On the eve of last week's E3, we managed to get an exclusive chat with Firaxis about its return to Xcom. Here, we sit down with lead producer Garth DeAngelis to talk PC exclusivity, perma-death, mods and more.
How have you handled the negative feedback over the lack of console versions?
We knew that would surprise some people, but when we looked at the changes we wanted to make for Xcom 2 from Xcom: Enemy Unknown, and what our studio's expertise was, it made sense for us to focus on the PC version to make the very best Xcom 2 possible.
Are you sure procedurally created levels will retain a unique feeling over and over?
Yes, we're very excited about procedurally generated maps and think they will provide a real sense of danger and exploration as players can't memorise maps and optimal approaches anymore. It will undoubtedly be a new experience over long-term play, which I'm personally excited about. There will be no more "ah, it's the Museum map again...". As memorable as those handcrafted maps are, players will now have a sense of "I'm not quite sure if I've seen this before, in this particular way", which is eerily appropriate in this alien-occupied version of Earth.
The number one thing we heard over and over from Xcom: Enemy Unknown players was: "Give us more maps!" Procedural map generation is our answer to that feedback.
How are you handling the change of perspective, with play now taking place in world dominated by aliens?
Xcom has always been a game about loss and long odds. Having players start in a world that's dominated by aliens means that you begin in a position of weakness relative to your enemy, and then you gradually become more powerful and overcome that force. In this case, you're going to be overthrowing the alien occupation.
What were the major weaknesses with the original that you're trying to address now?
We're focusing on expanding the things that we heard most from players with regard to Enemy Unknown, and really refining that core experience of the interplay of the strategy layer and the tactical missions.
So we've changed up the classes and their abilities, such as having the Ranger as a melee-capable and close combat expert. We've added more enemies, and given them abilities that can affect your ability to position your soldiers just the way you want. The Viper's Tongue Pull, for example, can pull a character out of cover, and cover is critical no matter how good your armor is. We've got the concept of concealment on missions, so you can set up ambushes. We really want players to have new tactical options and challenges to consider.
Will we see something different besides mechas and augmentations this time? A third kind of enhancement? Any new aliens around?
There are a ton of new aliens (the Viper's a good example), and the returning aliens have all gotten new abilities and looks to them, as they have evolved over the 20 years they've spent on Earth. The Sectoid, for instance, is taller and stronger, more psionic, and has teeth. He's more human-looking, which implies scary things about what the aliens are doing.
Is perma-death optional?
No! Permadeath is an integral part of the game. It's something players will have to learn to expect and manage.
Is base building still in the game and if so, how is it handled?
There is a base and a strategy layer to the game, but we'll have more to say about that later.
Any chance of a change when it comes to high odds events, for example, when an elite soldier misses an alien stood in front of them. Instead of simply missing the target, might we start seeing weapons jamming and the like to avoid frustration
Xcom wouldn't be Xcom without missing some high-percentage shots. By the same token, there's always a chance a rookie will nail a one-in-a-million shot and save the day. That's such a key part of the tension of combat in Xcom.
What are you expecting from the addition of modding support?
We don't know exactly, really! That's the beauty of supporting modding. Your modders always come up with creative ideas that we didn't think of. We've seen an incredible variety and scope of mods for Sid Meier's Civilization V, and we we're excited to see our modders bring that same kind of creativity to Xcom 2!
Are there plans to introduce more mission types and secondary objectives into the mix?
There are procedurally-generated secondary objectives within missions, which help change things up on the tactical side as well. There are a variety of primary mission objectives, too. We feel like these additions, plus the procedurally generated maps, should make every mission feel unique.
In a way, we've taken the unique feel of the special Council Missions from Enemy Unknown that were more scripted, and injected that into the procedural fabric of the game. You won't see the "Rescue VIP" mission on the fallen highway over and over. Now, you may get a unique objective each time, and can be almost of any map.
What specifically does PC exclusivity allow that would not have been possible with a multiplatform approach?
The PC exclusivity is more a matter of where our focus and expertise lies as a studio, rather than technical capabilities. Again, we also feel strongly about embracing the modding community with Xcom 2, which is a strength of the PC only approach.
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