This emerged from a conversation I was having with the Devs, where they asked me why I found the tactical missions so easy.
As I sat down to analyse it, I realised that the main ‘problem’ (if that’s the right word) is surplus of APs. Put simply, if you know what you are doing, it is ludicrously easy to weigh things so far in your Squaddies’ favour that they regularly get to use between 6-8APs for every 4 spent by the Pandas. That means that your Squad is on average taking 1.5 to 2 turns for every turn taken by the Pandas.
In the early game, when you’re not dealing that much damage, that simply evens up the playing field - but as the game progresses and your Skills & weapons get more powerful, it starts to skew the tactical contest more and more in your favour until you find that if you allow your Squaddies to unleash their full potential, most Pandas never even get a turn to react, let alone threaten you.
Now some people are fine with that, and I don’t begrudge them their power fantasy. Let them play on Easy/Vet and have a great time feeling like superheores. But I play these games for the tactical challenge of battling against the odds, and to be frank, I find the late game interminably boring because it’s too frickin’ easy!
So I thought: if the problem is too many APs, why don’t I limit the number of APs my Peeps can use?
The experiment works like this:
- Each turn my Squaddies are allowed to spend up to 3APs on direct actions - Moving, Firing, picking stuff up.
- They are allowed to spend their 4th AP on ‘passive’ actions like Overwatch, or moving stuff around in their inventory.
- But if they spend their 4th AP on a Direct Action, they are ‘out of breath’ and can only spend 2APs next turn as they recover.
Does this make a difference?
In the early game, not really. It’s driven home to me just how powerful the current Overwatch system actually is, and how much I rely on it. I found that I wasn’t actually altering my standard infantry tactics using the leapfrog system: Fire Team A advances and sets OW covering fire for Fire Team B to move past them next turn, while the Support Section provides cover with GLs & Snipers. The enemy still blundered into my OW traps and I could get through any mission without a scratch.
I’m now at the end of January, and things have got a little tighter. I’ve had a couple of hairy missions where I’ve had to resist the temptation to cheat and ‘forget’ that my Squaddie was recovering their breath as the Pandas descended upon them. But I still haven’t lost a single Squaddie in this runthrough, even with Chirons, Sirens and Advanced Pandas on the map - and I’ve yet to equip my Squad with anything better than a Bulldog or a Deceptor.
So is it worth doing? I think so. It makes the decision space crunchier and more interesting. Stuff which used to be a yawn-inducing no-brainer now requires a modicum of thought: do I take out that threatening Panda now, using my fourth AP, or do I cover it with OW and hope I can neutralise it that way? Do I use Boom Blast to spam explosives, knowing that I won’t be able to repeat the trick next turn? Do I double-tap with my Sniper, knowing that (s)he won’t be able to do anything but OW next turn?
But TBH, it hasn’t - yet - made the game any more challenging except in a couple of hairy missions.
I’ll be interested to see how it feels when the Umbras finally make an appearance.