OK, I’ve waited until I hit the much-heralded ‘Difficulty Spike’ before posting this feedback, and it’s turned into such a long post that I’ve decided to split it into its constituent parts. So this is General Feedback. Expect further posts on the Geoscape, the Tactical/Personnnel Layer, Bases etc later.
For the record, I am around 30+ hours into my first playthrough, playing on HEROIC Difficulty, with the ODI at 14% and I’ve just had my first couple of run-ins with Chirons & Sirens in this iteration.
The first thing to be said is ‘thank you JG’. I’m really enjoying the game. It’s already retired XCOM for me, and though I may return to LW2 at some point, I think I’ll find myself so frustrated by the lack of tactical flexibility that I’ll soon be coming back here for more. This game has legs. Given the different Faction abilities, I can see that it will sustain at least 3 if not 4 complete playthroughs before it starts getting old – and by that point I expect there will be a whole bunch of mods and DLC to make it all shiny again. Yes, it has hideous bugs and balancing issues as it stands, but once they’re ironed out, this will be the classic that some are already heralding it to be – it’s just not there yet.
So that’s my standpoint, and everything I say comes from that point of view - I really like this game and I just want it to get better.
So, please hear me (and others) when we say FIX THE DAMN DIFFICULTY SETTINGS!
Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no sympathy with completely new players who go charging in on Heroic and then complain on the forums when they get their asses handed to them. This game is supposed to be HARD! It’s why hard-core X-COM veterans flocked to crowdfund it. If you’re going to charge in without putting on the training wheels to find out how it works, you deserve everything that’s coming to you. Stop whingeing and figure out how to deal with it – that’s why they call it ‘Heroic’.
On the other hand, I have every sympathy with those who do put on the training wheels only to get them blown off at the first hard turn in the game. EASY is supposed to be just that: easy – or at least not so punishingly brutal that you get a TPW if you make the slightest mistake. So while I STRONGLY resist any nerfs to RF/Sirens/Chirons etc on Heroic or higher, I do feel that they need to be more limited on the lower difficulty levels.
You need an ‘IF Sirens = #, THEN additional Siren = NO’ line in the procedural code for the lower settings. I’d advocate the following:
EASY/ROOKIE – Sirens = 1; Chirons = 1 (and I’d give them 50% of the Will & Hits that they currently have)
STANDARD – Sirens = 2; Chirons = 1 (also at 50%)
HEROIC – Sirens = 3; Chirons = 2 (at full WP/Hits)
LEGENDARY – ‘There’s – no – li-mit!’
In addition to that, you would make the difficulty spike much less brutal for new players if you introduced Sirens slightly earlier. As it stands (from the posts I’m reading), everything’s going ‘so far, so XCOM’ (RF whinges aside), then suddenly you blunder into a mission with 2-3 Sirens backed up by a couple of Chirons and you’re quite naturally ‘WTF?!??’. If Sirens appeared a couple of missions earlier, preferably in singles, then you could take the time (and make the mistakes) to learn how to deal with them before hell started raining from the skies.
Also, rather like Key Bindings, I can’t believe you don’t give players the opportunity to change Difficulty in the Options Menu. This works both ways: people like me who might start on Easy and find it boringly unchallenging have no option right now but to quit the game completely and start a new one; while people who charge in on Heroic and get their butts handed to them need an option to dial down to a more sensible setting until they’ve learned how the game works. Right now, you’re losing players at both ends of the spectrum because rage quitting is a much more terminal course of action than simply tweaking the difficulty in-game.
Now, I was one of the most persistent voices in BB5 calling for OP Squaddie abilities like Dash and Return Fire to be toned down, and for the Pandoran AI to lose the WP loopholes that turned even the toughest of Sirens into gibbering wrecks. As far as I’m concerned, a Mission is well balanced if I go in there averaging 1 medkit per Squaddie and come out at the other end with either half of my medkits gone or a Squaddie in a bodybag. So far, I’ve only lost 2 Squaddies (one due to the learning curve and one due to my own stupidity), but I’m going through medkits like a kid through candy. That’s GOOD, in my opinion. I’ve yet to encounter a double-Chiron/multi-Siren combo in this build, so I shall reserve proper judgement until then, but on current experience the balance I’ve encountered is on the right side of hard. I go into every encounter expecting to get hurt, and that’s how it should be.
