Friday, February 1, 2013

The Next XCOM

Whether it be called "Enemy Aware" or "Terror from the Sky," I'm really looking forward to playing Firxas' next entry in their turn based strategy series. Personally, I feel that the gameplay is top notch and many of the things that people complain about online are not flaws, but rather design choices made to improve the overall experience. However, I do think there are a few tweaks and refinements that could be made to improve the formula. Here are the suggestions I would like make:

1.) Emergency Reinforcements
Considering the original XCOM allowed for squads starting at 14 and going up to 26, the new limits of four to six feel a bit small.  I realize the reason for tiny teams of operatives though.  The idea is to create attachment to each person in the field by making him or her a valued member of the group.  So, in order to not undermine this theme, here is my suggestion.  Allow a special action in which the player can call in a small back up team if all but one or two XCOM agents are incapacitated.

2.) Base Defense
This was in the first three main series games, but got cut from the remake because they couldn't get the AI to function correctly.  I'm not sure what the problem was exactly regarding that, but I would love it if they found a way to work it back in.  Aside from adding to mission variety, part of the appeal of base defense comes from getting to using automated defense systems you built over the course of the game.  Not to mention it adds to the feeling of escalation as the conflict climbs to ever greater levels of intensity.

3.) Exotic Battlefields
Alien base raids are great, as is assaulting UFOs.  Some of the DLC includes a midair battle over China.  Sounds great!  Lets have more of that, and while we're at it, how about taking the fight to aliens in their home dimension (or off-world base)?  The first XCOM game had a final mission to Cydonia, Mars.  And XCOM: Apocalypse had ten separate raids on facilities located in an alien dimension.  Granted, I imagine that the level designers didn't want to waste precious resources creating lots of strange looking locals, so how about having soldiers stumble on mock-ups of human buildings which the aliens use for experiments and training?  It would be so cool and bizarre to stumble on a generic looking house (complete with white picket fence) in the middle of an alien environment.

4.) Air Duels
I'm not sure how to best approach this one.  It definitely feels like there needs to be more to air combat.  Ideally something in which the player has more control would be great.  It would also be nice if we could gang up on UFOs or even create dynamic dogfights and furballs rather than just seeing an abstract screen in which two flying vehicles simply engage in the the equivalent of a drunken punching match.  Yes, I know the first game and the followup sequel were about the same in terms of complexity, but that was almost 20 years ago.  Time to make some improvements to the way interception missions play out.

5.) CQC
Maybe it's just me, but I found pistols to be fairly useless.  I know there are a few situations where they come in handy, but I still feel like the whole secondary weapon slot was underutilized.  Why not have it possible to include some unique alternative weaponry like the toxic dart guns from XCOM: Apocalypse?  They were some uniquely effective devices to use against enemies.  Plus, melee weapons for XCOM agents are completely nonexistent.  Come on game!  I want to be able to bayonet a Muton (living to brag about it can still be optional of course).

6.) Hybrid People
So, the aliens keep capturing humans for experimentation, right?  It's also established through autopsy reports that the aliens have incredible control over organic cell structures.  They've also modified other species of aliens to suit a variety of tasks (Mutons/Floaters are probably the best example).  If all this is the case we should get to see a kind of converted human made to serve alien needs.  Perhaps a hybrid sectiod/human DNA mix would be appropriate since that particular type of individual exists in the the third installment and was mentioned in text sources as far back as the first game.  This would also allow for the overarching narrative to continue exploring and expanding on ethical dilemmas which the named members of XCOM grapple with via dialogue snippets throughout the game.

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