The lights are on
Now that we've all had a chance to sink our teeth into Firaxis' excellent XCOM remake, it's time to think about what's next for the franchise. Between the tactical and strategic layers, there are countless opportunities to expand XCOM aside from offering more soldier hairstyles.
Adapting alien tech to XCOM's uses is all well and good, but how about adding more interesting branches to the tech tree for weapons with more creative uses? Incendiary weapons were a great tool in the original game; Firaxis could bring those back to allow players to temporarily block off approaches or punish aliens trying to hunker down behind heavy cover. Psionic feedback grenades could break psi abilities and penalize psionically sensitive aliens (and squaddies). Full-auto LMGs could hit everything in a cone and do heavier structural damage. The sky is the limit here. As long as the new stuff is put in appropriate places in the tech tree and reasonably well balanced with research times and costs, adding weapons and items could easily be done without changing the structure of the campaign.
We already create stories for our soldiers out of the action onscreen. Having the game itself recognize more of that would be awesome. How cool would it be to have a Heavy get an after-battle commendation for his suppressive fire making an alien miss a wounded squadmate they would've otherwise killed – and maybe even get an additional 5 percent Aim penalty on anyone he suppresses? Stack up a couple of commendations on a soldier and you'll be even more heartbroken when she dies.
An upgraded memorial wall would go hand-in-hand with soldier commendations. With the commendation system already in place, the memorial could easily give a list of their career highlights alongside more detailed stats from their run. Maybe that assault really did deserve to die with an abysmal 22 percent hit rate. How are you going to replace the support captain who had 31 medkit uses and six revives?
The existing balance between the assault, support, heavy, and sniper classes is exquisite. There isn't much room for another class to carve out a combat niche for itself, especially since each of the current four have multiple specializations. Nonetheless, the one phase of tactical combat that doesn't get much love is scouting. How about a recon class that can sometimes avoid being seen when it uncovers a new alien group, for example, and has a better defensive action that maintains line of sight while giving evasion bonuses? I could definitely find room in my Skyranger for that guy.
[Next up: New stories, more variety, and something completely different.]