Tag: Turn based strategy »
There's been a fair amount of buzz surrounding Breach & Clear even before it was released on the App Store last week. And with good reason: it's pretty awesome. However, there's a bit more to the story of this mish-mash of genres and themes, including some rather unexpected sources of inspiration. Josh Fairhurst (president of Mighty Rabbit) and Wes Keltner (Creative Director for Gun) took a few moments out of their busy schedules to share some of the juicier tidbits with us.
148Apps: Breach & Clear uses a great combination of strategy mechanics. What were some of the least likely places you pulled inspiration from?
Josh Fairhurst (JF): The least likely place was NFL 2K1. The planning phase in Breach & Clear was beginning to feel a lot like creating a plan in a game of football, so we turned to the best football game of all time. Most of our gameplay was designed using powerpoint presentations supplied by our consultants. In each one of these images, vision cones were the dominant markings - so we built gameplay around that. A lot of people will probably think Frozen Synapse was an influence, but we didn't set out to be directly influenced by it. B&C was originally fully turn-based, but we found that with proper tactics, enemies never got a chance to respond. We switched to using simultaneous turns as a response to that.
Wes Keltner (WK): I agree with Josh, strategy and planning in Breach & Clear is somewhat similar to calling routes in football games. At one point we even discussed creating an ‘audible’ type button. During pre-production/design doc phase, my inspirations were a little more obvious. Classic strategy shooters on PC like Rainbow Six, SWAT, and Jagged Alliance, as well as titles like Final Fantasy Tactics were all staples for me.
148Apps: The weapon attachments all have some sort of statistical trade-off. Was this intentional as a means to prevent players from relying too much on relying on their equipment rather than stats and tactics?
WK: We basically wanted all these cool attachments to really push the realism of each weapon. Allow the user to really customize and tinker. We put the heavy lifting part into good hands.
JF: We felt that for every bonus, there should be some kind of drawback. At the same time, we definitely wanted to push tactics and proper planning above all else. In the end, the weapons and attachments don't feel like they make a huge difference unless you lean a gun all the way towards one of the stats. We're hoping to fix that in the future by adding some guns that will change the way you're approaching combat entirely.
148Apps: Were there any classes or skills that had to be cut due to time/space/balance? And if so, were there any you regret not being able to include?
JF: The Intel specialization originally had a tactic called "Direct Link" which allowed you to reveal the enemies in a chosen room. This was a great tactic, but in the end it felt like it would cause players to just leave their Intel guy positioned outside the level, slowly revealing all the rooms. I can't think of too many things that we cut that I regret cutting, I think we made pretty good choices.
WK: Yes, I don’t regret any of the cuts we had to make. As team working together, we all picked apart classes, features, content, each time they were considered. We would shoot holes in it, looking for weak spots. So the things that hit the cutting room floor were all for the good of the game. It’s often difficult to find a good balance between realism and fun.
148Apps: What are some of your preferred class combinations and loadouts?
WK: My preferred team is a Fireteam Leader, Medic, and two Direct Action guys. I love the sprint perk. Being able to move a guy so quickly around the level allows me to get the drop on unsuspecting foes, as well as help another unit out. Having a couple Direct Action guys allows me to quickly subdue a situation that might have gotten out of hand if it had taken me two turns to get there. I run 100% suppressed on all weapons. Suppressed weapons, mixed with the lock pick kit, allows me to play B&C with stealth and precision. Mix that with two speedy Direct Action guys...You’re a fast, efficient ghost.
JF: I tend to roll with a Fireteam Leader, Weapons Sergeant, Intelligence Officer, and Direct Action Specialist. I get into a lot of scenarios where an enemy is behind cover and there is no safe approach - I can quickly solve this by putting my Fireteam Leader into cover while using his "Draw Fire" tactics. After that I can use my Direct Action Specialist's "Sprint" tactic to run behind the distracted enemy. I tend to prioritize anything with a high rate of fire and I modify the gun to get that RoF even higher.
