Author Topic: Ben Hur of MODing (X-PirateZ review/impressions/feedback/rant hybrid)  (Read 1398 times)

Offline Nilex

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Wrote this 4 months ago thinking I was about win but the finish line just kept moving out of reach. New goals emerged as I discovered benefits of gameplay mechanic I neglected in the past. 5 new updates game received during my 8 months long playthrough snowballed more new plans. Intended to be a brief overview accompanied by chronicles screen but grew too large too fast so please excuse lack of flow. Posting this because I couldn't find a decent review anywhere except for that 5yr old rockpapershotgun article which doesn't go into details or critique.

LIKES
Initial scope followed by immeasurable awe when research progress finally hits 1%. It's like 100 Sid Meier Civs fused into one single game. The feeling prevailed all the way up to 33% making my top 10 list.
33% to 66% is time of familiarization with all game mechanics and steady but welcome increase in complexity. Confidence grows as does planning and (micro)management.
66% onward repetition starts creeping in paired with poor UI support to handle the workload, gradually steering closer to working than playing. Unfinished WIP story arcs are encountered coupled with lesser quality of late game progress (Higher Studies+, less new goodies, just tech unlocks). Satisfaction relies on few new remaining but thinly spread missions to stir the settled waters and fulfillment of personal player goals. <- Only two updates later I'm convinced this is greatly improved already (except UI).
What remains awe worthy until the end are researched topics and is how well logically interconnected every item/tech dependency is. Even with my extraordinary nitpick levels I found only one improvement in 3k topics. As new updates came research tree kept getting subtle logical improvements which was mind boggling.

The writing I absolutely loved throughout. Whole Boccaccio's Decameron hides in XPZ deepths with ludicrous amounts of quality lore, imaginative item descriptions, and extensive gameplay mechanics explanations written in lore-style. I especially liked attention to details like Gas-Balls working only with a Pistol because they'd fall apart when used in Rifles due to increased pressure. Newer example is using 10th different armor value influence to describe effectiveness of Universal Refreshner. Innumerous more similar examples in between the two. Faction backgrounds and all that stuff are damn impressive. Whole thing does actually resemble faithful continuation of UFO/XCOM. In OG online ufopedia there's an official lore describing events that happened in between officially released games. Why for example they couldn't use Elerium-115 in TFTD, all logically explained. Easy to see how something like that would occur in our real world, giving credibility to official lore. Same quality is found in XPZ. Lots of small Sci-Fi details in there you only find in professional author's books. Loved that.

What I loved just as same is restraint of keeping some rare but excellent maps restricted to unique 1-off events, never to be seen again (Winter Palace, Siberia Base, Terminal, etc). Great looking maps of amazing quality only to be experienced once. Made them that much more memorable although I presume was a bitch to accept as designer. I guess in school essays you actually typed out densely typed text as opposed to rest of us who spread that shit, hehe.

Storage & money handling in the long run is one of the more ingenious ideas I've seen. Who ever thought of slaves mechanics in particular has my respect. Such a practical, believable, steady and simple form of reducing space/finance worries I cannot believe it exists. Funnily enough I long delayed researching slaves even though I knew the benefits because I thought they would take up living space. Glad it isn't the case!

Sound FX are the best. Reminds me of the '90s when devs were naturally gifted in creating sounds that just worked even if they weren't realistic per-say. Skullstrider walking sounds is super enjoyable enjoyable. Of the whole package I'd change only that blue outlined Cutlass (wtf is that sound lol), and recent interception music addition which belongs in some Monkey Island mini-game instead.
Music is great just the same, fantastic picks. Normally it must be near perfect for me to enjoy it. Joyful, rhythmic and all that. In sound department XPZ nails it (props for Find the Suspicious Brainer jump scare).

Extra effort put into color coding various in-game menus with own unique scheme really added flavor and atmosphere. Colossal improvement over those year old LPs on YouTube using vanilla colors. A fine example of low effort / high reward scenario. Felt like a polished game just by that subtle visual tweak.

