Trapped behind enemy lines and with very different ideas of what their true duty in the war is, Broken Lines‘ squad’s infighting really enhances its tight, tactical gameplay.
Broken Lines, from Portaplay, is a tactical game with a planned-but-simultaneous gameplay style similar to Frozen Synapse. I’ve been following it avidly for the last year and have finally been able to sit down with it and play through a few missions.
It all begins when a plane full of reserves are shot down over enemy territory. You then take command of a slowly growing team as the survivors locate one-another around the scattered debris and surrounding countryside. The first level is an exceptional tutorial for anybody unfamiliar with how the underused tactical style works, and before long you’ll be planning out and adapting moves like a pro.
Another thing that the first level manages to stress extremely well is the effect of flanking in the game. Flanking and subsequently cover, is something that is rarely touched upon in most real-time games. The tactical element of Broken Lines definitely gives you time to pause and think about how best to draw enemy fire away and get units into a strong position. Suppression, cover and flanking are truly king, and you’ll be spending most of your time attempting to pull and outmaneuver enemies rather than directly engage them. This is handy, as everybody in Broken Lines is particularly squishy.
Now, tucking up behind cover and waiting it out is a viable tactic in most turn-based game. But Portaplay’s decision to go with the planning-pre-execution style which I mentioned earlier changes it. Broken Lines will pause allowing you to give instructions to each of your units, be that moving from cover to cover, using abilities or moving along to a new destination via waypoints. However, while you are doing this the enemy is also making their plans. Then it’s execution time. The enemy will actively try to flank you, and are normally positioned better than you and are on the defense — this all combines to create a very pressing compulsion to keep pushing forward and spot enemies. However, rushing is deadly and it is key to remember that this altered form of traditional turns is your greatest boon.
Planning out moves isn’t reduced to as simple a level as clicking and dragging however, you can also set stances for the characters. At its best, this is reminiscent of the likes of Jagged Alliance and Fallout Tactics — a stance can change a lot. If you run then you cover more ground and might even dodge a few shots, but if you kneel then you can keep stealth on your side and you might even be able to get your shotgunner up behind your enemy.
Once combat is over you get to manage your team, re-equipping them or unlocking abilities for them. The weapon of the character defines the class and subsequently how they attack enemies. Something we’re starting to see a lot more in modern games and a welcome addition, as it allows you to retool a team a lot deeper than, say, a D&D title.
Throughout the campaign there’s more than just surviving and levelling up to be done. Each of the eight characters have their own goals in the situation, with a clear divide between the hardened veterans who intend to take advantage of the situation to aid the war effort and the rookies who just want to get out of there alive. It’s not a 1/1 divide though, some have more cunning, stealth ideas for how to solve situations, while others are more gung-ho.
Regardless of which way you go, the campaign twists and turns to match your style. Lead the veterans to a gung-ho attack on a depot and the story will change, believe the paranoid rookie who believes there’s supernatural elements afoot and the fog which enshrouds the land will take on a new form.
Between its decision-led story and the clever way of managing tactical decisions, Broken Lines definitely remains one to watch for fans of the squad strategy genre.
Broken Lines is in development for PC, with console versions also planned. You can find out more information on the game’s website.