148Apps: What's next for Breach & Clear?
JF: Right now we're going through everything people are saying about the game - critics, customers, fans - everyone. We're going to be working hard over the next few months to respond to these suggestions, and hopefully, get them into the game. Our first targets are knocking out all those "Coming Soon" banners!
WK: Ditto on what Josh said...Oh and Android, Android, ANDROID! We can’t wait to allow Android players to start breaching to their hearts content. There are also some features and content Gun and Mighty Rabbit have been tossing back and forth but Josh hit it right on the head...we want to listen to the fans.
Our thanks go out to Wes and Josh for discussing design and tactics amidst all the post-launch hullabaloo. If you haven't given Breach & Clear a spin yet, you should probably go ahead and nab it off the App Store for $1.99.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown has been out on iOS for less than a week, but that didn’t stop it from making a bit of a splash on the App Store. So far it’s taken the number 3 spot for paid iPad apps and number 4 for top-grossing iPad apps, as well as being named Editor’s Choice by Apple on the App Store for the week. It’s a designation that we here at 148Apps wholeheartedly agree with.
During these past few days, the Council has been keeping tabs on all of XCOM’s operations. And in that time they’ve recorded the loss of 143,900 soldiers. Almost 150 thousand lives lost so far, and that’s not counting civilian casualties. However, they’ve also discovered that there have been 1,775,322 x-rays taken down in the process. That roughly averages out to one operative lost for every twelve aliens. While it’s unfortunate that so many have had to sacrifice themselves for the sake of humanity there’s some consolation in knowing that we’re still coming out ahead. There’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel, but we could all stand to do a little better.
It’s true that only time will tell who will come out on top, but my money is on us. It kind of has to be. But we must all remember not to get too carried away, either. The battle for mankind’s survival is important but there can also be consequences to spending too much time worrying about Sectoids and Mutons, and not enough about work and stuff. It’s all being documented in a new video series - “XCOM: Enemy Unknown Consequences,” the first of which can be seen below.
Just remember, we can and will win this war, but only if all of our operatives play it safe.
In the world of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, even the lowliest of alien adversaries can be lethal. Especially early on. Whether it's a Thin Man's poison or a Heavy Floater's mobility, every single species has at least one kind of combat specialization you'll want to look out for. Simply shooting at something until it's dead can certainly work, but if you want to kill it and keep your squad alive, you should probably take a look at the tips below.
[SPOILER WARNING: This guide lists all of the aliens you'll encounter on missions throughout the game. If you don't want to be surprised, please stop reading now.]
Sectoid - Sectoids are one of the most fragile aliens you’ll encounter, but that’s no reason to take the lightly. They’re numerous, they’re quick, and they can boost each others’ combat abilities by linking up telepathically. Of course if the Sectoid that initiated the mental link is killed, both will die. Just stay in cover and pick them off and you should be fine.
Floater - Dealing with Floaters can be a bit tricky because of their mobility. They can simply fly up to “the high ground” whenever they feel like it for an accuracy and defense bonus, and can even airdrop themselves anywhere on the map at the cost of their turn. When one or more Floaters goes missing, it’s a safe bet that they’ve repositioned themselves and are planning to flank you, so make sure to keep everyone in Overwatch whenever possible.
Thin Man - Thin Men are about as formidable as Sectoids (i.e. not very), but they’re far more mobile due to their ability to leap over large walls or on top of buildings. They’re also poisonous and can use that to their advantage by spitting venom at soldiers or leaving a noxious cloud behind when they’re killed. A Thin Man’s poison doesn’t do much damage, and it only lasts a few turns, but it can add up so try to stay away from those green clouds.
