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PAX East Impressions – XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Civ 5 Gods & Kings [Now, with Videos!]

By on April 9th, 2012 7:18 am

PAX East

So, yesterday I watched 2K’s PAX East live feed, because there was going to be discussions and live new footage of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Sid Meier’s Civilization 5: Gods & Kings. The coverage was very nice, could almost feel I was there in the show room. Congratulations everybody. The discussions and the gameplay demos were pretty good but unfortunately they are not yet available (at least officially), so, here are my impressions from some notes I took and from stuff I still remember.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

The XCOM:EU presentation was great and very fun to watch. Jake Solomon (the Lead Designer) explained many things in good spirit and with lots of humor. I took note of  several things, that I’m not sure if they are really big news or not, but here it goes.

XCOM:EU will feature several difficulty levels. It will offer the traditional Easy-Medium-Hard options with two interesting ones on-top: Classic (that got a general laugh from the audience) and Ironman mode. Classic mode was explained in a humorous atmosphere, and apparently it has something to do with the original games difficulty, so it should be something around “nightmare”:) Ironman means that save-and-load is not allowed. Oh, those were the days.

Jake has been working in Firaxis for several years now, under Sid Meier’s supervision. He explained that XCOM:EU was his personal quest for some years now. Eventually he could persuade Sid and others to back his vision for a new XCOM. He explained that the major trouble he faced was how to deal with the classic XCOM features like fog of war or destructible environments and implement that in modern technology, and in a 3D world.

The panel has talked a great deal about the process of coming up with the XCOM soldiers. They explained that their goal was not to go for a real soldier look but more of an action-figure look. They surely seem a bit cartoony to me (but I don’t really have a problem with that). They also announced (I never read about this one at least) that we will be able to fully customize our soldiers. Not only change their names but also how they look. They also talked about the ships design process, how they wanted to be close to the original designs but not, and they congratulated themselves, and seemed very happy with the results.

Then there was talk about a possible narrative parallel with the original XCOMs and someone from the audience also asked about the “why a single base”. That question would have to pop-up at some point. About the single-base question Jake humorously asked if someone would want to answer that for him. He then explained that the single-base decision was his personal call. He said that when playing the old XCOMs he always felt a bit uninterested with the secondary bases, what he called to be “defending themselves with toothpicks” (or sticks, don’t quite remember). So, he decided to concentrate efforts on the main single big base and extend its functionality, which looks quite amazing to say in his behalf.

About the narrative and story line parallels with previous XCOMs (start small, progress, arrive at the alien world pattern) Jake was a bit less sure of himself and basically replied that there will be a parallel to some extent. In other words, that the plot, or storyline will be similar. But he added that XCOM:EU finale is quite crazy and mind-blowing, can’t remember the exact words. So, ok Jake, there’s not a problem there. If it’s close to the original we’ll buy it, don’t worry.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Then, the new footage demo. First of all the presented gameplay demo, that was supposed to be something really new was not in my opinion. For me it was pretty much a straight approach to the gameplay bits you can see in the deep dive #1 video, now without the commentary. Sorry guys if I’m mistaken as you said to have worked night hours to build the video demo. Now, excluding all the graphics (which are gorgeous-looking  by the way) I felt a bit unease with the pace which I found to be a bit too frenetic for my taste (after all this was the first time I saw a complete mission gameplay footage).

People were commenting on the channel feed that it felt more like real-time tactics than turn-based. And effectively that’s how it felt to me. The tactics are there no doubt. Your moves and all the decisions you do in the battle zone are meaningful. You order a soldier to keep an alien busy with suppression fire while you send a sniper soldier take him out. So, you see, things are happening in real-time, or at least feel that way. Turns although there (somehow) almost aren’t felt. The unlimited ammo thing is also bugging me a bit.

But, overall, I was excited and enjoyed the demo video a lot, and would wish to try it out as soon as possible no doubt.

\edit (10 Apr 2012): And here is a video with the XCOM:EU presentation. Thanks CurseNetwork!

Sid Meier’s Civilization 5: Gods & Kings

Regarding Civ 5′s new expansion I was lucky to catch the game producer’s interview and also the gameplay demo right after. I have to admit that I didn’t feel so captured by the Civ 5: G&K coverage as I did for XCOM. I’m sure some part has to do with my previous frustrations with Civ 5, that somehow came to the surface when I was not hearing the right keywords. But, eventually, I got a bit more focused and listened to the Producer and watched the demo. Here is what I could pick from both.

I’ll start from the end. When the interviewer asked the Producer (sorry, didn’t catch his name but it should be Dennis Shirk) about what were his most memorable, or more important aspects of Civ 5:G&K, he replied Religion and Espionage, after thinking about it for a little while. Hum, I understand that he is the producer and he needs to sell the new stuff but for me the most important thing, and that I wanted to hear were really diplomacy and the AI. But, eventually (and to my relief) he did talk a bit about those two features, that in my opinion were flawed in Civ 5 (don’t know now, I don’t play for a while).

Side Meier's Civilization 5: Gods & Kings

The Producer talked a lot about the new Religion system (religions depicted above – click to enlarge), that was probably more than half of what he had to say, but eventually he also talked about the AI, diplomacy and naval invasions. Ok, now we were getting somewhere. About the AI he concentrated a great deal on naval invasions, and how they are much better now. Really hope so, because one thing that the AI really couldn’t handle in Civ 5 (at least some months ago) were naval invasions. Regarding diplomacy, and asked about how religion (again, the main topic) had an impact on it, the Producer replied with the most important sentence of the all afternoon for me “that area (diplomacy) has been completely re-coded”. Wait, have I heard it right? The diplomacy code was totally re-coded? There’s a god in heaven. There’s hope. There are no video recordings to confirm this but to be true my hopes for Gods & Kings had risen sky-high after having heard that.

