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Fallen cities swarming with the dangerous remnants of their human populations, alien battlefield commanders who resemble fantastical heroes, new rulesets for friendship and fear, and an actual active resistance out on the Geoscape. XCOM 2 [official site] is changing.
The War of the Chosen is “definitely the biggest expansion we’ve ever done”, lead designer Jake Solomon told us at E3. Introducing unique enemy champions doesn’t strike me as an obvious move for XCOM, so I asked Solomon how the concept of the expansion had developed, and whether he’d drawn any inspiration from Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system. And whether we can expect any terrors from the deep in the future.
As expected, Firaxis announced a full-fat XCOM 2 [official site] expansion at the E3 2017 PC gaming Show, promising “new environments, new enemies and new XCOM forces”. It’s called War of the Chosen and the trailer shows those Chosen, the “ultimate enemies of XCOM”. They are three champions – nemeses perhaps – and they will grow up in strength through the game, learning new skills and abilities.
On top of that, there are resistance groups to win over, new zombie-like hordes that will attack aliens and humans alike, and a whole lot more. It’s “twice the size” of the original XCOM’s expansion.
Jon Shafer was 21 years old when he became lead designer of Civilization V. Now working at Paradox on an unannounced project and on his own historical strategy game At The Gates in his spare time, he says he’s learning from the likes of Spelunky along with the more obvious strategic influences. We spoke about how the second half of every Civ sucks, the part the series played in his life, the perils of boredom in strategy design, how much we love maps, and what the future holds for both Shafer and Paradox.
I began by asking how he ended up sitting at the Paradox Convention, in Stockholm, the city that has now been his home for two weeks: “It’s quite a long story, actually.”
That story begins in Denver, around 2003.
The original X-COM (UFO: Enemy Unknown), Julian Gollop tells me, “succeeded in spite of itself”. I asked him how he felt about the game now, twenty three years after its initial release, and particularly about the way it’s often placed on a pedestal. He didn’t expect it to be a success and certainly didn’t think he’d be making a game heavily based on its legacy almost a quarter of a century later.
Yet here we are. The crowdfunding campaign for Phoenix Point [official site], a sci-fi horror strategy game about an alien onslaught, has just begun. Gollop is back where many people feel he belongs, and this time round he seems extremely confident in his game’s design.
Oh sure, it’s basically been pennies for years, but nothing motivates the merely curious like free-free-free. For that is the case for X-COM: UFO Defense aka UFO: Enemy Unknown, the 1994 alien-bothering strategy game that kicked off a series now made something of a household name by Firaxis’ remakes. Only until tomorrow, though. … [visit site to read more]
Rarely does a week go by when some publisher or retailer isn't giving away a game for free. Spending nothing in exchange for something is great, and this is an especially nice offer: the Humble Store is giving away X-COM: UFO Defense, or for those outside of North America, UFO: Enemy Unknown.
It's the first instalment in the XCOM series, of course, and be forewarned that as far as I can remember it was the first game to make me incredibly angry. The offer is valid for another day and a half, so you'd best go and grab it now before you forget.
Video games always come with an expectation that the player will suspend disbelief to some extent. Genetically engineered super-soldier clones don t exist, radiation has never and will never work like that, and overweight Italian plumbers could never make that jump. In most cases, if we are unwilling or unable to suspend our disbelief, we may well struggle to enjoy the game and our questioning of the basics of its reality would probably make us insufferable to be around.
There are some games however, where the realities of our world are key to enjoying the game. These are the builders like City Skylines, simulators and sports games like Prison Architect and FIFA, and even crime games like Grand Theft Auto. One genre has a particular problem when it comes to maintaining a foot in the real world yet still creating a setting where one can have fun without becoming mired in morally questionable events and choices: historically based games. And among historical games, few subjects are as complex to represent as slavery. Many have tried, from Europa Universalis IV and Victoria II to Civilization and Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, and in this article I’ll investigate the portrayal and use of slavery in these games and more to explore what they get right, what they get wrong, and how games could do better in future.
Many people thought that the comprehensive and tough as nails Long War mod was the best thing to come out of XCOM: Enemy Unknown so the news that the team behind it would be producing mods for the sequel, in partnership with Firaxis. If only they were working on a full-blown Long War mod though for XCOM 2 [official site], wouldn’t that be something?
Well, they are. Intriguingly, the announcement comes from Firaxis rather than Pavonis, the team formerly known as Long War Studios. Whether that means this will be a super mod with in-house assistance or a full-fat expansion (the difference between those two things might be nothing more than a pricetag) we don’t know, though more info is due “in the coming weeks”.