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Xenonauts-2: Vehicles

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Vehicles in Xenonauts-2 are going to be changed quite significantly if they make it into the game at all - which is mostly down to how much money we can raise during our Kickstarter / Early Access phase. Larger multi-tile vehicles are going to be removed but hopefully we will have enough time in Early Access to bring in smaller vehicles to fill the gap!

The topics being discussed in this thread are:

 

Multi-tile Vehicles Removed:

Including large vehicles in the first Xenonauts was a mistake - I chose to do so because the original X-Com included them, but really I should have implemented smaller vehicles instead. However I know some people liked playing with proper armoured cars and hovertanks and therefore I owe you an explanation as to why they are a bad idea :)

The primary problem with large vehicles is that they stretch the combat rules to breaking point - they were designed to represent infantry vs. infantry combat and it is very difficult to model the sort of heavy machineguns / tank cannons that come mounted on a vehicle within them. If you can kill something with an M-16, I'm pretty sure a burst from the dual HMGs on the Ferret would make mincemeat out it ... and similarly, if something can put a hole in an armoured vehicle, it'll almost certainly instakill any infantry unit that it hits. As you can imagine, this creates major balance issues.

(An amusing example of this in the early development of X1 came when Androns were extremely heavily armoured and we had special anti-tank rockets to deal with them. However players quickly figured out these rockets did enough damage to instantly kill any non-Andron unit in the game and started using rocket launchers like giant shotguns, some even going so far as to field entire teams of soldiers armed only with rocket launchers.)

Contrived solutions like nerfing vehicle weapons to have ridiculously low stats are possible here ... but a lot of people like the "realism" aspect of Xenonauts and having jarringly unrealistic power levels for these weapons doesn't seem like a good idea to me. Fundamentally, Xenonauts is a game about squad-based combat and I think adding large vehicles to the game detracts from that.

 

MARS Weapon Platform: (stretch goal)

I think most of the problems with vehicles are fixed by using small single-tile vehicles. The tiles in Xenonauts-2 are 1.5m x 1.5m so you can actually fit a decent-sized robotic / remote vehicle in that space, but it should still be small enough not to cause the balance issues mentioned above. Please note that these are things we would like to put in the game but we do not consider them part of the essential "core" functionality; whether we include them is dependent on how well our fundraising goes!

The early-game vehicle would be a "MARS Support Platform" - loosely inspired by the real-life MAARS robotic vehicles, but significantly larger. They would have the following properties:

  • They have relatively high TU and HP, but low Accuracy
  • They replace a single soldier in the dropship
  • They can be equipped with any infantry weapon (secondary weapon slot would have multiple options, unlocked via research)
  • They are able to crush fences and light cover
  • They have a higher blocking chance than normal units, so they can be used as mobile cover
  • They cannot vault over obstacles or climb ladders
  • They do not gain experience
  • They would be built by your Engineers, and fill Stores Capacity at your base

The two key features are the ability to crush terrain and the requirement to use infantry weapons. Being able to crush terrain or make a hole in a fence is extremely useful early in the game, so I can imagine a lot of people bringing a MARS along just for that purpose.

Using infantry weapons ensures that the MARS stay balanced, but also means that there is no extra UI required to support vehicles. This is time-efficient from a development perspective but also attention-efficient from a player perspective; we're adding a lot of new stuff to the game for the sequel and just adding loads of extra UI panels without also removing some risks making the game confusing. The old garage / vehicle equip screen is an obvious candidate for removal because it is essentially just duplicating existing functionality.

Finally, giving the player a wide selection of weapons to choose from allows people to experiment. The default weapon for a support vehicle like this would probably be a LMG, but it might be more effective with a Grenade Launcher or a Shotgun or anything else - and I'm fine with letting the players experiment with all sorts of weird and wonderful combinations. This also means you can easily upgrade your MARS as you develop new technology - just swap out the gun for whatever new piece of tech your Engineers just built!

There's also scope for new types of chassis, too - an advanced MARS that uses hover technology rather than tracks is an obvious choice. Guess we'll have to see how much funding we can raise! :)

 

Sentry Guns: (stretch goal)

A sentry gun would share certain characteristics with a MARS, but would be cheaper to build and only available for use in base defence missions. Given the new map has quite a few side corridors and defensive chokepoints, having some manufacturable but largely expendable units to help out on defence would be cool given that the Threat meter gives you plenty of warning about when an alien attack is about to happen.

