A long while ago, I played the XCOM reboot. If you were to look back through the various posts on this blog, you'll perhaps notice one of the first games I played through was in fact X-COM, or UFO: Enemy Unknown, the first and best game in this long-running and now rebooted franchise (at least until the reboot sequel comes out, in which case I'd have to consider that one, but let's be honest I'm probably going to always prefer that classic version from my youth).
|The "ant farm"|
|Building up your base|
I'll preface the rest of this piece by saying that I'm fully aware that this is a reboot aimed primarily at new players, and that there's a strong board game influence and the developers are experienced strategy gaming people, and so on. There are loads of reasons why people love this game, and perhaps I'll find that love when I inevitably play the sequel at some point in the near or distant future. There's also a modding scene, which perhaps would slightly improve things or alter things to my preference, but I haven't tried any of that, nor have I tried the DLC/expansion Enemy Within stuff either.
|The useless SHIV. A soldier is always better|
This opening section also loves to pull the camera out of your control for its tutorial bits and introduces the "cinematic camera" which gives a more "exciting" camera angle when you see an enemy group, or fire a shot or whatever. Needless to say, I turn as much of this off as I'm able to, because I much prefer the overhead tactical view, so that I can properly consider the terrain and enemy placement.
|The classic alien autopsy|
|The Heavy Floater, during interrogation|
Resource management is a key concern in this new XCOM, as you'll only get meagre amounts of loot from your excursions. They've made enemy equipment destruct upon death, so the only way you'll be able to use their weapons is to build your own or capture the aliens alive. This is mostly a good decision, as it means you'll be using normal or laser weapons for longer than in the original game (which had you swimming in alien equipment by mid-game). I did find myself short on materials several times in my playthrough, and I can't quite decide if it was well balanced or not but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. My only concern is the way the missions occur, which can limit your ability to acquire certain specific things.
|On a mission (actually I think this was the Alien Base assault)|
|Gaining ranks means gaining skills, some are hugely useful and others a bit crap|
Onto the base, that is constructed in an "ant farm" style, and is lacking both in looks and utility. You end up interacting with your base almost entirely from the menu at the top of the screen, making your base nothing but background. The individual rooms are not that interesting, so it would probably have been better to have a different system. You have a limited amount of space, and must excavate new areas before building rooms and so on. There are sometimes also steam vents (the most cost-effective power generation) but they appear in random locations and vary in number, so you can't always rely on those.
|Colour coded soldiers, ready for a mission|
|Your second key mission: Assault, capture and destroy the alien base|
Perhaps one final paragraph to say that I found Ironman mode particularly annoying when I tried it (back in 2012 or whenever), because to lose a mission or even to lose high ranking soldiers is a big setback. Not to mention the way it used to crash (No crashes at all in my recent playthrough, a much smoother experience). A lowly new recruit is awful compared to a high ranking soldier, not just because of stat increases but mainly because of those all-so-precious skills that can really turn the tide.
|Mission briefing en route|
|A little taste of late game troops entering an alien craft|
The story progression is quite light, with small progress made at each key event and then a grand finish. I was surprised there was only one alien base, they could be quite common in the original game (they appeared wherever you let the aliens gain a foothold), and while I captured a few Outsiders, only one was required. Similarly, you only need to capture one Sectoid commander and one Etherial to gain the appropriate information to proceed to the final missions. It takes a lot more missions though, in order to build up your troops for the final assault.
|An Etherial, flanked by two Elite Mutons|
|The Endgame: The Etherial Overlord|
I feel a lot more positive about the prospect of a sequel now, and already the previews have started to roll in. It won't be long before I have to make the decision about whether to buy the game at launch, or wait until there's a sale much later on. It is apparently PC only, but since the previous one was released on a variety of platforms I wouldn't be so sure it will stay that way. I guess since I'm replaying it already to test out the Enemy Within changes, I can recommend this one at least!