Community Review: XCOM

I'm a little bit ashamed of this, considering the massive buzz surrounding the game, but I haven't gotten time to play XCOM yet. It's just getting to that stage, isn't it? When you have to pick and choose what you're going to play, and sort of just play catch-up while you can. But I thought I'd throw it out there to you guys and girls regardless — how are you all finding it so far? Should I drop Dishonored, The Unfinished Swan and the millions of other games I'm trying to get through in order to play it?

I think part of the reason I've been reluctant to get into XCOM is that, traditionally, strategy games haven't really been a massive thing for me. It's not a genre I typically invest a lot of time in.

But everyone I know, and whose opinion I respect, is totally gushing over the game. So maybe it's time for me to sack up and get going! How have you guys found XCOM so far?



      Alloy cannon.

        Overwatch or Suppression. Especially Support or Heavy, so you can fire twice.

      It's amazing how devs are allowed to release games as buggy and glitchy as xcom. Don't play it until its seen some major updates.

        You replied to the first comment so everyone could see your whinge?
        I haven't had any issues with it at all (that weren't my own fault...). What bugs have you experienced? What glitches? Details would be useful.

    "I think part of the reason I’ve been reluctant to get into XCOM is that"

    My reason?

    Im finishing my tafe course that gets me into Uni. I KNOW that once I start playing this badboy I'll lose myself in it. I won't do anything else. Like I did with Minecraft originally, then DayZ. Xcom however will annihilate me. I saw someone playing it and had to tear myself away. I finish mid november and then, only then shall it, and AC3 be mine :D That's my treat for finishing my Adult Tertiary Prep course to get into Uni with full honours... :D

    Oh and I got headhunted by Griffith Uni a week ago :D Just bragging just 'cos.

    Last edited 22/10/12 11:06 am

    Is... that guy on the far right Guile?
    I guess you have to grab any job you can in this economy.

      That haircut is from the original XCOM game, it's a bonus for people who bought the first release of this game (along with colouring your armour).

    oh God NOO!!!

    3 of my captains died a horrible death ambushed by chrysalids (granted, there was the disk as well)
    but still....

      Plasma Sniper, clear corridor and In The Zone. Bye bye crysalids.

    Worth it. Go sell your life away to this game.

    It's a game that lets you build up your base and then beats you down so hard you ask your computer if you are allowed to get back up. It's nice to see a game today that doesn't hold your hand and go out of it's way to defeat you and then rub salt into the wounds.

    Oh and mind control...

    This game is amazing. My one major issue has been item management. It is a real pain in the arse trying to find pieces of armour and and equipment on soldiers that aren't injured but you aren't taking. Could also be easily fixed in a patch.

      Agreed, that's a huge pain. I've ended up going through and stripping the items from my soldiers after every mission. A waste of time but at least it means I don't have to stuff around with item swapping later (when I might forget).

    Lets be clear, i have the original game and played it to death. It was waaay ahead of it's time and it is a timeless classic. So i was very wary of a reboot/re-imagining of this wonderful game, especially after the announcement of the god awful FPS that was going to be spewed out on fans of the original.

    Now that is established, the new XCOM.....ILOVE IT!!!!

    I finished it on normal 1st, i ran through the story because i thought the only way to reduce the panic levels around th world was to do the story research (green research) as quick as possible....but then i discovered that getting your satellites up was way more important and i then took my time to level up my team and even hire craploads of new guys so i could have an all psi team :D

    I'm almost finished my Classic playthrough and am having way more fun since i know how the game works and enjoy the boost in difficulty level. My next game will be impossible then i will go clssic ironman then finally impossible ironman (every game starting on a different continent for the 5 continent acheivement)

    Ok so i love the game, but is it a worthy successor to X-Com? Hell YES! (with some points for improvement.)

    The gameplay is VERY fun. It has been years since i have seen a well made western turn based game and this certainly is one. I love the perspective, i love the cover system, im so greatful that i am fighting the enemies from the original X-Com and i really dig the level up tree for troops. The sound effects are great, the music is ok for the most part and i love the variety of mission types.

    Now regarding the complaints old fans of the original (which i am one) i understand the concerns, but i see this as Firaxis' 1st template for future versions of the game and now that it is made there is plenty of room to grow from there. Yes i want base defence mission, yes i want to send multiple teams out, yes i want to decide exactly what each team member takes out with them, yes id like to fully customise their appearance and yes i'd like to be able to pick up a weapon in mission from a kill and use it. The way i see it Firaxis will be able to address these concerns and more in future games.

