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Birdman

Mission Variety and UFO Progression

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Recently, I read that Terror Missions in Xenonauts don't start appearing until the third month. I thought to myself; "Bruh."

Even on the highest difficulty of Xenonauts on Ironman, I never actually got to experience a terror mission, because my air-game was already well-developed enough three months in to shoot everything down before they landed. I wasn't even able to get Alien Base Missions until I started letting Landing Ships go about their business unmolested.

 

In the original XCOM and TFTD, there would be Terror missions and Large UFOs from the get-go that you couldn't shoot down, so you were forced to attend Terror Missions right from the start or take massive hits to funding. Even later into the game, when your airforce was more built up, you still had to fight Shipping Route and Terror missions in areas that you either couldn't cover or couldn't stop in time.

The Airgame and ground combat progression in Xenonauts makes sense. It's reasonable, it makes sense in the lore, you start out with small challenges and work your way up in a straight linear progression, with ships getting larger and aliens getting more dangerous as you unlock more tools and firepower to fight them with. There's nothing you can't really handle so long as you're competent at the game. Terror Ships and Bombers wander about the geoscape for a short while in order to obscure their target instead of heading straight for the city.

 

The threat progression in XCOM, in comparison, is completely bonkers. You get Large UFOs all over the place, terror missions that you can barely handle, grunts getting gunned down left and right, massive attrition rates, your enemy has superior firepower, and if your grunts miss all of your shots, there's no suppression mechanic to keep them from gunning down your soldiers left and right. It's terrifying and exhilarating, all at the same time.

In the base Xenonauts game, I never really got the feeling that there were challenges that I simply couldn't overcome so long as I played competently.

 

The point is, I think that the simple and linear threat escalation in the base game causes a lot of problems. The all-or-nothing stakes for losing a Terror Mission force Terror Missions to only emerge when you can reliably shoot them down before they land, meaning you will almost never actually play through a Terror Mission.

This greatly hinders the variety of missions and quality of gameplay, much more than having Terror Missions be "High-Stakes" adds to the atmosphere of the game.

 

From a strategic perspective, the government nuking their own cities doesn't even make sense. There's something to be said about not allowing the Aliens to get a foothold on the ground, or denying them access to humans to experiment on, but that's not even what the Aliens are trying to accomplish. They have a small and steadily growing fleet of atmosphere-capable craft, one they're using strategically to gradually cripple infrastructure and reduce morale instead of committing to a massive land invasion. 

The only thing dropping a nuke on a city does is accomplish the Aliens' own strategic goal, destroying valuable infrastructure and decreasing morale globally on a massive scale.

 

It would make more sense and be much more engaging if Terror Missions didn't have the all-or-nothing stakes of nuclear annihilation, and if Terror Ships would appear earlier on so we could get some actual variety instead of the endless slog of downed UFOs.

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1 minute ago, Birdman said:

Recently, I read that Terror Missions in Xenonauts don't start appearing until the third month. I thought to myself; "Bruh."

Even on the highest difficulty of Xenonauts on Ironman, I never actually got to experience a terror mission, because my air-game was already well-developed enough three months in to shoot everything down before they landed. I wasn't even able to get Alien Base Missions until I started letting Landing Ships go about their business unmolested.

  

 In the original XCOM and TFTD, there would be Terror missions and Large UFOs from the get-go that you couldn't shoot down, so you were forced to attend Terror Missions right from the start or take massive hits to funding. Even later into the game, when your airforce was more built up, you still had to fight Shipping Route and Terror missions in areas that you either couldn't cover or couldn't stop in time.

 The Airgame and ground combat progression in Xenonauts makes sense. It's reasonable, it makes sense in the lore, you start out with small challenges and work your way up in a straight linear progression, with ships getting larger and aliens getting more dangerous as you unlock more tools and firepower to fight them with. There's nothing you can't really handle so long as you're competent at the game. Terror Ships and Bombers wander about the geoscape for a short while in order to obscure their target instead of heading straight for the city.

 

The threat progression in XCOM, in comparison, is completely bonkers. You get Large UFOs all over the place, terror missions that you can barely handle, grunts getting gunned down left and right, massive attrition rates, your enemy has superior firepower, and if your grunts miss all of your shots, there's no suppression mechanic to keep them from gunning down your soldiers left and right. It's terrifying and exhilarating, all at the same time.

In the base Xenonauts game, I never really got the feeling that there were challenges that I simply couldn't overcome so long as I played competently.

 

The point is, I think that the simple and linear threat escalation in the base game causes a lot of problems. The all-or-nothing stakes for losing a Terror Mission force Terror Missions to only emerge when you can reliably shoot them down before they land, meaning you will almost never actually play through a Terror Mission.

 This greatly hinders the variety of missions and quality of gameplay, much more than having Terror Missions be "High-Stakes" adds to the atmosphere of the game.

 

From a strategic perspective, the government nuking their own cities doesn't even make sense. There's something to be said about not allowing the Aliens to get a foothold on the ground, or denying them access to humans to experiment on, but that's not even what the Aliens are trying to accomplish. They have a small and steadily growing fleet of atmosphere-capable craft, one they're using strategically to gradually cripple infrastructure and reduce morale instead of committing to a massive land invasion. 

The only thing dropping a nuke on a city does is accomplish the Aliens' own strategic goal, destroying valuable infrastructure and decreasing morale globally on a massive scale.

 

 It would make more sense and be much more engaging if Terror Missions didn't have the all-or-nothing stakes of nuclear annihilation, and if Terror Ships would appear earlier on so we could get some actual variety instead of the endless slog of downed UFOs.

Well, you do get to experience alien raids at the beginning of the game and throughout, which are like mini-terror missions that are a little harder than your normal crash sites and landing sites, that can help mission variety in the early game. You can encounter aliens and technologies in alien raids that you would not encounter until you fight stronger ufos weeks later (like wraiths and plasma weapons appearing in a raid before you encounter an observer ufo). The devs are also adding several story missions through out the game, like an earlygame base attack against the mysterious "cleaner" organization, so I think that the mission variety in Xenonauts 2 would be much better to Xenonauts 1. The devs are planning to have half of the terror and alien base missions not caused by ufos so that you still experience that mission variety even if you have an highly developed airgame, which may lead to different kinds of missions depending on if they were caused by ufos or something else. I still think that goldhawk will implement terror missions as missions of high-stakes, so I doubt that will change in the sequel except for maybe changing the city getting nuked. 

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