Saturday, April 17, 2010

Random Shots: My X-Com Story

  • 1993 was a huge year in my life for video games. While everyone else was either playing Doom or Myst, I was treated to two of the finest strategy games every released: Master of Orion and X-Com: Enemy Unknown. While MoO is one of my formative gaming experiences, that is a story for another day. This story is about X-Com. Or more specifically, it's a story about the X-Com demo.

  • The demo arrived on a three-and-a-half inch floppy disk packed in a gaming magazine. I would guess Computer Gaming World because that was my favorite source of game news at the time, but it's been too long to remember. When the disk arrived, I wasn't even sure what it was going to be. All I knew was that I was curious. So equipped with my Packard Bell 386-20 with four megabytes of RAM and a Sound Blaster Pro (installed personally because of Wing Commander), I got ready to face the aliens.

  • Where the main game lets you choose your battles and stack the odds in your favor, the demo set you with a team of six soldiers: two equipped in no armor and light arms, two with light armor and medium weapons, and two in heavy armor and heavy weapons. Arrayed against is a full unit of Snakemen (I think) and the reviled Chryssalids.

  • What followed over the next several turns was a maddening search of the area by my outmatched forces to hunt down all the aliens. I had to learn tactics as I played because there was not tutorial. If I messed up, someone died. Several someones. It was terrifying.

  • It was exhilarating.

  • Finally completing that mission was one of my favorite gaming moments. And it was only the demo. I got more fun out of it than some full games I've played.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. Wow, that takes me back. Not of course to playing X-com, but to playing Mechwarrior. Of course I didn't have a soundcard then, I didn't get one of those until 1994 when I was playing Doom and X-wing.

  2. Mmm... X-Com and MechWarrior (headshots on Battlemasters from behind still makes me smile). MOO is still one of my favorite games.

    I miss those days.

    Oh, but MOO1&2 is now available via Good Old Games ( for $6. Yummy, yummy classic gaming.


    Back to X-Com, I actually played TFTD (the sequel) first, since I bought it on sale somewhere simply on the Microprose name. (Ah, the MOO days...) That game was terribly brutal, but I loved it. Succeeding in a tough mission made my day.

  3. @ Blue Kae - How did I get through life never playing Mechwarrior? Maybe this free Mechwarrior 4 that's coming out will correct my error.

    @ Tesh - I saw the GOG deal on MoO and MoO 2. I think I have the disks somewhere, but 5.99 sounds great for the convenience.

  4. Just saw the MW4 news myself, I had no idea that was happening and I'm excited to take a look.