    But for me this new game gets the atmosphere from the original right and was obviously respectful of the original during it's development. Too often you hear publishers and the developers they choose to make a new game in a well respected series say these words "we want to take it in a new direction" or something to that effect which usually just means make the game a FPS with very little resemblance to its source material and very much a clone of other top selling games. Firaxis did not do this. They respected the original and tried to merge it with todays game designs and THAT IS RARE!

    So i look forward to XCOM 2 and i am certainly still enjoying playing this version for hours more im sure!

      Im hoping that Firaxis remakes TERROR FROM THE DEEP next :D that'd kick major ass :D

        I look forward to seeing them make Terror From the Deep, although the original TFTD was too punishing for me. I don't think I ever finished it, despite playing it twice as long as Enemy Unknown.

          I actually played Terror From The Deep first, then went back and got the original because I loved TFTD so much. The original was significantly easier by comparison. TFTD was fantastic, though. Tentaculats make me shiver more than Chrysalids. Something about the disembodied brain floating around... the fact that they could fly made them so much more dangerous than Chryssalids, too. The moment of truth in TFTD where you discover the location of T'leth and the time that the aliens arrived on Earth was a seminal moment of gaming for me. Brilliantly worked!

            Don't get me wrong, I LOVED TFTD, and kept on playing it. The enemies were definitely more interesting and the missions seemed more interesting in general, but I don't think I ever beat the final base.

              T'leth was a bugger. A Leviathan with 20 of my best troops gathered from all my bases plus a displacer tank, the best armor, the best weapons, a couple of impossibly good MC guys... and it was still a streetfight. And this at a stage of the game when doing an alien base or alien communications site was a cakewalk.

              I remember the first time I beat it was crazy because you couldn't save during the last stage and I was about to have to go to a school event that night and I hadn't saved during the end of the previous stage because, like, why was I going to need to? So I had to finish FAST if I was going to finish it without repeating a couple of hours of gameplay, and after a certain point I just said screw it, ran my two best and most buff troops through the base as fast as possible without worrying about things such as "tactics" and relied on MC to deal with anything I couldn't immediately shoot to death (the Xarquids in the antechamber were the only vaguely hairy moment, as I recall; and in the final chamber I was vaguely worried I was going to run out of ammo to blow everything up).

        Definitely hope they do this as the sequel (not just a DLC but a full game).. with the current gen graphics and general presentation (not that graphics and presentation is everything!) I would love to see the underwater stuff come back..

    Great game, but for some reason 50% of my soldiers are heavy, I need more Support and Assault personnel damn it!

      Must be a playstyle thing. I get quite a few heavies too (from grenading, I guess) but also tons of support. They aren't using a medikit or anything... I suspect it might be from guys getting medium range kills and overwatch kills. I don't really have rookies taking long shots very often I guess. I think the game tries to give you one of each within your first handful of guys, and luckily for me I still have that early sniper, because I've only had one since and he got killed as a Sgt.

      I got nothing but Snipers and Support for my first few hours, it was a huge pain in the butt :/ it evened out by the end of the game though.

    Finished this game last night. The first two games I started were more of a learning thing as even though the game is accessible, there's a lot of decisions to make on many different levels and it's easy to make a lot of mistakes. Even on my 3rd play attempt, I still took a long time to get certain things done and I thought I would have stuffed it up and would fail but I had a good feel for the game at that point and wasn't too concerned about failing. It is all a learning experience and I would have happily failed to be able to start again with the new knowledge I had.

    So I finished the game with a successful outcome and the total play time (including those 2 failed attempts, that I stopped after a very short time) was 28 hours. So I'd guesstimate the actual play time for that 3rd attempt to be around 22 to 25 hours. While playing through a 4th, 5th and 6th time would be completely plausible and the game would most certainly still feel fresh, there are only so many enemy unit types and behaviours to engage with. That's ok though because once you've beaten the story, it becomes a great turn-based strategy game that, due to the action sequences, feels almost like an ARPG at times. The amount of action sequences isn't so much that it becomes annoying though. They happen frequently enough to enjoy and there's no loading or delay between the isometric view and the 3rd person style view.

