Midnight Suns is a brilliant tactics game trapped in a AAA shell, developed by Firaxis of XCOM and Civilization fame. You should play it.
I completed the main game in about 50 hours, increasing the difficulty level at every opportunity before hitting Ultimate 3 just before the second last story mission. Definitely gets more interesting as it gets harder. Started failing missions and generally taking a long time at Ultimate 3, dropped back to Ultimate 2. Failed the final mission after a number of hours, too many ways for full health heroes to die in a single turn. Characters were around levels 19-21. Rage restarted and stomped it on normal difficulty instead. Frustrating at the time, but I guess fair enough that the first blind playthrough on highest difficulty should be too hard. Highest difficulty should be unfair.
I mostly bee-lined the main story. Didn’t do much crafting outside of cards (didn’t even unlock Agatha’s Cauldron), cosmetics, or really anything around the abbey. Ended up with thousands of unspent Gloss.
Plot was typical superhero stuff, I don’t even really remember it. Think the game will be more fun on a new playthrough where I can skip all the plot and spend more time in the action. There was SO MUCH TALKING. There is an unbelievable amount of dialog in this game. And I didn’t even get to half of it. The voice acting is spectacular, but ain’t no one got time for all that. I skipped as much as I could while still getting to follow the story.
Core gameplay loop is fantastic. Plenty of different interactions to be found between characters and abilities, and different combinations are forced through the required slot on each mission. Quite challenging at higher difficulty levels, with interesting counterintuitive lines to think through (e.g. leaving a marked enemy on the battlefield to bank an extra play for the following turn.)
Each character feels unique, and not obviously conforming to typical tank/damage/heal prototypes.
The environment and movement mechanics add some nice complexity to the tactics. I also liked how the developers avoided the “overwatch creep” problem endemic to many others in the genre by just starting out each mission in the thick of it. Not including a cover mechanic was an interesting choice, but fit really well with the theme (since when do superheroes take cover!?) and I didn’t find myself missing it.
Friendship mechanic was fun enough – choose who to spend time with for minor passive combat benefits – but I didn’t care much for trying to remember preferences for optimal play. I mostly sped through the dialog. I was confused by when hangouts/complimenting became available, if there was rhyme or reason to it I never figured it out. I’m not completely immune to charms though: definitely got a kick out of joining a bookclub with Blade.
Light/dark balance was a cute sub-game and deck building soft constraint. I went 100% dark until I maxed it out, then tried to swing back to light but didn’t get there before the finale.
Mission variety was good, particularly story missions. Would like a way to preview what enemies are going to be on a mission, possibly after an upgrade. Makes squad and item selection more interesting trying to tailor for expected resistance.
Now onto some less good stuff.
Abbey UX was amazingly annoying. Can’t see resources on hand without going to dedicated screens at dedicated places. Don’t have enough resources to upgrade an ability? Back out three menus, click through two more, then salvage cards – in a UI that hides your totals – and make your way back. Crafting a card but don’t have the blueprint? Same menu dance. Want to check what cards you have while upgrading or selecting new cards? Nope – can see the current deck for a hero but not the card details if you can’t remember exactly what they do plus mods. Can only walk-not-run inside the Abbey, the Forge is ages away but needs to be visited every day. Infuriating. This game would be strictly better if the Abbey’s 3D world was completely replaced by menus.
Tactical UX was decent, but was easy to misclick moves, and/or move the wrong character, and/or accidentally use a character that is concealed. A few extra confirmation prompts or “undo last action” would make a world of difference. Unclear which missions end on objective completion or final enemy killed, would love to see that in the UI rather than having to remember it. Often found myself wanting to zoom out a bit more than the default shift view allows.
Ability animations are really neat and they sound and feel amazing, very superhero-like. Eventually though I was keen for them to be at least 50% faster, combat can drag on just waiting for everything to happen. Shocked there’s no option (nor mod that I could find) for this.
Nothing game breaking, but I encountered a lot of obvious bugs:
- Low FPS and skipping cursor literally on the first menu when the game boots. A common problem apparently, needed to disable the 2K Launcher(?!) to fix.
- Random long pauses during combat (similar to XCOM overwatch lockup).
- Massive FPS drops in weird places, like card selection or when showing a player photograph after training or a H.E.R.O. op. Also during the final mission. Dropping graphics settings to absolute lowest settings mostly fixed.
- Lingering movement marker in final mission.
- Boss walk-ons getting stuck, dissappearing, or otherwise just looking wonky.
- Not able to complete a hero help quest.
- Minor niche issue, but doesn’t support alternate keyboard layouts out of the box.
This is what I mean by being trapped in a AAA shell: everything I dislike about this game feels like it stems from too many incidental things being stuffed into it, yet I love everything about the core experience. Overall this is still an excellent game and you should play it. I’m thinking I’ll take a break to wait for the final DLC to land (4 new heroes with custom side-stories) then try an Ultimate 3 New Game+.