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Tactical Breach Wizards Is Like D&D Meets XCOM

There's a demo of the turn-based magic game now on Steam

A screenshot from "Tactical Breach Wizards:" a character faces off against several enemies hiding behind shields
Suspicious Developments

There’s–finally–a demo of Tactical Breach Wizards on Steam, the latest game by journalist-turned-game developer Tom Francis. Francis previously made Gunpoint and Heat Signature, two very good games that I like a whole lot, and I am excited to report that Tactical Breach Wizards is also very good.  

The demo is pretty much what the title sounds like: you control a pair of wizards as they tactically breach areas and clear them of enemies. It’s got XCOM and Invisible Inc vibes in its turn-based combat and limited moves each turn, dictated by action points. Unlike those games, levels are contained to discrete series of rooms that make up campaigns, each with their own challenges and goals, as opposed to sprawling areas where you have to manage moving through a lot of space. Also unlike those games, your characters and some of the enemies are wizards, who use their magical abilities in service of somewhat mundane ends as detectives or mercenaries. In combat, this plays out in their unique abilities: in the demo, a character can chain shots together or give another character action points. These special abilities are refilled through mana that you access from intel found around the level, and which forces you to juggle multiple objectives as you make your way through a space. 

Before committing to a turn, you can use the “foresee” button to get a preview of how things will play out. In easier levels, I didn’t find this necessary, but it came in handy in a later encounter, where I found myself repeatedly rewinding and testing new strategies before I found the least bad one. Levels also feature optional challenges, which will earn you “confidence” that lets you change your character’s outfit. 

Mechanically, all of this is fairly standard stuff for the turn-based genre, but Tactical Breach Wizards’ unusual setting and humor bring something unique. The combination of real-world and magic makes for some fun dialogue and set-ups (one enemy is a “traffic warlock,” which is a delightful concept). The character design reflects these contradictions in stuff like a character wearing camo wizard robes, or another sporting a witch hat and cliche rocker star tattoos. It’s a very funny game, with quippy dialogue and the ability to knock enemies out windows, which seems to be a staple of Francis’ games and which honestly never gets old. Given that Francis once wrote a blog post about Murder She Wrote that I still think is one of the funniest things on the internet, none of this surprises me.

Suspicious Developments

All of Francis’ games share a focus on how actions and their consequences can change a situation, and on finding creative ways to play the hand you’ve dealt yourself. In Heat Signature, this plays out in real-time action where things go wrong quickly; the slower, turn-based pace of Tactical Breach Wizards is a different, slower stage for making things go wrong and then finding ways to make them go right again. Judging by the demo, it feels like everything I was excited for it to be when it was first announced in 2019, and I’m psyched to play the full game.

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