Here’s Why You Should Be Playing ‘XCOM’
It’s happening: 2K and Firaxis have announced that XCOM 2 is coming later this year. For many gamers the XCOM series has flown under the radar for the past 20 years, but it really shouldn’t. The series is well worth a look for anyone who’s serious about gaming. Why? Because it’s really good. In fact, it’s one of the best strategy game series around.
So far, XCOM 2 is said to be a PC exclusive game, but there’s a chance it will come to other platforms eventually. But whether you have a PC, an Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or even an iOS or Android device, you can dive into the series right now to find out what the fuss is about.
What is the fuss about?
The basic premise of XCOM is that hostile aliens have invaded earth and are causing all kinds of problems. To address the invaders, the governments of several countries have joined together to create a paramilitary organization to fend off the invaders. They’re called XCOM, short for Extraterrestrial Combat Unit.
XCOM games are turn-based tactical combat games in which you control a squad of soldiers, directing them where to move and which aliens to shoot. The games are known to be challenging but also exhilarating.
The series has been running since 1994 and consists of numerous games across a variety of systems.
Which game should you start with?
You should start with the most recent installment, XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Released in 2012, it’s a remake of the first game in the series — essentially a reboot — and it’s widely available on modern platforms like Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, iOS, and Android.
It was the most successful installment to date, and for good reason. It’s a fantastic game, earning a rock-solid score of 89 out of 100 on Metacritic.
What’s so great about XCOM: Enemy Unknown?
The success or failure of any strategy game depends greatly on the nebulous idea of balance. If any part of feature of the game is too strong or too weak, the whole house of cards collapses. Thankfully, Enemy Unknown nails the balance of features.
The game takes place in two phases. In the planning phase, which happens between mission, you’re responsible for the big picture of the war. You have to devote limited resources to advancing your weaponry, equipping your soldiers, keeping civilians happy, and studying the aliens’ technology.
Most of your time, however, is spent on the battlefield. Here, the game randomly generates battle scenarios for you to address using the soldiers you’ve outfitted in the planning phase.
Each time you’re dropped into a fight, you have to scout the enemy’s position and create a strategy on the fly. Do you want to plant a sniper on a roof and lure the enemy out into the open? Or would it be better to distract them with a frontal assault as you send a group of soldiers around to flank them from the side?
It’s up to you, and thanks to the clean, simple interface, it’s easy to make your soldiers to pull off whatever maneuvers you concoct. The game isn’t easy thanks to the smart enemy AI, but it never feels unfair.
In short, if you haven’t played this game yet, whether or not you consider yourself a fan of turn-based strategy games, it’s definitely worth a look. You can get it for less than $20 nowadays, so there’s no reason not to try it out.
What about XCOM 2?
XCOM 2 is a direct sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It takes place 20 years in the future, when (spoiler alert) humans have lost the war and aliens have taken over. It’s a bummer that your efforts in Enemy Unknown weren’t effective, but humanity’s failure makes room for XCOM 2, so it’s not all bad.
You might think a successful alien invasion would lead to the extermination of humanity, but that’s not the case. Instead, the aliens have taken over and instituted an oppressive government. Humans are treated as second-class citizens with very few rights and privacies. They could use a savior.
That’s where you come in. The XCOM organization is still around, but it has moved underground. Since the aliens run the show now, you and your soldiers are the invading force. In other words, it’s time to take the planet back.
Watch the trailer above to see what you’re in for. XCOM 2 will launch in November.