AI. Dunno if XPZ messed further with it than OCX(E) but it's perfect. Kudos to AI coders. Near end of my last TFTD playthrough a sad realization emerged that I'll never get to experience true vanilla AI. Ever. OG games are full of broken path nodes, deployment slots errors, enemy weapon utilization, etc... so F'd even the community couldn't fix it all. Vanilla AI was the sole reason for sticking to Extenders but after the realization and later observing how faithfully AI behaves in familiar situations I became a devoted OpenXcom pilgrim.
AI truly makes a difference in long haul mission types. Without it XPZ would be bogged down, exhausting, and suicidally tedious experience. I wonder if it actually is with "Sneaky AI" enabled, only tested for 1 turn and immediately turned it off in fear of invoking last-alien-hiding-in-closet somewhere. Ability to run greatly improves combat as well.

NEUTRAL
Pirate theme was off-putting for years before I actually bothered to watch gameplay videos (thanks Starving Poet). Realized there's little of actual Pirate themes going on (wooden ships, swords and shields, boring shit) past initial philosophy of looting and plunder. It's all about wasteland to high-tech Fallout. Which is damn great.

Nudity is tasteful so I wasn't phased or distracted by it at all. Dunno why author left selected sprite fap-material marked with pixels but what the hell, we all done crazy things when young. Some of the art looks like placeholder material and needs to become uniform but is sufficiently serviceable. Hopefully that stuff gets a face lift in time.

Mutually exclusive Codexes. As a completionist it's not a favorite but I understand. What I'd do it make it easy for player to remove locks to allow for all Codex if he wants to (possibly other minor locks too). Maybe community releases a sub-mod in due time.

Abundance of items (to say it lightly) worried me of becoming a total cluttered mess, both on management and usefulness side. To me less is more. But it became apparent it's used to accommodate all different factions and mission types. Took about a month till I was being able to differentiate between the loot automatically without loosing time inspecting stats of every single thing. CTRL+MMB helped although I was made aware much too late. Took another two stressful months to finally determine which items can be safely sold once and for all.

As far building materials/components go, availability and mission rewards yield is pretty well balanced considering the scope. I'd make Force Circuitry buyable, maybe even Stasis Pods (defo increase availability in some way, solely because Cryo Prison). Increase yields of Shadow Orbs and make a relatively common late-game mission that always rewards them, especially with increased future focus on them in raw material role (better Box reward odds would do too). Something similar with Medallion of Entropy and Golden Apple because rolling for Smuggler > Arcane > Mystery Box > rewards is tiring even with perfected save-scumming method I devised.

NEUTRAL/DISLIKE

The single soul-crushing research topic for me was "Advanced Weapons Rumors". It came relatively early and burst my bubble of mysteries laying ahead. Bullets, Laser, Gauss, Plasma - that's it buddy. Felt awkward compared to existing mysterious writing style. What I'd change there is move "As far as we know" from begging to the end of article so it finishes with "...and those are only which we know about" (or something). It's gotta end in mystery at the very least.
In my early post I described first enemy Hideout assault in which I said I received a taste of end-game weapons the enemies used. One dude responded I ain't seen nothing yet but looking back I actually did. Eagerly expected to see more advanced stuff but what I got was bit underwhelming: basically only Plasma Schorcher redeemed itself and only against Hovertank & Sectopod. Magitech and other exotics feel too circumstantial to be of wide general use. Exception is Chort's Iron Wind which suits this gameplay style amazingly well.

Mid-game armors are kinda crappy unless TU/weight tradeoff is accepted. After Metal I only ever used Synthmuscle, Junkmaster (curiosity mostly) & Juggernaut (burning towns only), Brute shortly, then Annihilator. Problem is most other don't absorb damage well enough enemies at that time deal. As if created with sole intention to replace death with 24/7 hospital time. I later saw someone mention Assault Marine flies and has red shields which I completely overlooked so my view may be skewed somewhat. Problem is nothing tanks damage well until Annihilator. UFO has good mid armor but its problem was instant obsoletion, easily avoided in XPZ with sensible stat tweaks. The annoying thing was checking enemy armors and constantly thinking: why can't I just strip parts off and make-shift something similar? That's what Pirates do!

