Thursday, December 6, 2012

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review

The re-release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown on Steam was my first experience with an XCOM game and I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. A deep turn based strategy game with some aspects of city simulation thrown in with a decent story that really keeps you hooked. Let's take a look at why this game is in my opinion a must own, not only a fans of the XCOM series, but for fans of strategy games in general.

I was introduced to this game by a friend who had some experience with games from the XCOM series. I had my doubts at first due to the "Alien Invasion" story-line and it sounded like your general turn based strategy game. On the surface, the game is just that, you're leading a team called XCOM which is globally funded to stop an alien invasion. You participate in squad-style, turn-based strategy combat, not unlike Final Fantasy Tactics or similar games. But there are a some things about this game that just bring it to that next level.

The first thing I really like about this game is the level of customization you can do with your XCOM Team. You start out with a squad of 4 soldiers originating from random parts of the world all with a basic assault rifle and grenade setup. Your loadout grows immensely throughout the game as you begin recovering alien technology and capturing live aliens to unlock new weapons, armor and even psychic abilities. If you're into customizing the physical look of your character, you can do that as well and more. Each soldier also has their own class. This isn't something you pick, it is something they discover themselves after getting a kill or two in their first mission. There are 4 classes each soldier can become: Sniper, Assault, Heavy or Support. Each class has ranks starting with "Squaddie" (essentially Private) and go all the way up to to Colonel. As you rank up, you'll be given a choice between two skills per rank which allow you to further customize the development of that particular soldier.

Once you're ready to get into the field, you're given a couple of different combat situations. These missions always end up with you having to eliminate all aliens, but they sometimes have you save an important person, random civilians or even disarm a bomb. There are a pretty good variety of combat locations. Some involve going into an alien ship that you shot down or going from building to building in urban combat situations to stop an alien terror attack. All maps provide you with plenty of cover, a lot of which can be destroyed which adds another layer to your strategy. You have to keep in mind that the tree you're hiding behind may not be cover enough if an alien brings up a heavier weapon or you may not want to hide behind a car if the enemy is hurling grenades. Later in the game, you can start creating your own cover using drone like units called S.H.I.Vs which also double as mobile turrets.

XCOM features 4 difficulties, each offering an optional Ironman mode. When playing Ironman, once a solider dies, they are dead for good as the game forces you to save and quit any time you'd like to leave the game. This is is certainly a mode for me, but it can be devastating to lose a unit you've had for most of the game and ranked up pretty high. The difficulty dictates how quickly your world deteriorates into panic due to alien invasions and terror attacks rather than combat difficulty. It also seems to have a heavy affect on how easy it is to come by money to build up your equipment and base facilities. As time passes, you gain money by "rent paid" on satellites that you provide to countries around the world. These satellites decrease the amount of panic in each region and will allow you to secure entire regions of the world which will provide bonuses like more money every month, less production cost, less production time, etc... . This becomes vital as the aliens you face become more advanced as the game progresses and you need the funding to produce new equipment as quickly as possible.

There are only two real issues I found with this game. First, changing what floor you're viewing can be difficult. This becomes an issue when you're trying to move units up to the second floor of a building. It looks like you are on the second floor; you go to move your unit, but you actually just move them to the selected location but on the first floor. I've had this be the cause of death for a lot of my units. You can use the middle mouse button to scroll through each floor but it is still difficult to tell which one you're on. Another issue I have is that there is a pretty limited mission set. All involve eliminating all enemy units but the overall objective will vary slightly. You will either be eliminating all enemy units, disarming a bomb, assaulting an alien ship, saving civilians or rescuing and escorting a VIP. Unfortunately, in the entire 20 hours I was playing on my way to completing the game, I did 2 disarming bomb missions and about 4 VIP missions, the rest were assaulting ships and just clearing all enemies from an area. Needless to say, it can get kind of repetitive. Supposedly there is some downloadable content that is to be released to address this, but until that time your missions will be limited.

Overall, I'd have to give XCOM: Enemy Unknown a 4 out of 5. For a price tag of $40, you get a pretty deep game offering multiple layers of customization and difficulty. The replay value is great and you're given 60 achievements to complete so you'll have plenty to do after beating the game I finished about 40 just going through the game on normal difficulty. This is a game I hope you pick up whether you're a long time XCOM fan or new to the series. Thanks for reading and as always follow us on Twitter @thegamingnook for updates when new posts go up!

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