Mech tactics game Grit and Valor doesn't play much like Into the Breach, and that's a good thing

Grit and Valor - 1949: Announcement Trailer - YouTube Grit and Valor - 1949: Announcement Trailer - YouTube
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It's hard for me to look at a tightly scoped, isometric strategy game that revolves around mechs without immediately going "eh, I've already got Into the Breach." Our 2018 GOTY casts a long shadow despite its simplistic pixel graphics; its perfectly snack-sized missions and turn-by-turn decisions are so satisfying, I'm not often left wanting for an alternative. In screenshots, Grit and Valor - 1949 looks like it's trying to replicate Into the Breach's whole deal, so I was pleasantly surprised by a recent preview of the game that showed me it's doing something very different despite being a roguelike mech tactics game.

For one thing: Grit and Valor plays in real time. No sitting around for minutes at a time galaxy braining your next move.

Grit and Valor is like Into the Breach in that it focuses on defensive play over offensive, but it hews a bit closer to tower defense, with waves of enemies pouring in from the edges of the map while you give commands to your mechs to manage the flow. Structurally you can expect the usual kind of roguelike campaign, with each region some part of Europe that's been taken over by the Axis in this alt-history WW2 (I didn't get much about the story, but did confirm old Winny Churchill is toast, so clearly the allies are on the back foot).

The core of the strategy here is in positioning mechs to best respond to whatever's in each wave of enemies—there's a classic rock-paper-scissors damage triangle at play, only with the slightly more dangerous ballistic, explosive and flame weaponry. "It's really about scanning the environment, seeing what enemies are coming in, and moving the squad appropriately," said producer Kevin Campbell. 

Mercifully Grit and Valor isn't just real-time, but real-time with pause, so the strategy loop becomes obvious pretty quick: get a peek at what enemies are en route and give orders to reposition the right mechs to counter them, taking into account height advantage (higher tiles improve crit chance) and major hazards (like air strikes that will light up a line of tiles and do big damage to anything they hit). Each mech pilot has a unique ability you can pair with the capabilities of the different mech types. These are mostly the slow, lumbering type of battle bots rather than hyper mobile Armored Cores, so it's obvious how important it will be to make use of pilot abilities like one Campbell demonstrated with his ballistic mech, which could jump a distance of several tiles, dealing damage where it came crashing down.

The mechs will automatically fire at enemies that come within range, but you have to trigger each pilot's special ability manually, like popping a heal or plopping out a landmine. You can see the tower defense throughline in those moments of planning and then action—you have the option to slow down time, too, but often the most memorable bits of these sorts of games are when you're scrambling in real time to issue a flurry of commands to deal with an almost-but-not-quite overwhelming stream of enemies.

As in any proper mech game there's also customization, with upgradeable parts for weapons, engines, legs, bodies, and cockpits. There's a degree of meta progression here for unlocking new mech types but also increasing their power levels, which gradually increase their capabilities. "We really want the mechs in this game to have the potential for a life of their own in miniatures, so we've really gone into detail in terms of the designs of the mechs and want them to have 3D prints in the future that sit on peoples' desks," said Campbell.

After completing each region you'll progress to the next one, but the enemies will also respond with a counterattack that brings the roguelike replayability in. "This is our kind of new game plus idea," said Campbell. "You'll get to replay each region with harder enemies, new challenges—Hades Pact of Punishment type of thing."

Alternate history with mechs is well-trod territory, as is mech tactics, but Grit and Valor - 1949 looks like it's mixing its ingredients well. I've always been a sucker for twists on tower defense, so I'll be putting some time into this one when it gets a planned demo in a future Steam Next Fest. Though I have to admit I'm disappointed in one thing—developer Milky Tea didn't have the vision to put Churchill in the pilot seat. Big guy would've loved stomping Nazis in a mech. 

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).