#1014 XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Posted: 10th March 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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767th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2012
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games

I’ve played the original X-Com series for the blog, including the city focused sequel, and while I still loved the basic formula, I struggled with the interface and difficulty of the original.

A few years into this blog, they released this remake, made by Civilization giants Firaxis, and it became a well loved game, rivalling the original. I held off on playing it because, well, it ended up on this list and I might as well for the right moment, say for a lonely Sunday in the run up to Christmas. I’ve got the time, I’ll take it.

Our Thoughts

Now, first of all, I played XCOM on easy, as I wanted to get through itand see more of what’s going on. This meant I might have had an easier experience than the original UFO: Enemy Unknown, but as the difficulty slider was broken in the original game, who knows for sure? What was certain is that it was easier to understand what happened, what to do and how it all works together. The game starts off with plenty of cutscenes with some story which guide you through the steps of building up your base while still being able to respond to the random events that come up during the game.

While the base building is obviously secondary to the tactical mode, the strategic part of the game hits the right points. It’s not overly complicated to deal with your base, but there’s some balancing of different rooms and fund allocations, with enough ego boosts when you get something right. Research in particular has an added layer on how things interact that work quite well. The other side, where you need to balance the needs of different contintents, really gives you a decent feeling of trade offs. Usually, when a mission comes up, you have to pick between a few different locations to take on. Those that you help will continue to provide funding, but the ones you avoid helping a few times will drop their support which will hit your income. It creates a nice set of trade offs where you need to make the hard choices – who do you help and who do you drop?

The battles themselves feel fairly straight forward, but with a lot of complexity that comes in when you dive in deeper. Your soldiers have a bunch of options, but they’re presented well and mostly focuses on a couple of options at a time. There’s some awkwardness with line of sight, in a few missions I had enemies show up out of nowhere, but it’s a lot better than the first game and became a lot easier to get used to.

Combat is still lethal, but it’s easy to swap soldiers out. They rank up as they gain experience, unlocking additional abilities based on their class while generally unlocking their abilities. It makes these stronger soldiers more useful to keep around, but it’s always a trade off whether you want to use them. Luckily, even injuries require them to be swapped out, so you’re always sharing XP over a larger group. It does also mean that luck defines what you can do.

So far, the enemies play on a lot of general stereo types. They’re lovingly crafted, with some great animations and feeling just right. The whole game does, really, adding a layer of polish while putting in references to the old games and some sci fi tropes without overwhelming that angle.

Final Thoughts

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the game I needed in the X-Com series: Streamlined, easier to read but not entirely moving away from the difficulty the harsh environments create. It’s addictive and a game I need to play a lot more rounds of. It could absolutely be a Civ replacement for our holiday gaming.