Skip to main content

Tactical Breach Wizards is refreshingly unlike XCOM despite wearing the same tactical underwear


Riot-shielded special forces get into a confrontation in Tactical Breach Wizards.
Image credit: Suspicious Developments

We’ll never know exactly what sort of fiction Tom Clancy would have written if he was less interested in the calibre of specific bullets and their effiency at dismantling burgeoning socialist governments, and more so in the specific sigils required to blast a riot cop through a third story window. While charity shops across the land mourn this devasting loss to their paperback shelves to this very day, we do at least have a glimpse into what such a literary venture may have looked like. Oh, did you like that door? Was it your favourite door? Soz, pal. Strategy game Tactical Breach Wizards just hexed right through it with a new demo as part of Steam Next Fest. I’ve played it, and it’s very exciting stuff, not least for how differently it plays than what I’d expected.

Tactical Breach Wizards comes from Suspicious Developments, founded by former game journo and RPS contributor Tom Francis. All these disclaimers are enough to make me hopeful that someone will someday pay me, Nic Reuben, to write the legally distinct Little Shop Of Horrors management sim of my dreams, but I digress (call me). The studio’s previous work includes Gunpoint and Heat Signature. Both are well-loved, but thankfully, neither look to infringe on my concept for the legally distinct Little Shop Of Horrors management sim of my dreams (call me.)

Watch on YouTube

The first thing I’d like to make absolutely clear about Tee-Bee-Dubs, if only for my past self who tends to form unwieldy assumptions based on singular screenshots, is that it has nothing to do with XCOM 2012 or its progeny. Ok, so ‘nothing to do’ might be a bit of a stretch. It still offers turn-based, grid-aligned tactics. Your team still boasts contrasting and complimentary skills. Also, there’s still cover, although you have to actively duck behind it. In terms of how it actually feels to play, though, it’s miles away from XCOM’s lengthy, ultra-deadly skirmishes of attrition. I’m using XCOM as an example here, but Wizard’s sleekly designed, eminently solvable, room-by-room discrete puzzles mean it stands proudly and refreshingly apart from the glut of XCOM’s grandkids we’ve had in the intervening…12 years! If anyone needs me I’ll be reconstituting myself from the salt sachet of dust I currently reside in.

Here, you’re less concerned about a stray Muton headbutting your beloved sniper to death (I have played other tactics games I swear), and more about cleanly and efficiently solving whatever configuration of bastards and windows the current room throws at you, in as few moves as possible. Any actions taken are effectively just plans, as you can both redo turns and scry possible enemy responses. You don’t commit to things until you thwack that end turn button like you’re furiously wishlisting the legally distinct Little Shop Of Horrors management sim of my dreams (call me.) All this is just a taster to the main event, though. An amuse-bouche to the amusement of boofing bods rudely out of windows.

You know you’re in for a cracking time when, alongside scores for speed and efficiency, the results screen bookending each room tallies up your total, and I quote, defenestrations. In TBW’s implied quest to throw absolutely everything that breathes through glass, some abilities are more efficient than others, but even basic attacks all feature some sort of knockback. And, wouldn’t you know it, these compact room-levels are effectively just window delivery systems. When a room has no windows, you know Mr. Francis is incredibly serious. I’m not yet sure from the chunk of demo I played if there’s any evolution on these currently windows-only environmental hazards, but that’d be neat, wouldn’t it? Not that I don’t like windows. I would have had to quickly abandon the game in disgust if I didn’t.

There will be some evolutions though, no doubt. Each level gives you a chance to flesh out the skills of your wizards with perk points. There’s a host of other lovely details I’d like to quickly cram in, right down to the incredibly minor. The graphics settings have cute names like ‘practical peach blizzards’ and such. The bit on the menu screen for patch notes currently says ‘fixed: demo didn’t exist’. I love this sort of thing. It’s the kind of minor attention to detail that promises similar love elsewhere, nice little pre-gags to warm you up, like arriving at the pub to find there’s a shot already waiting for you on the bar. It’s also just a very funny game in general, although there’s plenty of hints towards a more involved story as your progress. At this point, it’d take a serious hex to stop me diving into the full game when it releases, as if by magic, at some unspecified point in the future. Hopefully, sooner than the legally distinct Little Shop Of Horrors management sim of my dreams (call me.)

Read this next