Muton - When you first encounter Mutons, you know things are getting serious. These green jumpsuit-wearing aliens are essentially the enemy equivalent of a typical XCOM soldier. They’re formidable, come equipped with Plasma Rifles, are a lot more accurate than most of the other aliens you’ll have encountered up to this point, can use their Blood Call ability to boost their allies’ offensive capabilities, and have alien grenades that they aren’t afraid to use. Mutons are Enemy Unknown’s first real test, but things will only get tougher from here.
Chryssalid - I mentioned Chryssalids in the beginners guide but the warning bears repeating: do NOT let them get close. Chryssalids are primarily deployed at Terror Sites and will often go straight for any civilians they find. When a Chryssalid kills a human (including your own soldiers), which is very easy because their razor-sharp claws to a lot of damage, they also implant a sort of egg into them. This will create a sort of zombie - which is also a rather durable and hard-hitting enemy - that will shuffle around for a few turns before bursting open as a new Chryssalid jumps out. Yes, they reproduce. They’re incredibly fast, do lots of damage, and create more of themselves by killing things. Never, ever, ever, ever let them get in close to your soldiers.
Cyberdisc + Drones - The Cyberdisc is basically the aliens’ equivalent of a light tank. It’s rather mobile in its disc form, and a horribly intimidating death machine when it changes into its combat form. It can lob grenades, fire off some really heavy hitting plasma weaponry, and is usually flanked by two drones that can also deal a bit of damage with some small lasers and repair damage that the Cyberdisc has suffered. While it might be tempting to take out the drones first so they can’t fix anything, the Cyberdisc is a far bigger threat that can usually be dealt with in one turn provided enough soldiers are close by and can perform actions when it appears. Another benefit is that the Cyberdisc is too big to use cover, although it does still benefit from elevation bonuses. Also, try to keep clear when you take a Cyberdisc down as they explode afterwards.
Berserker - Berserkers are a very intimidating breed of Muton which usually appear with two regular Mutons in tow. They don’t bother with fancy weapons, but rather bum rush anything they don’t like and try to rip it limb-from-limb. Much like Chryssalids they make up for their lack of ranged attacks by being more mobile, although Berserkers aren’t quite as speedy. The flipside is that they take a free movement action towards their attacker whenever they take damage. That, and they can Intimidate nearby soldiers, causing them to panic and lose a turn. This can be advantageous, however, as it’s possible to corral a Berserker over the course of a turn by taking pot shots at it with several soldiers while drawing it into range of the bigger guns.
Heavy Floater - All of the mobility, elevation, and air-dropping benefits regular Floaters possess are also a part of the Heavy Floater’s skillset. However the Heavy Floater is far more durable, uses stronger weapons, tends to be more accurate, and makes liberal use of grenades when possible. The same basic tactics for Floaters apply, but doubly so.
Muton Elite - Muton Elites are essentially badass Mutons. They’re tougher, hit harder, and fight harder than the average Muton. They wield Heavy Plasma guns instead of the more run of the mill Plasma Rifles, and like to use grenades a lot more. Oh, and they also like to show up in groups of three. Best to treat Elites as you would regular Mutons, but be a bit more cautious and don’t hesitate to bring out the big guns.
Sectopod + Drones - Whereas the Cyberdisc is the alien equivalent of a light tank, the Sectopod is more like a full on battleship. This mechanized walker fires a devastating laser (twice!) as well as a cluster of rockets, and it has the most health out of any regular enemy unit in the game. Oh, and it also has two damage-repairing drones with it. Sectopods are pretty much the entire reason for teaching a heavy soldier the Heat Ammo skill since it gives them a bonus 100% damage against robotic enemies. Assuming a heavy soldier is present and in range, a rocket certainly wouldn’t be out of the question. At the very least it should destroy the drones and damage the primary target. A sniper with Disabling Shot is also handy since they can use it to shut down the Sectopod’s primary weapon for a few turns and give the squad a chance to regroup.
