From my experience:
I didn’t do 1) nor 2) and for me personally the DDA was never a problem, especially after the Leviathan patch that tones it somewhat down. I played it on Veteran and Hard difficulty and I restart some ridiculous bad going missions, not very often and also not if my soldiers get heavily wounded but I do when they die or I would lose the mission. I do alpha strikes as @VOLAND defines, wiping out enemies almost in my first turn and so on.
Nothing of these ramped the DDA up so that it would be impossible for me to go on. More the opposite, the longer the game goes and I get the SP to build anything I want it was more and more pretty easy for me to do almost any mission with a reduced squad down to only 2 soldiers, of course with the mentioned special OP builds and skill combos.
But on hard only once.
I personally don’t like that the pace is going up with difficulty, I would more like it if it would only ramp up the enemies presence in numbers or HP/armor but not the timeline. Another aspect that I would really like to see in a form of second wave option.
The first times it almost feels really great but after a while it is mostly boring.
Short answer: Yes and No
I am honestly baffled about Snapshots design philosophy (and I guess Jake Solomon is too…). I play strategy/tactics games since 30 years now, and the way this game is (un)balanced is an absolute no go. You can not have a progression system, where at one point the power of one side (in that case the player side) get’s suddenly multiplied by a large margin and hope to balance this out in any way. Especially since this power spike is not guranteed for every player. For example I didn’t bother with multi classes at first, because I wanted a playthrough with just the standard classes. So my power is considerably less then that of a player who combines two insane level 7 skills. Also this power spike at level 7 makes every soldier below that level basically useless. When I backed this game I hoped for more original 1995 xcom with the canon fodder soldiers. Now we have another superhuman game where your toons can sprint over the whole map and kill multiple enemies in one turn.
Anyway, if the alpha strike gameplay stays I am out. It’s the nail to the coffin. And btw it is funny that Firaxis just released a new xcom game that deliberately tries to prevent alpha striking.
Hmmm … in my opinion it depends how we define “alpha strike”. If we do it like @Voland describes then maybe yes, but if we define it a bit wider then also this game is all about to take the possibilities of the enemy out before they can do their stuff.
As far as I’ve seen this in some YouTube videos, Firaxis mixed some things from other games with their own ideas of an XCOM title:
Breakthroughs similar to Phantom Doctrine (Edit: not Project)
One turn per individual unit on both sides one after the other similar to Battletech (but without initiative?)
One or more short intense battles in succession per mission, a bit like Mutant Year Zero but without the stealth technique
Fight with classes and abilities in XCOM 2 style
In the end it only seems to me to be able to win these individual fights with alpha strike per breakthrough as I describe above. Mostly basically the main principle of just about every game that has come out in this genre in recent years. But all in all this doesn’t mean for me that this is a bad way, they all make fun because almost you progress as the enemy progresses and the possibilities for both sides changes over the time.
In PP, for me personally, at a given point around the mid game there is no real progress beside more enemies with more HP and Armor. My soldiers at least of my first two squads are somewhat maxed, so tactics stay almost the same, nothing new comes around, it becomes almost boring.
Maybe our possibilities as PP and the Pandas simply progress to fast?
This is something that I also feel about FiraXCOMs after some play throughs. Almost at the mid game I got my A-Squad on top as long I didn’t miss something in the timeline, e.g. falling behind the difficulty curve. From then on, it becomes mainly routine and not very demanding.
@MadSkunky what is your image of an ideal endgame?
personally I’d like the game to stick fairly close to what it is at the very start in how it plays, while still having the character/soldier development that skills provide. so you can get a back-and-forth with the enemy while feeling some progression, and this preferably with as wide as possible an array of “viable” weapons and employed tactics.
Battletech gets reasonably close to the back and forth, but that being a mech game the base combat is already rather slug-festy and its based on the “bigger with more guns is better” archetype, something I don’t like as it makes a fair chunk of the options pointless. (now like in PP you can gimp yourself and still win using lighter weapons or light mechs but that is besides the piont)
Xenonauts has a solid midgame, but too many auto-hits and the stats starts scaling out of control by the end, this even though you don’t have skills still causes a super soldier problem. on top of this the tech is super linear making any lower tech tool obsolete the second a higher tech one is available. I like PP’s “side progression” more.
mutant year zero is a fun game, but more because of the atmosphere then its tactical depth. even on the highest difficulty there are only like 4-5 fights in the whole game, where I actually get attacked because I can’t control or outright kill the enemy. this is because of the perfect execution of its tactical maneuvers…you know exactly where the enemy is and what effect you skills will have. and many skills are hard disables (esp against bots, with those being a large chunk of the enemies you’re facing) replayability is also limited because the world is always the same (beautiful, I give it that…but its always exactly the same.)
I admit that probably it has been my mistake in calling this alpha-strike and not coming up with a more specific term, because what happens in PP is not the same thing as what happens with the pods in Firaxis XComs.
I’m not a fan of the pods and I agree that it encourages taking the enemies before they can act. However, the essential difference is that in FXcom it’s not a foregone conclusion. There is a lot of RNG, attempting to flank the enemies can lead to activating another pod, etc. It’s a mix of a puzzle/gamble tactics, which you can like, or not, but there is a game there.
My grievance with alpha-strike (as I define it) in PP is that it’s a reliable way of dealing with any situation without any risk and little to no thought. There is no puzzle, there is no gamble - it’s a click fest. There is no game there.
Other things - difficulty, realism, pace, metagaming, etc. - that’s about what kind of game players want, and personally I think any position there is legitimate. I for one am willing to trust the devs vision on that.
From my recent conversation(s) with UV, the devs define alpha-striking as the ability to take out 1 or 2 key enemies in 1 turn, and they (and I) see that as a legitimate tactic which should not be lost.
What I find weird is that my recent back & forth with UV suggests that the devs weren’t even aware that there are Terminator builds that can effectively end a mission before it’s even begun. I find that flabbergasting, but if the Council has done anything useful so far, it’s bringing that fact to their attention.
I would not compare all the games I and you mentioned, they all are different enough and all of them have ups and downs, you mostly named it. With all of them I have much fun, also with FXCOMs, part 2 not at release but after WOTC I liked it very much.
I also like PP very much, I enjoy almost all of my over 800 hours of playing it and I’m not completely disappointed. I will give them clearly the chance as I gave Firaxis a chance with XCOM 2 (I was really disappointed of it at release, so much that I go back to XCOM:EU and simply had more fun).
I have no real Idea how the way to go is the best for PP, I only take my impressions and talk about them.