Top positive review
78 people found this helpful
This will suck your life away
on October 10, 2012
Hello Commander, and welcome to XCOM: Enemy Unknown
This is a game I have been following very closely for months after I learned of its development. I have very fond memories of the original game which I had until now still pulled out and played every couple of years for old times sake.
So how is this newest iteration? In short, it's pretty good and a lot of fun. Easily the best turn-based game of the year.
Now, I'm going to write this review in comparison to the original game that any 'old time' gamer has likely played as it was massively popular during its prime. The biggest mistake people who have not followed the development of the game make is assuming this is just an HD remake of the original. It isn't. It's a re-imaging, which means they took the concept and made their own game around it. Same world, most of the same aliens, a lot of the same weapons, but implemented in a new way.
All of the old mission types are still in this game, with the exception of one which is base defense. In its place there are a few new mission types: Bomb Disposal, VIP Escort, and Abduction. The ending is also different, there is no Cydonia, but I won't spoil it for you.
Bomb Disposal you have 3 turns to reach the bomb and disarm it before it blows, but there are power nodes scattered on the map that each one you reach will give you an extra turn.
VIP Escort you either have to find the VIP, then bring them back to the Skyranger or you start at the VIP and must fight your way back. As the VIP moves across the field, new aliens will jump in and must be killed immediately or there is a good chance the VIP will die.
Abduction missions are a simple deathmatch (kill all aliens) but ... they come at you three at once and you can only choose one to complete. This game is all about forcing you to make hard decisions. Each mission offers a different reward (§200, 4 Engineers, 4 Scientists, or a veteran soldier). Another factor is world wide panic, completing an abduction mission will reduce panic in that country, while the other two will increase in panic (along with the continents they are on). More on panic later, and also decisions.
The 'Battlescape' is where combat takes place, you field a squad of 4-6 troops for each mission. Fans of the old game may cringe that this is half, or less than half, but they make up for it in that each troop has a class. Assault (up close and personal), Heavy (rockets and machine gun), Support (medic/buffer), and Sniper (Long Range). Every class has a skill tree so you can customize how they specialize. The trees are not all that deep, only two choices at most ranks, with Squaddie and Major only offering one choice (their signature abilities).
So does that mean your guys are super soldiers instead of easily one shot killed fodder? Nope... While they can do far more than the original game soldiers, they will still die fairly easily to mistakes. Combat in this game is heavily cover based, while the original game had no cover. No cover? None at all, it had concealment and there is a difference.
This is now referred to by the developers and the community as the ant farm, and is a cross section view of your base as the main screen, while in the original game the main screen was the globe. Here you manage your base, manage your soldiers, manage aircraft, manage research, and manage manufacturing.
While you only have one base, you do have 4 other interceptor bases that you need to station fighters in to protect your satellites. Satellites are your radar, they are needed to detect UFOs. So, in the old game you build new bases to expand radar coverage and get interceptors in range. In the new game you build satellites to expand coverage and assign interceptors to continents to protect them as the aliens can, and will, attempt to destroy your satellites. Satellites are VERY expensive and take a long time to build, protect them with your life. The loss of a satellite will instantly max out panic for that country, and increase panic for the entire continent. It is VERY bad news.
Intercepting UFOs is a little different, instead of choosing how close you want to get you instead can use one time use items to boost your aim, dodge, or time to intercept. You will not get these immediately but must research and build them. You can only send a single interceptor at a time, unlike the original game which let you send multiple ships for larger UFOs. Honestly, this part of the game feels under developed, they could have done a lot more with this.
Money is extremely tight in this game, and there is no way to 'game' the system like in the old game and build up a manufacturing powerhouse that can fund itself even if the funding nations pull out. You will need every funding country you can get! This forces you to make a choice of what to build because you will never have enough money for it all until late game. And you are so limited you pretty much only get a single choice per game month in the early stages. Choose well!
The ant farm is also where you manage panic levels. Each country has a panic meter, and if it is full at the end of a game month that country will leave the council. Loose 8 countries and it is game over, this is the only way to lose the game. There are many ways panic can rise or fall. I'll talk a little more on this in the next section on difficulty. In short though, panic will rise faster than it falls and satellites are necessary to have any sort of control.
The game comes with 4 modes: Easy, Normal, Classic, and Impossible. In addition you can enable an optional setting called "Ironman" which will not allow you to make custom save files, you only get a single auto-save. In Ironman Mode there is no undo button when you make a mistake, you must live with your choices good or bad. You can still quit the game and load up your save, you just can't hit the reload button if you get your squad killed.
