Some thoughts from playing the build so far
- For an alpha, extremely well done
- Hard to test the AI without knowing more details about the strategic elements
- High variability in combat may make higher difficulties impossible, can lead to brutal swings
Without knowing more about the strategic layer of the game, it’s difficult to test against the pacing, environment, AI, and battle structure. If we look at the spectrum from XCom to TFTD to XCom2 we see a vastly different pacing, tension, and scarcity of resources. PP currently plays much more like TFTD than X2, which is fine if the strategic elements are similar.
- How severe is the wound penalty?
- How dispensable/rare are soldiers?
- How significant are leveling/ranking perks?
In X2, an L/I or I/I play through heavily relied on how well you could get through the first 3 months with minimal casualties, and how well you could funnel kills onto your key soldiers to unlock crucial perks. By comparison, TFTD ranking up was mainly improved will / resistance to Psi/MC. You got minor increases to aim, strength, stamina, etc. but if you lost an entire squad it was a set back, not a failed campaign.
With the rate of wounds in combat – terrain that evaporates with a single bullet, no way to hit the deck/hunker/kneel, return fire, grenades/shots out of FoW, bleeding mechanics, etc. – we would assume that soldier resources are fairly dispensable, and are not rare. However, that seems counter to the “lore” of the game. In addition, we’ve seen perks/abilities that can be trained up, which puts a lot of pressure on preserving and investing in a specific squad.
More than once, I’ve had “that’s xcom baby” moments in PP where a gunner crab has walked out of the fog, moved to flank me, and 1 shot a soldier from across the map. Today I had an unspotted crab lob a grenade off a roof in Fort at me, wounding 3 soldiers and destroying 2 guns out of the fog. If that’s the variability/volatility we are playing with, then the penalty for a bad dice roll needs to be in line. We can tactically adapt on the battlefield, but it’s hard to know how we should react – did losing my sniper just end my campaign? Can I accept the possibility of losing this squad or do I need to retreat? Do I want to kill a specific enemy and extract with it’s corpse for research (lobstermen 2.0…)?
We need to understand crates, inventory, and why weapons can be destroyed. Having a soldier’s arm get disabled is a huge disadvantage for a mission (I’m assuming if we get advanced medicine there will be a field surgeon type of perk/class/ability to reverse). Having a gun get destroyed can either be an annoyance, or equally as bad. If my sniper loses his rifle, for example, he now is running around with a pistol until I can find a crate, and then get a lucky roll that a weapon is in there. If it happens during a bad “activation” it can be a wipe (pistol shots plinking away 1-2 hp and triggering multiple return fires is really nasty).
If weapons can be destroyed, then they need more HP, or need to be more prevalent on the battlefield, or need to be cheap and light enough that we can pack spares coming into an engagement. Also, if my gun takes damage, why is it double dipping and also applying that damage to my soldier’s hp? Did the bullet hit the gun or the soldier?
The queen was terrifying about once. I get that her current iteration is dumbed down – only move and slam – but she herself is really not a threat. The scary part about the queen is that as soon as she shows up, every crab on the battlefield activates and starts sprinting toward your squad. Not only does she have perfect information about where you are, but she also broadcasts it to every other crab.
Now this can be good or bad – it can help root out hiding crabs, it can clump enemies up for explosives, but it can also start raining down return fire and pot shots from across the map. 6% return fire hits are definitely not 6% (assuming it’s 6% per bullet?).
The queen is a big dumb homing beacon, with so much armor that you are prohibited from using explosives until she appears
If you, for any tactical reason, even think about throwing grenades or launching missiles before the queen shows up, you are in for a world of hurt. She has so much armor that your assault rifles are useless, your sniper rifle tickles, and even a point blank machine gun can return “0 damage.” However, if you save your explosives or stock up from crates, she’s trivial. 2 Missiles and a grenade usually blow off a pincer, a couple legs, and chunk down her armor enough for your squad to put in some hurt. In addition, everything you blow off makes her bleed, and you can just kite her around the zone finishing off crabmen until she bleeds out. If you can shred enough armor, a machine gun can almost 100-0 her in 1 turn.
The queen should likely have less armor, but be faster. Right now you kite her and lob explosives until you’ve shredded her armor/blown off her pincers/she bleeds out. If you are out of explosives before she shows up, there’s about nothing you can do. Every location on the queen registers 0 damage for an assault rifle at full armor.
In line with the concerns, we need to understand the strategic layer more before we can test the AI and how engagements play out. Right now your soldiers fall into 3 categories:
- Assaults – ok at mid range, high movement. Use these to flank and return fire
- Snipers – good at range, low movement. Protect these and pick off HVTs
- Heavies – terrible movement, good at close range. These are your tanks. Missiles are a life saver against the queen
The AI has yet to overwatch me (can they?) and ignores overwatch traps (cannot pin). Rarely throws grenades, even if I clump up (but when they do, boy do grenades hurt). They seem to either stand still or blindly rush. They definitely out range soldiers, and are content to trade pot shots from across the map regardless of cover.
Tactically, the game plays like the most important factor is positioning. Cover evaporates as soon as something shoots in your direction, so you have to stay on the move. The problem is you rarely have the fire power to drop a crab the turn that you see it, unless you can focus fire, and moving risks activating/encountering more crabs. Melee units, because of their shields, create this weird middle dance distance. I can’t move close enough to flank, but if I split the distance they charge and 1 shot a soldier. you end up retreating and trying to bait the AI into falling short in their charge, while taking long range fire from that gunner crab on a roof across the map, who keeps slowly wounding your soldiers
So far PP plays like a modern day TFTD, which I couldn’t be happier about. For an alpha build it is impressively polished, with only minor camera bugs (on par with Xcom 2’s release versions) and the occasional infuriating soldier losing all mobility, or crabman standing in the open not reacting.
However, to really test how the AI and the tactical layer play out, we need a better understanding of the strategic consequences of our actions. If the game pacing is on par with X2 I/I, then PP will be damn near impossible to complete at the current tactical pacing. If it’s closer to TFTD, it’s probably in line, but we need more information
Looking forward to what comes in future builds. Back to killing crabs