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cardboardMike

Easier recovery from catastrophe

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I am currently playing through veteran ironman on X1.  I get that it is supposed to be hard, but something that strikes me more "unfair" that "hard" is how difficult it is to recover from a catastrophe.  

Your playthrough can go from great to a lost-cause in a matter of seconds with little you can do about it.  

If you get squad-wiped, you not only potentially lose a good chunk of your high-ranking soldiers, but also all your weapons and armour too.  The only way you can replace lost soldiers is by levelling-up new ones through missions, which at that point are probably too hard for pvts.  The only way to get your weapons and armour back is to rebuild them (costs could easily be in the millions).  

It's clear in the philosophy of X1 that compromises were made to assist recovery (for example, destroyed aircraft isn't permanently destroyed), it seems a little strange that this didn't happen more with some other systems. 

It would be useful for example if it were possible to directly recruit higher-ranking soldiers.  

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I think being able to hire experienced soldiers is a bit of lorebreaking and casual - Xenonauts are the only force actively going on against the aliens. Thats why your recruits are inexperenced despite being best of the best in "normal" military - they were trained to fight other humans not the aliens. 
But I agree that there should be some way to get recruits who are not privates. What if surviving local forces encountered on terror sites and other missions will have a chance to be be inducted into your ranks? They would volunteer to join your force to be able to avenge their fallen comrades, sent to you to maintain secrecy(might be the case regarding police officers and security guards) or as reward by local government. That will also give player more incentive to actually go on and fight aliens instead of letting local forces to soak damage from the invaders. And that will also make sense lorewise - as these people had actually fought aliens and survived they will be more accustomed fighting them then fresh rookies.

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51 minutes ago, cardboardMike said:

Your playthrough can go from great to a lost-cause in a matter of seconds with little you can do about it. 

It can go south really fast, but if it does, it is not that 'you could do little about it'. Prepare better, learn the underlying systems and use that knowledge, retreat if a mission does not go well instead of getting everyone killed, and don't go on missions where you expect heavy losses.

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If you get squad-wiped, you not only potentially lose a good chunk of your high-ranking soldiers, but also all your weapons and armour too.

The cure is not to get squad-wiped with your best troops. Retreat!

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The only way you can replace lost soldiers is by levelling-up new ones through missions, which at that point are probably too hard for pvts.

Then how about not only having a single A-team with no useful soldeirs in reserve?

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The only way to get your weapons and armour back is to rebuild them (costs could easily be in the millions)

You can drag the corpses and/or weapons of your fallen to the landing craft and retreat with them, which saves the materiel.

All that said, yeah, an easy mode where you could hire more experienced soldiers sounds nice. But you are already playing on veteran, so you can either suck it up, learn from your mistakes and do it better next time or play on lower difficulty first. Personally, I think if it were not for that hurdle of inexperienced fresh troops, players would whine about some other safety net they would want not in the game, and so on and so on...

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Of course you can boil any complaint about the difficulty down to learning to play better or getting gud.

I could equally ask why should the player be given a free aircraft when one of theirs gets destroyed?  They should just player better and not lose any aircraft.

The point is the player should not be disproportionately punished for minor mistakes. 

If was as easy as just withdrawing your men if the mission is too tough then it wouldn't matter.  But then there are the terror missions that you have to do or lose a region.  Or getting your base raided whilst your A-team are away.  Or getting your drop ship shot down.  Then there is just the fact that it isn't that fun getting your last 2 remaining squad members to carry 8 corpses across the whole map of an alien base mission, just so you can recover their loot.    

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Sorry that my post came across as "git gud", that was not what I meant. Yeah, really shitty situations can happen where you are behind from the start. But when they do and when you are in a situation without a way out, my take on the game is that I made a mistake, not that the game is made badly for not letting me catch up anymore. That does not mean that I defend everything the designers did for X1, quite on the contrary. But now you lost a campaign (or two, or more) and you as a player can now either go complain about how the game plays or adapt to it. Your post does not strike me as the second kind, but to be of the first. Yeah, that downed aircraft are reconstructed automatically does not really make sense, nor is it coherent to how the tactical layer is tied to the strategic layer, but it is how it is. If aircraft were lost permanently when shot down, we all would play differently (in fact, @Svinedrengen plays with aircraft being completely destroyed when shot down, just as an aside), i.e. we would adapt to the game as it would be.

To come back to your point and leave on a constructive note: the most important thing in a campaign for me is to have a solid cushion of fairly well skilled backup troops with at least half decent equipment. They don't have to have the highest ranks, but they need to be good enough to cope with "normal" missions, at least. Once you identified that soldier experience is the one thing in the game that takes the heaviest time investment and is at a high risk of being lost, you should adapt your playstyle to that.

Edit: Just realized that this is not a rant about X1, but a suggestion about X2, my bad. I am not sure if I want to have that kind of system in the game though. It was in FiraXCOM 2 and it totally destroyed the game imo. In the late game, you could just buy your squad of max level soldiers at will, which made any loss of soldiers negligible and hardly noteworthy even on the highest difficulty. I think I even recall a season of Long War 2 by xwynns where he got a squad wipe on his A team and just bought all the experience he needed back. The underlying fundamental question that needs to be answered here I think is: is it okay to punish the player by making him lose (and, ideally, start again)? To me, the answer is definitely yes, if the player has the chance to avoid the cause of failure in the next attempt. Which is the case in X1 and X-Division for anything the game can throw at you.

Edited by Dagar
Misinterpreted OPs intentions

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My experience is based on the difference between playing X1 and XCOM2 and in fairness probably is in part ranting about X1.  If I had to guess I would say I am probably on my 40th playthrough of Veteran Ironman by now - I get a little further each time.

