Not a Review: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I’m a huge fan of the X-Com franchise. The original game sits comfortably in my top five games of all time and is one I just can’t quit. Last year when Firaxis announced it would be making a new XCOM game, one that wasn’t going to be a first person shooter I got excited. Really excited. One of my favorite franchises being revitalized by one of, if not the best, publisher of strategy games? I didn’t know how they were going to bring the depth and complexity of the original game into the 21st century but I have confidence that they could. I got the game when it came out last month and finished up my first complete play through last week. And I have to say I was really happy with the game. It isn’t X-Com, but it never was going to be. X-Com is a 19 year old PC strategy game, burdened by everything that implies. The AI is wonky, the user-interface is opaque, game elements are disparate. As fun and addictive as the original game was it was never going to come back in that form, game design and gamers have moved on. And it’s probably a good thing that they have, if Firaxis had slavishly re-made the original the resulting game would have failed and that’d be the last we ever heard of XCOM.

Not coming back. And that’s OK

Firaxis has succeeded in recapturing the mood and feeling of the original game and infused it with the “just one more turn” addictiveness that the company has perfected over the years. The sprawling mass that was game play in X-Com (base building, geoscape, economy, resource management, research,squad building, soldier experience, UFO tracking and combat, turn based combat strategy, and whatever else I’m forgetting) and streamlined all of it into a cohesive, enjoyable whole. While the original X-Com had the player dividing their efforts and focus among, at least, three distinct games, Firaxis has made clear that the focus of their game is the turn based strategy with resource management, research and base building being secondary and supportive. And it works. I found myself spending as little time as possible in the base screens, scanning and fast forwarding to the next combat mission. Speaking of the combat missions the tension and worry that the original produced as you explored a crash or landing site is still there as is the fear that your favorite soldier, or just your most experienced one, is going to take a hit to the chest and die.

This isn’t the XCOM you remember, but it never was going to be. And that really is okay…

Author: Jonathon

Would rather be out swimming, running, or camping. Works in state government. Spent a youth reading genre-fiction; today, he is making up for it by reading large quantities of non-fiction literature. The fact that truth, in every way, is more fascinating than fiction still tickles him.

%d bloggers like this: