OXCGN’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review
Turn-based strategy returns!
by Arthur Kotsopoulos
©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos
Being released just after Borderlands 2 and Darksiders 2 but before the blockbuster shooters such as Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black ops 2, it’s great to see some much needed variety that requires a deep trance of strategy.
Here, however, there’s a steep price to pay in terms of your sanity when playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown, as the game most of the time can incomprehensibly frustrate the player and cost the lives of soldiers that you’ve come to train and love.
It’s one of the games biggest drawing points, the fact that when a soldier dies on the battlefield you’ve lost him for good.
What you haven’t lost how ever are the weapons and armour he/she was equipped with so essentially you just lose their abilities, which in hindsight isn’t such a bad thing.
Who is the enemy?
XCOM: Enemy Unknown becomes a game where a single mistake could cost the life of your soldier. Or, not researching that much needed technological advancement could result in countries pulling out of the program.
Researching new tech and managing your resources does become time consuming, but could be the crucial factor in deciding whether you win the battle against the invading aliens.
The better the research, the more advanced the enemies become as well. If you have any new toys to test out expect to encounter new types of enemies along with older ones equipped better armor.
I enjoyed this aspect of Enemy Unknown due to the notion that everything is factored in when on the field. You can have the best equipment available but if you haven’t upgraded your interceptors, alien crafts can shoot down satellites easier and cause widespread panic.
This then requires you to completely change your strategy and adapt to a game that can be both rewarding but punishing to the player if you choose to neglect any one aspect of the overall impending invasion.
The game starts off simple enough with four soldiers at your helm, with the ability to up the number to six. From here you’ll be responsible for their well being and using them to fulfill your needs on the battlefield. As they earn promotions they’ll be assigned to one of four classes:
Each class has their own abilities to choose from that are crucial in the success of any given mission.
From the assault class being able to shoot after they’ve exhausted their turns, to the support class dropping smoke grenades to increase defense, there’s a wide variety of options for each class.
You’re required to involve a more thought-provoking decision rather than sending your troops blindly into the un-revealed Fog of War directly into a group of enemies.
Whilst I enjoy Fog of War and the risk of running into aliens, my one gripe with this is that unless you’ve already revealed the enemy, they will remain stationary whereever they are on the map.
This essentially gives them three moves to play with when you make initial contact. If you run to a high rated piece of cover and unveil a group of Mutons, they will be granted with an introductory move allowing them to avoid being flanked.
It’s a great way to address the possibility of players continually flanking the enemy. Howeever, it works to your disadvantage as well.
You exhaust all of your moves and Mutons can flank you as easy as counting from one to ten. I would have rather liked to have seen the enemies continuously moving around the battlefield until you uncovered them, as this would still eliminate the chance of flanking them easily but also make the game much more challenging.
Couple this with the uncertainty that is the ‘Line of Sight‘, and you’ve got all the ingredients of a game that will most likely frustrate you to no avail.
I’m not sure how technical the numbers are behind the percent-to-hit-ratio within Enemy Unknown, but I know that if you’ve positioned your soldiers behind full defensive covers, they are still likely to be hit with a critical shot and die.
Too many times I saw my shots hitting walls, cars or completely missing with a seventy percent chance or above to hit and no obstacles in front of me. It brought me to the consensus that the numbers in this game are predetermined to some degree.
Whereas when I have had thirty percent or less with enemies behind walls and shop counters, it would result in critical hits. The ‘Line of Sight’ in Enemy Unknown confuses me.
Regardless of if you’re directly behind three walls and have the best equipment in the game, enemies can still hit me and cause massive damage to my squad.
For the hardcore fans who like a challenge, this game will cater to their needs and could be compared to the harsh nature that is Demon Souls. But, for someone such as myself who has not yet played any of the original XCOM games and is a newcomer into the universe, XCOM doesn’t really seem too appealing or enjoyable.
I’ve managed to restart the single player campaign five times due to countries pulling out because I’ve never had enough resources or time to build power sources or satellite uplinks, and then order satellites, and FINALLY deploy them in the much needed countries.
It took me several hours just to progress through the single player until I was comfortable with the management of my base and all other areas of the XCOM project. Completing abduction missions, and shooting down and then raiding aircraft will make up the bulk of your play time.
Successful completion of these missions will grant you various items like research equipment, new facilities, and better weapons. If you’re low on money be careful what you sell on the Gray Market, because you may desperately need it later on in the game to progress through the story.
Maps are heavily recycled so once you’ve done roughly a dozen missions, you’ll start to notice the cycle and in turn, it makes the game easier since you’ll know where all the vantage points are and usually you’ll have a good knowledge of where enemies spawn on the map as well.
If you can look past the freezing issues, the ‘Line of Sight’ inconsistencies and the brutal difficulty, XCOM is one of the best strategy games you’ll get on a console. Striking the perfect balance between base management and gameplay, it truly is something fresh.
Presentation-wise, it’s amazing. While I don’t enjoy the brighter colours and my soldiers looking like these buffed-up super soldiers, the Ant Farm base managing and HUD are all streamlined to be simple enough to use and understand for any player.
They never intrude upon the gameplay and are easy to understand and navigate.
I enjoyed Enemy Unknown, but at the same time, hated it due to how much frustration and rage it brought out in me.
I never seemed to get a grip on the game regardless of how many hours or times I spent completing missions.
On average, I would lose a soldier per mission and when I was playing it safe, taking advantage of the abilities and equipping the right gear, I didn’t feel that XCOM: Enemy Unknown was rewarding me for playing tactically and smart.
©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos
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