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Mar 14, 2023

DROP – System Breach Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $9.99
We Recommend: $9.99
  • Developer: Etherfield Studio
  • Publisher: MicroProse Software
  • Genre: Action, Indie, Simulation, Strategy
  • Released: Mar 28, 2023
  • Platform: Windows
  • Reviewed: Windows

When the synthesized voice in WarGames’ asks “Shall We Play a Game?”, it’s a turning point for what’s to follow. In DROP – System Breach , the message you get just a few missions in sets the tone for what comes after. Megacorporations and rival hacking groups are knocking at your firewall, and being able to outwit them at every turn is incredibly satisfying. Deciding who to trust, who to deceive, and who to steal from are choices all left to you. There’s so much to explore and engage in, it’s immersive in a way I didn’t think pixel graphics could be. DROP – System Breach is a smart, deceptively complex, and wholly engaging minimal hacking sim you have to play.

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With only $750 to your name, you’re a hacker with a cyberdeck sets out to make a name for themselves. Though in doing so, you’ve inadvertently gotten the attention of others, and are now embroiled in conspiracies and tasks. DROP – System Breach is a resource management meets puzzle meets hacking game, and works incredibly well. In its simplest form, the game works like this: You’ve got five minutes for every job, and you have to drop in to steal data, download vital information, disrupt a system, or otherwise garner attention, and then sneak out without a trace. It’s intense and gratifying, and all of this can be done on a keyboard or controller, with not many button presses to accomplish all the actions you take.

The game slowly rolls out features and changes, allowing you to be introduced to them at a great pace. At first, things seem a little too easy – that’s because it is. A few levels later, and you’ll start encountering security protocols that actively work against you. There’s hostile programs that attack your firewall, and you have to keep rebuilding its defenses. Other systems will track your activity in logs, and you may have to run a program that routinely cleans up your actions. It won’t be long before upgrades become essential, where you can purchase more threads, more CPUs, boost your firewall, or add a pathfinder to help you navigate to your target.

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You’ll be presented a series of jobs to take on that are procedurally generated. Once you select a level, you’ll jump in to perform the task at-hand. After the mission is completed (or not), you’ll get an entirely different set of missions. Choices do matter, do you choose to go for the mission that gives you more money to buy that upgrade? Or do you side with the faction you’ve been befriending to ensure that they like you. It’s a game where money talks, but it’s the messages you receive that have the most to say.

Each level has a main objective that must be accomplished, whether it’s integrating all process power, acquiring a keychain, or downloading some key piece of data. Those five minutes are crucial to navigating to that specific spot while fighting off all the security programs to do so. There are also side objectives which are of course optional, but will grant you bonus money for completing them. These range from detaching from the system within four minutes to draining all the raw data from the network, and everything in-between. These are usually more demanding, but feels like a heist every time you pull it off.

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There are elements that you need to manage in order for a mission to be successful. The first of which is your nexus, which can be considered your health, comparatively. If this reaches zero, it’s mission failed. The other is your firewall, think of this your shield or armor, this is what you can keep replenishing from depleting if you’ve got a watchful eye on it, or a keen ear to the sound effects. Then you’ve got a highway and processes that can be performed, depending on the upgrades you’ve purchased. Everything works in concert with one another, but it isn’t long before this symphony becomes a cacophony of digital warfare.

When you’re accessing a system, you can employ assist programs to help you, such as a cleaner that will help delete logs passively while you scour the network. You can also temporarily acquire process power from the network itself to aid you towards your goal.

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At times, you’ll have to disable security measure, and to do so requires you that you engage with a mini-game of sorts. One will have you matching symbols, others have you matching colors, and others are a pattern where you have to reduce the lights to zero. It’s really fun, as it’s a weird break from everything else that’s going, but you’re still being timed.

I love the aesthetic in DROP , and the bloom used to great effect here, though I don’t suspect it’ll be for everybody. It’s odd you can’t turn it off, but it really adds a nice pop of color and somehow feels more like a Vertex screen than a CRT. The game’s soundtrack is an excellent compliment to what’s happening on-screen, offering technological ambiance to any given situation.

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DROP – System Breach is unlike other games of its ilk, as it doesn’t require scripting knowledge or too many button presses. This is a rather casual hacking sim that never releases its tension or lets go of your attention. The experience is over in just after several hours, but it’s one I want to replay to see what its procedural levels have in store for me. It’s a shock to the system at how good it is, as each new mechanic is doled out. DROP – System Breach is remarkably clever, and an irresistibly addictive puzzle meets hacking simulation.

A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes