Version Played: PC
After a long hiatus, the latest entry in the XCOM series is finally here. And it was certainly worth the wait. I won’t be comparing this entry to the previous games in the series and I will only be reviewing the single player component.
Developed by Firaxis, it’s a combination of turn-based strategy, base and resource management, role-playing elements and the constant fear of losing your soldiers to the alien threat makes this a must play and is certainly one of the best games released last year.
XCOM is one of the most engrossing and exciting strategy games I’ve played in a long time. Even now as I write these words, I can’t wait to hop back in to destroy more aliens and gather more resources or loot. The game is very challenging especially in the beginning, newcomers and veterans to the series should play it on ‘normal’ first to get a feel for the game before going into the higher difficulties. Resources are scarce at the start and your soldiers feels extremely inferior to the aliens’ advanced technology and weaponry.
XCOM features perma-death and you will lose your soldiers more often than not, especially on the ‘ironman’ difficulty where there is only one autosave slot and nothing else so all deaths are felt hard. Soldiers’ names and nicknames are customisable and a pre-order DLC allows you to customise their armour’s colours, making me feel even more attached to them. I know all my squad members by name.
The game is all about advancing your soldiers on the map. As you play more of it, you will soon realise where the aliens are roughly located. Their exact location on the map is still hidden but the placement of the enemy units are never in doubt. So it’s all about getting your soldiers in the best location to flank the enemy. Strategically plotting your course even before confronting any aliens feels very satisfying, especially if you can take them out without suffering any losses or damage to your squad.
Environments are destructible, which plays a big part in your strategy. Destroying cover with gunfire or explosives revealing an open alien for your sniper to pick off, now that’s something more games should do more of. The AI will prove to be challenging, always moving to get a better position to flank your troops; they’re not just going to let you camp there while you kill them off one by one. But sadly the game is missing any type of free aiming, so destroying cover can only be targeted using explosives or if you miss hitting the target and instead hit the cover.
Level design can be a little limiting, lots of confined and repeating settings. Not much in terms of vantage points for your snipers to get an advantage on the enemy. Methodically moving from cover to cover feels like a chore more than anything else but as you progress through the game and your soldiers get more abilities and equipment, more strategies will develop from it.
Base management is fairly simple, you have tiles for which to build facilities over and same facilities build adjacent to each other will grant extra bonuses. It’s the resources however that makes it challenging, especially early to mid-game as it is scarce and you have to pick and choose which facilities, research, items, weapons and aircrafts are worth using your ever depleting resources on.
Another feature is interception, where you send aircrafts to attack enemy UFOs over a continent. It was really bland, with no options other than clicking on buffs (attack, speed, defense), you’re reduced to just sitting there thinking as your planes keep missing the target, “My grandma can shoot better than that.” For such an important part of the game, it was a little disappointing, almost as though it was rushed and incomplete when the game was released.
XCOM is a very well made strategy/roleplaying game with third-person action presentation. With the slew of things to research and build, the fear of losing your best soldiers and replacing them with rookies and managing your limited resources, I fell in love with it and you would to. Highly recommended so go get it. It’s available for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.