Tobold's Blog
Sunday, October 14, 2012
XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I have an unusual recommendation to make. If you should try out XCOM: Enemy Unknown, try the following settings for your first game: Easy difficulty level, and under Advanced Options select Enable Ironman. If you played a lot of the original XCOM and many tactical games since, you might try Normal and Ironman, but for most people I'd recommend Easy. By enabling Ironman, and thus not being able to constantly save and reload when things go wrong, you will get a real sense of consequences. And using a lower difficulty level instead of the "hidden" way of making the game much easier with saves and reloads will make your first game a lot less frustrating. You can work your way up from that afterwards.

XCOM is a game about consequences. A game about interesting decisions. And the only way to make decisions interesting is to offer the possibility for any decision to turn out to be wrong, and to have negative consequences. XCOM is a great game for that, but for people who weren't around when games like that were made in the early 90's, that can be a bit of a shock. If you are too cocky, especially in the first game where you don't understand all the strategic impacts of your decisions yet, you can easily end up with a "game lost" instead of a "game won" screen. There aren't many games around these days that have an actual loss condition, unless you play against other players. Even more shocking: While some negative consequences are a result of bad decisions, sometimes you lose a soldier just by bad luck. It is interesting to read on the internet how many people have a problem with that concept.

There are two major parts to XCOM: Enemy Unknown: The first is a strategic part, where you plan the defense of Earth against the aliens. Resources are scarce, and you need to make sure that you have both adequate means to detect and shoot down UFOs, and to battle aliens with your soldiers. The latter is the second part, a turn-based tactical game. There are tons of different maps, and different scenarios, from alien abductions, rescue missions, capturing a downed UFO, to invasions of an enemy base. The strategy part looks a lot simpler, but is in fact somewhat more devious: Bad decisions can have strong consequences several hours of gameplay down the road. Thus my recommendation to learn about strategy and consequences on Easy Ironman.

XCOM currently has a Metacritic score of 89, which is unusually high for a turn-based tactical game. Especially since it isn't without flaws: The tutorial sucks with too much hand-holding, which is unfortunate because that is what you get to play if you download the demo. The character animations in the cut-scenes aren't great. And the free move the aliens get when you spot them gives them a rather unfair advantage. But compared to other turn-based tactical games that have come out this decade on the PC, XCOM is probably the best.

Now that you mention the "consequences" and lack of saves making the game what it is, I realise that is the reason why I am really enjoying this game on Steam: FTL

There are no quick saves or loads. You can continue your current game if you close, but if you die it is game over, try again.
Little decisions you make at the beginning, like if to skip fuel purchase for the drone upgrades, can bite you later.

I recommend you give it a try, I'm really enjoying it.
Small correction - aliens get free move when they spot you, not when you spot them. If you use stealth mode of ghost suit, there is no free move until you destealth - which means your snipers can get a few free shots at them in the open.
Having re-played Xcom 2, Terror from the Deep about an year ago, I'm definitely looking forward to giving Xcom a chance to suck hundreds of hours of my life.

I'm working on a turn-based, online game, inspired to some extend by the original Xcom. So any hours I spend on Xcom will be filed under ... research!
Well the free half move is somewhat necessary since they tend to be hanging out in easy grenade/rocket groups when you spot them.

I've noticed a few bugs. My first run through my SHIV turned into disembodied piece of female armor that couldn't shoot anything. After that I couldn't even deploy the robots. And a few other glitches. Personally I can't tell when my chance of making the shot is 0% (Whatever the games says) because of obstacles, and when my shot will go through the obstacle. But on the whole it's pretty awesome, but I miss how the aliens would sometimes attack your base, and I feel like in the old games the aliens at least appeared to have a plan; sometimes it feels a bit MMO like, where you aggro that group, kill them, find another group, pull them, etc. When you are in the back of the UFO blowing away the bosses, and three aliens are just chilling in the storage room it's pretty obvious they cheaped out a bit on the AI.

X-Com: Terror From the Deep (which was basically an aquatic reskin of X-Com) and X-Com Apocalypse were both both really fun games, but I think they've finally perfected the formula in this game.

I do tend to reload, but it's stuff like the Thin Man gets some insane crit on a shot he shouldn't have even been able to make, and that panics one of my guys, who turns around and blows away my sniper. That's a bit much.
""I do tend to reload, but it's stuff like the Thin Man gets some insane crit on a shot he shouldn't have even been able to make, and that panics one of my guys, who turns around and blows away my sniper. That's a bit much.""

Those moments are what makes the game so fun. Things can go bad, but sometimes, even if you're playing really well, they can go REALLY bad. And you have to make up for it :)

I am missed the old games almost horror genre style of aliens hiding in the dark and killing your soldiers with a single shot, sometimes with out giving away thier position. But the this version does give the combat much more pace.

