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Firaxis' Jake Solomon says even he gets frustrated when he misses a shot in XCOM

Returning to XCOM, the Marvel's Midnight Suns director says he "felt the ghosts of everybody everywhere looking over my shoulder"

A soldier closes in on an alien in XCOM 2
Image credit: 2K

Anyone who's played one of Firaxis' XCOM games in the last ten years will have a story about missed shots. Shots that, even with a 90% chance of hitting their target, still end up going wide and punching a hole in your carefully laid plans. In the moment, they induce feelings of white hot injustice, but for many, they're an integral part of what makes XCOM, well, XCOM. Looking back on his time making XCOM 2, however, Firaxis' creative director Jake Solomon tells me that he, too, now feels the pain players have felt for close to a decade.

"It was really interesting for me to return back and play XCOM a couple of years ago, and man, when I missed shots, I was unbelievably frustrated. I felt the ghosts of everybody everywhere looking over my shoulder," he says.

I was speaking to Solomon as part of my Marvel's Midnight Suns preview, Firaxis' next turn-based tactics game that's releasing on October 7th. Solomon is heading up that project as well, but the key difference between XCOM and Marvel's Midnight Suns is that the latter won't have any kind of hit percentages. Instead, all attacks are guaranteed, and after playing the game for four hours during my preview session, I'm happy to report that this style of combat not only gives you greater command of the battlefield, but it also lets you pull off some properly rad combo attacks with your trio of superheroes.

This isn't a reaction to XCOM, mind. You're playing as a group of superheroes after all, and superheroes don't miss. But having now made both XCOM and what Solomon refers to as an "opposite XCOM" with Marvel's Midnight Suns, he offered some surprisingly candid insights into the merits and flaws of both types of game when I asked him which one was more fun to make.

"I did play [XCOM] a couple of years ago, and this was after we implemented the new mechanics for Midnight Suns, and it was really tough for me to get my head around the fact that in XCOM, you can actually do things wrong. And you really can’t do things wrong in Midnight Suns. You can do them better, but an attack card is an attack card. [...] It’s not like straight out wrong. And I think XCOM has, maybe it has higher highs, but it definitely has lower lows in the sense of, 'Oh you did that wrong, and by the way, the way to do it right is you need to learn a mechanic that’s not on the surface.'

"So, it’s not that it’s better or anything, but it was really interesting for me to return back and play XCOM a couple of years ago, and man, when I missed shots, I was unbelievably frustrated. I felt the ghosts of everybody everywhere looking over my shoulder, but I was unbelievably frustrated, and it did make me appreciate the fact that in Midnight Suns it’s still very deep and very tactical, but there is a [sense of] like, 'Okay, I can jump into this.'"

Somehow, I feel better knowing that even XCOM 2's director shares in the same pain we do when playing their game. Next time I miss a 95% hit shot, I'll just think back to this chat and go, "Yeah, me too, Jake, me too."

You can read more of what Solomon has to say about Midnight Suns in my extensive hands on preview with the game, including how its card-based battle system works, and how Firaxis are incorporating extensive RPG elements into the game's overarching strategy layer between missions. It's a thrilling mix, and Marvel's Midnight Suns continues to be one of my most anticipated games of 2022. I can't wait to play it in full when it launches on October 7th.

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About the Author
Katharine Castle avatar

Katharine Castle


Katharine is RPS' editor-in-chief, which means she's now to blame for all this. After joining the team in 2017, she spent four years in the RPS hardware mines. Now she leads the RPS editorial team and plays pretty much anything she can get her hands on. She's very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests, but also loves strategy and turn-based tactics games and will never say no to a good Metroidvania.

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