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November 5th, 2012, 11:09
X-Com - Enemy Unknown

First game I've finished in ages. I played it mostly offline (No connection in the summer house) - and I estimate it took me around 20-25 hours on Classic difficulty.

For the most part, I think it was a decent modern iteration of an old formula. They certainly captured the heart of the original game - and though it has been quite streamlined, they've managed to keep it reasonably interesting.

Some problems with the game is that it's quite short and there's not enough variety in the maps and activities.

Beyond that, I don't like the way enemies "pop up" when you encounter them and they get a free move. It makes no sense, really - and it disrupts the natural tactical flow I'm used to in games of this nature. It's just gamey without a good reason that I can see. Well, I expect it's because they had limited CPU power for ongoing AI routines and perhaps memory issues. Typical console bullshit limitations. It reminded me of the awful Dragon Age 2 spawning mechanism.

The single worst aspect is probably the ending, which I won't spoil. But suffice it to say the last part was a letdown of a significant magnitude.

I miss the time-units and I'm not a fan of streamlining that into two "phases", though I get the reasoning. I've mentioned that somewhere else, but I find that they've made potential actions too obvious and it removes some of the mystery and tactical flavor. It just takes something away from the player and there's too much hand-holding. I miss the timed grenades (and in general, grenades/rockets are weak) - and I really miss the waypoint launchers. I miss the crouch/stand options and all those things. I do appreciate the cover mechanic - but again, they've made it too obvious - and it becomes a game that's ALL about cover and nothing else. Overwatch is poorly implemented, and everyone shoots at the same target, etc. Just a lot of design omissions that are pretty inexcusable when you consider the resources and experience that should have been on the side of the design team.

Maps are generally 50% too small - and I miss some of the variety of the old game - like base invasions.

Ok, sounds like I didn't enjoy the game - but that's not true. The first half of it is very good, and it was a decent challenge on Classic mode. I don't play Ironman - because I get attached to my characters - and I focus on a small selection of them from the beginning. I did that in the original X-Com as well. I'm more into the roleplaying aspects than the strategy in that way.

For parts that were actually better than the original, I'll mention the soldier abilities. That was a really welcome addition. I love some of the powers you get - and especially the Sniper tree. Great stuff and a significant improvement over the original.

Also, I don't recall the various buildings having proximity bonuses and such in the original, which adds a somewhat interesting strategic layer. Sadly, it's very underutiliised and seems completely superfluous for success. Some really redundant buildings like the steam-based power stations that you definitely don't need. I think the strategic layer needed extra months in the oven - and it's clear they didn't balance that part of the game at all. But the parts are in place for future patches and modding.

The production values are obviously better - and the game looks very good, especially later on when you get Archangel armor and advanced weaponry. I love the research/interrogation sequences - and that's exactly the kind of modern stuff that suits the game so well.

Overall, I just can't help but think that they should have evolved the game a LOT more. I'll give them credit for "getting" the original flavor for the most part - but after 18 years, it can't be that hard to take the concepts to the next level. There are already several games out there (or in production) that mimic the original - so when you have the money and the opportunity - it would suit you to take the concept beyond that. Maybe that's just me, though.

7/10 - Game is worth playing - but ultimately failed to impress.




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