XCOM: Enemy Within Interview With Lead Designer Ananda Gupta

A few weeks ago, we were given the chance to play around with the new XCOM expansion, XCOM Enemy Within. While we were there, we had a few questions about what we can expect from the expansion, so we caught up with XCOM: Enemy Within Lead Designer, Ananda Gupta to find out a little more.

What we wanted to know first was why? What was the main idea behind an expansion?

When they approached me for the expansion I knew it was going to be spies…I am a cloak and dagger nerd. I knew it was going to have a covert ops system…that seems to compliment what XCOM is doing pretty well, it’s not a very subtle group, in Enemy Unknown it’s a bunch of soldiers with guns and armour and stuff, so giving them a more subtle angle suits the picture a little. From that emerged the idea of Enemy Within.”

When we first played the game, we realised that the Exalt look very similar to the bureau even though they are a separate faction. Was that done consciously?

We didn’t co-ordinate with them on the look of Exalt at all, what we were going for with Exalts visual was…so we experimented with them. We experiment with the sort of Cobra Commander look where the guy looked dark in the cammo and the scary looking night vision goggles and the webbing. It didn’t look like you were fighting the guys that were responsible for this shadow campaign. We wanted the idea that you could walk past them on the street.”

How has adding a new faction affected the balancing of the game?

There is a certain extent to where you go: let’s do the really cool thing first and then balance it, that was the approach we took. We balanced them very rigidly and then Jake Solomon comes to me and says: ‘okay so I get that they’re balanced but they’re not fun because they look like they are so much tougher than they actually are’. It can be a double edged sword. It’s something we paid a lot of attention to.”

XCOM Enemy Within feels much harder than Unknown, the game introduces close combat, so you can experience and learn a whole new style. How has this changed things?

The Kinect Strike Module is actually one of my favourite adds. It really gives the player a sense of turning the tables, melee has always been a card in the aliens deck, and now you have a way of saying I’ve got my own thing that you’re going to have to reckon with.”

Why would you want to actively seek EXALT instead of waiting to fight when you really need to?

Every covert op that you successfully complete will give you a piece of exalt intel, Exalt intel is a clue to the location of Exalt headquarters, each clue you get will rule out countries.”

And the reward for that?

Once you have enough clues you can start accusing countries of posting a base, if you’re wrong that country will leave the counsel, if you’re right you can launch an assault and permanently wipe out the Exalt.”

The expansion has so much more to offer and you can tell a lot of hard work has gone into it .

If you want to experience all the MECH stuff and all the GMOD stuff you’re probably going to have to play it twice.We added a second wave option called training roulette. It randomizes the class training trees. You might not see that ability combination ever again.”

EXALT seem like an interesting new addition to the formula.

it’s much more player driven [than Unknown], you choose when to go and who to send and pick the city to protect. In Within you can deal with exalt in a variety of ways.”


This is definitely an expansion that we will be investing a huge amount of time in, and we anticipate plenty of cursing at screens. Especially when you’re last soldier is wiped out during an emergency evac for the tenth time.

What do you think? Will you be fighting aliens and EXALT when the game launches November 15? Let us know in the comments.