Drop – System Breach ~ High Stakes Hacking in a Digital Dystopia

Written by Lyn Kyoumei

March 12, 2024

In the hacking world, security is more of a response than a proactive measure. They wait for hackers to attack and then they patch, based on the attacks.

– Michael Demon Calce

 

 

Drop – System Breach is a fast-paced action-strategy hacking simulator. Developed by Etherfield studio and published by MicroProse software, it’s what I would call a brain-numbing game in a positive way. Costing $10 or 335 for the full price on Steam. It is also available on the Nintendo Switch as a quick pick-me-up game whenever you feel bored.

I finished the game in about 8 hours on a single playthrough. Does that mean it is a short game? Not really, I just chose the easiest of the options when I was given the chance and just went with it, but when I replayed the game and chose the harder options with my previous experience with the easier ones, I was quite surprised that it wasn’t as hard as it seemed. This game doesn’t try to have a blatant difficulty curve, it’s more of a slow but steady increase in difficulty that tests your micromanagement skills.

 

 

Gameplay

 

Micromanagement is the full game if you want to strip it down to its bare gameplay perspective, rather than making the player rely on their theoretical and memorization skills, it makes the player rely on their attention and coordination as it makes use of the repetitive nature of what you do to its advantage, rather than making you memorize specific combinations, you are to memorize vague icons and search within those icons the objective that you need to do, it feels quite fresh than the alternatives as it focuses more on the simple mechanical talents, making the player a bit more engaged rather than just being mindless button clicker that when you click/type the right buttons, you’re automatically in.

The more you progress in the game, the harder it becomes, that’s how games work and that’s how it’s implemented here in a great way as rather than adding something foreign to the game that changes how you approach things, it forgoes the route of adding more and more mechanics that is slowly drip fed to the player rather than it being stacked upon the player. In the start, it’s just you and the objective, complete the objective and disconnect, done. But as the game progresses, you are given more to work with and to work against, Firewalls, Sniffers, Market Data, Cleaners, Loggers, all those may sound like technobabble but those are some of the key parts of the gameplay loop and all of those mechanics aren’t just dropped onto you, they’re given out one at a time, giving you time to familiarise yourself on how to use them effectively.

 

 

Can I say that the game is balanced and fair? Yes, it not only teaches you how to multitask but also how to be patient and think of your next move while you wait. The game uses a system where you can only do 2 things at the start. You can either get into the computer and get information about the computer you just jumped into, or you can jump to the next computer while sucking raw data from the previous computer, it all comes down to the player’s preference in my opinion, do you want to complete the objective quickly, you can do that as you have all the tools already given, do you want to complete the bonus objective? Sure, but be quick because there’s also a timer! If you want more money, then fire up your devices and siphon off all the data you can see for that sweet, sweet cash. It is a free-for-all, with almost no consequences as long as you understand the game as a whole.

And that’s what I love about this kind of hacking game because it’s incredibly simple, it lets the player play however they want, with all that money you can buy upgrades to make it faster or just let the game play itself, or you can challenge yourself by hoarding all the money and doing everything manually, which in my experience was a pain and a half. Drop – System Breach seems to value the freedom it can give, even if it’s limited, you’re not bound by any rules when you’re playing other than just doing the objective, everything else is open season.

 

 

Presentation

 

 

The main hub is laid out in pixel art representing a map of a city, reminiscent of the presentation of games, making it a more throwback to the retro-esque era of gaming, yet with some of the more modern features like the city being alive with dots scattered around the map representing what I assume to be people or hackers living their daily lives and committing their daily penetration tests. In all honesty, the game is visually appealing even though it is simplistic, you have a map and a sidebar for everything else and it’s perfect that way, the main hub is just that, a hub for you to accept contracts and upgrade your tech.

Where the gameplay takes place now provides the same feeling, pixel art with diamonds acting as your nodes, with smaller diamonds on their sides acting as indicators for what they contain and lines for your cursor to jump to and from. Clicking on a node reveals additional information about what the node has or does, some nodes are computers for you to grab the names of employees, some are server nodes with storage for data, large nodes are for the security system, there are nodes for almost everything you come across, and they’re all styled to match the game’s design so they don’t feel out of place.

The music, meanwhile, is subtle but still there, not blasting you with high BPM techno or EDM, but rather a more ambient techno style of music, giving the game its sense of style, as what you hear is more the sound effects of yourself going through each node, hacking and completing the objective, with the occasional sound effect indicating that something might be wrong or that there is a security barrier you need to breach. It’s not the most mind-blowing or immersive sound effects/music on the market, but it gets the point across to make you believe you’re a hacker.

 

 

Comparisons

 

One game in recent memory that I could compare to Drop is Hacknet in that they are both in the hacking genre, yet Hacknet is much more of a real-life hacking simulator that makes use of UNIX hacking, a real-life type of hacking used in penetration testing and unauthorized access to tons of systems, whereas Drop plays more closely to what Hollywood thinks of hacking, tap into the system and you’ve already breached most of their defenses. I would recommend Hacknet to the more technically inclined, as it uses techno-jargon such as “cd”, “cat” and “mv”, which emulates real commands.

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

After playing the game to review it and wanting to jump back in afterward, I would say it reaches the above average of what games of the genre should be, being a step in a direction that others who want to make games in the hacking genre may want to follow, it is by no means a perfect game though as the story is quite forgettable to me, or well my reading comprehension was below average as I wanted to play rather than read what was happening as the story was quite negligible to the gameplay from what I played, although I didn’t finish the game before resetting to try the harder objectives, I loved the way the game looked and played and as a computer science student, it’s still quite fun to see a more stylized version of what hacking is, even if it’s not based in reality and dives more into scientific fiction in how the game presents itself.

Overall, I’d recommend picking this up, it’s free, has a ton of replayability, and it was really fun to experiment with different play styles to see what suited me best. Again, Drop – System Breach is available on Steam and Nintendo Switch for just $10 or ₱335, it’s best played with a controller, but the default keyboard layout is also usable, so you can pick your poison.

 

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