I love turn-based tactics games, and I’m a big fan of XCOM. The past month, however, I’ve been playing Midnight Suns and… I think I may have a new favorite Firaxis tactics title.
XCOM will always have a place in my heart, but many of the changes in Midnight Suns have grown on me to the point where they’d be missed going back to the standard XCOM formula.
Read More ▼
In XCOM, I always felt like I fell into a general pattern for most missions. Take a comfortable team comp, advance a little, overwatch my sniper, move people into position. Deal with what came up, and then inch forward a little further, getting everyone into place, rinse and repeat.
Your tactics become predicable, and the RNG enters the picture once the bullets start to fly. And that makes some sense, no matter how good you are with a gun, there’s always a chance for a miss, right? But I don’t think any of us consider that seething urge to save scum after whiffing a “95%” sniper headshot to be particularly “fun.”
Midnight Suns flips that around. Working from the concept that super heroes don’t whiff their shots, your attacks (in the form of cards), always hit, and always do exactly what they say they will. That sounded odd to me at first, but it works brilliantly. Instead, the RNG comes in terms of what cards you draw into your hand each round.
You bring three heroes into an encounter, and each of them brings a deck of eight cards you’ve constructed. Shuffled together, you have a total deck of 24 cards for the encounter. This does mean that on a given turn, you may not have cards for all three heroes. What it also means is that every turn is a unique puzzle that you have to unravel, between the cards, their abilities, and the enemies on hand.
You get three card plays per turn (there are mechanics that allow you to play more cards than that), and a give and take between cards that generate heroism (a resource) and consume it. Between this, a healthy roster of heroes that play differently, and mission objectives that don’t always necessarily require “killing all enemies,” every tends to be a really fun “figure it out” exercise. I don’t fall into autopilot, and my success is entirely due to my tactical planning, and not an RNG percentage on that shot I was counting on.
The missions are incredible, the heroes look and animate great, and it absolutely scratches my tactics itch. There is another half of the game that, though I was less sold on initially, I will admit its grown on me some.
That half of the game takes place at your “base,” and its where you hang out with the heroes, train, explore, upgrade abilities, craft cards, etc. Whereas the combat half of things is very XCOM-ish, this half is more like Fire Emblem Three Houses.
It feels strange at first, attending a book club with Blade, or asking Wolverine to hang out and have a beer. You do it because increasing your friendship with the heroes directly impacts their effectiveness in combat, through new cards and passive abilities.
On its own, I find the writing and voice acting to be a little inconsistent (big recommend you choose the female Hunter protagonist, over the male voice actor). And though I still fast forward through some conversations I don’t care about, just to try and get the “Friendship+” icons quickly, I have to admit that having this half of the game has me more engaged than I thought.
And like I said, all of these activities have very tangible benefits, such as new card ; you can upgrade cards, and cards can also roll with modifiers, which gives them unique extras. So there’s a lot of incentive to collect cards so you can super custom tailor your decks.
Some of this stuff wouldn’t work with XCOM (its probably not as impactful to ‘hang out’ with no-name cannon fodder between missions), but Midnight Suns is a really fun evolution for Firaxis. I’m loving it, and looking forward to Deadpool and Venom in the DLC, but also excited to see them take some of what they’ve learned and refine it in future tactics titles, Marvel or XCOM.
Read Less ▲