A DEADline you won't hesitate to make.
In The Last of Us, Naughty Dog looked to inspiration for their infected from the insect-parasitic fungal family cordyceps, most famous for controlling the behavior of ants busting out of the heads to release more infecting spores. Breach & Clear: DEADline, a top-down tactical action RPG, has a similar theme in play, just based on different kind of parasite adapting to infect humanity. It borrows instead from a liver fluke that similarly afflicts ants and this particular video of a horsehair worm emerging from a dying preying mantis.
Breach & Clear: DEADline is a departure from the series previous style in Breach & Clear: a top-down turn-based strategy title similar in gameplay to Frozen Synapse, but with realistic weapons and tactics for contemporary military engagements. Breach & Clear: DEADline uses the infection background mentioned above to set the stage for a zombie apocalypse side-story (yep, another one) that lends itself to a slightly different gameplay mechanic.
DEADline drops the turn-based mechanic, though, for twin-stick shooter controls, allowing you to switch to any of your four customizable squadmates at any time. The AI naturally targets enemies nearby and can be played entirely this way, switching from character to character to exploit their strengths. However, more intriguing, and a bit deeper, is the game’s tactical command mode; pause the game and you can set tactics, position, and movement for your individual squadmates.
I remarked that this was like a top-down version of the same mechanic being used in Dragon Age Inquisition, which was met by the DEADline devs with a resounding “YES!”, who also mentioned Mass Effect as an influence as well and compared the game’s level progression to Diablo. In practice it allowed for the devs to create chokepoints and flanking maneuvers that can make short work of enemy encounters that would otherwise become more problematic. Ot also allowed them to split the party so that two characters could venture further into a dungeon while others held the line, if enemies approached the entrance from the sound of an explosion or other environmental trigger.
DEADline has six classes, with five of them—Fire Team Leader, Weapon Sergeant, Breacher, Intel, Medic—appearing in the original Breach & Clear, and the new class, Scout, who doesn’t create as much aggro as the other classes. It’s possible to mix and match attributes of classes for each character as they level, along with the same realistic weapons from the original game, allowing for a great deal of customization. A permadeath mode can be turned on for a greater difficulty level, where losing a character means having to go back to the city-hub to grab another.
Head down the wrong alley or into the wrong building, and it may be necessary to do just that. The game has a quarantined city as a hub with built environments and procedural dungeons. The environments and dungeons are all accessible from the beginning of the hub, but the difficulty level of the harder ones will naturally discourage players from attempting them until they level up.
A mind-controlling parasitic infection isn’t the only thing that DEADline shares with The Last of Us, with concept art by Shaddy Safadi who worked on both titles. Though it wasn’t shown in the demo, the devs assured me that there were enemies the size of the one next to the RV in the image below by Safadi.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the game was how far along the design was, when the devs revealed to me that the game was only about three months into development. With plans to put the game into Early Access on Steam soon for $19.99, it’s clear that they are looking for player feedback to make the game stronger, and develop something players will find rewarding by including their feedback as they iterate on the design.