I’m assuming that Sirens have been patched recently, since they are nowhere near as tough as the forums led me to believe. That’s no bad thing – second time I blundered into one, I expected it to take over my entire squad, so was pleasantly surprised when it only MC’d the one guy and left the others to blow its head off. Don’t get me wrong, they’re hard – and that’s good – just not as impossible as people had led me to expect.
So in general, there’s much more to like in this game – even with its current issues – than to dislike. The Action Point system is brilliant, so is the targeting/ballistic system (though it has issues I’ll discuss in a relevant post). Multi-classing Squaddies is unbalanced but great, as is the Will Point system, and I love the fact that I can choose to over-encumber a Squaddie if I need to. Squad Skills and Skill Points need tweaking and will take too long to discuss here, but the general idea is solid. So is the Faction Trading system and Recruitment. Bases are too basic for me – and I’m not talking about the graphics ( I get that a small indie doesn’t have the budget for the whistles and bells of Firaxcom) – but at the moment there is very little player agency in the way that you build your base (see upcoming post).
Research and Manufacturing are good. I really like the way that some research has hidden benefits which you have to discover through trial and error. I also LOVE the Reverse Engineering process – a great way of improving your tech without having to attack anyone or pick a side.
Which brings me to DIPLOMACY. Once again, there’s a lot so say here, so I’ll deal with the detail in a separate post [with Spoilers]; but I really feel the need to make this one point, because this is almost but not quite GAMEBREAKING for me.
I HATE with a passion the fact that you now FORCE us to pick sides on the very first Diplomacy Mission we undertake in 1.0. This isn’t what the premise on which we were sold Phoenix Point is about. We were told that we’re are the last hope for humanity. We discover the different Factions and start working with them to help rebuild the planet. At some point, we decide which Faction has the best chance to defeat (or live with) the Pandoran menace, and we choose our path – BUT NOT STRAIGHT AWAY!
BB5 did this soooo much better. In BB5, you got to work with each Faction for a bit, see which way they were going and come to an informed decision about which of them best fitted your own personal viewpoint. Me: I thought I was a Synedrion man – the privileged elitism of Anu and the quasi-fascist overtones of NJ make me distinctly uncomfortable. But if I’m a new player and the VERY FIRST thing that Synedrion asks me to do is blow up somebody else’s Energy Facility, I’m like: “Why? How does that benefit anybody?” Seriously? On this, my first real playthrough, it took me 20 hours before I could actually bring myself to do what I consider to be the most stupidly destructive thing I’ve been forced to do in this game, and sabotage another Faction – and the only way I could justify it is because NJ started ranting about eradicating everybody else. OK, at that point, they need to be taken down a peg – but not before I’ve even met them! Even now, while the other Factions are asking me to do something constructive to save the planet, Synedrion seems to have forgotten all about Terraforming or Mist Repelling and want me to blow other people’s shit up again. Come – on!
I know from other posts that this makes more people than me really uncomfortable – it’s immersion-breaking. It slows down our progression with our chosen faction, because we’re reluctant to do something which is so obviously against the long-term interests of humanity. As I shall argue elsewhere, there should be an option – albeit a difficult one – to act as honest broker between the Factions.
- [SPOILER] I think there may be one already, but I haven’t got far enough yet to be sure. If there isn’t, we need one. I actually have no problem with faction warfare in the game, but you should have the option to try to prevent it, instead of being forced to become a part of it, even if the attempt makes your life stupidly difficult [SPOILER].
At the very least, don’t force brand new players to pick a side before they’ve even had a chance to discover what the sides are all about.
Right now, I feel like I’m missing out on a major element of the game because what it’s trying to make me to do goes against everything I think is right, and that comes close to ruining the game for me (I actually stopped playing Red Dead Redemption back in the day because the plot quests required me to do things I hated doing at the behest of an irritating $OB I neither liked nor trusted, even though I was supposed to be seeking redemption). Like I say, it’s almost but not quite gamebreaking for me, but as things stand there’s enough else in the game to like for me to grit my teeth and push past it – though Synedrion can go take a running jump right now, as far as I’m concerned.
OK, that’s enough for this post. I’ll address the detail of the various aspects of the game in separate specific threads when I can make the time. But everything I say comes from the point of view that I think this game is really good and can only get better.