Punishing difficulty and intense strategic action? SIGN ME UP
As a gamer who grew up in the “Playstation” era, I have always heard but not ever experience the “Old School” era where games are made punishingly difficult in order to lengthen playtimes. With the remake of XCOM: Enemy Unknown by Fireaxis, who prides this game to be as challenging and punishingly difficult as the original; I jumped on it immediately and after more than several hair pulling hours, I fell in love with this game and the difficulty that comes with it.
The premise of XCOM is simple, intergalactic life has been found and they are NOT friendly, the leaders of Earth has decided to initiate the titular XCOM project; an army of soldiers and scientist dedicated to extraterrestrial warfare. The member nations has devoted money and resources into the project and YOU are in charge of making sure they are not turned into ashes by the invading aliens.
XCOM Enemy Unknown is basically two games that are closely linked to one another. There is the “big picture” which is basically a management sim at your HQ presented in a diorama of your subterranean base. Fighting a war against a foe that flew from lightyears away just to blow you up takes more than just guys with guns, though they make up the bulk of your force and do most of the dying. It takes money, resources, engineers, and researchers with each of them playing crucial roles in a system of interdependency. Firstly, you will need researchers to create new ways of blasting aliens, you will need engineers to actually build the gizmos that the researchers thought off and finally you will need boots on the ground to eradicate the alien menace and loot whatever’s left. Developers Fireaxis made sure that the game would not be a simple walk in the park. Simultaneous events regularly popup and forces the player to make decisions over which nation to aid and which nation to be left undefended. As the game progresses the nations that you left undefended will pull out of the XCOM project and taking all of their investments and personnel with them, hobbling both your finances and war efforts.
Once you are done managing your personnel and finances, it’s time to put some boots on the ground and start hunting some alien, XCOM transforms into a small scale tactical turn based strategy game where you control a squad of soldier against the immediate alien threat. Fireaxis made every soldier feel not like an generic disposable gunt but they are imbued with a distinct personality, each squad member maintains a persistent experience level for the duration of their lifespan, ranking up as they rack up kills. Classes such as Assault, Heavy, Support and Sniper are only assigned after their first rank but you are free to choose any perks they are able to learn in subsequent ranks. Each perk you choose for your soldier can have a huge impact on the way you use this character in battle, they can range from being able to carry more medipacks to increase movement range. Class variety is mission critical factor as classes limit the types of weapons soldiers can carry, a whole squad of snipers can find themselves easily decimated regardless of rank and equipments.
The missions themselves can be extremely challenging, mainly because of the unpredictable enemy AI and the abilities of the enemies. A Ethereals can employ a myriad of Psionic powers that ranges from a simple shield to protected himself to even mind control, forcing you into the terrible predicament having to kill your own men. Each and every engagement offer new challenges and surprises, get caught with your pants down and your soldiers are going home in body bags.
Overall, XCOM is a great game and a perfect addition to any armchair commander’s collection, complete with an unforgiving difficulty level and rewarding combat system. You feel attached to your own soldiers and you watch them grow in satisfying ways, just like watching your own child grow.
Ratings: 4 out of 5 stars.
by Chen KangYi
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