Marvel’s Midnight Suns, an upcoming tactical RPG from Firaxis Games, is turning a lot of heads for all the right reasons. It’s bringing together a cast of beloved characters against an immense evil. It’s shaping up to be an action-packed adventure with a combination of strategic combat and over-world RPG elements. And, it’s spent long enough in the oven that it should be well cooked when it comes out. However, the Marvel’s Midnight Suns we’re looking at now isn’t what the game always looked like. In an interview with Gamespot, creative director Jake Solomon has revealed that Marvel’s Midnight Suns is “not nearly as stressful” as XCOM – and there’s a great reason for that.
Originally, Firaxis Games approached the development of making Marvel’s Midnight Suns with a plan to make XCOM with superheroes. However, according to Solomon, this “fell apart” quite quickly because it all “just felt terrible”. The developments in combat, namely the card system, have supposedly created a less stressful experience where players are focused on solving a puzzle rather than managing a tactical combat engagement.
For Solomon, developing Marvel’s Midnight Suns was “one of those things where… You don’t know what game you’re making until you start making [it]”. Why was this the case? Well, Solomon was design lead on Firaxis Games’ XCOM franchise and he has explained that when the development team started on Marvel’s Midnight Suns, they thought “we’re going to make XCOM, but we’re going to add superheroes to it”.
This idea fell apart and “within weeks”, according to Solomon in his interview with Gamesport, the development team realised that everything about the design of the game was wrong.
“ At that time,” Solomon and the development team realised, “as we kept putting randomness in the abilities of heroes, it felt terrible. It just felt terrible.” The ‘randomness’ of abilities and attacks is a core mechanic in XCOM’s combat system, understandably something you would try to implement into an XCOM-like game if you’re the development team behind the XCOM franchise.
To some extent, every video game ever made creates a degree of fantasy for the player. However, as Gamespot rightfully comment, “playing as Iron Man and watching him miss a high-percentage shot, or attacking with Captain Marvel only for her to deal a piddling amount of damage” doesn’t fit with the superheroic fantasy Firaxis Games wants to create with Marvel’s Midnight Suns.
So, that’s why it’s “almost impossible to do something wrong” in Marvel’s Midnight Suns, according to Solomon. “Attacks do what they say they’re going to do. They’re always going to damage the enemy. They’re always going to do the amount of damage they say they’re going to do.”
Well… That’s good, right? Marvel’s Midnight Suns is “still easily as complex as any match of XCOM”, according to Solomon, and that has to be thanks to the game’s card system. This system will give players a limited selection of superheroic abilities in each combat scenario and is at the core of the game’s puzzle-like combat situations.
“ The fun of cards, what it allows us to do, is from the very beginning of the game, the heroes have very, very powerful abilities. And again, this fits the fantasy, but the idea is, Iron Man is Iron Man from the beginning. He doesn’t have to train up to be awesome.”
With this system, according to Solomon, the combat in Marvel’s Midnight Suns is more like a puzzle. “It becomes more about like, how well can you win this match? How quickly can you beat this match? How many guys can you take out with one ability?” This should be “just as mentally consuming” as traditional XCOM gameplay, so “you feel that same sense of victory”.
Of course, we will have to wait until we get our hands on Marvel’s Midnight Suns before we agree – or disagree – with that statement, but it’s a promising reassurance that this game is going to, with any luck, be a lot less frustrating than XCOM games can be.