Easy and Normal are both frankly fairly easy. You'll be punished for mistakes in Normal, but the game scales itself back big time with a dumber AI and limiting the number of aliens you will fight at any give time. If you stumble upon too many, it will have a group fall back into the fog of war.
Classic however is a real kick in the pants. It was played up as for experts of the original game ... but even so you will get dominated most likely. The difference between Normal and Classic is massive. Not only do enemies have a little more health (you would be surprised how much a single hit point can change things), but the AI is fully unlocked, there is no limit to the number of aliens that will attack you, and they have better aim and critical chance. You may very well learn to fear the simple Thin Man alien that has insane aim and crit chance. Your troops are more likely to panic as well. The loss of a veteran squad of troops can very well mean the loss of the entire game as your rookies will be hard pressed to survive without anyone to support them. Honestly, this game is far harder than the original game.
The other challenge with Classic/Impossible is managing panic. On these upper difficulty settings panic rises faster from failed missions and abduction missions. You will likely lose some, probably a lot of them, and the best you can hope for is not losing more than 7 before you finish the game. That said, on Classic it is possible to save them all, but this partially depends on luck for where Abduction missions occur. It is speculated that on Impossible it literally is not possible to keep panic low enough to play forever, the only way to win is to finish the games objectives before too many countries bail on you. The 'strategy layer' (Geoscape/ant farm) may very well prove to be far more difficult for you than the tactical game.
For you X-COM vets out there, swallow your pride if Classic kicks your butt, and give Normal a go until you learn the new games mechanics. I know I had to.
Graphics and Sound:
The game uses the Unreal engine, so graphics are on par with that. I think they're pretty decent, but they will not blow you away. The music and sound effects are both good, you still get that creepy feeling as you hear aliens moving around in the dark wondering if they'll wander onto your guys while they're all out of ammo or if you have another turn to reload before you find them.
PC requirements for the game are fairly low so most should be able to play it if they have anything about the integrated HD graphics that comes with the intel i series (i3, i5, i7).
This may be the only sore spot for PC players, the interface isn't the best and clearly was designed around console controllers. You can change key bindings, but until you learn the interface it can be a little frustrating. The use of a gamepad is fully supported (and probably easier to play with).
I can't speak on this as I have not played it. What I know though is there is only a Deathmatch mode, no co-op or objective based multiplayer. A game is set up with a set 'point' pool and a time limit for turns. You then 'buy' units with your points. If you would rather, you can set points to be unlimited and make the best squad possible (of course your opponent will do the same). You can use both humans and aliens in a mixed squad, or go all human or all alien. For humans you can customize their gear and select a perk package. The perks are not individually selectable.
The play time for this game is fairly short for a strategy game. Around 15-20 hours of so for an Easy/Normal playthrough if you keep trucking along and don't reload your game every time something bad happens. For Classic, add 5-10 hours. You may say this is short in relation to the old game, but keep in mind that people have beat the old game in under 10 minutes. The times I give are for a fairly complete game, it's possible to finish it faster, and it is also possible to keep playing for as long as you like (provided you can keep panic under control).
The game is pretty solid. The game does have its fair share of bugs. There has been one patch so far, but it only fixed a few issues known before the game came out. I have in my 52 hours of playtime encountered one game stopping bug. I was able to recover from it, but not without some cost to my game. The bug involved my interceptors and I was forced to dismiss all of mine from one of my bases which resulted in a UFO getting missed and a satellite destroyed, ouch! You may or may not want to hold off doing Ironman (mine was) until some patches if you want to play it safe.
Be careful of a lot of false rumors out there, for example IGN was unhappy that aliens were all static and didn't patrol around. Well, I can account personally on how false that statement is. They can and do patrol! Depends a lot on the mission type you are one. Some groups are static (don't move) while others are dynamic (they patrol). The council missions are all static (VIP and Bomb), while Terror missions are all dynamic. The others are a mix of the two.
The game is highly rated, and it deserves it in my opinion. This is a game I will continue to play many times as I try to at least beat Classic Ironman, if not Impossible.
Steam is required no matter what PC version you get (digital or physical) so be aware of that. It employs a one time online activation, after which you can put steam into offline mode and continue to play. You may install it as many times as you want, on as many computers as you want. Of course, you can only play on one at a time.
Good Luck Commander!