Sectoid Commander - Think “regular Sectoid,” but on mental steroids. Sectoid Commanders are only slightly more sturdy than their underlings, but they make up for it with some pretty serous Psionic powers that go well beyond simple being able to buff their pals. Mind Control isn’t out of the question, actually, so it’s imperative to make Sectoid Commanders a top priority target, unless an Ethereal is present. Kill it and the controlled soldier will be free, but if not you’re going to have one heck of a serious problem on your hands.
Ethereal - These incredibly powerful Psionic aliens have no need for weapons. Their minds are weapons. Taking on an Ethereal is no easy task as it’s packed with offensive and defensive skills. It puts up a Psionic shield that makes it very difficult to hit, can prevent damage when it is hit, has a tendency to counter-attack, and has an entire arsenal of mental attacks at its disposal. If handled improperly, an Etheral can all but wipe out an entire squad by using mind control, causing panic, and simply tearing a target’s mind apart. The two Muton Elite escorts are just gravy. Thankfully mechanical devices such as the S.H.I.V. are totally immune to mental attacks and it’s possible to develop Mind Shields for your soldiers to equip in order to boost their defense against mental attacks. Treat with extreme caution, regardless. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little overkill.
We've already gone over a bunch of the basics when it comes to surviving (or at least prolonging) XCOM: Enemy Unknown. But what about more advanced tactics? That's where these advanced tips come in. This article in particular is all about the soldiers; what gear compliments which class, what skills work best when paired with others, that sort of thing. This is by no means meant to signify the only successful setup, but rather to give players looking to optimize their troops' effectiveness with a few guidelines to get them started. And by all means, if you have any related questions or would like to chime in with your own loadout tips, please do so in the comments below.
[SPOILER WARNING: This guide involves the use of armor, weapons, and skills that won't be available until late in the game. If you don't want to spoil anything for yourself, please stop reading.]
Assault - A very effective equipment set for an assault soldier is Ghost Armor, an Alloy Cannon, Plasma Pistol, and Arc Thrower. Ghost Armor allows a soldier to cloak for an entire turn (so long as they don't shoot at anything), and when coupled with Run & Gun is ideal when trying to figure out where enemies are hiding without alerting them to your presence. The Alloy Cannon is simply a beast at close range, and when used in conjunction with Run & Gun can get the soldier up close for an almost inescapable blast of shrapnel. The Arc Thrower isn't necessarily essential, but when using Ghost Armor it can be very easy to get in close to stun a target. Unfortunately Run & Gun doesn't pair with the Arc Thrower, but it's still ideal for closing large distances in a hurry.
Heavy - A good loadout to consider for a heavy soldier is Titan Armor, Heavy Plasma, and a S.C.O.P.E. Titan armor is the sturdiest armor available, and is immune to poison and environmental fire damage to boot. It's not particularly mobile, but it's incredibly durable. Heavy Plasma is, of course, the nastiest of the heavy machine guns but as with all the other versions it's not remarkably accurate or frugal with ammunition. This is why I recommend the S.C.O.P.E over, say, a Nano-fiber Vest; because that extra 10% accuracy bonus can make the heavy a far more effective alien killer without resorting to using rockets prematurely.
Sniper - I've yet to find a more effective set of equipment for a sniper than Archangel Armor, a Plasma Sniper Rifle, Plasma Pistol, and a S.C.O.P.E. The rifle and S.C.O.P.E are kind of a given, but pistols are also important because a sniper's accuracy doesn't only pertain to their primary weapon. And since it's only possible for them to move and fire their rifle in the same turn with a particular skill (and the shot still suffers an accuracy penalty), the pistol is great for repositioning them and using Overwatch. The Archangel Armor is the real star, though. Everyone gets an accuracy bonus when they're positioned higher than their target, but snipers can get an even bigger bonus with the right skills. With this armor equipped, all a sniper has to do is fly straight up as high as they can and wait.
