Another perspective: the enemy mobs in SS and SS2 were never of much interest to me. I didn’t mind that they all basically had the same AI: shoot at player character if possible, close on player’s position if possible, engage in melee if possible.
I had a blast playing original DOOM where the enemies had visibly different tactical styles to perceive and counter and exploit. That deeper tactical AI makes sense in a pure shooter.
But I don’t think the System Shocks and the new Prey were ever meant to be pure shooters. Their worlds are too complex and interesting to just shoo players through them to the next Epic Fight. In fact, this remains one of the big complaints about Bioshock Infinite: it simplified the world to pastel façades with nearly-literal roller coasters in order to emphasize exciting shooter gameplay. At this point it basically divorced itself from its System Shock ancestors, whose relatively complicated dynamic worlds and datalog-delivered story rewarded careful and thoughtful exploration that just happened to be interrupted occasionally by gunfire.
Combat-focused games are fun. I support making more such games. There are numerous excellent shooters (and meleeers, if that’s a word) available, and that’s a Good Thing.
What there aren’t many of is world-exploration games. I also support making more games of this kind, where the shooting and stabbing isn’t the main attraction but a thing you need to do to be able to see and interact with the next part of the world and new parts of the story.
I see both original System Shocks as world-exploration games with some combat, not the other way around. I also see Arkane’s Prey as trying to achieve that balance. Opinions can vary on how well Arkane Lyons achieved that goal, but if they didn’t it wasn’t because enemies weren’t varied enough visually or didn’t have Dark Souls-like tactical moves. While (as I’ve said) I wouldn’t have minded more diverse enemies in Prey, I don’t fault Arkane for not doing that because I don’t think enemy appearance or mechanics are the main thing Prey was about.
And likewise for the System Shocks.
So I think it’s important that System Shock 3 build on the world > combat balance of the original games. It also wouldn’t hurt if SS3 was influenced a little by Arkane Austin’s Prey, whose world-building was pretty darn good.
Finally, a practical point: how much of the Improvisation Engine toolkit developed for Underworld Ascendant is the OtherSide Austin team expected to use for System Shock 3? If the intent is “a lot,” then it wouldn’t make sense for SS3 to ignore those exploration-centric capabilities to build an excitement-centric game focused on tactical combat events.
Really, the biggest question in my mind is whether SS3 is going to include something like SS2’s RPG mechanics or return to SS’s gear-based progression. My money’s on SS3 having some RPG elements because character-depth and world-depth can support each other… but we’ll see.