Then the gameplay demo. It was boring. Yes, Civ may be the best strategy game of the world (for me at least it is) but let’s face it, it’s not a very brilliant one to watch. So, most of the demo walkthrough was quite boring to say the least, with low-quality screens (I had a peculiar resolution: 540p+, the maximum apparently) and you basically couldn’t see a thing.

Religion was explained, new factions introduced, etc, but I couldn’t really take note of anything relevant to say besides an elephant unit on top of a mountain. Yes, apparently now elephants can climb mountains, and someone in the feed chat was saying that that really happened in history. Ok. I could see some what looked like a bit complicated windows with lots of numbers and modifiers. Can’t really tell if those where about diplomacy, trade, espionage or religion wise. I took note that religion is like a currency in Gods & Kings, it accumulates like gold, research or culture does. Interesting.

\edit (10 Apr 2012): And here is a two-part video (poor quality sorry…) with the Civ5: Gods & Kings PAX demo. Courtesy of CivGames. Enjoy!

Final thoughts

It was definitely a very nice way to spend a Sunday’s afternoon, watching PAX East 2K’s (semi)live coverage of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Sid Meier’s Civilization 5: Gods & Kings. The coverage staff was pretty good, the questions (mostly taken from the community through the live feed chat) were also very interesting. All this in twitch tv, a service that I never user before but that I think is a very good one. It has a simple and effective built-in chat system, reasonable video quality. Didn’t have a single lag also, with up to 5000 users at times. Brilliant.

I surely was entertained and got really excited with XCOM: Enemy Unknown’ presentation and was somewhat pleased with Civ 5′s Gods & Kings Q&A and gameplay demo. If you didn’t watch it yet, the deep dive #1 video is a great way to know more about XCOM:EU.

I have a good feeling. I think Civ 5: Gods & Kings will manage to somewhat “fix” Civ 5 and bring new cool stuff (well, maybe old polished stuff at least). About XCOM: Enemy Unknown I’m more reserved. The original XCOMs were two of my favorite games of all time (UFO Defense aka UFO:Enemy Unknown and Terror from the Deep), I didn’t like the pace so much, but, it’s Firaxis, it’s looking good, so I guess everything will be alright in the end.

So, what do you guys think about all this?

By the way, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is due to release in Q3 2012 while Sid Meier’s Civilization 5: Gods & Kings release date is set for June 19th, 2012.

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9 Comments


  1. Owen Faraday says:

    I’m pretty okay with all of the changes to the X-Com formula, for the most part. I’m more excited about that game than anything else coming out this year.

    It’s a pity that most of the stuff they showed at PAX was the same stuff they’ve been showing since the reveal. I’m getting a little bored of that gas station and that diner. :)

  2. Chop2969 says:

    Was hoping this new reimagined X-Com was going to be the one that ive been waiting for all these years, but after your comments im not sure as it now seems to suffer from the ‘I know better’ syndrome. A single base? And because Jake ‘always felt a bit uninterested with the secondary bases’, those other bases were an integral part of the overall strategy of the original X-Com, working out where the aliens were attacking and then placing those bases to ensure the funding from those goverments didnt dry up was a big part of the game. Im sure the new single base idea is a good one but cant help but feel this is drifting from the original game, people wouldnt still be playing the original today if the ideas and overall implementation were not what they are so why monkey with the formula? Just bring the whole game into the 21st century not just the bits you liked …

    • Adam Solo says:

      I’m with you with the “single base issue”. Good point on the extra placements being key to secure extra funding from local governments. Maybe they have radar mini-bases or the main base “sees” the whole world or something. I still give them the benefit of the doubt.

      By the way, you now have the XCOM presentation video in the article, included just now :)

      • Owen Faraday says:

        I think they’ve said that you can build additional bases (and improve relations with gov’ts by so doing) but that they’re just interception bases. All of your research/manufacturing/troop housing takes place in the main “ant farm” base.

      • Adam Solo says:

        I think I remember hearing something about that yes. I’ll re-watch the presentation. It was a bit long, but fun! :)

  3. Adam Solo says:

    I’ve included both the XCOM presentation and the Civ5: Gods & Kings demo videos in the article today. Enjoy! :) Courtesy of CivGames and CurseNetwork channels on youtube. Thanks also to Space Sector user Wilko for the tip on the XCOM presentation ;)

  4. Jake says:

    I reinstalled Civ5 last month and patched up, alot of the issues I had with AI were fixed. Add in the NIGHTS mod and the game is alot better now then at launch. I like Civ 5 more than 4 personally, lacking stacks of doom and squares and all :p but the lack of religion and espionage was big so I’m glad to see an expansion for those.

    Thing is tho, I doubt I’ll pick it up, Civ5 has released WAY too much DLC, every bloody race ends up costing 5 bucks, it’s insane all this content is either not part of the base game, or part of the upcoming expansion. I don’t mind the occasional DLC, Civ5 really ruined itself for me. \

    As for xcom, actually never played the originals, for shame I know, new ones look interesting.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Hi Jake. Good to know that Civ 5 AI is better now after patches (don’t play for many months now). I also like not having stacks of doom on Civ 5. I also like the 1UPT. In fact my only big problem with Civ 5 was two fold: boredom and AI, mostly in diplomacy. If that’s fixed then I’m in again.

      Yea, DLCs are an evil marketing strategy, but they”re optional. It’s not like DLCs have any gameplay enhancements. It’s just new Civs right?

      About XCOM if you want to know how it was have a look at Xenonauts, it’s very close to the original XCOM: UFO Defense (aka UFO: Enemy Unknown).

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