Embracing Challenge in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
- By James Clarendon
- 2K Games
- Lead Systems Designer
- Tue Jul 30, 2013
Hey all, this is James Clarendon, Lead Systems Designer on The Bureau: XCOM Declassified here to explain the different difficulty levels in The Bureau. Fans of the original XCOM games already know that embracing challenge is a big part of the XCOM franchise and that smart and tactical play is key to a squad’s survival. The Bureau brings the tension of the isometric XCOM’s we all know and love to the tactical, third-person shooter genre, rewarding gamers for thoughtful, well-executed play. A big part of the tension in The Bureau has to do with what difficulty you choose.
At the start of the game, you can choose one of the four difficulty levels. Don’t be too worried though, if you’re finding the game too easy or too hard, you can change the difficulty level from the options screen at any point in the game. But, before I go into detail about each of them, I want to talk about some of the mechanics in The Bureau that will influence your gameplay decisions.
First and foremost, anyone in your squad that takes enough damage will be incapacitated and begin to bleed out. And just like in the classic XCOM games, if an agent ends up bleeding out, he will die and be gone permanently! If you go down – let’s just say you’ll be seeing the Game Over screen if an agent on your squad doesn’t get to you in time. Luckily, it’s not over until it’s over. As the leader of your squad, you can command your agents to give medical attention to an agent that has gone down and is bleeding out, which does not exclude yourself. You’ll have to act fast and you’ll be able to tell how much time you have by looking at their HUD meter. Smart ways to help get you to the incapacitated agent in time are creating a diversion for the enemies or using an ability to protect the would-be rescuer. Last, if you or another agent is able to reach the fallen agent in time, then they can be revived and re-join the action.
Losing an agent can be tough; this is one of the biggest consequences of combat in The Bureau. As the agents increase in rank, you’ll be able to customize them by making choices as to which abilities and perks they gain. As you get deeper into the campaign, having a high-ranking agent in your squad can be the difference between life and death, so you’ll want to keep them safe! You can have up to eight agents in reserve on your Agent Roster but make sure to rotate them regularly as each class has unique abilities that are critical for survival.
Here are some additional details on each of the four difficulty levels:
- Rookie – This difficulty is for players who want to enjoy a cool story about an alternate 1960s America where brave agents of XCOM fight a secret war against aliens. Let me be clear though, this level is no pushover. While the bleed out times are longer in this difficulty level, you’ll still need to command your squad, stay in cover, use your abilities, and make plans to survive. What sets this difficulty level apart from the others is that you are able to replace any agents that die in battle with new recruits at the end of the current fight.
- Squaddie – Things are ramping up in this difficulty level. Enemies will hit harder and more accurately, but you might be forgiven for a mistake or two. If you or your agents go down, you will still face the threat of bleeding out and will need to quickly command a rescue plan as bleeding out times are shorter in this difficulty level. The stakes are also higher. You’ll only be able to recruit new agents at the XCOM base or at a mid-mission resupply station.
- Veteran – This is our proposed starting difficulty. There’s a lot of risk to the entire squad, and you will need to demonstrate that you are able to adapt and control the battlefield. Enemies will flank more frequently, and if you’re camping out on one part of the map, they’ll flush you out with grenades. You also really need to be on your toes here and use your tactics carefully. And to make matters worse, the only place you can recruit new agents is at the XCOM base.
- Commander – One wrong step can spell disaster, and you’ll need to exploit every tactical advantage to survive while playing on this difficulty level. Being out of cover can be lethal, and agents will bleed out quicker than all of the other difficulty levels. To compound things, your agents will only be stabilized—saved from death, but unavailable for the rest of the fight. This can really limit your tactical options, so make sure you’re making plans to rescue the agent and then get you and the rest of your squad to safety as fast as possible!
Successful battlefield commanders will need to make full use of all the tools and tactical opportunities at their disposal regardless of which difficulty they choose. However, team tactics become paramount when playing on Veteran and Commander. The consequences of every agent lost on the battlefield reverberates throughout the game and the last thing you want to see is the memorial wall inside The Bureau’s base filled with names. I know you are up to the task, so good luck agent.