Friday, November 16, 2012

X-Com: Enemy Unknown

Late first opinion

For the last two weeks I have tried to play X-Com. Unfortunately, for societal reasons, I didn't have much time because I needed to earn lots of money and spend it on things I don't need – both activities cost lots of time. Anyway, here's my opinion on X-Com: It's fantastic but could be better.

From the second I started it, I had more fun with this game than with any game in the last few years. This includes games like Skyrim and certainly all MMOs. It's simply the best game I have played for a very, very long time.

Now, of course, there're always things I don't like.
- Why can I send only one fighter to catch a UFO even though I have a few available? At the very least the game should offer a credible explanation.

- The camera is buggy, you often shoot through solid walls. Even more annoying are graphics when inside complex structures, like UFOs. I hope the developers are going to polish this part of the game.

- Why don't aliens do anything until I have seen them in tactical combat?

- Why do I have endless amounts of time to stop the aliens in the strategic game?

- Why can't my missed bullets hit random stuff / civilians / other aliens / other soldiers?

- Why can't I order my soldiers to destroy walls with my weapons?

- Why do aliens always move first (but never shoot) when I first see them?

- Why can't I pick up stuff from the ground / other soldiers?

- Why are maps – and even alien starting positions - pre-scripted and not randomly generated?

- Why can't I send two teams out simultaneously?

- Why don't aliens ever attack my base?

- Why can't my soldiers crouch?

- Why can I determine how my soldiers look?

- Who invented the console and ruined PC user interfaces?

Generally, the game is just too much like a scripted movie and not really a simulation. And while this is great for the first hour, it's terrible later on. First it hurts immersion, and second it hurts replay value. For now I have stopped my first game and restarted on a higher difficulty/ironman so that I won't have to listen to a known story to be able to play the game.

Final complaint: the acting of the council is extremely childish. Instead of supporting me to save their skins they now ‘reward' me. Dear developers, please, if you make a game for adults, can you please also treat us like adults? Most of us have a basic understanding of international politics and can imagine humankind's reaction to an alien invasion. And those who don't might still enjoy a game that treats them as if they were grown up.

Oh, one thing I really did like: The first mission plays in Hamburg. Not New York, not Washington, not Oklahoma. And my translator soldier in the tutorial even speaks (broken) German. Even the police cars are German cars (Polizei). In later games I can even have my mainbase in any part of the world and not just in the US.

X-Com is also important for two simple reasons: First, it shows that nostalgia or not: Remaking great old games works because many great old games were simply good and people like to play them today if you polish the graphics and UI. And second, not every game has to be real time. Turn-based combat is not inherently inferior, and rather makes for a different type of game.

What would you actually think about turn based combat in a MMO? And, an even more interesting question: can X-COM be turned into a MMO (not MMORPG, but MMO)? Could the aliens be controlled by players?


  1. I've not played the remake, but I played the original a lot. I'm surprised at your comments, because it means that they decided to drop a lot of the options of the original one, in particular:

    - aliens were moving even when you didn't see them
    - missed shots would hit and destroy/kill other targets (= no AoE in "city defense" missions)
    - it was possible to shoot walls
    - aliens would often shoot you when you first discovered them (they were using the same "reserve action" as the player
    - you could pick up stuff from the ground (and corpses)
    - aliens were attacking your bases, more so as time goes on
    - you could crouch to reduce the chances to be hit.

    I'll definitely get the game, but I think I'll wait for the budget version.

  2. A few corrections:
    - Aliens actually move while you cannot see them. Something like cyberdisk using his map teleport behind you or chrysalis coming from sides on their own move happens. You can also hear them moving behind doors - they just don't move much if they don't see you, and they hate opening doors on their own. If all of them would, it would make them extremely easy by getting reaction shot from your entire team gathered on other side (assaults would also get another free shot from "automatic reaction on closer then 4 squares" skill).

    - Half-move reaction protects aliens caught in open spaces. Your snipers can still stop them if they have line of sight and reaction ready though.

    - They obviously thought about multiplayer, and even did basic implementation of it.

    Btw, another thing i hated missing from old XCom - having your own vehicle wings used as sniping positions. It would fit perfectly for "higher ground" and line of sight for most maps here.