Sentry guns would have the following additional limitations:

  • They don't replace soldiers (because they are only used on Base Defence missions)
  • They are immobile once deployed
  • They have a limited rotation arc once deployed (this limitation could be removed via research)

Again, these sentry guns would be equipped with infantry weapons - which potentially gives you a reason to keep some old technology around rather than selling it, or to make sure you do the various development projects that boost the stats on your starting ballistic weapons as the game progresses!

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Posted (edited)

Personally, I never liked big vehicles in XCOM or Xenonauts, and thought they should only ever be used in base defence, or maybe on special planned alien base assault missions or something. The idea that a fast dropship carrying a team of specialists to a time sensitive ground battle doesn't really have room for lunking along a huge jeep or even tank. That tanks in X:UD and X:TFTD, androids in X:A, and weapon platforms in X:EU are not able to gain experience but can be repaired / upgraded does add an interesting dynamic to the game, though. Maybe different types of dropships can be developed later on that are able to carry heavier loads, so it's not just as simple an issue of how many tiles of space they take up / number of soldiers they replace, but the actual weight. Also, for remote controlled units, perhaps the skill of the engineer behind the controls affects the effectiveness of the unit (likewise with drivers / gunners inside vehicles)? Maybe sentry guns are only ever able to do overwatch initially, so they're good at enemies on approach, but if the enemy is using long range weapons and/or once they enter cover and stop moving as much the sentry will be a lot less effective (depending on the computer tech / skill of operator).

Edited by RustyNayle

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On 4/24/2018 at 7:02 PM, Chris said:

They can be equipped with any infantry weapon (secondary weapon slot would have multiple options, unlocked via research) 

Nice to hear about the expanded customability of setups! I´d like to play around with MARS such as carrying an extra combat shield or smoke the area and then go in to incapacitated soldiers and deliver first aid. I understand the scope problem large vehicles would cause in balancing.

Having drones such as MARS in the game would probably help a lot to make it more interesting particualrly among those unfamiliar with X1, I remember that a screenshot with the Hunter on it stuck in my memory during the X1 campaign.

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Can damaged MARS and Sentry be repaired on the field, like wounded soldiers healed by medkit?
Maybe it takes special training to use the repair tools.

And I'd be happy if "killed" MARS can be repaired instead of rebuild, provided their "corpse" can be recovered.
But if not, make sure they also go to the memorial wall!

 

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drones works much better then actual vehicles when keeping game balance in check, however they can also quickly feel like a gimmick/resource sink/useless addition when not properly done. more HP and being mobile cover/ battering ram doesn't help a lot if they are expensive, require additional facilities and research,easy to hit and still die at the drop of a hat. since they gain no experience and replace a soldier, they need a niche to operate in that isn't possible to do with a standard trooper...and it has to be better then it can drive through fences and flimsy walls.

I am however very satisfied by the willingness to add these units, provided the stretch goal is reached.

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How fun would it be breaching a UFO by sending a flying drone with C4 attached - and yes, our little suicide bomber would definitely need to be memorialised for his brave service!

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Disappointed you are getting rid of multi-tile vehicles.  They were a god sent in the beginning of the game as mobile cover, and to kill aliens when all my rookies missed an alien.  Should make it that they are almost worthless mid to late game, or higher tier vehicles need better skyrangers and tend to take up more space (3x3 for the advance models, instead of 2x2 for the basic models).  I gave up using them mid game because they kept getting stuck from rocks, trees, and don't get me started putting them in an alien base!

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Posted (edited)

I would like to see the drone be a smaller tank replacement, and I would like to see it be a versatile modular heavy weapons platform otherwise it would be a waste of transport space and resources, as a side note, maybe it should be possible that it can gain experience after research.

