AJS Review of the Game

Wow thank you for the insights.
I didn’t realize how system was adjusting to the player.
That’s one of the problems of today’s gaming - the player expects to come on top every time, without totally losing or still winning, but taking severe losses.
XCOM Ironman has changed my gaming quite a lot in that regard - I was ready to take any collateral, just to save my elite units if things went seriously sideways.

Which brings up a problem of PP not having an Ironman mode on launch, and the overall savescumming in the game being very easy (literally 1 button away).

The big question is. How do you turn it off?

And I’m not playing again until the Scylla save corruption bug is fixed.

As a reminder for those who missed the post ^

Yeah, it’s a sad state of affairs, but I think the AAA industry has been teaching players to expect this outcome over a large number of years now, it’s hard to then break that expectation and show that there can be more fun in a game where there is a chance to actually lose, and/or you’ll have to really fight for that win.

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Especially when every single last other XCOM-like game does it a different way.

Adding negative feedback loop is not a bad idea within itself - If all you get is a positive feedback loop for doing well, and negative feedback loop for doing badly you run into risk of simply not having a fun experience - as you are likely to have worse time if you do badly, and make things too easy if you do well.

That’s just very cold implementation of it, with no proper explanation of it through the theme.

I guess players expect that there is a difficulty level that they can play in which they can reliably win.
You want to see the story, without having to go through a nightmare of save scumming.

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There are different reasons for this. Some developers are just mind bend on idea of delivering ‘fun’ experience to player all the time. They don’t attempt to bring fun by contrasting gameplay as too afraid to loose players on the “negative” slope of gameplay.
Some other just lack resources to construct contrasting gameplay or are not aware of what kind of meta game their game creates in the mind of the players.
For example, in X-Com you can have a noob trap missions where your current level of tech is just too low to deal with the enemy on map, if you don’t abandon mission in a just few turns you will most likely loose your team. Whatever it was designed like that on purpose or just a result of random generation is not important. What is important is that these missions mechanically show you why such feature as “abandon mission” even exists. It shows you that being equipped to the top of your tech is sometimes still not enough. It shows you that you can’t deal with every mission and it does it fast - you don’t have to go through 20 turns to understand that you can’t make it. It creates a psychological effect where possibility of having an unbeatable enemy is always there and you might loose soldiers or whole team, so your approach towards planning and executing missions changes. What is even more important, the contrast between winnable and un-winnable missions is so large that you can’t beat them by just reloading and trying a bit different tactics. And you don’t need to have more than a reminder “you can abandon missions and not expected to win all of them” to make sure that player sees it as feature and not as a bug.


This AI system completely negatives the point of having a difficulty setting at the start of the game. If the game is going to be next to impossible after X amount of time regardless of the difficulty setting you have chosen, then that is bullshit.

Good game design is locking off specific AI behaviors, that are only activated on higher difficulty modes. Or better known as Finite State Machines (FSM).

The AI’s use of better tactics over time, should only be in the higher difficulty modes.

To use the game Alien Isolation as an example - The alien at the beginning of the game is restricted a fair bit in what it can do, and is limited to only basic behaviors. Over the course of the game, branches of more advanced behaviors (eg checking under desks and inside lockers) is unlocked. Some of it is via the player using that tactic a lot, and the rest is via the player meeting a specific point in the game. That is good AI design.


Yup. Waiting for Steam Release, Updates roll, likely gameplay fixed and even price lowering and expansion (for current price of game likely in a year) seems like right decision.

I am a big Isolation fan. No, alien is always as deadly, it depends on difficulty settings.

Easy mode, for me, shouldn’t mean that the player auto-wins. Just as hard mode shouldn’t equal auto-lose.

How a game makes a difficulty easier or harder can come in many different forms; more or less opponents, more or less time for missions/the game as a whole, different degrees of AI ability; they can all serve to make a game ‘easier’ or ‘harder’.

Story mode I think is a different matter, in that instance the player never loses no matter what. But for the TBS how can you create a situation where the player never loses a battles? What happens if they stand in the open? Forget to bring any ammo? Shoot their own guys in the head? Drop a grenade in the middle of the squad? - Are we just saying ‘don’t worry about it, that grenade didn’t count, here’s the next part of the story.’

So I’m sorry, if anyone is thinking, ‘but I have a right to win as a player’ but you don’t, you’ve just been conditioned to think that you do, and every game has a target audience, too many games pander to the player’s need to always win IMHO, it’s refreshing to find a game that doesn’t do that for a change.

No the devs have even given details on it. They use a FSM. Think back to when you last played it, and how the Alien played at the start vs towards the end.

Here is a video on it:

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It’s less “I should win” and more “I should do better”. There should be tangible benefits to putting in more time to better equip your squad + level them up. That should = better results. But due to the AI over time improvements, it negates that.

As I say, game difficulty can be introduced in different ways. PP as a whole is a race against time, if in easy mode you have more time to better equip your squad then that mode is ‘easier’, but you shouldn’t have infinite time IMHO.

I have seen the video, but I have also tried HARD and NIGHTMARE difficulties >:)

And its not really related to PP.

More just about how FSM’s are used. It’s actually directly relevant, as it’s about locking off specific AI abilities. Once you understand about FSM (in coding them), they can be used for any genre of game.

Not sure if you are serious or if this is sarcasm.

This game Normal difficulty, without rushing to probable OP holes, is in my opinion harder than XCOM1&2 Veteran and harder than Jagged Alliance Normal, and as far I know (not sure) JA2 Normal isn’t harder than JA1 Normal.

But my believing is the truth is the game in its current state has a low control on difficulty.

This I agree with. There’s intentional difficulty ranges, and then there’s a game that just goes bat shit crazy over how it sets difficulty from mission to mission, I don’t think that PP is doing the first option right now.

It wasn’t sarcasm. Each player wants to win, but not all players are willing to spend the same time planing and finding ways to advance.
For my part, if a game is short (like Invisible Inc.), I’ll usually play in the hardest difficulty because losing is not as annoying (you played max 4 hours, no big deal). If a game is long, I’ll favor a lower difficulty so I can have the story without it being too much of a hassle.
I had my days playing in the highest difficulty. Not motivated.

And as I say all this, the pandoran turn is still not finished on the final mission (Phoenix Point ending).
Oh and one of my assaults is stuck beneath a dead Queen which is really annoying. His only purpose now was to “rally the troops”.

I will add that any game needs have some difficulty spikes, or it becomes routine, but I have doubt it’s much controlled in PP.