I'm playing on classic ironman at the moment and I love it. Sure, I restarted the first few games but once you get an idea of how to handle classic difficulty, it's quite doable. Impossible difficulty on the other hand is... well impossible. And I really like the consequences, having your soldiers die on you adds really to the tension.

What I'm missing from the originals is aliens shooting out from the dark without you knowing what/who is actually shooting at you.

Higher gropund also increases sight range, ie. put someone on higher ground to spot enemies while they don't see you and kill them with explosives/sniper.
Great remake, although i remember the original to be more grand in scale. The current version has some game stopping bugs, which for me means i wont go ironman just yet..
I can't stop playing this game! It's kinda funny, because I avoid turn-based games like the plague.

2 things I love about Xcom: the incredible writing, and the limitless options.
@ Galleon --- Yeah, I kinda do like it even as I'm screaming at my computer.

I'm really glad X-Com is back. Now they just need to do a decent remake of Master of Orion, Wing Commander, and Star Control and I will be happy as a clam.
OK. I have to admit that XCOM consumed my last three nights.
I have to say that this game is 9/10 for me. I love good old UFO with 2012 graphic (yes, cut scenes could be better) but:
1) I miss roll for shot, not roll for mission. Its so annoying when you discover that from this position, this soldier will always miss, no matter if its overwatch normal round, no matter how many reloads.
2) two actions instead of action points. After you move to corner for cover you cannot rotate to check if something is not on the other side of street.
3) lack of basic economy, you have to manufacture everything. every plasma weapon is destroyed when alien is dead.. WTF?! In research archive for light plasma you can read 'our soldiers should be able to use plasma rifles that they recover from battlefield', so looks like it was implemented?
4) everything is extremely expensive (because we cannot manufacture and sell items). If after monthly bonus I have to think if I want to buy medkit, improve pistol OR excavate module.. something is wrong ;)
5) no chance to shutdown ufos, you are forced to chose abduction site, so EVEN if you have enough firepower to secure airspace over continents you will always get two places where you cannot send team, because you missed abduction UFOs. According to modders this part is already implemented in the game but it was disabled later (if you change this option game generates 3 UFOs in the same time which will ends with abduction sites.If you will manage to shoot two of them, you get only one abduction site and risk of panic)
6) mess with saves. OMG... looking 2 minutes for single save, because game cannot organise save game list? In Firaxis game?!
7) lack of 'pick up up from battlefield'. If you have two support per group, one already used medkit, one turn later second one is critically hit no one can save him, because he got the only medkit on battlefield. you can just send four pals and watch him die, because none of them can knee and pick up medkit.

every plasma weapon is destroyed when alien is dead.. WTF?! In research archive for light plasma you can read 'our soldiers should be able to use plasma rifles that they recover from battlefield', so looks like it was implemented?

Alien weapons are destroyed if you kill the alien. You can capture alien weapons if you use the Arc Thrower to stun the enemy and capture the alien alive.
oh come on...
do you really want to try stunt group of muton instead of throwing rocket? ;)
Did anyone else play "Soldiers at War" back in the day? How does this game compare to that?
8) I cannot destroy a wall to make a 'sniper hole', so grappling hook is quite useless in urban scenario.
Played this at the weekend. Loved it.

It is very much a faithful remake of the original that I also played the heck out of.
FTL is a good game but it is over in 1 hour. There is no consequence of losing. In the original XCOM I had time to grow attached to my troops. One of my original rockies was called Gaston La Bouchard. He quickly became my ranking officer through a number of friendly fire incidents. I re-named him Gaston the Butcher and his death would of been painfully meaningful.

TftD was hard.
In Apocalypse, the starting accuracy was so hard my standard tactic, hide behind the android "meat" shield then run up and neutralise with 100% accurate melee weapons.
I've lost good men and women to that bloody free move the aliens get.

Otherwise, outside of the terror attacks, you just have to remember that there is no time limit.

TAKE that extra two turns to get everyone in good overwatch position and reload before you send in that assault to scout out the area. Don't just try to bunker down and keep shooting as you move troops up to reinforce. Falling back to hard cover and NOT taking a shot is often better than staying in shitty cover and taking a shot.

Also, on council missions: If you're recuing a VIP or defusing a bomb, just be aware that you will mostly be facing Thin Men. Equip and maneuver accordingly. (ie: Bring medkits or titan armor to avoid all that godamn poison spam)
I have also been playing the shit out of this and loving it.
It is rare to have a remake of an old classic pulled off so well.
Compared to carrier command for example which was a big dissapointment.

One thing I would say is the weapons being destroyed when aliens die seems like a bug to me. Very early on one of the tips that the scientist gives you is "Do not use rockets and grenades too much because you will destroy the alien's equipment".
So you dont...
And the equipment still gets destroyed.

This is either a bug or a late change for cash/balance reasons I think. I would have preffered to see lootable guns.

But this sort of thing is a nitpick in an otherwise very well executed remake.
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