    I have noticed some framerate problems when there is a lot of moving stuff on screen at the same time but it appears to be just a poorly optimised section of the game rather than a constant thing. Nothing game breaking about it though. As for other bugs, there are some gamebreaking ones where the AI gets stuck in a loop occasionally, or one of your units simply vanishes from the map. Other bugs are with the maps and how you sometimes can't click on a destination because of the floor beneath being prioritised and other weird glitches like your units turning invisible.. they're still usable but you can't see them.

    All in all though, it is a thoroughly enjoyable game that I found myself wanting to go back to time and again. I even was happy to rewind my game to a save 1 hour earlier because I had forgotten to do something before embarking on a mission (forgot to take my ArcThrower). I didn't mind playing through that same hour again, which incidentally played out a little differently because there's a random element to everything.

    If you like Zombie Survival games, UFO games, strategy games, turn based RPGs.. then you are certain to like this game.

    EDIT: Also, just wanted to say that I am also not a huge strategy fan.. I like the ideas that a lot of them have but find them to be either boring or too brutal. While XCOM is certainly brutal and unforgiving in many ways, it is not something bothered me for some reason.

    Last edited 22/10/12 11:43 am

    Nowhere near as good as the original. Some things have been cut or streamlined too much. You don't have as much control and the tactical choices don't seem as varied. I miss the bigger squads and inventories and the flexibility of the orders you could give.

    That said, it is still a really good game. Lots of little things from the original have been streamlined well. The difficulty is still there from Classic on, and the easier difficulties are good if you don't want as much of a challenge or want to ease into it, which the original didn't do well.

    I wouldn't recommend dropping all other games to play it unless you are keen to get into it. I'd consider moving it up on your list for your next game to play though.

    If you do decide on playing heres some tips to help your playthrough and enjoyment of the game

    1. Focus on building Satellite uplinks and armor.

    2. Live with your choices don't preemptively save it sucks all the enjoyment out of it and you won't learn the scope of your mistake.

    3. Priority research isn't a priority do weapons and armor before that.

    4. Don't allow countries to withdraw from XCOM focus hard up getting engineers and getting fast satellite uplinks.

    5. Get interceptors at each hangar ASAP missing a UFO is a big loss.

    6. Use gray market to help fund important projects (Interceptors, Satellites, Satellite Uplinks.)

    7. Make your HQ in America.

      Couple of counterpoints.

      1. Armour is good, but for lower level soldiers guns can help survivability and will allow them to actually gain some levels.

      3. The only real priority research is the Arc Thrower. Get it early and it will help your other research.

      4. Focus on keeping countries in XCom in abduction missions by looking at the highest panic of the countries on offer, but also look at the panic of Continents. Because the 2 missions you don't do will raise panic on the entire continent they are on. Don't worry too much if you do lose some countries though.

      7. Africa is also quite a good starting continent for the money increase, but not available in the tutorial.

      Last edited 22/10/12 11:49 am

      I had a much better game starting in Africa.. by the end of the first month was rolling in cash (just under $1000/month after monthly expenses taken out).. while money is not everything, it certainly helped. I also had 5 satellites in orbit by the end of that first month.. so I got the "All in" bonus as well of course. So while America might seem the best, it's not.. none of them are the best.. it depends what you do with it.

    I can only comment on the first 4 hours since that's all I've played. I bought it on release (since that was also payday for me), but my wife has been playing Borderlands every night and most of the time I co-op with her - not that I'm complaining but even on weekends when I'm not playing Borderlands or doing housework, I'm sleeping. I also had to repeat the first 90 minutes as autosave was not enabled by default and my game glitched out, forcing me to restart.

    I think it's great. Logistics are streamlined and make more sense, so while I kind of miss the original's complexity, I have to admit this is a huge upgrade as it allows you to stay more focused on the game instead of this almost arbitrary allocation of funds.

    The base management is fine, I'd say it's basically on par with the original, apart from the fact you don't have to have multiple bases.

    The individual levels feel more linear, but that's a good thing. It means I spend more time shooting at things. It turns the game into a more strategic and tense game instead of the sometimes frustrating ghost hunt.

