The alien within: XCOM’s first expansion will add more tactical options, powered armor, and genetics
Firaxis announced an expansion to the strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown at Gamescom; the $30 expansion will retain the same gameplay template, with expanded options. Firaxis spoke with the Report about the new additions as well as their philosophy in what they wanted to accomplish by adding new elements to a game that was already stocked with content.
The expansion, XCOM: Enemy Within, will add a fifth character class to the game, the Mech Trooper. Players will obtain this class by sending existing characters into a new building in their base called the Cybernetics Lab. Characters are then outfitted with a powered battlesuit and a minigun that can be upgraded into a rail gun. This is only the beginning when it comes to changes to the core game, however.
The other option for further enhancing characters is the Genetics Lab building which will allow players to use their alien research to incorporate alien DNA directly into their soldiers, giving them new abilities.
You pay for these DNA modifications with a new resource called Meld, which now appears in timed canisters accross the battlefield during tactical gameplay. Two cannisters will appear on each map in semi-random locations, and will be fitted with a self-destruct timer. This adds another source of tension during each round: If you don't find the cannisters in time, they blow up.
“So you have to think about your tactical approach,” said Ananda Gupta, senior designer at Firaxis. “If you play in a very cautious way you might not get to the meld canisters before they self-destruct. So you have a bit of a tactical wrinkle.”
This approach to making combat more thoughtful is a big part of Firaxis' ethos with this project.
“We really wanted to add new tactical considerations to the game,” said Gupta. “We got to that in a couple different ways, but I think the Meld gameplay really helps with that when players have competing goals. You need to kill all the aliens. You need to keep your squad as intact as possible, but you also have this crucial new resource that you need to pursue under time pressure.”
“So you have these competing tactical considerations,” he continued. “That was something that we got part of the way there with our VIP rescue missions and bomb defusing missions, but I think we wanted to take that a lot further. That was definitely a major goal that we wanted to hit.”
Gupta said that the goal with Enemy Within wasn't just about enhancing tactical combat, though. It was also about further elaborating on the central themes of Enemy Unknown.
“One of the things that's most compelling about XCOM is this idea that you're turning the alien technology against them,” said Gupta. “You start out outgunned and outclassed and you capture their tech, and little-by-little you claw back into the fight as you adapt their armor so you can wear it and adapt their weapons and use their weapons against them.
“So how do we take that even further,” he continued. “You take the enemy within. You incorporate the aliens into the very bodies of your soldiers. I wanted to play up that theme even further of: We're doing whatever it takes to defeat these aliens, we will take whatever they give us to fight them with.”
Another way in which Firaxis is seeking to enhance the central themes of the game is by making all of the game's languages available to players in all regions.
“XCOM is supposed to be this international organization, and yet everyone sounds like they're from the Midwest or New York,” said Gupta. “So we decided to reorganize the voice bank data so that all of the localized languages will be available as soldier customization options.”
Regardless of which language the game was installed in, you'll now be able to individually customize each soldier with one of the game's seven languages: French, Italian, German, English, Spanish, Russian, and Polish. It's a small, inexpensive step that will enhance the game experience.
Firaxis will also be adding new loadout options with new items and grenade types to give more options for unique characters.
XCOM: Enemy Within, the expansion pack to one of 2012's best games, will be released in November 12, 2013. On PC and Mac it will be a $30 downloadable expansion to the base game, and on console it will be a $40 standalone product called the “Commander Edition” that includes the base game and the “Slingshot” and “Elite Soldier” content packs.