'The transition' of The Bureau: making XCOM Declassified a more tactical shooter
by Andrew Yoon, shacknews.com, Jul 17, 2013 5:00AM PDT
With such a tumultuous development, it may be hard to keep track of what The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is. Is it a shooter? Is it a strategy game? While it may look like a third-person shooter, one thing is clear: it is an XCOM game, through and through.
"We're trying to make a more skillful game that requires more than just run and gun," creative director Morgan Gray told us. "You can engage that way very early on when we're attempting what we call 'the transition.' Not long, probably after in your first night's play session, that play style is going to become less and less effective to a point in time where you will not be able to get far in the game trying to be a Rambo."
The Bureau translates XCOM's defining features for the third-person shooter. Crucially, it conveys the notion of consequence. Like Enemy Unknown, The Bureau features perma-death and a limited number of soldiers that can be deployed. That gives added weight to every encounter in the game, as a single poorly managed battle could deprive you of a crucial resource you'll need for the rest of the game. "It's pretty different for a third-person cover squad shooter," Gray explained. "Generally, the repercussions of any individual fight don't permeate beyond that moment in time in a level."
Like in Firaxis' strategy game, it will be entirely possible to dwindle your roster to the point where the game is, essentially, unbeatable. "We do know that there is a possibility in our game where you can get to the final battles, you have exhausted your supply of credible agents, and the game isn't explicit, I'm sure some players that get in that unfortunate position will go 'I think I have lost this game because I can't beat this level now.' And there's no safety net," Gray said.
"You can potentially get to the end and you won't have what it takes to finish the game." The dreadful sense that you have been defeated should be all-too-familiar for players that enjoyed XCOM's punishing difficulty.
In our previous hands-on with the game, we noted the game's similarities to Mass Effect, given the game's three-man squads and use of a radial wheel to command AI characters to use powers. However, Gray argues that XCOM is far more tactical than BioWare's RPG. "Mass Effect was certainly an influence. But a big difference is that Mass Effect doesn't have a lot of gameplay based on position and tactics. You go to the radial wheel to fire off powers, but it doesn't really matter where Garrus or Wrex is. In our game, position is extremely important," he pointed out.
In Mass Effect, it's entirely possible to beat the game simply shooting your way through. In The Bureau, the opposite is true. Commanding your squad is so crucial to the gameplay, it's theoretically possible to play the game as "the conductor"--the type of player that exclusively uses tactics to overcome each excursion.
"We had this debate for a while. Can you beat the game without ever firing a shot," Morgan said. "We decided if the player obscenely uses tactics and his agents, there should be the possibility that you can beat certain fights without personally firing a shot. We are open to the fact that some players can play 'the conductor' role, and we should reward them. If your plan is that good, awesome."