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With Age of Wonders: Planetfall launching on August 6, 2019, you might be interested in checking out this recent PC Gamer article where Triumph Studios' game director Lennart Sas talks about the unique factions you'll see in this sci-fi 4X/RPG. He mentions the inspirations behind the factions, how they all fit together, and what they're capable of when things come to blows. For example:
The Vanguard: Your XCOM squad got very lost
The Vanguard are one of only two factions whose basic trooper can go into overwatch. When that unit, a squad of armored dudes with machine guns, runs up to a piece of cover marked by a shield symbol and hunkers down, it feels like a little game of XCOM is happening on an alien world.
Among all the oddity of Planetfall, the Vanguard are an island of familiarity. "There's a bit of a trope that you make the faction that plays the most straightforward, make them look the most familiar," Sas says.
They needed to be understood quickly. "It's easier to read what a unit does, a tank is a tank, an aircraft flies. Some of the more exotic races you might want to look twice at their ability list, at what they exactly do. We take the Vanguard as the campaign introductory race so the story gets presented from their angle."
They're viewpoint characters, the ones you play in the tutorial. An expeditionary force made up of society's dropouts who were sent to the frontier in sub-light ships to set up a hyperspace portal, they come out of cryosleep and return home 200 years later to find the Star Union they worked for gone. Then they see all the strange things humankind has transformed into while they were gone and say, "What the hell happened to you?"
They don't have to stay baseline humans though, and can change over the course of a game. "That basic trooper you can mod with all kinds of cool stuff in the game—jetpacks, or infect them with an alien parasite—and basically take that standard soldier and make them relevant in the endgame, but also tailor its abilities to face particular threats. If you're facing a psionic enemy you want to give them some mind protection."