I’ve played 22 hours of XCOM so far, and it’s a tribute to the length and complexity of the game that I don’t know how far along I am. I reckon I’m far enough in to give some first impressions, if not a full review of the game.
So – XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The game is a remake of an old turn-based tactics game for the PC, set in a world where aliens are attacking earth and the XCOM Project is the world’s response – an elite team of soldiers, scientists and engineers fighting to defend the earth from alien incursions, learning what they can about the threat and ultimately taking the fight to the aliens.
Surprisingly for a game in this day and age, this remake stays true to its roots. Instead of being a first person shooter, as you might expect, the game is once again a complex and hard-hitting turn based strategy game. Each turn, you’ll move your soldiers across the battlefield, looking to higher ground and cover to stay alive while you take down the aliens one by one.
Your small squad (four soldiers to start) can’t beat the aliens in a straight up fight; if you want to win, you’ve got to get your positioning and tactics right. Your soldiers level up upon killing enemies and surviving missions, gaining specialised classes – Heavy, Support, Assault and Sniper – and abilities therein. But if they die on the battlefield, from getting flanked or just getting unlucky, they’re gone forever. Keeping your best soldiers alive is a difficult but necessary task; it takes dozens of missions to get to the highest levels where your soldiers will truly be up to the challenge of the later missions and if you’re too care-free with your movements, it’s easy to lose soldiers even when they’ve got the best armour and weaponry that you can afford.
This lethality (enhanced to breaking point in the optional Iron Man mode, where no loading is allowed) makes the game much more exciting than if you could just press the revive button when you get back to base. Each decision is important, and you’ll have to proceed carefully through each mission to bring back your squad in one piece. This gets even harder in Terror missions where you must save civilians from getting killed by an invading alien force, as you can’t just wait forever – getting the balance between speed and safety is difficult but rewarding.
So far, XCOM has proved to be a challenging but addictive experience. As new enemies are introduced and your own soldiers enhance their abilities, the tactical experience stays fresh. I’ve been looking for a more adult take on squad-based tactics, and thus far the added complexity of XCOM over something like a Final Fantasy Tactics has been incredibly welcome. I definitely recommend that you check it out on PC, Xbox 360 or PS3.
This article was written by William Judd. William writes for Mobile Fun, the UK’s leading online retailer of Kindle PaperWhite accessories – which sadly does not support playing XCOM, as much as I wish it did.