Edited by Doc Austin

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On 5/1/2018 at 11:50 AM, Conductiv said:

drones works much better then actual vehicles when keeping game balance in check, however they can also quickly feel like a gimmick/resource sink/useless addition when not properly done. more HP and being mobile cover/ battering ram doesn't help a lot if they are expensive, require additional facilities and research, easy to hit and still die at the drop of a hat. since they gain no experience and replace a soldier, they need a niche to operate in that isn't possible to do with a standard trooper...and it has to be better then it can drive through fences and flimsy walls.

 

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I am sad about leaving multi-tiled units. It's not only about player side but the enemy. 

This kills the real thread "boss" feeling.. even you create a one tile a bit bigger humanoid enemy with 1000s of hp and one shot one kill weapons, it does not make you fear it as a 2 or 4 tiles (i don't say 3x3, it was an overkill at x-1) creature/enemy.. this is biggest issue i have about x-2.. even the only one i can say... but a big one to consider.

Xcom players mostly does not use 1 tile non-soldier units especially at mid-late game. Why would you lose a soldier place for a robot when you got nice armor and weapons already? and they don't get XP.. if they get XP and can use special weapons, then it changes everything. A robot unit created by andron AI as a "learning AI" which gets experience and use some bigger/complex weapons due to it's ability to carry more fire power/ energy cells, would be very lovely for every player. 

Please consider to make them a bit more special and leave that "no xp" thing please.. you can make it "hard to create/limited number" as a unique AI...

thx

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Mechanical units does not automatically exclude experience.  UFO Afterlight has learning robots, XCOM EW has MEC trooper, and XCOM 2 has SPARK.  They tend to do be more flexible and be used more than those in games that do not level them up.

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Since the tiles are larger, maybe you could just make MARS a little bigger, so it would cover some parts of adjacent tiles. When soldiers would stand beside it, it would be close to their legs. It just wouldn't fit in small doors without breaking them (UFOs can have few pixels wider door). Or didn't go through such doors at all - in X1 it even added a little depth to players' tactics.

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Posted (edited)

I've never understood how something with potentially computer-assisted aiming, stabilizing gear and the overall precision processing of a computer is supposed to have lower accuracy compared to a human.

I've also never understood the point of soldier-sized mech units.  If it can do all the things a human can do, doesn't have a monthly paycheck, and has better stats than a human...why even use a human?  And if it DOESN'T do all of those things, then why even bother?

To me, a mechanical unit should really just serve one purpose: carrying weapons and equipment that humans can't.  Like the SPARK unit or MEC trooper from XCOM 1 and 2.  They carry huge cannons and grenade launchers that a human simply couldn't do on their own.  Or a small, quick unit with a built-in self-destruct mode.  Run it into a group of aliens and detonate.  Much safer than using a suicide bomber. Basically you make them DIFFERENT from what soldiers can do, not just better at what soldiers can do.

Large Vehicles fill a very specific niche on the battlefield, and they aren't always required.  OF COURSE they can mow through aliens like fresh grass - that's the POINT.  That's why you limit how many you can bring.  They can't fit in tight spaces, they typically can't go on UFOs.  But they can be used for cover out in the open, they can take out some of the harder to kill aliens, and again are capable of sacrificing themselves with a lot less backlash than losing a soldier.  You don't have to train up a new tank like you do a soldier.  (That being said, I've never used tanks in any X-COM game.  I prefer the maneuverability of people over the killing power of a tank.)

As far as tech progression goes, it should be something like the SHIV from XCOM, some middle ground type, maybe like an Andron, and ultimately something like ED-209 or the Sectopod from X-COM.  Not necessarily something so large it needs multiple squares, mind you.  But something that really looks like the pinnacle of mechanical soldier technology and an absolute powerhouse.

Edited by endersblade

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11 hours ago, endersblade said:

I've never understood how something with potentially computer-assisted aiming, stabilizing gear and the overall precision processing of a computer is supposed to have lower accuracy compared to a human.

Have you SEEN our automate drones? :P

Our machines absolutely SUCK at hitting non-stationary targets while moving around a battlefield. While you can do some super fancy things control theory to get them all to work out, that also requires high precision (see: delicate) parts that aren't suitable to real life battlefields. Not understanding why, "something with potentially computer-assisted aiming, stabilizing gear and the overall precision processing of a computer is supposed to have lower accuracy compared to a human," is exactly why the US military has dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into these projects without a single land-based drone actually making it out of the prototype phase.