I agree that XCOM2 was too forgiving, particularly in the late-game when there was an abundance of money.  But I think a halfway-house between both would be good.  

I don't mind the player being punished to the point where they lose, but at the moment the player could lose even if they are playing a brilliant game on the strategic layer, just because of one or two bad decisions. 

As an example, in my last game it was early Feb when my Shrike was downed (I stupidly decided to play out the engagement between my condor and a heavy fighter, something I usually win) on the way to an alien base.  I then couldn't defeat the alien base with what was left of my A-team and B-team.  In retrospect, I should have extracted the bodies of the second squad from the base before getting completely wiped in order to keep the weapons, but seeing as all my best soldiers were dead I could no longer be bothered.

So I gave up even though I had ~$1 million, all continents and ~full coverage.  I didn't really see how I could win with only pvts left.  To me, that penalty feels too harsh for what was essentially a very small number of poor decisions.  I know it's Veteran and it should be hard, but there is still a harder difficulty...

Edit: I would also point out that this isn't a rant based on a single playthrough.  It seems like every time I fail it isn't because of general bad play over a sustained period, but a single, cataclysmic event that is very difficult to recover from.  E.g. my first terror mission, base randomly attacked etc.  

I guess it would make more sense to savescum the game first rather than play blind, but it just doesn't seem right.  

 

Edited by cardboardMike
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I think this is a good thread.
I would say that recovering from a total wipe doesn't make sense - just load the previous game and bomb the site to oblivion instead of sucking with it.
On the other hand I don't like the hard levels of a real time strategy forcing me to use the spells "save game" and "load game" every second.
One way is to TRY TO prevent me doing it. Iron Man with no save spell, pre-determined random numbers to make loading and trying again more useless. Then I'll become frustrated and start to cheat. If you try to stop me, I'll start hating the game and telling everyone about how much you suck.
The other is to make these penalties for mistakes or bad luck smaller. Man down? Give him a good chance to recover after the battle - use cloning, cybernetics, medical treatment so he is not lost altogether. Or just have a large pool of fully trained soldiers available all the time - but this would kill the development aspect ("If everyone is super, no one will be").
So, I am looking forward to a combat system that tolerates mishaps better. The shot down interceptor recovery was an excellent example in X1 - in UFO, you needed to buy/build a new plane (but ofc. you could always hit the disengage button in combat).
I would prefer advanced medicals and cybernetics to keep busted soldiers alive - trauma kits or even stasis fields to stop him from dying, and medevac waiting just 100m behind the xenonaut line.
Plus, an abort mission with the VTOL coming in to the signaled location (so I don't have to spend an hour limping back to the drop zone), and collecting survivors under the protection of support guns and evac personnel.

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@Blade That in my opinion heavily depends on how you want to play this game. There are a number of people who want to play without reloading after a mistake, so to them this is no viable option.

My personal metagame philosophy is that what a player does should have impact. If I recklessly sacrificed my best soldier in an attempt to capture an alien in a situation that did not allow for that, I want to feel that I did something wrong. As an automatic tradeoff for that I get a really good feeling when I played a good mission that I would not get if I "savescummed" my way through. Without punishment for the bad decisions the player makes for me there is no gratification in the rewards that the game gives. If I cannot lose I cannot win. But I know that there are other types of players out there, and I have my phases where I play a game like I would watch TV (brains out, enjoy a story, easy progression). However I have other games than Xenonauts for that (*wink wink* popcorn cinema experience that is FiraXCOM 2).

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I'm surprised that no-one has brought up training. X-Com: Apocalypse is a real-world example of how training could mitigate a TPK. Because recruits were cheap as chips, and residence and training modules were also very cheap, you could have scores of troops doing nothing but training so when troops inevitably bought the farm you could pull troops from the training pool and slot them straight in. 

However, training is a very hot-button issue in Xenonauts. Training in Apocalypse meant that combat experience was pretty much worthless, and Chris has said before he would prefer experience, progression and general leveling up to be associated with doing things, rather than a training spreadsheet. 

Another way to mitigate a TPK is to make progression less valuable than the tech tree. In X-Com original, your kit was far more important than the stats of the soldier, especially when you got your hands on things like blaster launchers which didn't need pesky aiming stats. In X2 the weapon and armor systems are modular so you can mitigate human stats with the right equipment mods.  However, if Chris is still going ahead with alien adaptive technology, then the tech tree only has so much value and those modded weapons are lost with a TPK. It might be the case that if you suffer a TPK, you might be able to pay a fee to recover the bodies and kit of the dead, so you can transfer that valuable kit to a new recruit ("just ignore that scorch mark, it'll come out in the wash"). But is it right to make progression less valuable than kit? FiraXCOM showed us how engaging progression could be. Is it fair to make that play second fiddle to the tech tree? 

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On the 11 o'clock news: "The entire Xenonaut combat team was killed in action this morning, in what senior REMFs are calling 'a significant but not catastrophic setback'. This afternoon, they started recruiting for new combat troops, with the only major qualification listed being opaque to plasma. A source close to the recruitment process also indicated that people who were interested in a combat role but were transparent to plasma could also be accepted."

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On the 10 o'clock news, people are questioning the combat tactics of the xenonauts.  Why do they stay crouched behind cover and not do anything whilst the aliens shoot them?  Sources inside xenonauts are reported to have said this customary, the aliens will also stop doing anything and let the xenonauts shoot at them for a bit.  

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Agreed with the original poster.  One bad turn trying to breach the top-floor of a UFO, and you lose an entire 15+ hours of a campaign.  Xenonauts is far less forgiving about this than X-Com, to a horrible fault; the economy is tighter so you can't replace gear, and soldier experience is more important so you can't replace people.  You're just done instantly and unrecoverably from one or two tiny mistakes, or even possibly just one or two bad die rolls.

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