Vessel restrictions to certain missions was annoying as hell. Spent ludicrous amounts of time reading what the future brings so I could plan accordingly and minimize future mistakes. Constantly made me tense thinking if I made the correct call in designating a hideout/hangar for specific mission range. In the end I found equilibrium but the cost was broken immersion and dispersed mystery from all that reading in advance. Could be improved by having an updating in-game list as new vessels are researched to see which is allowed where. Getting blue-balled as I eagerly send the wrong but fully prepped ship for the first time sucks. Restrictions themselves are not the problem, lack of timely information is.

DISLIKES
Helpful #numbers topics should be revealed more uniformly, akin to "Myths: The Black Souvereign, Part 1-4" (maybe group few similarly related parts together before unlocking next batch), roughly following player's expected encounter with the mechanic (or couple months behind at most to retain some mystery and even healthy dose of frustration). For example I revealed you can turn off ship weapons well into 2nd year. Would be pissed had I not known about it prior. For uber essential stuff I'd attach a simple PDF in game folder, along with ALL keyboard binds including undocumented ones (CTRL+MMB; CTRL+ALT+H; ALT in minimap; CTRL+END; RMB on approach icon; RMB Vessel hangar reordering). It would make things much more newbie friendly without requiring any UFO/XCOM knowledge.

Prison Space shortage. Talked about it few times. Huge gripe that never goes away. I modded in 20 spaces per Prison for myself and it was perfect. Avd. & Luxury Barracks received similar treatment soon thereafter hihi. I assume it was set ages ago and not touched since but game became more complex for old prison to cope. 20 is perfect, increase building price if you must but do it.

Smooth out sudden difficulty spikes if possible. Early Bandit Pogrom are BRUTAL and can happen very early (delay Armored Cars bit later). In my game 1st SG Pogrom (Feb 2602) occurred 1 year before encountering 1st SG ship. WTF!? I wouldn't describe it as needed difficulty variety but design flaw. In case of insisting on current I'd let the player know in advance in some meaningful capacity so he could prepare by focusing research and equipping appropriately instead learning from unavoidable failures.

Accuracy predictor is the biggest lying POS madafaka ever. Accuracy varies from 100% accurate (clear LOS + no obstacles + before accuracy drop-off), down to 1% of stated accuracy (behind obstacle but shootable + no LOS but within accuracy drop-off). Turning 20% into 0.2% in worst case. It's not uncommon for the projectile to bug out and fly through the target 9/10 times depending on positioning (God forbid target is on a slope), further diving the above 0.2%. Been there OH YES I have...
I've read the explanation why this happens as well. My answer is remove the F'ing RNG firing cones then, or confine them to visible/shootable hitbox parts only. Vanilla did not have accuracy problem no matter how many obstacles there were between. The only place where OXC/E made a step backwards.

XPZ excels in making players adopt to multi role situations and yet the ships are cramped AF! Lets us build a proper Avenger/Leviathan for Christ's sake. Fast, armed, durable, and F'ing spacious. Factions fly whole cities worth of crew and we have to scrounge with a deadly dozen on average. No bueno. Early-mid should remain as-is but there no reason to keep it cramped for entirety of the game. This is further worsened by issue immediately bellow.

Player ships have the most illogical soldier ordering system compared to base listing order. I can't believe an actual human sorted this out. Every damn ship is affected except those 1-piloted ones where it's impossible to fuck up. Truth to be told haven't tried them all but of 80% I have, Devastator takes the cake as biggest offender. Read Discord explanation for this some time ago (occupying windows first) and I have to say it's crap for two reasons: you don't win by camping; Freshness was devised to prevent camping. Nuff said. Occupy spots by distance to exit door/ramp like in vanilla... Let the dumb player figure out which spot is by the window. In case player decides to bring 3 soldiers or less then the mission is easy enough no to warrant sniping. Fortuna is the only vessel with logical ordering, only because it has no F'ing windows.