    I love that they kept in the fact that you could name soldiers yourself. Some people have a set 'idea' for a friend and won't name them until they're randomly assigned a specialty upon hitting corporal rank, but I name from the outset and let fate decide. Strangely enough the game decided to make both Mark Serrels and Tracey Lien my Snipers. McGarnical on the other hand, is a selfless and fearless vanguard of misery to the alien menace, and has never failed to shotgun-paint the landscape with a fine mist of alien organs. He will go far. I made the mistake of naming a character for my wife, and she has warned me that I best not get her killed, or there will be Consequences (note the capital C), so I tend to favour her survival slightly above everyone else. There have to be some benefits to being married to your commander, or what's the point, right? :P

    All in all I'm having a great time. It's tense, it keeps me thinking, the risks I'm taking feel very real. I kind of wish I'd put it on Iron Man mode because I have no intent on abusing saves and haven't so far, but I'm sure I'll find the time for many, many playthroughs... once we're done with Borderlands 2.

      In regards to saves.. I save at the start of a mission and have another save for when I am in the base. I generally try not to use the save.. but if I feel particularly frustrated or hard done by by something that doesn't seem realistic or fair, I will reload and play the mission from the beginning. I had resisted doing mid-mission saves up to the point where I encountered some of the game-breaking glitches (as per my post above). So what I do is still do my base and start-mission saves and have a rolling save (every few moves) that I won't touch unless I hit a glitch.. it's one thing to get killed because you were stupid, an entirely different matter to have a guy disappear from the map for no reason.

        That's good point. Considering I've already lost 90 minutes to a glitch I mgiht start doing that too.

          I have played about 40 hours so far just counting since I got the legit version and I have thanked my constant save habit about 6 times so far.

          This game is buggy as hell. Its still great though! I keep checking my steam list to see if an update has come through with no luck. The one that pisses me off the most is the bug that makes your viewpoint constantly change to be just outside the UFO each time you change character.

    Mark just to be clear, don't play this for the story. Play it for the challenge. This is Dark Souls hard.

    Unless you be a wimp and play on Normal and reload saves every time someone dies.

    I'm not going to repeat the whole story I told in TAY, but from an old XCOM vet playing on Classic Ironman it is awesome, they've captured the magic of the turn-based combat, the atmospherics and getting you to buy in to caring about your squad and having all those memorable moments that made XCOM great: the legendary escapes (like my two survivors, one down to a single HP, completing a large alien sub mission, or the rookie racking up 6 kills leading a civilian across the map on an escort mission or the assault trooper escaping a berserker via grappling hook, Batman style), the potential for bad beats, the moment where the aliens who were so tough to beat somehow become the hunted thanks to your new armour and weapons...

    The strategic part is for me too streamlined and simplified and doesn't always make sense. Having funding only from nations covered by a satellite, not being able to hire engineers, not being able to sell X-COM made equipment... the funding model is particularly weird, I quit my first Classic Ironman because I did the Tutorial with a Europe start, put my first sat over the US, and found myself unable to get engineers at all, which meant no ability to build a further sat uplink, no ability to build weapons and armour, and no ability to increase funding... very "for want of a nail", and non-sensical if all these countries desperately want satellite protection. In the original X-COM of course you started off with funding from all countries, funding went up with performance and down as countries withdrew, and due to your increasingly expensive needs you eventually had to be able to generate some cash through manufacturing and selling stuff. There's definitely room for them to improve this side of the game in a sequel. But the game is still great despite the weakness in the strategic side. Highly recommended.

    I would actually love to see a remake of X-COM Apocalypse with all the features they promised (even in some cases included in the manual or with art and UFOpedia entries in the files on the game disc) but never implemented. If they emulated Apoc's quicker more shot-happy and more reaction-fire-happy combat as a change up to the more deliberate one-shot-per-turn combat used here and in the originals, that would be cool too.

    Loving it so far. Only thing I've played so far this year that might challenge Journey for my GOTY. Bit disappointed in the graphics... generally quite dark (is it just my game where every single mission so far has been at night, or does that happen to everybody?) and kind of muddy and indistinct. They're not terrible, but it'd be nice if they were cleaner and brighter not just for aesthetic reasons but also to make it a little clearer what's going on. Obviously it's not the kind of game that demands outstanding graphics, but you'd think the amount of time it spent in development might have allowed for a little better. Oh well, hopefully it'll do well enough that they'll be able to get a bigger budget for the sequel which would probably fix that issue. Although looking at VGChartz, that shows its total sales across all 3 platforms as 310,000, which doesn't seem like a lot. I'm not sure how accurate or up to date that number is, though. I hope not very, because it deserves much, much better.

