XCOM 2 multiplayer has, of course, recently been released and we’ve been playing it a lot – I bet you have had a few hours on it too. As long time XCOM players (since the original XCOM:EU in 1994) we have a lot of love for the game and a real belief that it could be one the strongest strategy games out there, particularly in the realm of video games (particularly particulary in the realm of turn-based strategy games being).
After playing XCOM 2 SP & MP we noticed a lot of awesome improvements to the game and am enjoying my lastest fix of XCOM goodness a lot, but there is also a persistence of some flaws that really could and maybe should have been addressed by the Devs. This post here is going to be pointing out and offering suggestions on the most important of these deficiencies: The multi-player. Hopefully generating a little dialogue for anyone else with ideas in this direction.
Now a quick outline of how multi-player functions in XCOM 2:
1 player hosts a lobby with some particular parameters, which are:
- Lobby type (LAN, Public, Private)
- Points limit – 4 options (unlimited, 20k, 10k, 7.5k)
- Map – 6 options (slums, wilderness, shanty, small town, city centre facility)
- Time limit per turn: 4 options (unlimited, 45 seconds, 90 seconds, 120 seconds)
- Biome Type: This only applies to 3 out of the 6 maps. Applying a cosmetic change to the terrain.
After joining the lobby each player chooses a 6-unit squad from a pool of 16 “aliens” and 9 XCOM soldiers. They may be combined in any way but may not exceed the point limit for the lobby.
Then of course, you play.
Without wishing to belabour the point, we have a had many badass games using this system and it will usually offer a challenging, fun game. It becomes repetitive however.
This problem isn’t unique to XCOM. Indeed many MP modes on games are little more than slightly varying iterations of the same battle over and over (especially in shooters) and XCOM is amongst the least repetitive, but due to the design of XCOM it also has the potential to quite easily make vast improvements in this regard. And boredom is to fun as sectopods are to noobs! Daunting and dreadful to contemplate and most likely a death sentence.
There is two main sub-areas where we think this is most observable:
You need to be able to do more when you go into a multiplayer game. Indeed if we look at the single-player we know for a fact that the mechanics are in place for games based on objectives other than extermination. These are:
- Making you way to an extraction point, preferably outnumbered and with a turn limit. For MP you could easily make this workable by using a large map to accommodate stealthy maneuvers and multiple extraction points to make camping a beatable strategy for team ADVENT/alien.
- Extraction with a VIP to protect, see above.
- Protect the civilians, this could be a variant where you protect as many civilians (randomly scattered throughout the map) as you can and the other team kills. Saved/killed determines which team wins.
- Destroy/hack objective such as a transmitter
- Mission imbossable: You have to infiltrate a building with a hostage being kept on the third floor of a tower. The tower is part of a building with, say a warehouse on the first floor with ADVENT turrets set up to assist the defence. You then have to extract the hostage and a turn-timer begins before extraction is no longer possible. Also make a hackable terminal for disabling/controlling the turrets (or some turret equivalent) as an optional tactic. And maybe if you don’t extract in time then waves of enemies start spawning in and you simply last-stand it. This is quite far out there but we need more mission types.
Of course you could come up with others as well. Maybe a last stand mode against waves of spawning enemies. Maybe a new wave spawns in every 2/3 turns? Being able to choose from such variety would naturally lead to many great scenarios, particularly if the units each side brought to the missions were at the players choice. Say for example, defending against waves of Chryssalids in a tight claustrophobic environment as a remake of aliens.
The point is you could import a lot of greatness just by sharing some of the juicy wonders of the single player water park with jizz-ridden MP wastelands.
Indeed this could be compounded by enabling players to design personal maps and so forth with an editorial tool. Of course this is neither easy to do nor is it necessarily better than having maps designed by pros, so we’ll just leave it here as something to think about.
Lastly on the topic of lobbies we have three quite straight forward ideas:
- More than 6 units per side should be an option
- Squad Import from Singleplayer
- Canonical battles (XCOM vs aliens, no mixing)
The first idea of course isn’t too hard to imagine and it would make horde forces a playable force. It’s mainly just to give some of the basic alien units a chance to shine and as an option all you’d need to do is make it clear that 6 is recommended.
The second is a simple request where you could just bring your SP characters into MP with some Import function, to be able to play with “your guys”.
The third we won’t address completely here as it’s pertains to the second sub-division. But we think there should be an option to make players lock-in as either XCOM or Advent/aliens. (We don’t see any reason why you couldn’t have XCOM vs XCOM etc, this idea is mainly for the betterment of the XCOM troops. As we will now expatiate upon).
