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Faith In Firaxis (Part 1: All Praise Solomon And Firaxis)


I'm going to ask you to come on a trip with me. It's a trip down memory lane, but, as with all of my articles, I swear to you on a bottle of Bushmills Irish Whiskey, it will all make sense and relate to Midnight Suns.

So, come back with me to the early nineties and the games known as Civilization and X-Com. Neither had any numbers attached to them, but to a gamer like me, they didn't need to. They had narrative, and that was more addictive than any drug. I nearly lost a semester of University to each in turn, as I couldn't tear myself away from them.

It was the story they told that, I think, got me; though I didn't realize it at the time. I loved the turn-based aspect of them, the planning, the TIME I had to plot out each move. But, in each of the games, there was also an organic story that grew out of every new game I played. No matter how many times I won (or lost) I kept coming back to them, much to my GPA's dismay.

Leave Civ aside for the moment, for, while a brilliant game, a brilliant series, it doesn't really factor into Suns. Now, X-Com, however... That requires a closer look. And we can't do that without talking about Jake Solomon.


(Jake Solomon, left, and Garth DeAngelis)


Look, I know as much about Mr. Solomon as you do, gentle reader. Google and read, or watch as you will. What I know, though, is that he took a beloved franchise (X-Com), tried to be as true to it as he could, realized that some of the mechanics of the OG game were just downright clunky and took the reboot in a bold new direction.

I HATED IT.


At first, that is. But, and here's the most important thing to realize about Mr. Solomon and Midnight Suns. He was right about X-Com. Because he loved the OG game, and was smart enough to see the stuff that DID NOT work, and fix it. More than that, he was such a fan that when an independent group then modded a game that WAS NOT MEANT to be modded (I'm talking about the Long War mod, if you don't know, find out), when presented with such a huge improvement on his own passion project... he RECOMMENDED IT on his Twitter feed.

Think about that. A studio lead, who got to make his dream game, a game that then went on to win ALL the Game of The Year Awards, a game that single-handedly revived Turn-Based-Strategy from a dead joke to THE game to play, when he found people that made that game BETTER... HE. F**KING. ENDORSED. IT.


The Long War mod for X-Com was such a profound offering to Mr. Solomon that the sequel was INTENTIONALLY made with the modding community in mind. That's a man that not only can admit a mistake, but then goes out of his GODDAMN way to make sure he doesn't make it again.

This is the man, and the studio, in charge of Midnight Suns. This is why I am RABIDLY awaiting it. This is why I’m pissed as all hell that it's delayed, but also pleased as all hell that it is. Because Jake Solomon cares. And he can convince the studio that, unlike some other publishers, releasing a buggy piece of crap early isn't worth it.

What everyone is overlooking at the moment is a hallmark of Firaxis games: Organic Storytelling and Narrative. Look, one of the reasons that you can play X-Com repeatedly is because you are god-damn-GUARANTEED to get a compelling narrative from a bunch of random names and callsigns. Unmemorable rookies become Heroes, sometimes posthumously, in those games.

The one shot that saves a life.

The one shot that you needed to hit... and doesn't.

YOU FEEL THAT SHIT.

And you really don't get it in any other game.

Midnight Suns (see, I told you I'd bring it all together) has a problem with that, though. You can't go around killing the characters, can you? I mean, they're heroes!

And that, dear readers, is where I believe the cards come in.

See, if you can't get a narrative from that one shot, that heroic death, or save... what you CAN get is that magical draw. The Hand. Like flopping a Royal Flush. You'll remember that. As much as you'll remember THAT bad hand. The one that utterly screwed you, where you looked at it and thought 'No F***ING way can I do anything with this.' A hand so bad it isn't even a foot... And then you somehow manage to win anyway.


What I'm saying here, is that Firaxis and Jake Solomon have proved already with the reboot, game of the year, of a beloved, makes-the-top-10-games-of-all-time list (OG, 1995 X-Com) that they know how to not only make a game that's fun to play, but that'll make you FEEL. Whether that's a surge of joy, a "YES!" moment, or a hard, steel-toed, missed-a-95%-shot kick in the nuts, they know, KNOW, how to make those games.

So, you're not going to get that feeling of a clutch soldier proving themselves, becoming a legend in the campaign, or conversely, that soldier that just never seems to catch a break. The characters in Midnight Suns are going to have a certain amount of plot armor, because, well... they're comic book heroes! Death just doesn't take.

But... what does take is the battles. Comic books are known for hitting you in the feels with iconic battles, instances, panels. That is what the card mechanic in the game will bring us. That feeling of 'Holy Sh*t! THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME' as well as 'Holy Sh*t! This is going to ALL the suck!'

The cards are there to let us have those moments, they're NOT there as a gimmick. Take the cards away and put a random toolbar of actions instead. Same effect, no cards. Would that make you feel better? Calm thyselves, ye majestic nerd herd; have faith in Solomon and Firaxis.

Jake Solomon has proven he can do this. Firaxis has proven they can do this. So, y'know, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt. They’ve earned it and so I suggest we all have faith, my friends. Not blind faith, faith based on past achievements, by both Mr. Solomon and Firaxis.

It's going to be goddamn glorious.


- Rock

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