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XCOM's greatest DLC was almost a Battletech-style mech expansion before the game's camera scuppered it all: 'Our camera angle is not meant for 30 foot mechs, apparently'

 XCOM 2: War of the Chosen's Assassin enemy preparing to attack.
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen's Assassin enemy preparing to attack.

XCOM 2 is eight years old, somehow, which was as offensive for me to write as it was for you to read. And if you ask me, it's still Firaxis' high point as a studio. That's really saying something: Those guys made Sid Meier's Pirates, after all, but I've never loved one of the studio's games so much as I loved its endlessly inventive guerilla warfare sim.

Actually, I tell a lie. I liked base XCOM 2 well enough, but I only really fell in love with it when I got my hands on its War of the Chosen expansion. Released a year after XCOM 2, WOTC beefed up the original game's offering by bolting on new factions, maps, heroes, and—most importantly—a kind of lite version of the Shadow of Mordor Nemesis system that saw you take on a trio of supervillains with a random assortment of strengths and weaknesses. Also, a lot of its new faces were voiced by Star Trek legends like John de Lancie, Marina Sirtis, and Jonathan Frakes.

It was fantastic, but apparently it was all the product of an ad-hoc pivot. In a post on Twitter, XCOM lead Jake Solomon recently explained that the expansion was originally conceived as a kind of XCOM-meets-Battletech thing, adding great, stomping mechs to the game that your troopers would be able to ride on, alongside "customizable interceptors and air combat."

The project was originally codenamed "Ozzy" (as in Ozzy Osbourne, as in heavy metal), and seemed like a swell idea right up until someone at Firaxis tried to actually put one of those gargantuan mechs into the game. The designers "couldn't see shit," says Solomon, at which point they realised XCOM's camera "is not meant for 30-foot mechs, apparently." That slight issue, combined with issues with the mechs pathing and other quibbles, necessitated a change of tack.

Naturally, the team chose to enlist the help of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is also what I do whenever I have an article deadline looming. "SO… quick pivot to a Nemesis style enemy, and the voice cast of Star Trek: TNG," said Solomon, "and the rest is history." Or, you know, the rest is a good review in PC Gamer and an eternal place in my heart.