The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Interview: New Name, More Strategy
The lack of randomized maps is disappointing, but not a deal breaker for me. After all, Enemy Unknown also steered clear of map randomization, and I’ve replayed the hell out of it. I was more let down when Guarino confirmed players won’t be constructing their own XCOM bases. Yep, base building is out. Instead, the base will grow and evolve along with the story, with different areas opening up and becoming available at different points. On the plus side, with a bit of cajoling, Guarino let slip a bit of a spoiler (skip what follows through the next paragraph quote if you want all surprises intact): in a throwback to the original, aliens won’t only attack various cities, they’ll hit the XCOM team at their own base.
“There is a story based situation… it is not as random or time-based as the original X-COM, but there is a story based situation where you’re defending your own turf.”
So a number of features that added a deeper layer of strategy and enhanced replayability are out. Guarino said it was a conscious decision by the dev team to put the focus on the game’s storytelling, something missing from previous XCOM games, and The Bureau’s real core: a gameplay mix of tactical strategy and third-person action.
So is The Bureau more of an action game or a tactical game? Are we talking Dragon Age: Origins or Dragon Age 2? Guarino said the development team walked a fine line, wanting to make both options viable, fun, and necessary.
“What I think we do well is give you both of those options,” he said. “We want you to play tactically but not feel like once you’ve issued commands, it’s hands off the controller. If you’re a good shooter player, you can definitely turn the tide with the weapons you have. But you also have to take care of your agents, making sure they’re in cover and using the right abilities at the right time. It’s something that’s not being done in many other games: an interesting mix of tactical and action gameplay that really challenges players to use all of the tools you have available.”
For you hardcore strategy fans out there, Guarino did say that during play testing a handful of players attempted to complete The Bureau without ever firing a single shot as the player-controlled squad commander, William Carter. Yes, going full tactical strategy and using Battlefocus to issue commands to agents without unloading on aliens yourself is viable, he said, but only on the easiest difficulty levels. Once you hit Veteran, you’ll need to make sure Carter carries his weight on the battlefield.
Personally, I’m hoping The Bureau: XCOM Declassified does hit that strategy-action Goldilocks zone Guarino describes, a space developers haven’t truly entered since perhaps the last Brothers in Arms. An XCOM game in that style, and with the core feel of the iconic franchise could be something special, indeed. We’ll find out for ourselves when the alien invasion begins tomorrow on consoles (Thursday, August 22 on PC).
Mike Sharkey is a former GameSpy (RIP!) editor. He’s currently contributing to Game Front while stealing hundreds of millions in Payday 2. Follow @mjsharkey on Twitter.