I AM RUNNING OUT OF FRIENDS TO SEND TO THEIR DEATHS. THIS IS A REAL PROBLEM THAT YOU WILL ALSO EXPERIENCE IF YOU PLAY XCOM: ENEMY UNKNOWN.
I have no nostalgia toward the original X-COM games. Never played them, probably never will. In fact, I didn’t even realise how universally loved they were by PC gamers until they showed video of that FPS reboot a few years back, and even then I just thought it was typical fanboy butthurt crybaby nonsense.
Now, I know why that must’ve been a bit of a kick to the balls.
I don’t actually even like strategy games. Real-Time strategy can do one, as I find memorising build orders and fighting stretched battles on multiple fronts incredibly frustrating. I’ve also got very little time for games like Sins of a Solar Empire and Tropico, where I’m either put off immediately by a never-ending tutorial or slowly overwhelmed by tedious micromanagement.
XCOM, without the hyphen, managed to get its hooks right into me by making me care about my troops, which in turn made me care about the micromanagement, which in turn makes me care about the overall mission goal of ‘saving the world from these alien pricks’. So every time I have to look at a menu and decide which piece of research to have my scientists start or which new section of my base I would like to build, I know that all of this is going toward keeping my beloved team of badasses alive for another mission.
Perhaps an influence of it being released for consoles, but instead of boring you to tears with loads of trivial stat boosts that make your faceless army give and take a bit more damage, each time one of your troops ranks up, you make a decision as to which skill to unlock from a simple choice of two - usually opposing - abilities. For instance, do you choose the Sniper ability that allows them to fire a less accurate shot after moving, or do you choose the one that allows them to make shots over great distance provided another squad member has the target in their sights, but at the cost of being able to move position?
This two-pronged skill-tree may seem simple, but it works as a very quick and easy way to differentiate the soldiers in your squad, and in turn offering you more strategic choice, as well as giving them all an extra bit of personality. Even new weapons, armour and useable items are very much straightforward in what bonuses they give you. XCOM is a very lean, streamlined, focused game, but choice and depth aren’t sacrificed to achieve this.
By stripping out a lot of the fat that accompanies a lot of the genres other titles, and by adding a big chunk of personality to a genre that’s perpetually lacking in it, XCOM refreshes not only a classic series, but the strategy genre. PC gaming die-hards and franchise fanboys are the first to point their fingers at modern remakes, diving into review comment threads, accusing them of ‘dumbing down’ and not remaining true to the original. The fact that both of these audiences appear to share the opinion that this new XCOM is a rad game is pretty high praise!
No nostalgia for the original, but I'm probably going to end up having nostalgia for this remake. Awesome.