X-COM 2 – The PR war
I’ve been playing a lot of X-COM 2 because it’s brilliant and you should probably be playing it instead of reading this blog (It’s what I’ve been doing instead of writing it) The game is the most part terrific and I’m already planning my second playthrough but one part I’ve found slightly lacking is the games weak sauce approach to how the everyday men and women of the world are treated in game.
Let me explain:
When fighting across various urban environments, it’s not uncommon for civilians to be caught in the crossfire of battle. At the start of most levels, your team will be in concealment, allowing them to move across the map unmolested by any aliens as long as they keep a reasonable distance from them. Aliens aren’t the only thing that can detect you and blow your cover, civilians can to and if you get too close they can absolutely ruin your plans by revealing your position on the map and attracting nearby patrols to come and blow holes in you.
In this way, civilians act as minefields which you must skirt around in order to proceed. You have no way to ‘disarm’ the threat they pose and so must treat them with extreme caution. This is because in the world of X-Com 2 you are the aggressor, the terrorist, the bad guy in the eyes of the people on the ground who the aliens have control of. At the beginning of a campaign this status as the enemy makes sense, but as the game progresses and the war becomes a little more even this doesn’t change in any way aside from a small cutscene close to the end of the game showing the people rising up.
To me, this is a missed opportunity (or an idea that will be expanded on in an expansion in a year or so) that could have added another interesting set of mechanics to the way each game plays out. Let’s call this part of the game the PR War. Everything you do either has a cost or boon to your perception by the public. Play the game in a very PR friendly way and you’d get bonuses to resources and have more recruits joining up. But play in an unfriendly way and you’d find that the public would be rising up against you, pressuring ADVENT to bring you to justice or even setting up vigilante groups to hunt you themselves.
Say for instance I’m given a mission to either kill or kidnap a VIP of the alien forces. This VIP is human and will typically be in a highly urbanised environment with plenty of witnesses. If I kill the VIP in a hail of bullets this footage could be played back to the civilians by ADVENT to show just how nasty I am and causing a penalty to my public perception. But, If I kidnapped the target, there would still be a penalty (Kidnapping is still pretty bad in most people’s eyes) but it would be reduced.
Now in a game where you are already juggling so many competing resources and strategies at anyone time I can understand why no one would want to add this further layer of complexity to a game that already devours time like I devour crisps, still I thought it was a fun thought experiment that I wanted to share and get your opinions on.