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XCOM and Tie Fighter collide in this new space sim and strategy game

Remnant Protocol is a blend of intense space battles in the style of Star Wars Tie Fighter and the overarching strategy game layer of XCOM.

Remnant Protocol is a blend of XCOM and Tie Fighter - A dark-haired pilot wearing a helmet.

Tie Fighter remains one of those real pinnacle moments, often talked about not only as one of the best Star Wars games but indeed one of the best PC games ever. Capturing those intense space battles and combining them with an XCOM style management layer putting you in charge of the galactic rebellion is a new space strategy game coming to Steam in 2024. At GDC, PCGamesN spoke to Scott McCallum, CEO of Progenitor Game Studios, the three-person team working on Remnant Protocol, about its new project.

McCallum immediately describes Remnant Protocol as “Tie Fighter meets XCOM,” saying that “the goal is to capture that feeling of classic sci-fi, the hero’s tale – get someone to be Luke Skywalker.” This new space game is built around campaigns that take place in the strategy layer, “where you’re managing a galactic rebellion against the evil empire, building your ships, managing resources, tech trees, expansions to your hangar technology – there’s even a minor espionage intelligence-gathering loop in there.”

Head out on a mission, however, and instead of the turn-based grids of XCOM, you take on the role of a fighter pilot out there on the front lines. “Depending on how you do in a mission, how successful it is, you bring back a certain amount of resources to the base,” McCallum explains. “So the goal is to overthrow the empire, but you start off as the grassroots guerrilla, really capturing that Star Wars feeling of A New Hope building into Empire Strikes Back into Return of the Jedi.”

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Bringing over one of the best and most painful aspects of XCOM, your pilots are named, with their own skill progression, and if they die in battle they’re lost to you forever. You’ll also have to allocate resources and time to repair ships that come back with damaged hulls, affecting what you’ll have available to use on your next mission.

McCallum, however, says he’s not a fan of “games where you have to micromanage every little detail, and if you miss something on turn one you’re screwed by turn 50 – I want you to be able to adapt. If I lose three ships, I have enough resources to build more; it’s going to take time, but I’m not struggling struggling.”

As for the look of Remnant Protocol, Progenitor is obviously inspired by Star Wars but is “trying to modernize it a bit without turning it into Star Citizen or something like that,” McCallum explains. “We don’t want a bunch of floating screens. I want it to feel like tactile gauges in the cockpit, like old-school games where the displays were there and you had to take your eyes off where you are flying to see what was going on. We’re 100% going for that vibe.”

McCallum also cites classic 4X game Star Wars Rebellion (known as Supremacy in the UK) as “one of my favorite games of all time. I could not get enough of sending Luke Skywalker and Han Solo out on missions, and then the actual fleet battles – it was the perfect game to me. So I’m taking that and just making it more dynamic by putting you in the cockpit, because I’ve always loved flight simulators like Tie Fighter as well.”

Remnant Protocol - A gameplay screenshot showing the view from inside a ship cockpit, where a giant battlecruiser can be seen in the near distance.

The strategy and permadeath side of things adds a really thrilling element to proceedings, which is something McCallum’s also a big fan of. “Characters that are scripted to die or not within the narrative, that’s not fun to me. I enjoy games [where] my decisions make or break the day.”

“I do think the game industry, the big AAA games at least, they’re making their games appeal to everyone and, in a way, they’re not appealing to anyone necessarily. Whereas older games, maybe you get the manual, then you’re in the game – it’s like, ‘good luck.’ So it’s lost that exploration of learning the controls, learning the mechanics.” Games such as Dark Souls, he notes, have shown that there’s room for a “renaissance” of more challenging games with less explicit player direction.

Remnant Protocol is set to launch on Steam in 2024. The team is also planning to support the game in VR alongside the standard flatscreen mode in the future. For now, you can follow its progress and stay up to date by adding it to your Steam wishlist.

Alongside that, we’ve got more of the best strategy games on PC to test your tactical nous, and the best roguelike games if you love the challenge of giving it one more try.

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Additional reporting by Ed Smith for PCGamesN at GDC.