Who is EXALT?
- By Kate Distler
- 2K Games
- Community Manager
- Mon Oct 21, 2013
Who is EXALT? When I first saw them I admired their fashion but questioned their motives. Looking at our Facebook and Twitter feed, it looks like you guys have had a lot of questions too! Ananda Gupta offers insight in this Community exclusive developer blog.
Keep your questions coming and you may find them answered in an upcoming developer blog!
My first published board game design, Twilight Struggle, depicts the Cold War. Espionage, spies, and covert operations have fascinated me since high school. XCOM itself is a mysterious and secret organization; why not create a new one, but one with its own interests, rather than humanity’s, at heart?
EXALT is a paramilitary secret society. Their goal is to capture the benefits of the aliens’ arrival – their genetic project for humanity and their technology – and use those advantages to rule what’s left of the world once the aliens have completed their plan and departed. And XCOM is in the way.
One of the things that we really wanted to enhance in Enemy Within was the idea of player-driven missions. The alien invasion throws a lot of challenges at the player, but fundamentally the player doesn’t control the cadence or pace of the missions; when an abduction mission happens, the player can choose whether or not to deal with it (and which country to help), but there is no strategy around timing them. In Enemy Within, we wanted to change that.
EXALT works by placing hidden cells in the Council countries. If left hidden for too long, EXALT cells will carry out a variety of operations against XCOM – Propaganda to increase panic, Sabotage to destroy XCOM’s funds, and Research Hack to cancel research progress.
But XCOM is not without its own covert arsenal. XCOM can use Intel Scans, which increase in cost the more they are used, but reset to their base cost every month, to reveal EXALT cells around the world. When a cell is revealed, XCOM can select a soldier for covert ops duty, sending that soldier to the cell’s location. After a time, the soldier will need combat support; if this support is provided (in the form of one of our two new covert ops mission types), the cell will be destroyed and XCOM will receive a clue as to the location of EXALT’s headquarters. In this way, the player determines when and where (and whether!) to confront EXALT, but ignoring EXALT can lead to a lot of problems as cells proliferate and EXALT operations take their toll on the strategic situation.
Tactically, EXALT poses a new challenge. They use squads similar to XCOM squads, with four types of soldier: the Operative, Sniper, Heavy, and Medic. After some time, they will gain access to Elite versions of each of these, which are tougher and have dangerous genetic modifications.
Covert ops missions take one of two forms: Covert Data Recovery, in which the player must protect a tactical asset from EXALT’s attempts to hack it (a bit like King of the Hill), and Covert Extraction, which works like a VIP mission except the VIP is the soldier on covert ops duty, and must hack two EXALT comm arrays before leaving the map. Our level design team did an amazing job getting both of these to work on many different maps – originally I had thought we might get eight covert ops missions of only a single type, and when we ended up with ten of each, I was overjoyed.
Aesthetically, EXALT posed some interesting problems and opportunities. XCOM is a highly inclusive organization, where men and women of many nations, creeds, and ethnicities work together towards the common goal of protecting humanity’s home. EXALT, in contrast, is insular and self-serving. We added ten new enemies for the game whose visual design emphasizes their elitism and exclusivity.
EXALT and covert ops are a huge new feature for Enemy Within; they form the centerpiece of the enhancements that we’ve made in this expansion pack. I hope players enjoy playing the new cloak-and-dagger gameplay as much as we enjoyed making it!