X is for XCOM: Enemy Unknown

An extraterrestrial object has crash landed. Are the visitors friend or foe? Well, since we wouldn’t have much of a game if they were friendly and just wanted to chat, we’ve got to fight the invasion!

Because I played Massive Chalice earlier in the year for this project, it’s inevitable that I’ll be comparing and contrasting that game with XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I recognize XCOM was released earlier, but I played them in the opposite order, so that’s the way that I’ll be referencing them. The gameplay is very similar, and similarly satisfying. Specifically, the turn based tactical battles are virtually identical, which is a good thing. If you’ve got a good thing going, don’t mess with it.

One feature of XCOM that stood out to me was that occasionally the camera would zoom in and follow one of your soldiers as they moved along the battlefield. This created a greater sense of immersion for me and helped me connect with the characters in a way that made me care about keeping them alive. I was more cautious than I typically am in most strategy games, specifically because I didn’t want to lose any of my soldiers.

The larger strategic element of upgrading your technology and crafting new weapons to fight back against the alien invasion was more engrossing to me than the story of Massive Chalice. Some of this may just be a genre preference of mine; I generally like science fiction better than fantasy, but your mileage may vary here. Another thing that XCOM does well is, as I mentioned above, getting you invested in your soldiers. If you play cautiously, you can keep the same soldiers alive and fighting throughout the entire game. Not so in Massive Chalice. Because of this, it was hard to connect to any particular character in that game.

Another consideration some of you may have is the M rating. There is a toggle in the menu to turn off ‘squad language’, which seems to have eliminated the coarser language. There is some violence and gore, though it’s largely alien in nature (green goo, etc.). I’m several hours into the campaign, and though I can’t guarantee that the language is entirely T rated throughout the game with that option turned off, it seems to have done the trick thus far.

All in all, I highly recommend XCOM, even for newbies to the tactical genre. The story is engaging and the gameplay is solid. Give it a go!

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