Support - My ideal set for a support soldier includes Ghost Armor, a Plasma Rifle, Medkit, and Nano-fiber Vest. Why Ghost Armor? Because it can be incredibly useful to be able to make the squad's primary healer invisible for a turn. That and it's possible, with the right skill selection, to increase a support soldier's movement distance. It's not quite as good as Run & Gun, but when coupled with invisibility it makes them a very effective scout. The Nano-fiber Vest is more of a take it or leave it thing, but another handy perk support soldiers can get is the ability to carry two items instead of one. Unfortunately it's not possible to equip two medkits, but the added durability provided by the vest can certainly help keep them alive longer. An Arc Thrower is also a perfectly reasonable choice.
Assault - As I've mentioned, it's unfortunately not possible to use an Arc Thrower along with Run & Gun (Squaddie). However, Killer Instinct (Colonel) works quite well with it as it boosts the soldier's critical damage by 50% for the rest of the turn. The catch is that it only applies to critical damage, but a number of skills such as Close and Personal (Sergeant) and Aggression (Corporal) make critical hits a lot more likely. Since I tend to push my assault soldiers into harms way I prefer to stick with the more defense-oriented skills such as Lightning Reflexes (Sergeant) and Tactical Sense (Corporal). I've also found that using Flush (Lieutenant) while another soldier, probably either a heavy or support, is suppressing the target can be very effective as Suppression not only reduces the target's movement and accuracy but grants the shooter a free shot if they attempt to move. So a successful Flush won't only damage the target but also force it out of cover, which will in turn give the suppressor a follow-up shot.
Heavy - Bullet Swarm (Corporal) is certainly a tempting skill as it gives the heavy a chance to attack twice in one turn, so long as they don't move, but I vastly prefer the accuracy bonus Holo-Targeting (Corporal) grants. Especially when paired with Suppression, which will keep a target pinned down, reduce their accuracy, and boost the other soldiers' accuracy against it. Similarly the choice between Rapid Reaction and Heat Ammo (Lieutenant) might seem easy, but note that Rapid Reaction only grants a second reaction shot if the first is a hit. And later in the campaign the chances of most target surviving the first hit are pretty slim. Conversely, getting a bonus 100% to damage against robotic enemies can be a godsend. Mayhem (Colonel) is another great skill to pair with Suppression as it grants a damage bonus. So the heavy can suppress a target, hurt it, reduce it's everything, then probably kill it if it even attempts to move.
Sniper - Squad Sight (Corporal). Forget about being able to move and fire the sniper rifle in the same turn with Snap Shot (Corporal), Squad Sight is a sniper’s best friend. Being able to move and shoot might be handy in the early stages of the campaign, but there’s an accuracy penalty associated with it. Plus there’s really no substitution for flushing out enemies with other squad members, then mopping them up from over halfway across the map. Squad Sight also works incredibly well with Damn Good Ground’s (Sergeant) higher elevation accuracy bonus and some of that Archangel Armor I mentioned previously. Pair all of that with Double Tap’s (Colonel) tendency to let the sniper fire off a second shot during their turn and you have an extremely formidable killing machine the aliens won’t ever actually see. Seriously, one of my snipers that was using this setup took out a Sectopod single-handedly in one turn.
Support - Support soldier builds can essentially go one of two ways: healing or buffing/debuffing. I prefer healing as it’s far more useful (and likely) to repair damage than prevent it. The Sprinter (Corporal) ability can be incredibly useful because it gives the support soldier a few more tiles worth of movement that can, and often does, mean the difference between getting to an injured comrade in time. Similarly, Field Medic (Sergeant) is another great way to keep the squad alive since it lets the soldier use a medkit up to three times per mission. Revive (Lieutenant) can also be incredibly handy as it not only stabilizes a downed soldier but can put them back in the fight, effectively keeping the squad at full strength. Savior (Colonel) and its bonus 4 health whenever a medkit is used, when combined with upgraded technology at the forge, means the support soldier can bring just about anyone back from the brink and keep them in top form.