That said, this really just a way to appease people in a way that's mechanically consistent and 'easy' to implement within the game. People seem to love the idea of sending in mechs, after all. Personally, I don't understand it; having MEC troopers is nice, having non-sentient battleboxes that don't learn as they go always felt kinda.. Antithetical to XCOMs themes. Even the Androns are/were sentient before they were conquered. This is kinda why I like the drones from XCOM2: they're controlled by someone on the battlefield. It's also why I kinda like the cyberdisks and battledisks, they always felt fully automated. As though they were deployed by someone on the field and no one has any actual tactical control over them.

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12 hours ago, ApolloZani said:

...exactly why the US military has dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into these projects without a single land-based drone actually making it out of the prototype phase.

Much as I accept that this will be true in the short term, once they crack that nut, it'll be mass-produced drone warfare all round. I imagine, in my dilettante sci-fi literature expertise, that it'll be increasingly small craft swarms. But, what I want mechs to do in a game is what XCOM:EW did: rocket powered fists. Well actually that has got old and would not fit xenonauts. In game play terms, vehicles/robots should be support rather than the spearhead.

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12 hours ago, ApolloZani said:

Have you SEEN our automate drones? :P

Our machines absolutely SUCK at hitting non-stationary targets while moving around a battlefield. While you can do some super fancy things control theory to get them all to work out, that also requires high precision (see: delicate) parts that aren't suitable to real life battlefields. Not understanding why, "something with potentially computer-assisted aiming, stabilizing gear and the overall precision processing of a computer is supposed to have lower accuracy compared to a human," is exactly why the US military has dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into these projects without a single land-based drone actually making it out of the prototype phase.

That said, this really just a way to appease people in a way that's mechanically consistent and 'easy' to implement within the game. People seem to love the idea of sending in mechs, after all. Personally, I don't understand it; having MEC troopers is nice, having non-sentient battleboxes that don't learn as they go always felt kinda.. Antithetical to XCOMs themes. Even the Androns are/were sentient before they were conquered. This is kinda why I like the drones from XCOM2: they're controlled by someone on the battlefield. It's also why I kinda like the cyberdisks and battledisks, they always felt fully automated. As though they were deployed by someone on the field and no one has any actual tactical control over them.

Well said, about how I feel too!  I loved the Cyberdiscs and Sectopods of the first game, they felt like a genuine threat.  I never felt that way abotu Tricenes and Xarquids or and Hallucinoids in TFTD.  In XCOM, the Sectopods looked absolutely amazing, by far the coolest design for them to date, and the cyberdiscs were probably my favorite large unit of them all.  I loved how it just unfolded and could then wreak havoc on your team!  The Sectopods in XCOM2 are just...dumb looking.  I've never been killed by one.  They're probably the least threatening large unit in all of X-COM's history.  Even the original goofy looking Reapers could ruin your day.

As far as the drones in XCOM2 goes, I like the theory but I didn't like how they did them.  But yes, having them controlled by someone would fit a lot better in the Xenonauts universe.

As far as the accuracy, etc, goes with real life drones, the issue is they're mounting machine guns and such on them.  It's hard for something of that size to deal with the recoil, especially when they're hard-mounted rather than on some sort of arm or platform or something that can handle the recoil.  That's why I was saying drones in these sorts of games need to be given weapons or equipment that the soldiers can't or don't typically carry.  Flare/Grenade/Rocket/Stun bomb launchers, stealth field generators, radars, heat sensors, explosives for disposable drones, you get the point.  They should have a distinct role in a squad rather than being just a mechanical copy of a soldier.

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11 hours ago, endersblade said:

real life drones

We should definitely just be using the overpowered flying drones that are all over the place these days. Minimal risk, minimal collateral damage. All missiles all the time.

