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Lord of Dread

(Actual) Squad mechanics

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Hey Goldhawk

I think XCOM WOTC is the wrong game to look at for more geoscape depth/variety. XCOM Long War 2 has been hands-down the best thing to come out of the Firaxis camp (even though it was technicall Pavonis), despite its issues, even possibly one of the best games I've ever played. The shift from just sloshing a mix of soldiers together for a mission to having prearranged squads that you sent out on operations, each squad with its own weapons sets, skills, uniforms etc added 1000% more depth and immersion. It's insistence that you behave like an actual commander, sending squads out on operations where there would be a set up time and they would then deploy made those choices infinitely more interesting.

I played WOTC twice and always found myself getting bored, whereas I've played LW2 4 times, sunk probably more than 100 hours in each time, failed, and still went back for more. Give me the option to promote a squad leader, give me the option to name squads and define their uses and styles with different gear and training/skills!

The missions you sent a single dude out on in WOTC and the buddy system really felt like a wet-fish slap to the face after getting the full tactical treatment of LW2, where I could send 3 elite specialists out to try and stealthily infiltrate a heavily armed facility, steal something and then get the fuck out ASAP (in an actual tactical mission), or know that men serving under a familiar and experienced commander would get buffs due to unit cohesion.

In a sense, LW2 has ruined TBS games for me now because I'm not sure if anyone will ever do something that good again. But I feel that added layer would be right at home in Xenonauts and would make the game infinitely more satisfying and immersive. More missions of varying scale that are optional, and squad mechanics to back it up.

FYI I grew up on and have played all of the X-COM games (except enforcer), I have played all of the XCOMs and Xenonauts 1. Just my 2 cents as a die hard fan of the genre. With the exception of the political and economic simulation of X-COM apocalypse (which would probably be a nightmare to try and develop, but would also be fitting to a cold war setting especially), I think squad mechanics are the biggest and best development for player satisfaction.

 

Edit: It's also bit silly having 10 Generals in a single squad, it makes more sense to have officer and troopers with different rank progression, the player being able to promote officers themselves

 

Edited by Lord of Dread
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I'll have to check out Long War 2, it sounds very interesting. It makes me wonder if it's anything like This is the Police? That was my main inspiration for the discussion thread I wrote for Operations. I'd love to hear your opinion on what I suggested, since you seem to have a good idea on the subject.

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Hi Mask

I've heard of This is the Police but I haven't played it unfortunately. But the post about operations from Chris is what originally inspired this, is there another one somehwere that you created?

I would 100% recommend Long War 2 if you enjoyed XCOM2 though. Its a free mod available in the workshop that was officially supported by Firaxis in a deal with another development studio. It was a better expansion than WOTC in my opinion but there was a single mechanic that was unabalanced and made it very difficult to complete, which is my only frustration with it.

The nuts and bolts of it is that it significantly rebalances the game and adds new mechanics. So instead of every mission being relatively scaled to your tech level, you would get a mix, some easy missions you could deal with using a couple of troops, some that would be very difficult even with your best squad and weapons. It would tell you what kind of threat level to expect before embarking. New missions spawn all the time with the idea that you can't and shouldn't try to do everything. You pick your battles. But because it remixes the skills, it gives you more options on how to win too.

You can basically have as many squads as you want, give them squad icons and squad names, up to 12 men per squad. I called them legions being a 40k fan. So Fox Legion were all decked out in black power armour, were all clones of the commander (MGS style) but with different specialities, haircuts, weapons and voices. They were my hard hitters, for the most difficult and most mission critical operations so I would give them the best gear first (weapons/armour are manufactured individually like xeno 1 and X-Com) and reserve them for when they were needed. The training mechanic at geoscape level allowed you to keep giving them extra stats/skills while not on mission.

My other squads did most of the work, I'd send them out on lower priority stuff. So rather than having a somewhat 2 dimensional menu based operation like WOTC where its all behind the scenes, you would actually do the fighting for varied objectives (more varied than in vanilla XCOM2), and as you had a LOT more soldiers under the organisation, often with different mixes of soldier specialisation, this would allow you to tailor squads as you saw fit, and deploy the most relevant squads according to the tactical situation.

It really adds character to the game to have squads with their own feel, strengths and weaknesses. I still had squads with ballistic level weapons doing the light grunt operations while my legions had power armour, plasma weapons and bolters (that last one being another mod weapon). Others still were stealth specialists, others had psionic troopers. You essentially deployed whole squads but you could draft in people from other squads to fill the gaps in they were under strength, or split them up to cover more operations if needed. The squad Icons would show were they were on the geoscape. You could apply uniforms to whole squads rather than doing it individually, you would have one officer per squad with an officer perk/rank progression tree, and everyone else had the standard rank progression (but perks are all remixed in LW2 anyway).

