A little less than six months are left before the release of XCOM 2 – it’s time to return to the first part and refresh our memories. Moreover, there is a wonderful reason for this: a couple of weeks ago, the development of Long War, the largest amateur modification for XCOM: Enemy Within, was completed.
It adds new weapons, new technologies, new tasks, new professions for fighters and a bunch of other new things to the game. But its main merit lies elsewhere: Long War completely reshapes the balance of power in the game. Everywhere – in tactical battles, in research, in production, on the global map.
And what exactly is good about it?
Reason one: testing
Modification makes the game much longer, much more varied. And much more difficult, especially out of habit. If you start the game without bothering to delve into the difficulty settings, you may be surprised to find that the soldiers of the “last pillar and hope of mankind” are all like one handicapped handicapped who cannot get into the barn from five steps. Or that a shabby reconnaissance dish can get away from three or four fighters in a row. But this is not scary – such complicators can be turned off, returning soldiers and pilots to almost pristine accuracy.
Give everything to the full forces another – a rethought strategy of aliens. Unlike the original XCOM (and even the very original X-COM: UFO Defense, which is already there), where aliens increased pressure on humanity slowly and gradually, events in Long War develop much more rapidly. The player is waiting for several weeks of relatively calm probing by reconnaissance units.
And then hell begins.
Heavy ships will begin to scour the sky, shooting down interceptors with a couple of spitless. Transport workers with two or three dozen soldiers will begin to land on the ground. Any terror involving the Chrysalids (that is, almost any terror in general) will turn into a uniform zombie apocalypse and cause a catastrophic surge of panic throughout the mainland.
Dr. Vale’s team will be doing research at a snail’s pace, but that’s okay, because Dr. Shen’s engineering team will be working even slower – and absorbing so much money and resources in the process that it will make your head spin. And new types of aliens will appear almost every month – just have time to adapt.
Long War clearly demonstrates what it’s like to fight an enemy that outnumbers you, and weapons, and technology.
Reason two: strategy
Understanding quickly comes: Long War is not so catastrophically difficult, it is just completely different. In XCOM itself, it is vital to respond to all the creeps of aliens – here, on the contrary, it is possible and necessary to ignore targets that the team is too tough for. Carefully measure forces and choose when and where to strike.
In the original, we developed at about the same speed as the aliens – here one of the parties will constantly pull ahead. Either we will assemble laser machine guns and begin to shoot down the flyers in one burst, then the suffocating sentoids will get stronger and begin to calmly receive two or three laser beams in the forehead.
XCOM revolved primarily around panic – there we will reduce, here we will let it increase, on average everyone is happy. Long War is built around the race of technologies and resources. Shot down a reconnaissance dish – the enemy did not receive information about the location of your satellite.
They missed the “raider” with the research team – the aliens use the data received and become a little stronger. And no more “aliens abduct people at the same time in three places, choose which one to protect”: aliens abduct people where the ship of the “abductor” class landed, and if it is knocked down on the way, they will not be abducted from anywhere at all.
As soon as our team starts to really annoy the aliens, they will quickly find a way to deal with it – and not just bring down the satellite, but approach the issue creatively. For example, they will wear out the soldiers with small operations of small detachments, and then they will send a whole brigade of elite fighters to terror.
Or they will set up an ambush: they will send a tiny plate to the most visible place and seat it there. Surely the player will send a small group of recruits to gain experience… And he will find that the “plate”, like sardines in a jar, is stuffed with a dozen and a half armored mutons, and even a cyberdeck with a squadron of “Seekers” of cover.
And in the second half of the campaign, realizing that the X-team is starting to equalize the weight categories, the aliens can even fork out and send an entire aircraft carrier to storm our base. Or send a sabotage group to the hangar, blow up fighters. Not according to the plot, but just like that – from the heart.
Reason three: diversity
Attempts to apply strategies from the original to Long War are fraught with a complete fiasco – the moment when you realize that the game is completely lost, you can’t pull it out, you have to quit and start over. There is little pleasure in such a moment – especially if it comes that way after two years of game time or seventy hours of real time – but it proves best that there is variability in the game. That you can act in different ways and at different moments of the game find yourself in completely different conditions.
Should scientists focus on new weapons, aviation improvements, psionics, or exoskeletons? What to order for the engineering team with the last money – a set of laser weapons for a full squad or laser guns for fighters? Send the best fighter for genetic modification or save it – what if there is a war tomorrow, and he is in the infirmary?