Thursday, October 17, 2013

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I can remember back in high school buying a 4 pack of Microprose games. Master of Magic, Master of Orion, XCOM, and XCOM2. Such an awesome package of games. Even now I'm not sure which of those games was my favourite... Not XCOM2, since I refused to really play it until I beat the first one which I never did manage to do, but the other three were all incredible in their own ways.

Last year Firaxis put out a remake of the original XCOM game. I heard good things, and wanted to play it, but for some reason never got around to picking it up. Probably I was playing too much League of Legends or something. Patience paid off as I was able to pick it up on sale during the Steam summer sale. It sat there in my 'want to play' category on Steam for a while and yesterday I finally got around to installing it and giving it a shot.

I haven't put in all that much time so far, just long enough to lose one game to a crash and then actually lose one game. It's not just a graphical update, it's more like a reimagining of the game. It's still a turn based tactical combat game with aliens and research and the like, but it feels a lot more streamlined. Far fewer finicky details. Which may be a good thing, more time will tell, but it may well be a bad thing. Finicky details are part of the charm of those old Microprose games!

Squad size on a mission is down to 4 instead of the 12 or 16 from the original game. When you have 8 extra dudes in the fight you can afford to lose a few and not care. With only 4 dudes it's a real problem when one of them goes down. You lose a lot of your firepower. Even worse when they get turned into a zombie! Night time doesn't seem to be a thing anymore in terms of vision. Each person in the squad gets to carry around two weapons and one extra item which is a big change from the past where you got to load your ship down with as much as you could fit in and then load your dudes down with items. It might slow them down if they weren't strong enough, but you could do it!

Movement is drastically changed. You used to have a number of action points to spend and could use it however you wanted. Move a bit, shoot, move some more. Shoot multiple times. Stand still and reaction attack a bunch of times instead. Now you get two actions, but if the first is an attack your turn ends. So you can attack, move and attack, or move and move. You can still skip an action and reaction attack. It felt like there were fewer options on things to do, but there were still relevant decisions to make.

The maps seemed significantly smaller and less exploration based than before. All the maps I was on at least were pretty much a straight line. Start at one end, move forward to the other end killing the enemies on the way. Of course with only 4 people I guess that makes sense. Splitting up is a bit of a disaster so having 3 or 4 ways to explore would be deadly.

On the plus side losing all my dudes didn't also cost me my ship. It was still terrible since I'd lose 4 leveled up dudes, and wouldn't get the reward for the mission, and would suffer terrible terror related consequences. They did add in a leveling system with classes and talent trees which seemed like it could be really interesting.

Perhaps the worst change is the inability to buy scientists and engineers. I'd researched some better weapons but I couldn't build any because I needed to have 10 engineers on hand to start the project and I only had 5 and couldn't get any more. I may well have skipped a mission that gave them early before I figured out what was going on? But it meant I couldn't gear my team with reasonable weapons and eventually hit a wall where I couldn't win and eventually got overrun by aliens. Live and learn for next time though!

I found the new XCOM fun, but I have more of an urge to play the old one than the new one now. Actually, what I really want to do is play Master of Orion...


pounder said...

I think you can get more engineers/scientists by building workshops/labs.

Nick Page said...

I was able to build labs, but I couldn't find a way to build any workshops.

Robb Effinger said...

My dim recollection thinks that you may be unable to build workshops because you started with the tutorial mission, so a bunch of options are disabled. Alternatively, it's because you haven't earned Engineers through a mission yet.