The story behind XCOM 2 is much larger than the time it was actually in development at Firaxis Games.
When we decided to take on the monumental task of developing an XCOM game, we knew that everything started in 1994 with Julian Gollop’s original, X-Com: UFO Defense. We were well aware and humbled by the impact of the classic game and its impact on the industry when we created XCOM: Enemy Unknown. All of the decisions that went into developing Enemy Unknown in turn impacted the development of XCOM 2. To look at how we created XCOM 2, we have to look at how we adapted UFO Defense.
Taking on the XCOM series has been an exhilarating and wild ride from the beginning. To get it right, we needed to start with a leadership team that slept, ate, and breathed XCOM. Creative Director Jake Solomon’s passion for X-Com: UFO Defense is the reason why he’s in the industry and we knew that he would fight to the death to make sure that the XCOM game we created was faithful to the series legacy.
To make sure everyone on the team felt the magic of the original, every developer sat down and played UFO Defense together. It was an extraordinarily fun time to be on the project, and was the beginning of this special team collaborating with each of their individual talents. Concurrently, a small team and Art Director Greg Foertsch visualized how XCOM would uphold the spirit Jake was looking for with a modern presentation and sleek aesthetic.
Mechanically, the challenge with Enemy Unknown was deciding how much to carry over from UFO Defense and how much to reinvent. We wanted to put our own stamp on the series, but we had an obligation to deliver a true XCOM experience. Earlier prototypes saw a more literal translation from the classic game to ours, but lacked the magic that pulled the experience together. It was at this point that the team started to focus more on the “feel” of XCOM. A player should be fighting an uphill battle throughout their campaign. This is a war where the odds are stacked against you, yet, somehow, you will prevail. Once we figured out the core of the XCOM experience, we felt comfortable adding in new ideas and modernizing game mechanics from the original.
We were floored by the response to Enemy Unknown and were even more excited to continue to develop the series. We felt we found a smart balance between the old and new for Enemy Unknown that fans enjoyed playing, but designing XCOM 2 had a whole different set of challenges. How do we reinvent a game that was a reinvention of a classic? We really liked the underdog element and wanted to push that further in the sequel. We also saw this as an opportunity to add gameplay elements like procedural generation back into the series.
XCOM 2 couldn’t use the established canon of UFO Defense; we had to start fresh with new ideas to really make the franchise our own and create a true sequel. We found the idea of starting the story after losing the original game incredibly inspiring to build a new world upon. It was a fascinating challenge developing a fresh, but familiar world, polishing the tactical mechanics, and establishing a new open-ended strategy layer.
We tried to push the intensity and visceral nature of the series in all aspects. One of my favorite ways we did this is with the aliens themselves. They embody the bolder direction of the sequel both narratively and artistically. XCOM 2 sees more terrifying versions of the alien roster whose DNA has been spliced together with humans. The aliens are stronger and smarter. We also shifted the gameplay from the defensive, reactionary style seen in Enemy Unknown to a more offensive one where players are choosing when and how to attack the enemy.
Following XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within on the PS3, the team is now ecstatic to continue the franchise on PS4 with XCOM 2, launching this week worldwide. We owe the continuation of the franchise to our dedicated Commanders in the community, and we hope that you’ll join the fray and dive into this world lovingly crafted with strategic depth, adrenaline-pumping moments in combat, and an epic campaign to take back our planet from unwelcome overseers. If you’re unfamiliar with the massive feature list, please hop on over to the official XCOM site to learn more about the game world, and Season Pass content that will be available to extend the XCOM world further.
With the XCOM franchise, we pride ourselves in offering something unexpected. We want you to be surprised. We want you to feel challenged (but also the thrill of victory when you do outsmart the aliens). We want to give you a memory that will stick with you for a while.
On behalf of the XCOM team, good luck.