Roll range of weapon damage becomes increasingly frustrating with time. Examples: Custom Lasgun [48] vs Acd. Drone - 6x consecutive hits resulted in no damage (happened twice). Heavy Laser vs ~10 armor Human - no damage (happens 33% of time). Eerie similar to enemy berserking with one-handed weapons, hitting your soldier every time across the map even though there are over 1000 viable targets (incl. random empty squares). Makes me believe faulty code is at play. I'd set all player weapons to never roll bellow 50% (100% for snipers) while leaving enemies as is. Should fucken level the playing field.
Seen Meridian go crazy over two consecutive no damage rolls in far more benign case in his LP. I swear on my mother he'd become a full blown serial killer in my shoes. No exaggeration. And people wonder why I save-scumm, lol.

Freshness cost of Gray Codex items and caveat use of available FRS restoration items. Before I said nr1 design flaw devs make is adjusting balance according to vocal top one-percenters who know how to exploit for all imaginable advantages. Result is always ruined gameplay for regular players. No better example than F2P crap where player retention is God. Can't remember what it was all about when I mentioned it but anyway it's not a biggie in XPZ if player knows what he's doing.
What is though is another design flaw: introducing a hail-mary item, long sought by the community as a burden lessening tool, only to finally come with its own set of caveats that greatly limit use. As if balanced just against itself, ignoring the whole picture why it was needed. There's no shortage of such items in XPZ, fixes one thing but instantly breaks another or that very same thing. Previously mentioned Universal Freshnerer is good example.
Gray desperately needs its on unique Freshness problem resolver. An item, a facility, or both. I only ever used FRS based items to train VS, and rarely out of curiosity. Nothing more. Heavy Plasma handles same situations 10x better and with 0 recovery days.

And finally (you know what I'm taking about)... the 99%/101% armor resistances. Yuck. I'd rather see the whole damn list with color coded green/red values for resistances/vulnerabilities. Allow a key modifier to show whole list while pressed if wall-of-text seems ludicrous. Leave straight 100s default colors. Shit kept messing with my head until the end.

* * *

That's about it. Other negatives stem from UI inability to handle the scope as progression expands available gameplay options, despite OXC/E devs' best efforts. A week in I was already becoming worried if my mouse button would break down from so much repetitive clicking. Thankfully Logitech makes great 5€ mice.

Hope no one takes dislikes close to heart, just my view after all, and I do get little salty thinking about them. If I could change only one thing it would be RNG projectile cones to behave as accuracy predictor shows. In the end Dio has my deepest bow of respect as he puts himself up there among indie elites. Borrowed asset usage makes no difference, it's how you use it. And is as close to perfect as we could expect. Not to mention lots of custom tweaks under the hood to make it all uniquely fit in.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2021, 12:50:02 am by Nilex »

Offline Nilex

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Part deux because damn character limit.

Attached save is just before Cydonia (check that beautiful date), along with own 2 sub-mods to prevent error messages and whatnot. Been playing with save-scumming on middle difficulty so bear that in mind when admiring uber fantastical stats. Changed that impossible 1st SG Pogrom to DeepOnes (via 2nd most complex save edit in my entire playthrough, 1st was complete Hideout switcharoo). Scoped Magnums vs 3 angry Sectopods was kinda the determining factor. Are they fitted with that Independence Day saucer laser?

Done a lot of mini-games and self-imposed challenges for added flavor I stuck around with until the end: No one dies - Death = reload. Extreme case was death of untamed Dog which I didn't notice until after mission ended (no death popup on untamed Dogs). Repeated the same complex mission 3 times for same reason. Almost gave up upholding own rule for quarter of century across all games I played.
No unresearched weapon usage. To keep in line with vanilla, maybe breaking the rule once out of curiosity. Also didn't do large tech jumps but conform to uniform progress across available branches, in effort to replicate real world scenario.
Sensible hideout facilities placement. Loud workshops away from living quarters, mess hall close to beds, research stuff in quiet place but close to beds, surgery/meds close to Prison, Prison close to hangar but away from sensitive structures. I cringed HARD looking at other people's LPs. Jeez Christ guys. I'll spare you of many more borderline mental routines but rest assured there's plenty others for which even the strongest scientifically available meds wouldn't help prevent me doing.

