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

We’ll never know exactly what kind of fiction Tom Clancy would have written if he were less concerned with the caliber of certain bullets and their effectiveness in dismantling rising socialist governments, and more with the specific sigils needed to smash an interventionist cop through a third-story window. While charity shops across the country mourn this devastating loss on their paperback shelves to this day, we at least have a glimpse of what such a literary endeavor might have looked like. Oh, did you like that door? Was she yours? favorite door? Soz, my friend. Strategy game Tactical Breach Wizards just broke it with a new demo as part of Steam Next Fest. I’ve been playing it, and it’s a very exciting thing, not least because of how different it plays from what I expected.

Tactical Breach Wizards comes from Suspicious Developments, founded by former games journalist and RPS contributor Tom Francis. All of these disclaimers are enough to make me hope that one day someone will pay me, Nic Reuben, to write the legally distinct Little Shop Of Horrors management simulation 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 is trying to hurt my concept for the legally distinct Little Shop Of Horrors management simulation of my dreams (call me.)

Watch it on YouTube

The first thing I’d like to make absolutely clear about Tee-Bee-Dubs, if only for my past selves who tend to make clumsy assumptions based on individual screenshots, is that this has nothing to do with XCOM 2012 or its offspring. Ok, «no work» might be a bit of an exaggeration. It still offers alternating grid-aligned tactics. Your team still boasts contrasting and complementary skills. Also, there is still cover, although you have to actively duck behind it. However, in terms of actual gameplay feel, it’s miles away from XCOM’s drawn-out, ultra-lethal skirmishes of attrition. I’m using XCOM as an example here, but Wizard’s elegantly designed, highly solvable discrete room-to-room puzzles mean it stands proudly and refreshingly apart from the glut of XCOM grandkids we’ve had in these… 12 years! If anyone needs me, I’ll reconstitute myself from the bag of salt dust I’m currently residing in.

Here, you’re less worried about a stray Muton bashing your beloved sniper’s head to death (I swear, I’ve played other tactical games), and more about cleanly and efficiently dealing with whatever configuration of bastards and windows the current room throws at you, such as fewer moves are possible. All actions taken are really just plans, as you can repeat moves and observe possible enemy responses. You don’t commit to things until you hit that ultimate spin button like you’re furiously wishlisting the legally distinct Little Shop Of Horrors management simulation of my dreams (call me.) Still, this is all just a taster of the main event. Amuse-bouche for fun boofing bods roughly through the windows.

You know you’re in for a long time when, in addition to ratings for speed and efficiency, the results screen bookending each room adds up your total, quote, defenestrations. In TBW’s implied quest to throw absolutely everything that breathes through glass, some abilities are more effective than others, but even basic attacks have some sort of knockback. And wouldn’t you know it, these compact room levels are really just window delivery systems. When a room has no windows, you know Mr. Francis is incredibly serious. I’m not sure yet based on the part of the demo I played if there’s any evolution to these currently Windows-only environmental hazards, but that would be nice, wouldn’t it? It’s not that I don’t like windows. I would have to quit the game quickly in disgust if I didn’t.

Still, there will be some evolution, no doubt. Each level gives you a chance to hone your wizard skills with perk points. There are tons of other nice details I’d like to quickly cram in, down to the incredibly minor. The graphics settings have cute names like ‘practical peach blizzard’ and the like. The section on the patch notes menu screen currently says ‘fixed: demo didn’t exist’. I love this kind of stuff. It’s the kind of understated attention to detail that promises similar love elsewhere, nice little gags that will warm you up, like arriving at the pub and discovering there’s already a drink waiting for you at the bar. It’s also generally a very funny game, although there are plenty of hints of a more intricate story as you progress. At this point, it would take some serious swearing to stop me from diving into the entire game when it magically releases at some unspecified point in the future. Hopefully, sooner than the legally separate Little Shop of Horrors management simulation of my dreams (call me.)

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