Prior to XCOM 2 we had XCOM: Enemy Unknown and it’s associated expansion XCOM: Enemy in a state of quantum uncertainty lol. No the expansion was Enemy Within and they were both great games. We mention them here because in the MP for that game the format was practically identical with the differences being: the aliens were a little underpowered and the XCOM troopers being a little stronger by comparison. Though not in a completely broken way, it was more a matter of some of the alien units being too weak for competitive play while others worked fine. However the XCOM forces in this game were a joy to use. They were extremely customisable with weapon load-outs, armour, genetic modifications, items, classes, sub-classes and of course names being alterable.
Naturally XCOM troopers dominated the scene, this wasn’t ideal but the way to go about fixing it was not to reverse the problem. We have a feeling this is what has happened. XCOM troopers are no longer customisable to anywhere near the same extent (despite the same level of character design being available in the single player). An XCOM trooper is now one of 5 classes, with 4 of these classes having 2 builds each. 9 total options to choose from. You can then select an item for the unit and you’re done. Apart from cosmetic changes (which DO look cool and we’re loving a lot of them) this is how you select an XCOM soldier in MP.
The reduced permutations of possibilities of course makes balancing the units easier but we think that what we’ve lost here outweighs this consideration. Aside from the fun of meticulously swapping out little items here and there (oh we forgot to mention you could also change the secondary weapon in the previous XCOM) you know have a situation where making an all-XCOM squad (which is a reasonable thing to want to do) is now really quite awkward to do.
You can’t field cheap (or at least moderately affordable) units and so will often have an undermanned squad. The relatively meagre choice also undermines the personal feel of the squad. Making it interchangable with anyone else’s 3/4 man XCOM squad.
We’ve droned on a bit about XCOM but there are also aliens to consider. Fortunately there isn’t as much to complain about here as the aliens have been diversified and improved very nicely. Though a lot more units could have been added to the multiplayer roster (mainly Heavy and Elite variants of Troopers and MECs, maybe Avatar for over 10k points just to be able to play it) and it would have constituted nothing more than additional balancing work for the points costs (e.g. the Avatar especially). Again single player already has everything you need to see this done, single player just need to learn to share (those self-absorbed monsters!)
We suppose there is also the idea of being able to customise the equipment and appearance of the aliens. We wouldn’t suggest anything drastic here, maybe just colour swaps for cosmetics and the occasional unit with the option to change their gun or take some armour etc. A bit of logical though and immersion in the XCOM story makes it easy to generate appropriate ideas for each unit.
We’ll leave it at that for the units and wrap up our thoughts.
Summarising the criticisms we have and my general ideas for rectifying them is very easy:
- Share the goodies from the single player with the multi player, ultimately it’s a game and it would be really nice to be able to play around with everything the game had when I’ve finished the campaign mode. We wouldn’t even mind completing the game to unlock it. This goes for game modes, units, customisation of the units and maps. The MP player experience has to come on par with the SP player experience in terms of customisation.
- We don’t even need a second bullet point! haha
But hilarity aside, my wishlist explicitly:
- If XCOM 2 was to allow us to field say a cheap, medium or expensive variant for each of the two builds of class for XCOM soldiers and then let us pick all the equipment for them from all the equipment available in the campaign we would be happy with the XCOM soldiers.
- If we could pick any unit from the campaign to field as the aliens we would be happy with the aliens.
- If we could set up the lobby so we could play a mission style just like any we could do in the campaign (and maybe a couple more types) we would be happy with the lobby parameters.
- If we could do all of the above we would be elated.
- If we could do all the above without having to deal with lag in the MP we would be ecstatic 😛
- If we could do all of the above AND boot people from my lobby we would be in a state of euphoria prostrate on the floor with our virgin asses up in the air as an offering to our lord and saviour, XCOM 2 Enemy in the girl’s locker room.
Here’s an album to illustrate what we had in mind:
XCOM 2 Improvement suggestions
This is the default singleplayer equipment screen, which I added some points for the PCS and the items, to communicate what I am after.
Should have multiple options with different point tiers – also note different PCS.
Singleplayer default equipment screen
Selecting a gun for heavy, with some point examples – also note different PCS.
Singleplayer default equipment screen
Selecting a grenade launcher, with some point examples – also note different PCS.
Multiplayer default equipment screen
As you can see, equipment is noneditable, greyed out.
Multiplayer default equipment screen
You can select quite a few utility items, but not all.
Multiplayer default equipment screen
You can select quite a few utility items, but not all. (Smoke grenade is the only one missing from these two screens, 250pts)
There’s also the nice 1-2 minute lag present for european gamers, but I think this is a netcode issue and therefore is not in the scope of this topic. However it should be fixed to provide the players with a better multiplayer experience.
Singleplayer unit customisation is missing from multiplayer, you can only change cosmetics. Bring the multiplayer experience to the same level as singleplayer, with “Squad Import from singleplayer” feature and add more equipment selection options. Also, more gamemodes would be nice, deathmatch gets repetive. Check the link for picture illustrations.
Original Link – Continuation of discussion