To wrap this up - thank you all for being helpful pals on the forums. I enjoyed reading your stories, especially discord with morning coffee. Even found most hilarious online posts ever by one overzealous tough-guy, made a while ago... Can't remem when was the last time I laughed so hard. I'll try to find them again if anyone cares. Anyways good luck to all future Jack Sparrow wannabes and best wishes to Dixone to lay off the cigs so he could release even more glorious updates (discord teasers had me drooling like watching cooking vids)! Special thanks to legionof1 for being my guardian angel! Cya in 10+ years (unless aliens a week or two from now God damnit Gina&Jack...), take good care all.

PS
X-PirateZ has as many research topics as there are words in both of these posts combined! How about that.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2021, 11:13:02 pm by Nilex »

Offline Cristao

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Fascinating read...

Offline Dioxine

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If I could change only one thing it would be RNG projectile cones to behave as accuracy predictor shows.

Neither doable nor desirable. Time to learn there is no such thing as 100% (or 0%) probability.

Offline Iazo

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Why edit the missions, when you can just skip? In the grand scheme of things, one skipped pogrom means absolutely nothing.

I know you like that 0 beside the Battles Forfeited number, but the game teaches you that you cannot win them all. In fact, playing without perfect knowledge or the ability to timebend, knowing when to cut loses and bail is crucial.

In fact, I think your prison space problem stems exactly from 'doing too well' and I have a very serious feeling of 'wanting to plan ahead', because I have the same problem when I try to save up prisoners instead of doing something with them.

>you don't win by camping

Says you. Camping is 75% of winning.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2021, 01:52:43 pm by Iazo »

Offline Nilex

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At the time it looked like getting 300 Deep One corpses for that trophy will he the longest single task in the entire game. It was a nice opportunity and challenge to learn how to edit that stuff while also getting closer to trophy goal. Was one of the more alluring carrots to chase.

That 0 is what kept me going, had I given up I'd lose motivation to push myself and play like everyone else. When that forced -2k negative score mission came up I was strongly considering forfeiting but since I already had recorded negative outcome (in the tenths) I decided keeping my 0 looks better. I used to play 'normally' but gave up long time ago because I found a better way. Single exception in XPZ was scumming Smuggler > Arcane boxes, record is 20 mins to get desired outcome for one f'ing box. I could talk about too many horror stories how the Universe conspired against me by just laying out surreal box outcomes.

Prison Space of 15 is universally insufficient. One cannot not play too well because the combat mechanic is simply not difficult enough (unless beginner or retarded). Which is a good thing. Either camp or scumm, same outcome but former takes ridiculously longer. What was unexpected is that nearly every enemy I shoot kept getting unconscious instead killed. Of to prison they went. Six modded prisons were also insufficient but at least management struck perfect balance between enjoyment/challenge/tedium.

Offline Iazo

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Well, you're entitled to feel that way. You're wrong, camping does not really grant that many prisoners, many will bleed out by the time you're done camping, but this is neither here nor there.

The fact that you had still prisoner problems with 120 prison space (Iassume you did not use a large prison because of base beauty considerations, meh), just means your prisoner processing time was atrocious.

Offline Psyentific

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you figured out how to edit the game, and yet instead of editing the stuff that keeps making you savescum (ex. make promotions grant health, buff your preferred armor, increase soldier base/max stats etc.) you just kept savescumming. for how long?

sheesh. even though you've beaten the game, i feel like you've missed half the point.

Offline Nilex

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@Izao
You make silly conclusions.

@Psy
You make silly assumptions.

