Gameplay devices may have trumped plot devices in driving the success of 1994’s UFO: Enemy Unknown, but Microprose’s alien invasion strategy title didn’t skimp on either.
Underpinning progression was a sense of ongoing discovery, a constant unfolding of brand new enemies, extraterrestrial technologies, and the forces behind events that threatened the world.
Unsurprisingly, the upcoming XCOM: Enemy Unkown from Firaxis Games, a remake of the 1994 classic, may well be set on the same path. Lead designer Jake Solomon opened up on the game in an interview with Rock, Paper Shotgun this week, discussing how narrative plays a fundamental role in the strategy RPG’s experience. He acknowledged intrigue and secrecy as defining motifs of the series’ past – and also reminded us how difficult it is to keep both while publicizing a game.
“I’ve tried to hold things back. Mystery was at the heart of the original, it was just sort of a built-in thing, you would have these moments with these completely unexpected twists and turns just in terms of how the game operated, and the mechanics and all these things that you would experience.
“As you know, it’s really hard not to give everything away nowadays… but it is hard to hold large segments of your game back. I mean, we haven’t shown all of the aliens, nor will we show all of the aliens, because that’s important, but there are some concepts we haven’t talked about either.
So far, Firaxis and publisher 2K haven’t wavered. XCOM: Enemy Unknown releases in just one month on October 9th, but after June’s E3 it underwent an information cessation. The gameplay demo we got our hands on, immensely impressive as it was in showcasing XCOM’s global defense campaign, robust turn-based combat mechanics, and functionality with console gamepads, nonetheless the remains the sole full presentation of the game in action.
And as for XCOM’s narrative – a newly devised alien invasion storyline that seeks to expand on franchise lore – Firaxis’ reason for reticence remains the same. Solomon tells RSP that not even a scrap of narrative information has slipped out from the stuido, and when it does players will be surprised at the “large part of the game” it makes up:
“We haven’t actually revealed any narrative either, we haven’t talked about that side of the game. XCOM is not Mass Effect in terms of the external narrative, but there is certainly a narrative to the game and cinematic moments. That’s a fairly large part of the game that we haven’t revealed, that will be completely new to players.”
Choosing what to disclose about a game is always a tightrope for studios and publishers; selling requires marketing as much as it does making. We worry sometimes hearing little before a release – Is it broken? Is it boring? What exactly are they hiding? With XCOM, however, the fear and uncertainty of being cast in the middle of an alien invasion is central to what makes it tick, and what we’ve seen already is more than enough for optimism.
Ranters, how intrigued are you by narrative in XCOM: Enemy Unknown? How would you like to see it play out compared to its 1994 predecessor?
XCOM: Enemy Unknown releases on October 9th, 2012 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
Follow me on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.
Source: Rock, Paper Shotgun