So, I finally delivered my Titanic film and Essen is now behind us, so at last I’ve had a little bit of time to try out BB5. I haven’t managed to get very far – partly because I had to restart when the first game on Normal proved way too easy (and on that see my earlier A Plea for Adjustable Difficulty Settings), and partly because my second playthrough fatally crashed when I had to save out of the Synedrion Seeding Mission midway through. So this is based on a first Nest cleanout and getting as far as the Synedrion Seeding Mission. It’s probably far too late, given your published release deadline, but for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts.
SQUAD INFO SCREEN
I’m with those who would like you to shrink the Squaddie mannequin and figure out how to squeeze all the info from the Training and Equipment screens into one. I’d also argue for the Squaddie’s Health & Stamina Bars to be placed at the feet of the mannequin, so that this screen becomes a one-stop shop for each Squaddie without having to hop between 2 – or even 3 – different screens every time you need to remind yourself of something (“Now who was it I just gave that Shotgun Proficiency to, and just how knackered is he?”)
SQUAD SKILLS & TRAINING
This is massively OP. You know this. I’m assuming that you’ve weighted it so that we get to the higher levels faster and you can test out all the skills asap. But as I said, I’ve so far cleaned out one Nest and half-completed one Haven Special Mission – and most of my Squad is already on Level 5 and maxed-out on at least one stat each. That can’t be right. It also makes most missions boringly easy. The only time I’ve ever felt like I was in trouble was when the Hatching Sentinel went off unexpectedly in the Nest and I suddenly found myself surrounded on all sides by Face-Huggers – now THAT was hairy! (And the most fun I’ve had all game in this Build).
I really like the way that Haven interaction works. The simple text boxes, with binary choice decisions often feel like they have much more significant long-term implications than they do on the surface. It works really well. Researching how to interact with them, and the asymmetric trade options from Haven to Haven are also very nicely done. New recruits are hideously expensive, but that’s how it should be.
Suggestion re New Recruits : It feels strange that a new recruit will happily join an incursion against their old Haven immediately after you’ve recruited them from it (I tested it). It would be more interesting (and credible) if the loyalty of your new recruits was not completely solid until they have worked with you over time. Give them a hidden Loyalty Score which starts negative and ticks up 1 each time they complete a mission with you. If you send them on a mission against their old faction, they check their Loyalty – if it’s negative, they switch sides and re-join their old faction.
SYNEDRION INTRO MISSION
This doesn’t feel right. Given the intro, we’re expecting some kind of chase mission where the thieves are trying to fall back and escape and we have to stop them, or an urban dogfight where we to have to fight our way into a defended district. Instead, all you have to do is set up a kill-zone and let a bunch of muppets armed with pistols come at you like lemmings until they’re all dead. If nothing else, give them each a grenade and reduce our final reward in line with the collateral damage we allow them to cause. Right now, it’s the least satisfying of the 3 intro missions.
Interesting choices, and the price balance feels about right. As a long-term (DLC?) goal, it would be nice if the player had to excavate new caverns, as in the original XCOM. Anything which gives the player more of a sense of agency and ownership in the construction of the Base is good.
Not had a Base Defence Mission yet, so can’t comment on any new iteration. I’m on record as not liking the old way of doing it and suggesting how it could be improved Base Defence feeback [WITH SUGGESTIONS].
Like the interface, like the way it works. I note some people have issues with build queues disappearing if you decide to change your priorities, but I’ve not had enough time to play with this yet to comment.
Scarab Suggestion: I agree with those who think the Scarab is overpriced – it’s definitely not worth the 4 Squaddie slots it squanders to transport it. How about letting us load Squaddies into the Scarab, then load it onto the Manticore with the Squaddies inside? So it still takes up 4 Squaddie slots, but it doesn’t stop those Squaddies from being transported along with it.
Scarab as Transport Suggestion: One interesting way to help solve the lack of transportation in the early game might be to enable Scarabs etc to drive between locations. You would load your Squad into the vehicle and send it to Haven A, and it would trundle off. It would then be out of contact and unusable for X days, until it appeared at Haven A, having travelled overground. A slow, but alternative way of moving Squaddies when the Manticore is feeling overstretched.
In general, this is really positive. In terms of interface, choices, freedom of movement, action etc, it is such an improvement on XCOM that it’s a real pleasure to play.
My only concern is that it currently feels too easy. I know that I’ve only encountered the early missions – I’d only just dealt with my first Medusa and Chiron when my Difficult Campaign froze – but my Squad has only felt under threat once and I’ve yet to lose a Squaddie.
Compare that to XCOM on Difficult, where the attrition rate can easily tip over 50% and you see what I mean. Now I know that XCOM has easier access to new recruits, and you don’t want to be hitting a 50% loss-rate in PP, but there’s nothing that seems capable of one-shotting my guys so far, and in general they are so OP that they can take anything they encounter down (or disable it significantly) before it can take that one shot in the first place. This is a shame, as in every other aspect this completely outclasses XCOM – and that comes from someone who loves the Firaxis version.
OK, that’s it. Hope at least some of it’s helpful. Can’t wait till the 3rd December. I am soooo looking forward to the final version of this game!