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Monday, December 3, 2012

Game Review: XCOM Enemy Unknown


I've never done a video game review before. I'm really not that dedicated a video gamer; it's really something I do to take a break from painting or wargaming rather than a wholehearted hobby. In addition, even when I find a game that I really like, it doesn't seem appropriate to my blog.


I heard that XCOM was really good from a couple sources, so I did a little bit of searching into it. It had just come out, so I couldn't find much; basically that is was a turn based tactical combat game, with an economic management component. This sounded like a refreshing change from the last game I was playing (Dark Souls), and I found it relatively cheap during a Black Friday sale, so I picked it up. I'm really happy I did, because the game reminds me a lot of Chaos Gate, a 40K game that I played relentlessly when my computer could still run it. 






The bulk of the game is spent equipping and commanding a team of up to 6 soldiers at a time as you fight an alien invasion. Soldiers belong to one of four categories (Support, Assault, Heavy, and Sniper) and earn experience throughout missions and can progress through a basic but interesting skill tree. However, the missions are fairly punishing even on normal difficulty, and it is very easy to lose your high level troops if you are at all careless. Losing a new recruit is pretty negligible, but losing your maxed out sniper will make later missions much tougher. You can even put your soldiers on overwatch (2nd Edition, not 6th).





In addition to the combat, players are required to research alien technology, construct new weapons, design their base, develop a surveillance net to detect incoming UFOs, and maintain a fleet of ships to shoot down said UFOs. While the combat missions are undoubtedly my favorite part of the game, it's also fun trying to balance all of these requirements on a very limited budget. You find yourself taking risks during combat missions so that you can capture alien tech intact and re-purpose it to save a few credits. However, it's all worth it when your soldiers start looking like Astartes.


The game does have some downsides. The graphics aren't amazing by current standards and can be glitchy. Just like in 40K, luck can play a huge part in the game and a carefully constructed plan can fall apart because one of your soldiers missed a shot that they had a 97% chance of making. I could easily see how a few early mistakes could lead to a downward spiral that would force you to restart the game as nations panic and withdraw their funding. You don't have much control of your fighters during combat, which I found disappointing. I hear the control scheme for the PC version isn't very good (though the XBOX version is pretty great).

Even with its flaws, XCOM fills a niche I haven't seen in video games in a long time, and I love it. It's a video game that feels like it was made for tabletop gamers. It feels like playing a game of Necromunda, and that's a great thing in my mind. I wanted to mention it here, since I haven't seen it advertised despite being a new release. 

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