Drop – System Breach Review

You can’t be in the future without retro technology.

Despite being a popular concept, there aren’t many hacking games available. DROP (Drop) – System Breach by developer Etherfield Studio and publisher MicroProse promises to be a new puzzle-like take on the genre. Does it take Uplink’s crown?

It is the future, and the world is disconnected into tribes and virtual enclaves. You play as a hacker looking for fame and glory and to survive in the dystopian city of Windport.

At the start, you are doing odd jobs for individuals. Eventually, a group called The Swarm finds out about you, leading to power struggles between The Swarm, various factions like the police, and megacorporations.

The story is suitable futuristic and dystopian, if not particularly original. After every mission, one of the various contacts will message you with story information, and you occasionally get little cutscenes of your system monitor running different tasks and programs. It was hard to keep up with all the separate plot threads in my head. I felt like I needed a notepad to keep track of it.

While there are procedurally generated side missions, the story is linear and has one ending, from what I could tell.

The game has a simple and satisfying loop. You start on the world map, an overhead map of the city. Here you can visit shops and select a mission (drop) to complete. Once done, you return back to the map.

Each drop has various information related to it. It will say who the client is and who the target is. It will also show how much you could earn in credits and the possible enemy programs and systems you may face.

The city of Windport is where you will always be.

The shops unlock as you progress. One allows you to purchase upgrades to your deck, such as better firewalls, faster hacking speeds, and more threads. While the other shop lets you buy a selection of software packages to help in a drop. These range from programs that automatically repair your firewall and delete logs to programs that bust gates and locks.

The economy of credits feels a bit off. You get $1 per data downloaded, drops often reward $50 or $100, and the most I earned in one drop was around $900. The later upgrades cost £2000+, so you have to complete several drops to upgrade. It makes you think, how much does bread cost? $0.10? I think they should have added a zero to the end like the developers of Hitman Freelancer did.

You don’t get credits for doing anything outside of the objectives. If you download more user data than you need or steal extra files, you get nothing which seems odd.

By the end of the game, I was able to upgrade quite a lot of my deck, if not complete it. Whether this is because I didn’t finish enough or it’s not possible to unlock all, I couldn’t determine. 

In a drop, you see the upgrades and programs you have unlocked for your deck, which is a neat little addition.

There are various mission types. You may need to hack and download information, disable security systems, remove viruses, download data, ping devices, delete data, upload data, explore the whole network, and much more. Most of these objectives can be resolved in the same manner. They feel different enough to make you think about what you are doing.

Noise systems can be annoying as they distort your view.

There are various systems in play while you are in a drop, but there are slowly introduced as you progress throughout the game. Therefore you are never overwhelmed by the number of different mechanics to keep track of. Most drops will only have a select amount of mechanics.

In a drop, I would start by running my repair program, connecting some nodes to find a log node to run the log-deleting program. Then I would concentrate on the objective and download data as I go. The game is very active. Other hacking games often feel more relaxed and leisurely.

While in a drop, you need to consider the core level that increases with the raising of the log server. Various actions increase the log level, in turn increasing the core level. Having a high core level is generally bad, as all the enemy systems become more deadly. However, if you disable all the security systems, this doesn’t become a problem.

Multitasking tasks such as deleting and downloading data while you bypass several security systems and removing multiple attacks are immersive.

A drop has various nodes, as I briefly mentioned before. These represent the computers, data centres, and security systems contained in the network. All can be interacted with and serve different purposes. For example, to disable a security system, you can either run a program to remotely disable it or enter it to complete a little minigame. These minigames are generally quick and require simples task such as changing all the symbols or selecting the correct ones.

The game sells the illusion of being a hacker. Multitasking tasks such as deleting and downloading data while you bypass several security systems and removing multiple attacks are immersive. As I played most of the game with a keyboard, I felt like Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) from the film Swordfish. It does recommend you use a controller, and I found that by the last few drops, a controller is a necessity.

Drop – System Breach has a simplistic and colourful graphical style. It is very reader-friendly in what each symbol means. You will remember that skull nodes damage your firewall, and the gold diamonds are market data and worth a lot.

You better get data if you want more credits.

The game has a screen tilting effect that makes it look like you are looking at a monitor, which is an arty effect if it makes the game seem blurry on occasion.

I liked how the map looked and the uniform nature of the various screens. There isn’t much mixture in graphics, but this suits the hacking aesthetic. I would have liked a way to explore the map. It was also disappointing to realise that even though it says you are in the city, giving the impression you could leave. You never leave the city.

I found it hard to keep track of all the various factions and characters that popped up. The Swarm, Windport Police, Eliza, Jiggy, and more show up. I am not sure why there isn’t a screen showing the factions and different characters and the reputation associated with them. I got the belief that doing drops affects your standing with them, but this might of just been my imagination. Even if it didn’t matter, they could of least added a superficial reputation system.

I imagined the game would be more like Uplink with a more graphical style with fake websites like in Front Missions 3. The Drop – System Breach is a more zoomed-out take on hacking. While in some games, you may hack one computer, in this, you are hacking several computers, databases, and more at once.

Several different musical tracks play while you are in a drop. I noticed that some were better than others, and there wasn’t enough to make you not want to play something else in the background.

I also got annoyed by some of the sound effects. For example, when your log server fills up, it starts beeping incessantly. While it helps you notice that you should clear your log, at times is unbearable.

The story is told through instant messaging.

There is no dialogue, which I didn’t mind. A mumbling or blinking noise when a message is played to mimic talking or reading might of been better. Even though they are text messages, something would have been better than silence.

All the other incidental sounds, like data, downloading and nodes being accessed, all sound good and suit the hacking style.

Drop – System Breach isn’t a very hard or long game. I did fail a few missions on normal mode, but you can restart. There is a hardcore mode which I often love, but I didn’t try. The hardcore mode seems like it might be unfair as there isn’t enough opportunity to do side missions.

I was disappointed that the game deleted my save file when I completed the story. I thought I would at least be able to carry on and do random side missions. You can’t, and a mistake, in my opinion. Most people aren’t going to want to play again if they know that there isn’t some sort of endless mode available.

That being said, the game is worth the asking price for the content available. I could see more being added in future DLC or updates, which I would appreciate.

Drops get pretty crazy later on.

I am conflicted with Drop – System Breach. I like it a lot for what it is and see a lot of decisions that have made the game worse. As it is a small team, I can forgive some of it.

If they let you continue the game at the end, added an endless mode, maybe a roguelike mode, and added a character, faction and reputation screen, then this could be one of the greats in the hacking genre.

All in all, the Drop – System Breach does enough to give you the impression of being a hacker in a dystopian world but has a lot of missed potential.


Developer: Etherfield Studio.

Publisher: MicroProse.

Platform: PC.

System: PC.

Release: 28th March 2023.

Score: B (75/99)

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