XCOM: Enemy Unknown is one of the happier stories to come out of 2012. The Firaxis-developed strategy game not only resurrected a long-dead video game franchise from obscurity in a grand fashion, it was also one of the absolute best games to come out last year. It has also been a significant financial success for publisher 2K Games, particularly as a digital download. Unsurprisingly Firaxis has supported the game with downloadable add-on content since its October release. This week’s release, The Second Wave, doesn’t add new story content which may be disappointing to some but it is representative of how the game will expand in the future.
The Second Wave is actually wholly free. It consists of twelve different options that can be toggled to greatly alter the way the game is played. This include options that make the already difficult game even more challenging, like the Red Fog option which slowly degrades wounded soldiers statistics in the field or Diminishing Returns which raises the cost of building vital satellites. There’s even a Marathon option that makes the game even longer.
“We look at XCOM as a sort of platform for this stuff,” game designer Jake Solomon told PC Gamer on Tuesday, “We all, as a team, completely agree that XCOM is a great platform for more things, basically. More items and aliens and maps. We totally get that. It’s just that those things take time.”
The first paid DLC for XCOM, Slingshot, was released at the beginning of December and was broadly criticized for how its new story missions were incorporated into the game. Firaxis plans to continue developing new content into 2013, but it’s unclear whether it will focus on new campaign content in the vein of Slingshot or The Second Wave.
“Certainly people have enjoyed Slingshot, but the criticisms that it’s linear and that it’s unlike the rest of the experience are fine. I don’t even disagree with that,” said Solomon, “Our goal is to support people in the way that they want to play XCOM.”
Firaxis’ openness with its fans and the rate at which it’s releasing new content is promising for fans of the series. It implies that 2K Games sees value in continued investment in the XCOM franchise.