The Late-late Air game is simply Not fun

For general discussion about XCOM: Long War
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Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2016 6:52 pm

The Late-late Air game is simply Not fun

Postby Stark » Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:53 pm

With my game-time with LW creeping up on 3000 hours, I have come to realize a few things: A: I have no life and B: No matter how much you focus on Air combat the UFO tech will inevitably end you.

Having learnt so much from many earlier failed attempts where I neglected the importance of the Air-game, I went into this campaign with a preemptive tactic that my Air-game would be my primary focus above all else, And as expected, my tactical game did suffer. My overall game strategy had evolved into the method of thinking that the foundation of success started with the Air-game and I still think that to be the case.

With the emphasis on Air-tech, the early-mid tactical was sluggish and rough, but by the end of the first year it was paying dividends, as for the first time I had successfully pulled off skipping both Guass and Pulse thanks to the backbone of my economy- my Air-game. With a fresh supply of Plasma weapons to start the new year, our ground forces finally caught some well deserved slack. But in the realm of LW this is still not enough. Contrary to my belief that I was running an optimal campaign, the realization set-in that I cannot sustain an ongoing war no matter how well I planned, researched or orchestrated tactical missions, it was in the end, just a means to buy more time.

All along I seemed to have mistaken what this mod is all about- I thought the "Long" in Long War was in some way a signification that it accommodates for those truly seeking an epic ongoing war, which is probably subject to my own masochistic, perfectionist, OCD interpretation to what it actually means. Either way, I am disheartened at the direction and cheapness that LW takes in the Late-late stages of the game.

Cheapness in that even with a massive fleet of fully upgraded Firestorms, complimented with Fusion weapons, you are no match for the late-game UFO-spam. Situations as ridiculous, but not limited to 2 Assault carriers, 1 Terror ship, 1 Battleship on the same continent in a single day and 21+ UFO's per month 90% of which being the variety that crit a fully upgraded Firestorm for 90% of it's HP. It has gotten to a point where the best possible craft you are able to field, using the best weapons, only last about 2 seconds against these UFO's and believe me, it's not uncommon to lose a Firestorm before those 2 seconds are up.

It is now October 2017, I've had nothing to research for the last 6 months and half my play-time in this mod now revolves around me save-scumming a minimum of 20 times just to get a scenario where my Firestorms don't get killed in the first 2 seconds of engagement. It doesn't sound like fun and it isn't. Despite all my efforts and planning, despite my fleet being at the pinnacle of advancement, despite my admirable attempts at slowing Alien research, I am getting cheesed relentlessly by what I think to be a very broken mechanic.

With my passion for this campaign dwindling more each day I was left with no choice but to reduce the repair hours for our craft as all time in Geoscape had slowly morphed into a mundane chore of save-scumming 50 times an hour just to prevent the aliens from completely raping the world. And please don't give me that "you're supposed to take losses and take unwinnable situations on the chin" speech, for it is well known to me that this was one of the intended goals imagined by the LW devs- and believe me I've dealt with many losses and I've learned to walk away from the spoils of war on many occasion, but those lumps you have to swallow pale in comparison to blatant game mechanics that force you down a particular avenue of game-play, in this case "cheesing" you into submission when all else fails.

Now if there was some kind of player input that could be used to combat this I would have nothing to complain about, but this is it, I've done all I can do. At this point there is literally nothing I can do to prevent total collapse beyond save-scumming. I struggle to believe that this was somehow an "intended" feature in what is otherwise a masterwork mod. But then I ask myself- am I being unreasonable in my expectation that the Long war mod truly lets you experience and endure the essence of alien warfare with epic scale and depth ? Perhaps I was only right about the "depth" part and not so much the "scale", but I am disappointed, as I imagined the Long war to be somewhat "Longer".

I know, I know, "nice Rant bro" but I don't honestly believe subjectivity has anything to do with this issue beyond my own particular expectations or interpretations. If there is one universal constant in gaming it's that the player should always have some kind of tool to overcome obstacles and the true dynamic is how the player uses those tools. But how can it be considered a functional system when both player input and tools are denied to them ? At any rate, it does sure feel good to get that off my chest. ;)

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Joined: Tue Mar 28, 2017 9:36 pm

Re: The Late-late Air game is simply Not fun

Postby rift » Wed Apr 26, 2017 10:06 pm

but you're supposed to take losses and take unwinnable situations on the chin. That's LW! :-)
Welcome to the club.

