Terra Invicta: XCOM-y grand strategy

This was my struggle with the demo a few months back. Felt like every time the simulation stopped because I had to pick my missions again I was just picking the same stuff over and over.

Do you think they’ll incorporate that kind of feedback?

I’m hopeful. The developers seem active on their Discord. And this is the mod team from Long War 1 and 2, iterating on an existing concept is what they’re good at.

So yeah, I’d wait on this to cook some more in early access, unless you’re okay with playing a game that doesn’t yet respect your time. And one that requires you to read the Discord – right now the game has several strategic traps that you can fall into. For example, when you first get the opportunity to build a space station, and the game tells you to build a space station, you absolutely should not do that.

From my experiences with LW this would be on brand. Xcom2, a game already too long made a whole lot longer by a mod team.

It was very quickly obvious that the tutorial wasn’t suggesting the optimal order of operations there :) “Here’s a station, it does nothing. Now build a base on the moon instead and mine some stuff”. But honestly, I don’t think this was anywhere my biggest inefficiency. I’m tempted to just restart and optimize the start better, since it feels like if there’s any kind of game clock that’s supposed to provide a challenge, I must be way behind it. (It’s almost 2030, I have maybe 10 outposts with mines, and I just shot down my first alien ship in space.)

On the other hand, who knows that I’d be understanding the optimal way of playing the very substantial chunk of game left, when it’s clearly about to change radically. So I’ll more likely be using this as a sacrificial playthrough, and hopefully remember enough of the strategic concepts by the time I’m willing to give it another go.

I haven’t found the councillor missions to be “just do the same thing every time”, too many things are changing from turn to turn. But saying that the game doesn’t respect your time is definitely fair. And oh dear god the UI needs a quality of life pass.

But honestly, despite all the jank and tedium, I expect to be getting my money’s worth from just this first playthrough. The hard scifi conceit (both the orbital mechanics and the technobabble all being so plausible sounding) hits me right in the High Frontier-shaped hole in my heart, the Alpha Centauri-style tech & event interstitials are top notch, and I’m finding the Earth-based grand strategy part to be strangely compelling.

A perfect game for my wishlist. Any idea when it might leave early access?

Oh, Valve likes China money. I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

They had problems with the (currently unfinished) Chinese localization, and some Unity bugs with Chinese characters. I think the bugs are fixed, and they’re going to use the fan community translated version as the new base for a new official translation. So looks like the reviews flipped positive.

What did you all think about the research system? I thought it was interesting.

For anybody who hasn’t played the game, the research tree has two types of tech: theoretical research, and applied engineering. Everything theoretical is collaboratively researched and shared between factions. All applied engineering is individual for the faction, and is unlocked by the theoretical research. Applied engineering is what gives you new units or abilities.

This neatly avoids the situation you have spearmen and are surprised by a tank. You always know what your rivals are broadly capable of doing, though you may not know what they’ve actually invested in.

There are even more interesting dynamics to the research system which aren’t explained super well up front.

The faction who contributes the most to theoretical research (global research) picks the next tech. So if you are aiming for a certain applied engineering project (faction projects) then you have to take the lead in some global research first, and then choose it.

Faction projects are not unlocked immediately after the global research enables them. They are unlocked randomly, but the speed is highly correlated with what percentage of research your faction contributed. This effect can be huge, if you contribute nothing, it might take years for a project to unlock. So if a project is on the critical path for you, be sure to contribute a decent amount.

Lastly, there’s a small research bonus you get for splitting up your research among different projects. So having more research slots will increase overall research output.

Not really? From the Steam page:

If we’re taking guesses, put me down for one year.

It’s a really neat system.

Global research is another one of those things that I really mismanaged at first, thinking that it would clearly make more sense to just concentrate on unlocking things for myself rather than helping everyone. But of course that leads to both the research stagnating (aliens tech doesn’t depend on your research progres) and to factions picking bullshit global research that doesn’t align with my goals at all. Once I started making sure I had some control of the agenda, things got a lot smoother.

It’d be pretty nice to be able to set a priority on faction projects, to get all the crap I never intend to research at the bottom of the list. I don’t think it’s the intent for anyone to research anywhere near everything that becomes available.

Oh! I did not realize that, but it makes a ton of sense. That seems quite crucial for the exploration techs at least; not sure if there’s anything else where being the first by a small amount of time matters.

Wow, that is very important to know. Thanks!

Just grabbed three of four control points in Russia in my first game as the Resistance. We also control Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Georgia, and Finland. Now I have to figure out how to combine them all into the Central Eurasian block or whatever it’s called. Having lots of fun so far and very happy to have picked up the game.