      Had a good mix of night and day missions.. even got a raining mission once. So definitely down to bad luck on your part in that regard. I've not really come across any map that is particularly muddy or grey.. and I am definitely a person who dislikes that browny grey stuff that developers like to call 'realistic'.

        I tend to find most of them are either muddy brown (UFO crash sites) or grey (urban areas for abduction / terror missions). I think my main problem may be more the general darkness of everything which, if what you say is true, may just be me being unlucky in that every single mission I've had has been at night (or at night and raining, lucky me). Will keep plugging away at it and hopefully get something a little brighter soon.

          I've definitely had more nights than days, but quite a few days.

          I wonder if it might depend on the continent on which you are based and the continent where the mission happens. If events trigger at the same time GMT each day during scanning, then it would always be night or always day (depending) by the time the Skyranger got there, unless there was a delay due to a long UFO chase or something. It didn't work that way in any of the originals (hell, you could often get away with stalling a little while waiting for the dawn line to get there and it was often an extremely wise move), ESPECIALLY in TFTD where in deep missions at midnight your guys could hardly see their own feet and it was actually worth giving all your guys flares to throw around but it's the kind of shortcut I could see them taking in this one where the Geoscape events are much much less random and you can't send interceptors out on patrol and stuff.

    My one tip: level up your sniper with the perk that allows them to shoot at targets that the rest of the squad can see. Then get to a high point, and rain hell.

    I had a team of two snipers, and those guys could hit a flea from the other side of the map. Combine that with double tap and they could take down just about anything. If they dont see something, just leave them on overwatch. Great cover.

      Squadsight with snipers is ridonkulous. I can't imagine taking the other perk ever.

        The other perk allows for a more assault oriented sniper, one that can take ground and overwatch every turn. The squadsight creates a more 'clocktower' sniper. I actually found the first one more useful because she could keep up with the action more effectively, though I can see the attraction of the other style sniper too.

      Yup.. by the end of the game, the sniper was definitely the most powerful unit on the map.. sure the heavies could dish out some big combos with their bulletswarm heavy plasmas.. but the sniper.. 19 point criticals and beyond..

        Snipers with Archangel suits sitting up high on open maps with squadsight, double tap, upgraded scopes and plasma sniper rifles = gods!

    I'm enjoying it, though I never played the originals, but I keep noticing a bug where enemy units can jump through ceilings. I come across the tall men and rocket guys and they just jump through the ceiling. Then I have to plod for 3 turns to exit the building and go find them.

      The floaters have a teleport ability. Use up one turn's actions to go anywhere on the map (they almost invariably use it either to take up a flanking position or, more annoyingly, run the hell away).

      There are a few oddities with movement, though. On a large UFO assault two Mutons came into view at the edge of the UFO and "aggro'd". One stayed within view and got shot, the other one ran back into the UFO. I moved my guys up carefully for the next couple of turns to prepare to enter the UFO. To my horror, that one Muton reappeared at the back of my formation, and got a long range shot that injured my sniper.

      There is no way that the Muton charged out the other side of the UFO and circled around and got behind me that fast (I don't even think he could have got past unseen as I had guys coming on the other wise of the UFO as well). And it was definitely the same Muton, because there were no other Mutons left in the mission. Something dodgy happened.

      I've also encountered bugs with the SHIVs. On the same mission as the teleporting Muton, my laser shiv (while having the correct movement range, health, defense and inability to take cover) had the appearance of a trooper in body armour with an assault rifle and its weapon was an assault rifle. I then built and took a Hover SHIV to the alien base with me and while it is indeed a SHIV it has no weapon at all! And the flight button is there but doesn't activate! I ended up just using it to facecheck stuff and then run away into a corner. It got blown up eventually just before the last room, and after two bugged SHIVs in a row I'll be careful about building any more of them. Annoying. I'd had no bugs up until now.

        Interesting about the floaters, I haven't let any of them teleport as a getaway yet, but they have teleported in, right on top of my guys. I assumed this was just a one-off spawn-in ability, not that they teleported in from elsewhere in the map.

        I'll have to make sure I keep an eye on that.

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