I'll remind you both gameplay style is subjective. I enjoy how I play otherwise I wouldn't. What a dumb thing to waste time arguing. And yes that's means review is also subjective. What a revelation, innit.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2021, 07:07:36 pm by Nilex »

Offline Iazo

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What do you want me to tell you? You make suggestions on how to 'fix' stuff based on circumstances of your own devising. Not that I wouldn't LIKE a bigger prison, but I do not feel that it's something the game needs objectively.

Offline Nilex

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Re: Ben Hur of MODing (X-PirateZ review/impressions/feedback/rant hybrid)
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2021, 10:48:07 pm »
You asserted your own subjective experience over my own and selling it as objective.

I suggested and expected nothing more than for it to be read. That's all. Hopefully for potential future players' benefit. Had I seen someone experiencing the same grief I'd bear it more easily knowing someone else walked the path. As the saying goes, shared misfortune is more bearable, or something along those lines. For the time being Prison is safe, Dio made sure to let me know I'm in the minority long ago.

Offline Anon011

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Re: Ben Hur of MODing (X-PirateZ review/impressions/feedback/rant hybrid)
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2021, 12:37:08 am »
Pretty good review, but what really drawn my attention is that it took you over 1500 battles to finish the mod. Hypothetically lets say that each battle took 10 minutes and that gives us over 250 hours of playtime. Its a huge amount of playtime for one mod, especially if you consider that there are replayability options with various mutually exclusive research techs.
I have to admit that if it is the average length of finished campaign in X-piratez then its a quite daunting one
Spoiler:
at least for me
« Last Edit: July 10, 2021, 12:38:54 am by Anon011 »

Offline Nilex

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Re: Ben Hur of MODing (X-PirateZ review/impressions/feedback/rant hybrid)
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2021, 04:07:47 am »
In vanilla games battles quickly became a tedious burden, especially when novelty of seeing a new mission/map wears off. I understand your concern but can also assure you with certainty such thing cannot happen in X-PirateZ.

Know that my battle count is greatly inflated. Maybe twice that of normal. Because I've done many side goals, like leveling up soldiers, finding every item there is for research, and please don't ask what else. I just like to play that way but it's far from required number to finish the game. More sane number is bellow 800, perhaps others will be willing to share their experience. There is another victory screen posted on this forum not long ago that gives far more realistic outcome.

Battles' duration can range from 10 seconds to 3 hours but I'd agree average is around 10 mins. I can only estimate the whole thing lasted 1400 hours for me. Average player would do it in 500 while experiencing 99% of what I have. Time sink is enormous but this is the best of the best of the best modding scene has ever produced. And it's getting better with each update, which I already said few times I can't believe because it almost unique in gaming. Somehow vast majority of devs manage to fuck more things than they improve with utmost regularity (unless game was a turd to begin with). Dioxine has some rare design philosophies which resist that.

AI is what makes every battle a unique experience, not to mention crazy amount of map graphic and different structures. Only near the end of my journey have I started to recognize certain patterns which kinda started dispersing the magic. Good thing is most missions can and should be skipped. Penalties are far more forgiving than in vanilla or non-existent even, and so is recovery from mistakes. Author took good care not to make you loose your hundred hours progress on a whim.
But the best part of doing missions are the new goodies which unlock progress. You know that feeling of researching new items? It pours like tropic thunder like that in XPZ and seemingly never ends, all backed up with professional level writing. It's the main thing I wanted to experience absolutely everything.

So yeah dive in, you'll see pretty fast if you'll like it or not and retreat if need be. There's plenty of people here and on discord to give advice when you get stuck. Personally I'd give anything to be able to relieve the initial sensation anew. I can only say that for handful of evens in my life.

Offline legionof1

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Re: Ben Hur of MODing (X-PirateZ review/impressions/feedback/rant hybrid)
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2021, 05:50:28 am »
the community average is indeed about 500. most is not spent on the actual battles, though there are a few that take quite some time. Most of the sink is in just sorting through all your options and the constant inventory and roster managment. There is more text info in the game then War and Peace, and most of it validly useful at some stage.