach” may not have the story and colorful flair of “Pit People,” but if you want something that has really deep strategic gameplay, especially in comparison to “Pit People,” then “Into the Breach” is your pick.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Overall, both “Pit People” and “Into the Breach” are great games. If you’re looking for more silliness and story, go for the former, but if you like complex challenge, “Into the Breach” is the next game you should get.

“Into the Breach” is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux. “Pit People” is available on Windows and Xbox One. Reviews were played on the Windows version available through Steam.