The pace of the game has often come up while discussing (and got mixed up with) balance issues (alpha-striking, OP builds, unfair enemy behaviors/capacities, etc)., with many players expressing a wish that the battles take longer, maps be bigger and/or skills less important.
Now that I’m finished with the first version of a guide for PP, I wanted to start this thread to discuss the pace of the game without going into balance issues.
In order to do that, the discussion has to be premised on the assumptions that 1) alpha-striking (defined as an overwhelming attack by the player on the first turn that leaves the AI opponent without any chance to win the match) is no longer possible, and 2) difficulty has been evened out, so that each difficulty setting corresponds to player’s expectations - easy is easy, and hard is hard.
In my current playthrough I have largely achieved this by 1) playing on Legend, 2) playing Honest Man, 3) no skill spamming (no skill is used more than once per turn per soldier, and squad wide skills no more than once per turn), and 4) no soldier has speed above 20 (though with light armor it can go up to 25) and no Frenzy. Everything else is fair game.
To be clear: I’m not saying that these self imposed restrictions should be made part of the game, or that everyone should play like this - I’m saying that they have largely [a new problem I have become aware of as a result of playing like this is enemy deployment/positioning, but that’s a different topic] worked for me.
However, I venture to say that I feel like the way I’m playing right now is closer to how the game is intented to be at least as far as the pacing is concerned.
A typical mission goes like this: the first turn is mostly positioning. Taking on the enemies from the deployment zone is usually suicidal, especially if there are Chirons around. More often than not there are different alternatives for positioning and interesting decisions to be made. Stay back to mount a defense, or take a forward position to attack from next turn? Split the team? How?
Sure, sometimes it’s possible to attack some enemies right away, but is it worth it?
Every subsequent turn continues to matter, and so does every action, because mobility is high enough to negate cover, damage is high enough to often one-shot kill, or disable, and accuracy/weapon range - to engage targets far away. And of course there are the skills, which allow to suspend pesky game rules to achieve quick and massive results.
Staying put is a decision, just like moving forward: wait and perhaps lose a hard won advantage, press on and risk over extending.
And a battle rarely lasts more than 5 turns, even the Lair missions.
It’s not a tactical puzzle, because there is no perfect information. There is a lot of information though, enough to make plans and formulate reasonable expectations as to how they will turn out.
It’s not a tactical simulation - if there any concessions to realism they are, overall, negligible: I have no military experience but I’m pretty sure that no one who has would use PP as an example of a game where players are encouraged to use real-world tactics.
The way I think about PP when it comes to pacing, is that it’s tactics without filler, or fluff.
For example, take Firaxis Xcoms. IMO, Firaxis did a good job of distilling turn based tactics to essential choices that matter and the most interesting situations happen when you activate several enemy pods at once. That’s when you get 1-3 intense turns that determine the outcome of the battle, where all decisions are hard and high-stakes. These are the turns really worth playing, when memorable things happen.
I think this is PP’s pacing (when everything works like it should), and
IMO it’s great as a rule, though perhaps some special missions/mission types should be different (kind of like that Council mission in the fishery in Firaxis Enemy Within).
Nevertheless, I’m not in favor of missions with too many scripted events, as you end up playing them dozens of times and it ends up being very boring.
It would be best if there was some mission type with a more exploration/suspense/horror theme, where you spend a few turns walking around and then the enemies appeared.