I’m in year 2033, And this game continually blows my mind. It is without a doubt the best shadow government game I’ve ever played.

I call it a combination of XCOM 1 strategic layer, The high frontier board game, and the Illuminati card game.

I’m 55 hours into the game as the Resistance. As you complete the faction quests. The game just keeps opening up. It’s got that slow drip like the original XCOM where the scope just keeps getting bigger and bigger. But it is a slow drip.

The early game is way different than the middle game. I’m just getting to the point where I’m regularly engaging the alien fleets. And they just started bringing out the dreadnoughts and motherships.

One thing I found was super effective about the control point issues in the early game. I’ve become a powerhouse by Europe into a super nation. Controlling territories that confederate and then unify really removes the control restrictions. Instead of having to defend seven countries, you just have to defend one.

I control all of Europe as the European Union. I control all of the former USSR as the Russians. I only have to do defend and remove unrest in two countries. Leaves the rest of my counselors to engage in special ops.

I fully expect to sink 100s of hours in this game.

Yep, there’s a lot going on on the earth map. It’s a little too easy to dominate once you have put the mechanics together I think, but the arrival of our purple friends can very quickly upend all that. I love how dynamic it is. My favourite so far is the following sequence of events - Initiative has Russia. Servants start taking Russia, I prepare a coup. Servants get Russia. I coup Russia. I take Russia. I disarm Russia’s nukes. I abandon Russia. Initiative takes Russia.

Some balance things are a bit off, like spoils being so profitable, assassination being too easy, and the dynamics of some priorities being better in smaller/larger states, because of the way investment points are calculated.

Alliance management is a pain, especially because the AI makes so many alliances with minor states. I think they could go back to grouping small countries together into one more than they do.

The problem is space and how they deal with the “powerful alien fleets” problem. It’s a shame they have gone with the “no stealth in space” reality. I’d prefer something where you develop “civilian” assets out in the open and have secret military bases and mining facilities hidden in asteroids or deep underground on mars or whatever.

Then when you inevitably decide you need to make the aliens angry you lose all your “open” assets and deployed warships but still have the core infrastructure, and you don’t get caught in the cycle of:

  • Aliens attack space assets
  • Some die, some are protected by your fleets or defence systems.
  • Because you fought the aliens, they get more angry and send more powerful ships.
  • Eventually you run out of space resources because you can’t keep your mines open.

Well, I’m certainly in that tit for tat loop with the aliens attacking my space resources. That said, there are projects that reduce your apparent threat to the aliens. I’ve also noticed when attacking my habs, sometimes they just blow up the defense arrays and leave the rest of the station alone.

I haven’t researched the alien goals yet, but I do find it interesting that most of their counselors are carrying nothing but harmony increasing orgs. Maybe this whole alien invasion thing is just an intervention for climate change!

Yeah, it’s worth underlining how there’s this wild strategic trap in the current game.

Alien surveillance ships show up in orbit very early on, and an unaware user would assume they should try to shoot them down. But the optimal way to play is to ignore them until you’re ready to go to war, after you have advanced ships and heavily fortified outposts. This is potentially tens of hours into a game. Can you imagine if XCOM incentivized you to avoid their tactical layer for this long?

Yeah, given the utter ineffectiveness of ground based defence arrays (which doesnt seem to be the case for everyone - there might be a specific tech with problems?) I think if you get into this situation you really need to be focussed on Mars and Mercury (and possibly Ceres) as then you can use fleets to defend your ground stations. Even if the fleets die at least you are inflicting real costs on the aliens (who do have an economy simulation and resource limits) rather than having your settlements taken out by lone corvettes.

It’s worse than that, even if you go “no point attacking the aliens” in space:

  1. For several factions the game tells you to do it!
  2. You can also trigger attacks just by having too many MC used.
  3. You can also trigger attacks by actions on the earth map (the game does warn about this)
  4. If you do trigger attacks and put layered defence arrays on a station, you might accidentally destroy a mothership and trigger massive retaliation…

But I basically agree with you, I don’t want to be strongly disincentivized from trying out the space combat layer.

This hasn’t been my experience, defense installations seem to be much more effective than ships. Two defense arrays seems to make a station or base invulnerable to alien attacks of any size. Even a single basic point defense can kill their bombers while trading a few destroyed modules.

Like you said, though, this might be a tech issue. These things upgrade themselves but the game doesn’t tell you which techs are used, and I’ve heard of some of the upgrades being way less effective than others.