XCOM: Enemy Unknown is an upcoming tactical-strategy game (think Valkyria Chronicles or Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command) based on the classic game XCOM from 1994. With only a few weeks left until XCOM: Enemy Unknown hits store shelves, Jake Solomon (lead developer) and Garth DeAngelis (lead producer) invited members of the press to a Q&A session where they answered a variety of questions. The interview in its entirety was insightful to the development process and modernization Firaxis has brought to Enemy Unknown, but five things above all else caught my attention the most.
1. How does XCOM: Enemy Unknown stand above other strategy games on the market?
Jake: The big difference between XCOM and other strategy games is that XCOM is a much more intimate experience. XCOM is about individual soldiers, and that’s typically not the case with strategy games.
Quite simply put, while you are running things on a global scale, you are also running things on a very personal level. Instead of dragging a brigade of soldiers onto the battlefield and going back to crunching numbers, you are also in the warzone. Sure, you have to worry about the world and what is going on throughout it but you are also developing connections with troops that may die defending Earth. It’s that zoomed in picture that makes this title so interesting when put on the same shelf as other strategy games.
2. How random will the game be?
Garth: Very random. It’s a different experience, it’s a unique experience every time you play.
For a game built around choices and difficult decisions, this should have been a no-brainer but it’s certainly eye-catching. During a playthrough, for example, it will be rare for you to come across the same maps, and when you do you may spawn in different place or have different objections. The tech tree is massive as well, so you could end one game with a different selection of technology available. When designing a game that you want to be played multiple times, random is good, and it sounds like Enemy Unknown is going to make players happen in that regard.
3. What are some of the values of protecting various countries around the world?
Jake: By covering multiple countries in Europe, you get more scientists and more engineers and then ultimately you get a big bonus if you cover every country in the continent. There’s a real strong benefit to staying local in one continent. But of course, the game is going to be fighting you. The aliens are going to be targeting a bunch of other countries, other countries are going to start to panic and if you don’t launch a satellite over them you’re probably going lose them.
This plays into the previous point-of-interest. So the first playthrough you could play as Russia and have heavy funding out of the gate. As the game progresses, you want to cover more and more of Europe to grab those bonuses, but the aliens are randomly targeting other countries; Japan, the United States, or Egypt, which are all out of your wanted jurisdiction. Your best friend could also be playing, but they decided to start in the US. This is how interesting conversations about games start happening; player-choices.
4. How long is the game?
Jake: Anywhere from 15-20 hours on Normal, and a lot longer on the higher difficulties.
20 hours is a little lengthy for a game to be played over and over when based around more structure than “Here’s this civilization; manage it!” but with all of the emphasis on the word “random”, it sounds like each play through will be different enough to warrant a few trips back to saving Earth from the alien invasion.
5. What about long-term multiplayer support?
Jake: That’s the sort of thing we are just starting to think about now, soI guess we’ll see. I mean, the popularity of the multiplayer, which we expect to be pretty popular, that will determine what we’re doing in the future with it. We’re pretty happy with where it is now, which again, it’s like a digital table-top game and it’s very different.
Being a big fan of multiplayer in games, this draws my attention because they have at the very least thought about supporting the game post-launch. There’s nothing worse than finding a game you like playing online and the developer doesn’t support it after release. Firaxis supports Civilization V with heavy doses of content following release, though most of it is single-player oriented it can be used online as well.
With strategy games being a little more rare on consoles, this game should be of particular interest to people that generally play on the Playstation 3 or X360.