Of course, that would be a different game. Or worse: Boring. Honestly, a throwaway line about how they're able to take control of all wirelessly networked machines would go a long way here. No remote control means each battlebot has to be its own autonomous unit. Which is where most of the fun comes from anyways. It could also theoretically lead into a pilot system once alien electronics are researched and we figure out a way to do things on the field. By then it would make some amount of sense to keep sending in foot soldiers since they'd be so heavily armored and.. Nah. It's hard to make this make perfect sense. :P

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As i said before, even i created many big units for players at X-1 and openxcom mods, i don't use them if they are so simple, early game helpers.. They should be unique and evolving. Please don't go for realism.. yeah realism is nice but we are playing a sci-fi game here and let imagination go a bit wild..

For this reason, don't think this robots or vehicles as "simple units", imagine it's an AI.. a single unit which you can give it anything as an "armor".. a flying drone, a battlemech, a tank, an heavy-armor, a robot dog, even a cyborg for endgame.. imagine you got a "core" as a unique processing unit and create something for it to use. So you can have limited numbers which getting experience.. so you want it to save like other soldiers you got.. give it something unique abilities.. like boost to energy weapons, power shields.. second XCOM got it right about it but as there is already few numbers of soldiers per battlefield, you could skip it, but at X-2 you can use 1-2 special AI units with special skills.. 

And again, my real concern is about "enemy" side.. look at the phoenix point new game videos.. i feel the horror when i see those huge enemies.. i am that huge enemies.. or at least bigger enemies.. 

This game needs a code for larger units for maps and spam points at least. Even modders can handle the big units somehow there will be 2 big problems if it's not at the game code. 

1- Pathfinding

2- Map spam points..

Even pathfinding somehow works, if there is no special spam points, we can have big creatures in toilet rooms.. For these reasons, i hope Chris can design this at development phase. It could be very painful for X-CE codders too i fear.

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If you look at Retcon Raider's video of Backer Build 2, he talks casually about how the squad will have to fight their way to the vehicle in order to use it. That right there is the sort of thing Chris is talking about. If the vehicle in Phoenix Point is so powerful you can't start with it on a map but have to work to get it then there is fundamental divide in power between vehicles and squads so great that Snapshot has to deny the player the use of the vehicle to start with - it has to be a reward for getting to a part of the map. 

TBH, the Queen from the promo build doesn't fill me with horror. It fills me with boredom as Retcon Raider showed how easy it was to take the queen apart piece by piece. The crabmen were much harder to deal with than the Queen. 

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4 minutes ago, Max_Caine said:

If you look at Retcon Raider's video of Backer Build 2, he talks casually about how the squad will have to fight their way to the vehicle in order to use it. That right there is the sort of thing Chris is talking about. If the vehicle in Phoenix Point is so powerful you can't start with it on a map but have to work to get it then there is fundamental divide in power between vehicles and squads so great that Snapshot has to deny the player the use of the vehicle to start with - it has to be a reward for getting to a part of the map. 

TBH, the Queen from the promo build doesn't fill me with horror. It fills me with boredom as Retcon Raider showed how easy it was to take the queen apart piece by piece. The crabmen were much harder to deal with than the Queen. 

It's a test build and i found that the vehicle play (which you can put people inside) very OP and the big guys can be lured/kited easily because they are melee and slower. But as i said it's an alpha test build rather then something balanced. I find all the aspects "cool" but balancing is another thing. That game maps are huge compared X's biggest maps even.. i don't say that take everything from that game. 

This is my point of view. I repeat it again.. at a X-Com style game (Xcom, X-com, X-1, and others) if you want to add a horror theme, you need "bigger" enemies then human size.. not huge, not a size of a building but something bigger with good threat and HP pool.. or you can kill everyone with laser even at end game like X-1.. because even most cool created caesan with that size, won't make me feel any tense.. 

As i said, don't give us that vehicles.. please reread what i wrote.. i did not want "vehicles" there.. i want it unique with unique things.. and enemies as real thread even we got best tech.. 

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I would fundamentally disagree. The most scary monster in X-Com (1994) was not the Sectopod but the Cryssalid, because the Cryssalid was fast, hit hard, and turned humans into more Cryssalids. Godzilla is not automatically a horrifying being because he is big. Godzilla is a horrifying being because he can't be stopped regardless of what the SDF throw at him. Horror is not predicated on size, but on what the monster can do. 

