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Or close the wall up with our English dead

SCIENCE FICTION has not really had its fair share of role playing/strategy games. Basically up until now there has been Breach and Laser Squad. This is a shame since it is a field of great scope for imagination. The deficieny has been slightly redressed now with the long awaited update from Omnitrend, Breach 2. The game is set, as were Breach and the Universe series, in the world of a post-Earth Empire, with rival factions of liberated colonists in constant battles for supremacy.

The central philosophy of combat in this system revolves around a squad leader. He or she, well, leads the squad. If the squad leader is killed during a mission then, even if all objectives have been achieve, the mission has failed. Therefore the natural reaction is to protect the leader, surrounding that unit with a mobile armour of more expendable marines. This is generally not a good idea. In order for squad leaders to improve in all abilities and become a general super-hero, they have to practise. That means getting wet during a water landing, getting exhausted on a cross-country assault and getting shot at just about everywhere. Depending on the amount done during a successful mission the leader may improve on some abilities, and when all talents are showing an improvement there could be a promotion in it.

Aside from just shooting people with deadly accuracy, a sound knowledge of some technical equipment - the detector and the crack unit - is required.

A detector is a hand-held gadget which will disclose the presence of enemy forces in your local area. It takes some skill to operate, and since having a go takes up most of a complete movement round it would be nice to have more than a 15 percent chance of success.

The crack unit can interface to enemy computer equipment and give you a detailed map of the entire combat area - well, sometimes. To begin with you have about a one in seven chance of getting it right, but somehow this does not seem to tally with all the wasted time I spent at the beginning of each game.

The path to officerhood is quite tough. You must show an improvement acriss the board. Some of the scenarios do not offer much opportunity to practice your skills in the use of strange gizmos, so you cannot really concentrate on doing your favourite scenario over and over.

Play is very similar to Laser Squad, and if you have that product it is questionable whether the extra expense of buying this one is worth it just for a change of graphics.

Once again this is a strategy game, but not a realistic one. A system which involves two sides taking it in turns to move their units will never encompass the true horror and difficulty of squad-level hand to hand combat, but some would argue it is as close as you can get.

If you are after realism perhaps you should be looking at Dragon Force, but if a startlingly playable and in some places very taxing strategy game is what you are after then this is the one.

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IMPRESSIONS £24.99 * Mouse/Keyboard

If you have ever fancied getting your hands on a phased plasma rifle with a forty-watt range and bagging yourself a bug from Planet X, now is your chance, as Impressions take us once more to the Breach, dear friends. Of course, Breach 2 is the sequel to Omnitrend's classic original.

A futuristic combat/role-playing game, Breach 2 gives you control of a bunch of star warriors struggling for peace, justice and freedom. Each individual squaddie has a predetermined supply or arms, ammunition and medical supplies, which have to be employed within a team strategy to complete a mission. It is either a search-and-destroy sortie where everything is fair game, or military intelligence (surely a contradiction in terms?) tasks where information or prisoners must be liberated.

Seen from an overview map, the troopers stand on or in the various geographical features. These affect everything from the amount of cover to movement rates. Even the fighting's subservient to the map, working on the principle it is only possible to shoot what you can actually see. And if a bad guy is hiding around the corner you won't know he is there till you step round and take a peek.

Moving is simply a case of drawing a line between the trooper's present position and his destination. Shooting is a matter of facing the right way and clicking on the man, creature or thing you want to blast. If you are lucky, a hit is calculated and they die in an acid cloud of laser-induced smoke.

Each soldier in your squad has a set of statistics. Health points and vitality are the most crucial, determining movement and how long the man will live. Both can be recovered with rest or medipaks.

Different stats come into play when troopers try to 'crack' enemy computers or during other, more avant garde, activities. Like all actions in Breach 2, success or failure is governed by role-playing percentages, with the Amiga doing the cross-referencing instead of your poor, tired finger.

The real key to Breach 2 is strategy. Since this is based on thea ctions of a small group, the battles should be short skirmishes where single shots tip the balance, not drawn-out artillery duels. Continual awareness of the group's status is essential. Superior troop strength almost guarantees success, but correct use of equipment can be a real time-saver and a life-saver. A well-placed grenade or neutron bomb could avoid turn after turn of futile laser fire.

Initially Breach 2 is confusing, with troopers only accessible in a certain order and missed mouse-clicks causing unintentional buddy blasting. Once you are over this hurdle though, it is the missions that cause the real problems - and that is just as it should be.


Breach 2 does not look too good, with small repeated sprites overlaid on a basic map, but it does not need to be stunning. The squad are purely pieces in a highly-evolved chess game and the map is no more than an easily viewed information system, that relates details of terrain and cover quickly.
Sound, on the other hand, is not something that wargames generally stress, but Breach 2 scores strongly. With neat laser shot effect and quirky death cries tied in with a laid-back jazz number to signify victory, this is something of an exception to the rule. While no sonic cathedral, the sounds suitably heighten the fun to be had when zapping defenceless individuals.


Breach 2 is packed with good scenarios that can be linked into a campaign, gradually increasing in difficulty - from tough to mission impossible level - as your surviving squad leader grows in power. The initial set-ups alone will keep determined warriors in battle fatigues for months. As a last ace up its sleeve, though, Breach 2 throws in a mission designer. This allows you to give the enemy or yourself more firepower for serious carnage.


Breach 2 is slow, but strangely absorbing. Once the game as a concept is understood, players can start to use the mechanics for each scenario for their benefit, exploiting the strengths and limiting the weaknesses of a squad. Which makes Breach 2 the obvious choice for those who like their wars to be personal, face-to-face, hate-filled affairs.

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What exactly has been enhanced here is a little difficult for me to say as there are no clues in the instructions and I've never played the original. Be that as it may, we never properly reviewed the previous version, and as I did find myself enjoying it immensely, I think it deserves an enlightening paragraph or two.

Playing as a roe-playing game, and to refrain from plot regurgitating, you log on as a squad leader, choose a ' Scenario' (i.e. mission) and then basically have to accomplish a specific task to gain victory upon where your squad leader will move up a rank.

The sort of things required of you you are to kill off a percentage of the enemy, destroy specific items or simply to get your men to a specific point - you are playing with a team of men, though it's just the statistics of the leader that are important. (In other words, if he dies, it's game over).

Everything is done in the old-fashioned role-playing sort of way, small men are moved with restricted movement points over a simple playing area, then, when you click on the 'end turn' box, the enemy (always played by the computer) moves his and so on under a limited number of turns. If you've ever played a standard role-playing game, you've theoretically played this.

Breach 2 is in truth about as standard as a role-playing/strategy game as you could get, but despite immediate impressions, an extremely wel-designed and executed one at that, half an hour of playing reveals a father reassuring complexity to the game.

More scenario disks are on their way, but what sounds more intriguing is the ability to play this game in conjunction with other Impressions games all linked into one mammoth adventure, providing possibly the ultimate dream for any true role-playing game fans.