You could also assign a soldier, engineer or scientist to a regional haven to give that region a boost in things like recruitment, intel/more missions etc.

As you can imagine, going back to XCOM2 WOTC, despite the fancy new graphics and new mechanics, felt like being used to commanding and coordinating an entire war, but being demoted to overseeing weekly food shopping.

 

Some additional info on LW2 in general

Missions had infiltration times, fitting in with the resistance theme, which also makes contextual sense with the cold war setting here. They would have to infiltrate behind the scenes until the timer ran out, at which point you could start the mission. You could start prematurely but this would make it much harder, you could also allow them to infiltrate longer than required for an easier time. This meant you could have say 6 squads on deployment and one in reserve, with the option to instantly recall squads if something more pressing came up. You didnt have to deploy all soldiers in the squad either, the ligher armed and less of them there were when you launched the mission, the less resistance you would experience unless it was one of the mission types where it was always going to be guns blazing from the get go.

One of my best memories of LW2 was going into a mission that was extreme difficulty, I sent in 1 guy, who was a stealth specialist with a shotgun and katana. This dude avoided enemy patrols, broke into a base, stole a resource I desperately needed, stole a fancy alien corpse I hadn't seen before (there a lot more variation of enemies than vanilla XCOM2, and I had a mod that allowed you to pick up corpses like in OG X-COM) and set off all the alarms. Then he made a hasty retreat to the extraction zone under fire, but dishing out death as he fled due to him being one of my best and also having extra movement tiles due to his speciality. I managed to win a mission I had no business winning due to the flexibility of the systems.

 

Writing this has made me want to play it again god damn it

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I wrote up this thread on how operations might work, in certain respects: 

I really ought to try LW2, it does sound fun. I'm currently working my way through X-Division, and tweaking some variables as I go. Variable difficulty is great, as it requires you to use actual strategy--the art of picking your battles and goals. Setting up a Foxhound infiltrator unit... that is so awesome by itself, that you can do that and it matters.

My idea was much less ambitious, as I imagined a sort of CYOA mini game, like in This is the Police. That game is very good, has a great story... but it gets pretty repetitive and a bit tedious by the end, I will warn. Those sorts of minor operations could still exist in Xenonauts 2, I feel they can let you do stuff you otherwise couldn't.  But having varied missions and objectives the way you described would be much more interesting, and I hope that can be done. Of course, I would hope the objectives make sense, and don't pigeon hole you to a single strategy. If I'm told to assassinate a target, I'd like to be able to kidnap him instead, Phantom Pain style.

 

Ideally, I'd like to select my goals and approach for missions. If an alien force is too strong to wipe out, being able to kill a couple of them and kidnap and officer could still be a minor victory. Various military board games give you scores according to what sorts of objectives you've achieved, so you could use that to encourage players to think more flexibly. You could even notify them via radio that they completed an objective, and could consider retreating.

In Battle Tech, they have something similar. Mods make it so some missions are much too hard. A response to that is to destroy a couple of enemies, then retreat. This is considered retreating in good faith, and your employers will pay you part of the bounty for the mission, and it reduces reputation losses.

 

You writing that post makes me want to play it, too. Is it worth playing LW1 first, or does it not matter?

 

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Mechanically, it was interesting, but LW2 also felt really soulless to me. Plus side, there's no need to choose, LWOTC is actually out. WOTC was made for Mass appeal, and it's board game setup of strategic layers wasn't meant for thinking too hard about the logistics, it's kind of like comparing a game show and an army base. But yeah, with the soulless problem fixed, and improved performance, LWOTC is a really interesting setup. 

 

That said, it only works in that setting. Seeing the infiltrator missions turn into a missions might be a neat way to implement this, but the Xenonauts are basically responding to things instantly, they don't have time for prep, that's what makes it work. (Then it brings the question of why more units aren't sent on either side, why they didn't bring heavier vehicles, why there's no air, and any of the other "why can't we have full military porn, I like guns a lot" greatest hits. )

 

XDiv seems to walk the line pretty well between the two. You get heavy armor and a free vehicle, your planes are constantly trying to keep some semblance of control above, and there is no point where you don't have a goal to go after. There's lots more locals, and the battles feel very believable.

Random Takeaways:

Keeping the tech tree crazy over stocked seems to handle keeping the rut away.

More enemy types keeps larger battles from getting tedious.

Reliable armor keeps RNGesus at Bay. Also feels really good when you break a unit's armor and shred them down. Basically mostly low health and high armor, except for the tanks.

Weapons changing mechanics on an individual basis keeps things fresh, LW did this too. 

Having a free vehicle makes it feel like your people are always doing their best. 

More weapon types on planes, swapped every Phase, makes the air game feel like aliens are responding to your advances.

Edited by Coffee Potato
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