Friday, January 18, 2013

Played Lately: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

  • The one game that I absolutely wanted for Christmas (and got, thanks to my beautiful wife,) was XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It was a special torture to receive the game when I was out of town, several hundred miles away from my Xbox.

  • After everything I've read and seen about the game, the one thing I wasn't prepared for is how narrative driving XCOM is. There are cutscenes and voiceovers for everything, from combat to scientific discoveries to various plot points. Considering how stripped down the first game was, it's weird that the story is overt. I often play the game listening to a podcast, only barely paying attention to anything that is not gameplay. Maybe I'll pay better attention the next time through.

  • The strategic game is feels vaguely similar, though so stripped down and streamlined as to be almost unrecognizable. You still research technologies and engineer new gear and equipment. Satellites have supplanted setting up radar bases around the globe. Managing tension in member countries is much more explicit. None of this is bad, per se, but it feels slight. I think the on-rails nature of the campaign with its discrete choices means that there is never that much important to do between missions.

  • However the heart of XCOM, the tactical battles, is tense and terrifying. At one point, my rookie sniper had to pull off a low percentage shot and do enough damage to kill the final alien so that my veteran wouldn't bleed out the next turn. It was so tense I couldn't even watch. I lined up the shot, turned around, and pushed the A button. Luckily, it worked and my major survived. It is supremely satisfying when when a plan works and your unit pulls off their shots.

  • XCOM reminds me why I love turn-based combat. Even since I sliced and Sleeped kobolds in Pool Of Radiance, through Fallout and beyond, I prefer to my tactical games to feel tactical. I get that real time supposedly simulates the chaos of battle better, but try telling that to XCOM. For as much time as I have to think about my moves, I never feel like I'm really in control. Everything could fall apart anytime.

  • At the moment, I'm on the verge of launching a mission to invade the alien base. I'm so freaked about the prospect that I turned off my console and haven't gone back. It's too tense! Soon, though. Soon.

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. I've bought this game a while ago, forbthe pc. It's on the radar for me too, but not yet..
    Soon though. Soon.;)

    1. Between your UFOing and eventual XCOMing, that is going to be a lot of dead aliens. I'm curious about how they compare for you.

  2. I picked this one up during the holidays and really looking forward to playing it soon! Right now I'm trying to get through some of the shorter games I picked up at Christmas before investing in Xcom.

    1. I already see that I could sink a lot of time in this one. So good!