Following last week's announcement that XCOM 2 will be getting its own Long War mod, we spoke with its lead designer John Lumpkin about what he's planning this time around.
His team, Pavonis Interactive (formerly Long War Studios), has worked alongside Firaxis since before the launch of XCOM 2 and it sounds like this partnership has only strengthened as it tackles its biggest project yet.
"We are frequently in touch with the XCOM team at Firaxis," said Lumpkin. "They've been a great help to us when we're sorting through the code, making new maps, that sort of thing."
So what's different this time around? The original Long War mod for XCOM: Enemy Unknown transformed the game's campaign into something much longer (surprisingly) and offered a whole range of new toys, abilities and enemy designs to play around with.
"In the most general terms, our goal is to tell the XCOM 2 story in our own way," explained Lumpkin. "Taking the game in the direction we took XCOM: Enemy Unknown - going for an extended campaign that keeps you on the knife's edge between victory and defeat for the duration. And as with the original Long War, we added lots more problems for the players and also lots of new tools to solve them, but this time they are heavily influenced by the game's guerrilla war theme."
But let's be honest, when we talk about the Long War mod, we inevitably talk about its difficulty. Very few people have completed a full campaign on Impossible difficulty, as it requires such consistent, smart play over such a gruelling number of missions.
"The original Long War's DNA was that of a hardcore mod," said Lumpkin. "And while we made plenty of effort to open it up for a wider playerbase once its popularity grew, it kept its reputation as being very challenging. This go-round, we've tried to broaden our appeal by keeping the lower difficulty levels of Long War 2 more accessible to casual players who would still like to take part in an extended campaign experience.
"Those difficulties probably still harder than the unmodded game in the sense that we've added a bunch of mechanics for the player to figure out and master, but the gameplay is set up to be more forgiving to players as they learn the ropes. And make no mistake, the higher difficulties are still things even experienced players should very much lose.
"Our testers have finished campaigns in roughly 100 to 120 missions. The strategy layer is also quite a bit more involved than XCOM 2 players may be used to. That mission count is not quite as long as Long War for Enemy Unknown, but we feel like we've hit a good number where every mission matters and moves things forward but without it becoming a grind."
We don't have any word yet on when to expect this mod's release, although Lumpkin promises it's "coming soon". As for the team's own strategy game, Terra Invicta, which was announced last year, it's still being worked on in the background. For the time being, however, Long War 2 is the focus.