Joking aside, it's really true though. Before I even started my first LW campaign, I had read everything on Ufopedia and some other sites, so before I even got to build Firestorms I already knew that it would take several FSs to take down a large or very large UFO. Just considering things like the damage of the Fusion Lance vs. the very large UFO armor + late game UFO upgrades + you can’t crit a battleship or only 4% crit on assault carriers after all upgrades, etc etc etc., carefully studying these things had my expectations significantly lowered and ‘corrected’. Going in with the right expectations is really important in succeeding in LW. If you bring your ‘vanilla’ thinking here, you WILL fail.
Stark wrote:one universal constant in gaming it's that the player should always have some kind of tool to overcome obstacles

No. NOoooooo. No no no. NO. Oh and by the way did I say, NO. That's a big mistake. That just doesn't apply to LW. You are definitely NOT supposed to have the tools to deal with everything the game throws at you. People tend to confuse beating the game with dominating the air game, which is why they think the air game sucks. It sounds like you try to take down most (or all) UFOs that fly your way, because you think you should be able to dominate after getting the upgrades. You can't. You won’t'. You're not supposed to. Don't even try. That's not what LW is about. Yes, even after you’ve upgraded everything you should not be able to dominate. That’s what most people don’t realize about LW - it's not just a more difficult version than vanilla. You should think of LW as a different game entirely, with a whole different set of goals and strategies.

I’ve learned to play with the expectation that the game will do what it has to do to raise panic levels. That’s a given. There’s no way around it, because it’s SUPPOSED to happen. I expect to occasionally lose a continent, and to have to assault an alien base. The trick is not to keep trying to prevent that from happening indefinitely, and lose all your jets in the process, but to realize that it’s easier to assault an alien base and take back a continent, especially in the late game. Once I got used to this, things started coming together. In the late game it gets much easier to assault alien bases after you get enough MECs, 100% mind controllers, blaster launchers, and flying ITZ snipers. Half the time the aliens are fighting each other when I take a 90%+ mind control on a Leviathan or Juggernaut.

Here is how I approach air combat…

  1. I pick my fights.
    • Usually I prioritize panic increasing UFOs: terror ships, air raiders, satellite busters (in that order). Small and mediums are easy. If the UFO is of the large or very large type and I don't have enough interceptors to take it down, I don’t fight it tooth and nail. If I can, I try to take at least 50% of their HP to force them to quit their mission. If I can’t even do that, I just let them do their thing. In the best case, they’ll destroy a satellite – no problem, I raise another one right away. I always keep a good amount of spare satellites. If they start a terror mission, again, no biggie, I play the mission and try to minimize the panic damage. In the late game terror missions are not too bad.
    • I don’t attack abductors and NOE research UFOs. Abduction missions are your best friend – they reduce panic and give the most Meld, and they’re not very hard. Landed UFOs.. well you know what they bring.
    • Large or VL Scouting UFOs - it depends. If my interceptors are in good shape, I may go after it, otherwise I don’t bother. Scout UFOs don’t do much harm by themselves.
    • The one occasion I do my best to take down a battleship or an assult carrier is when the come to attack my HQ. I don’t like HQ defense so I try to prevent it, and with a few dodge and aim modules it’s not too bad.
  2. The other impression I got from your post is that you have a full complement of 30 Firestorms. If that’s true, that would be another mistake, and this one is a biggie. Having 30 interceptors means you have no available transfer slots on any continent. The worst thing you can do to your air game is to lose the ability to cycle jets between continents. That’s crucial. UFOs tend to focus on one or two continents – the highest panic continent and your HQ continent. This makes the air game much easier, if you can use it to your advantage. Since you mostly need fresh interceptors in those 2-3 continents, the rest of the continents serve as place holders. If a jet gets damaged and needs more than 4-5 days to recover, I immediately cycle it out to another continent and fly a fresh one in. So, I just keep 29 Firestorms.

  3. I keep a huge reserve of modules. Dodge and aim modules. In my new campaign I don’t sell ANY cyberdisk or floater corpses, not one. Floaters are more abundant so aim modules are more plentiful – I use those in most UFO fights against medium or larger. Dodge modules are fewer, so I keep those for the really important dogfights against large or very large UFOs. With these modules your firestorms should certainly last more than 2 seconds.

Again, most of these things are mentioned on Ufopedia. I would not advise anyone to play LW without reading everything there. In fact, when someone says that LW air game sucks, I know exactly what assumptions they brought from vanilla, and what they didn’t read or pay attention to. Once I realized that part of the air game is actually choosing which UFOs to fight, that made it much more strategic, and more fun to play than the "brute force" approach that worked fine in vanilla.

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