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2 minutes ago, Max_Caine said:

I would fundamentally disagree. The most scary monster in X-Com (1994) was not the Sectopod but the Cryssalid, because the Cryssalid was fast, hit hard, and turned humans into more Cryssalids. Godzilla is not automatically a horrifying being because he is big. Godzilla is a horrifying being because he can't be stopped regardless of what the SDF throw at him. Horror is not predicated on size, but on what the monster can do. 

"Cryssalid" is a unique example and for that reason it used at every xcom game with different names. The horror about it is being ultra OP with it's "one touch one kill + create more" approach.  Like X-1 reapers.. when you take that one shot skill and make it "kill when you can damage", it would turn to "a melee creature which got some thread but if you got a mid-game armor you would be mostly fine" one.. 

Then i edit what i say:

"Any humanoid enemy at human size (including a bit bigger ones) without any OP skill (which will unbalance the game probably like mind control) with any kind of guns can NOT create the "Horror" you need." including that, a reaper alone would not save it alone too.. 

Godzilla can die easily with the tech we own today if you don't give him something magical more then he already got.. we just don't do that because of the sake of lore and movies.. Even so when you see it you fear it because it's big.. we fear even we see a huge spider even it's not bigger then our hands and probably will fear from us more and run rather then attack..

Xenomorphs acka aliens, are fearsome too because they looks cool enough to fear you and their numbers are high.. and if you include bigger ones like queen, it's the most horrific race. It works with X-1 very well too but X-2 won't have an alien thread more then gunned humanoids.. and Max, yeah we can see it differently which is more horrofic, but it's the fact that X-2 does not have enough horror with it's enemies now. I don't say it as a bad thing.. Chris does not want to have that horror side of the game so much, but i try to say that, this game needs it..

 

 

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There seem to be two aspects to this discussion that are getting mixed together.

Chris seems to specifically talking about player controlled units being no larger than 1x1 tile but he doesn't mention aliens having the same limitation. The same rules do not necessarily need to apply. I agree with everything said about human vehicles in the OP but alien units are a different matter. The game itself controls where and when these spawn so they can more easily be balanced. If they have weapons that are very powerful you make them a rarer spawn, only appear inside certain areas of alien bases or inside alien ships that are specifically designed to carry them for example. Terror ships with large doors that spit out cyberdiscs or Carriers that have mechanical loaders wandering around their decks or whatever that may be.

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2 hours ago, Gauddlike said:

There seem to be two aspects to this discussion that are getting mixed together.

Chris seems to specifically talking about player controlled units being no larger than 1x1 tile but he doesn't mention aliens having the same limitation. The same rules do not necessarily need to apply. I agree with everything said about human vehicles in the OP but alien units are a different matter. The game itself controls where and when these spawn so they can more easily be balanced. If they have weapons that are very powerful you make them a rarer spawn, only appear inside certain areas of alien bases or inside alien ships that are specifically designed to carry them for example. Terror ships with large doors that spit out cyberdiscs or Carriers that have mechanical loaders wandering around their decks or whatever that may be.

I try to say that.. i would like to see some classic enemies from xcom-tftd here at enemy side with the modern makeup of x-2.. a cyberdisc for caesans, a triscene for sebs, a sectopod for androns.. i would be so freshing and classic!.. as the game funded very well, i would be very very sad if we lost this opportunity and make the game about only humanoid units.. because if we don't get that unique units, there won't be any "WTF" moment.. you will start with a little caesan and again you will kill another one at end game.. X-2 is mostly a remake of x-1 with much more options yes, but as enemy, it's very same.. maybe it's more then it should be.. so this kind of extra classics could refresh the enemy side.. 

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9 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

I would fundamentally disagree. The most scary monster in X-Com (1994) was not the Sectopod but the Cryssalid, because the Cryssalid was fast, hit hard, and turned humans into more Cryssalids. Godzilla is not automatically a horrifying being because he is big. Godzilla is a horrifying being because he can't be stopped regardless of what the SDF throw at him. Horror is not predicated on size, but on what the monster can do. 

I was only referring to the larger units.  Of course Chryssalids take the cake on terror lol.  The only time I have ever save scummed in an X-COM or TFTD game was when a Chryssalid/Tentaculat gets me within the first couple of turns.  HATE those things.  And the Reapers in X1 really bring that terror home!

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