For those of you who don’t know, the original X-Com: UFO Defense is one of the most beloved strategy games in existence. It was only fitting for it to receive a modern update of sorts, but XCOM: Enemy Unknown turned out to be a modern update that was treated with the utmost respect by Firaxis (Civilization IV, Civ. V). Now that same re-imagining of a genre cornerstone is coming to iOS. XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s lead designer, Jake Solomon, was kind enough to answer some of our questions regarding the upcoming mobile release.
148Apps: You and the rest of the Firaxis team obviously have a ton of reverence for X-Com and it shines through in Enemy Unknown. Has X-Com had any influence over other projects you've worked on?
Jake Solomon (JS): Since the first time I played X-Com, it has been one of game designs that exemplifies to me a great game, and that means that it’s also been a big part of how I think about game design to some extent. Specific influences are probably harder to point out, but I still crack it out and play the original from time to time.
148Apps: What's your fondest memory from the original X-Com? Mine is making it to the point where I'm invading alien bases without having lost a single soldier on the way.
JS: Wow, that’s really hard to pick one memory. There are always a handful of moments from a game that you remember, and you take them together and you can tell these war stories about the game. For example, I remember this one game where I had this one rookie who was so useless and I was like: “Son, you’re going to Mars. I can make that happen for you.”
148Apps: How about the aliens? Any particular favorite or least favorite? I find I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Cryssalids.
JS: The Chryssalid is iconic for sure. I guess the one I don’t miss is the Silicoid. I mean, it’s a rock, and it spits at you, and it leaves a giant trail showing where it went. It’s such a non-threat.
148Apps: Deciding what to cut, keep, and change when streamlining X-Com’s mechanics for Enemy Unknown must have been pretty tough. Was there anything you all were actually glad to see go?
JS: I don’t think I was necessarily happy or sad about specific changes we made. We felt the mechanics changes were necessary because of the systems we wanted to include in the game, like soldier and alien abilities and the class system. We did want to make sure that all of the decisions you were making were meaningful ones that had real consequences within the game, and keeping that in mind was sort of a guidepost for the mechanics design.
148Apps: The iOS port of Enemy Unknown looks like it's coming along quite well. Was an iOS version always planned or was it a result of the game's PC and console reception?
JS: There was a discussion about whether the iOS version was even feasible at first. Unreal 3 does scale very well, but we still had to go investigate the tech side. And what do you know? It worked really well. After that it was largely a matter of adjusting the interface and making some changes for storage size.
148Apps: Please tell me the option to customize soldiers' names and appearances is still in there!
JS: Yes, you can still fully customize your soldiers. That’s such a huge part of how people play XCOM that it wouldn’t have been the same if that wasn’t in there.
148Apps: Have there been any features for iOS devices that aren't prevalent on consoles/PCs (camera, QR codes, augmented reality) that you've considered incorporating into this version of Enemy Unknown? Not necessarily as major elements but as little extras or something?
JS: We wanted to make sure that the game that we released on console and PC played solidly on the iPad, so getting that experience solid was our highest priority. I’m sure there are cool things we could do with the camera and location tools, but that’s something to think about for the future.
148Apps: I could see Enemy Unknown's multiplayer working quite well on iOS, especially if it was asynchronous. Any chance of that happening or is the focus entirely on the campaign right now?
JS:There will eventually be an update that includes multiplayer, and that’ll be a free update for people who own the game.
148Apps: Will the iOS version of Enemy Unknown include the "secret" characters and/or extra Council DLC missions? Or might the missions be available as add-on content?
JS: We’ve been focusing on creating the best release on iOS as possible – we hope this release like the PC and console will drive a lot of interest and community feedback!
We here at 148Apps would like to extend our appreciation to Mr. Solomon and the entire Enemy Unknown team for answering our questions and for making a remarkably excellent strategy game. No specifics on a release date or pricing are available yet but it’s due out “this summer” and will have a “premium” price tag.