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Old 12-10-2012, 11:48 PM   #1
Panthro
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Default New XCOM

Hey folks,

So today I decided to play the new XCOM game, after hearing how good it was. As a big fan of the original game, I was sceptical that it would live up to its predecessor, but based on the reviews and stuff from Rock Paper Shotgun I gave it a go.

Bearing in mind I've only played it a few hours (once on classic/ironman mode and once on normal), I have to say I've got very mixed feelings.

It looks pretty good, and I'm enjoying it, but there are various things which bug me about it. Some are minor annoyances, and others are more frustrating. This post is really about me venting about it, so don't expect too many positives! I'll try not to be too harsh though, because most people will probably love it.

So here we go:

The interface is a little awkward, you can see that it's designed with XBox controllers in mind. That said, it doesn't take too long to learn the keyboard shortcuts, and you can get used to it's little peculiarities.

It doesn't feel anywhere near as open as the original. The biggest problem with this is the arbitrary choices you have to make when selecting missions. Every so often, you'll have a "terror", "abduction" or other mission, and it will give you options of places where they are occurring. You choose the one which you go to, and the others you have to leave. There's no multiple skyrangers, no way of trying to please everyone. Each choice gives you different mission rewards, such as scientists, engineers, money and so on.

The squad size is severely limited. You begin only being able to take 4 soldiers on a mission, and the maximum is 6. Much like classic X-Com, it's easy for your soldiers to die (1-2 hits will do it), so as you can imagine losing 4 soldiers is relatively easy. The limits to the squad size are probably because of the small maps (although they're probably not that much different from the original, I would have preferred more soldiers and larger maps!).

For some reason, it seems Sectoids get a free move when you spot them. It makes it impossible to take advantage of them being out of cover. I found this an odd gameplay decision.

Your troops are very specialised (and you don't pick their specialisations!). The loadout is restricted too, and you have to choose between carrying a medikit or a grenade (for example). Considering that these are one-use, it makes it a little frustrating (although too many grenades would make it a bit easy I suppose).

Anyway, I've ranted enough, but I expect I'll have other things to bring up later. I get the feeling I'll enjoy Xenonauts much more when it's finally finished.

Hopefully someone will come along and be more positive about it though, I don't want to give too much of a bad impression.
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Old 13-10-2012, 01:51 PM   #2
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Thanks a lot for your review. I haven't played it but your description sounds very disappointing. :-(
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Old 13-10-2012, 02:45 PM   #3
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It's really not disappointing, I am enjoying it (and the massively difficult Classic+Iron Man combo).

It's just there are many design decisions which I don't like, things which distance it from the original game.

Xenonauts will be a more faithful "spiritual successor", but XCOM still has a lot going for it. I must have played it for several hours now, over the past day or so.

XCOM has been made with a modern, partially console, audience in mind. It was never going to be exactly the game I wanted, but no doubt it will satisfy many younger gamers who never played the original.
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Old 13-10-2012, 09:45 PM   #4
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Well... The way you describe it I'm really disappointed.

Yet another game name destroyed because a company thought it would make more sells by stapling the name of an old game over it.
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Old 13-10-2012, 11:02 PM   #5
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I've played it much more now, and I'm really getting the feel for it.

It's got quite a lot of charm to it, and it's very enjoyable. It just takes some getting used to.

There's a certain amount of what I can only describe as "story" elements, which I initially discounted as being an annoying diversion. However, as you play through the game the personalities of your staff (you get info from a chief scientist, engineer and command assistant) become more tolerable and the little cinematics more palatable.

I'm enjoying the tactical gameplay too, even if their choice of "move+shoot" rather than "time units" isn't quite to my taste. Essentially they've put these limitations in place for gameplay reasons, and generally they work out.

My attempts to play through it in "Classic" mode have failed though, and now I'm having a much better (and more enjoyable) time with the far easier "Normal" mode. I've always used "Ironman" option though, it makes the game a bit more tense when you can't just reload when a mission goes wrong.

I can see why reviewers heap praise on it, and it's certainly deserving of a certain amount of that. However, I wish they'd mentioned more prominently things like the awkward UI and forced mission choices.

Still glad I bought it though! Even if it means I haven't touched Dishonored yet.
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Old 17-10-2012, 07:45 PM   #6
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Tried the demo and I... uh...
Sounds and looks good but that seem to be about it. I must say I hate this simplifying trend that is going on right now. Or is it really so that age of good, deep and perhaps even a bit complex games is over and never coming back? Is humanity heading towards idiocracy?

I hate this new 2-phase action style, so damn simple and restricting. Also if the globe view works like this, it just offers you some random missions and you can only select one where you send 4-6 soldiers from your pre-defined base and you can't manage your fighters and craft in any way like in old X-com... argh! In old version scale was massive and I had control of everything, it felt like I made some difference. New is like "blehh, whatever. lemme just hit the button so that I can get in to teh battel!". And same goes on during the battle, I just double-wham my guys somewhere and game decides for me when it's time to change soldier and end the round. I admit I almost started drooling but it was because my brain activity went critically low.
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Old 17-10-2012, 08:02 PM   #7
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There is some aircraft management: you have a hangar on each continent which you can put 1-2 fighters in. (You start with 2 interceptors with Avalanche missiles, and can buy more of them and improve their weapons)

It lacks the multiple skyrangers and using interceptors to scout areas for bases and such.

It definitely is streamlined though, which generally means simplification. A lot of the design decisions work well, even if I would have preferred it to be much more like the original (but that's why I've got the original and pre-ordered Xenonauts!).

It handles global panic pretty well, and the choices you have to make all have specific rewards attached. There have been cases when I've played where I had to choose to aid a panicked nation (or lose them from the council), rather than getting the better reward from another nation.

The tactical battles are quite good in a very different way, and Tom Chick nailed it in his review: they're very much like a board-game. The restrictions annoy me, but I can see why they are there (from a gameplay perspective, again it's all about the game forcing you to make choices).

Tom Chick review: http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/201...ears-to-write/
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Old 17-10-2012, 11:39 PM   #8
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I bought the game recently, and managed to put a few hours on it the last few days. Overall, it's not a bad game, but to be honest didn't manage to catch my attention for long. The tactical combat is good, behind the seemingly simplistic design there is an OK mechanics, which allow for interesting battles, and a bit of strategy thinking. The base/research on the other hand has been ridiculously simplified, and personally, I would describe it as a minigame with flashy graphics.

All in all, it's a simple game, with lots of movies. Personally, the lack of depth is a deterrent, and does not impress me. So, if you are looking for a in-depth strategy games in the line of previous XCOM's, I wouldn't recommend.

I have read the Tom Chick review. His dialogue with his past self is clever and amusing, but I have to disagree with his conclusions. He pretty much says that games today are oversimplified pieces, and that we should be happy to have this scenario (wtf?).

On the 'streamline' nonsense that plagues modern gaming, I was 10 years old when I first played UFO Defense, and only got attached to it because the complex mechanics amazed me, and I think that's what games should have.
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Old 18-10-2012, 12:19 AM   #9
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On subject of XCOM and "dumping down" (Or Streamlining, whatever. Both are very elitist terms) http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/xcom-enemy-...1226388p1.html
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Old 18-10-2012, 12:59 AM   #10
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Sorry, that's arrogant, you are saying my perception that the game is simpler is incorrect, because you read an article about a similar subject? Like I said the game does well with it's simple mechanics, but, as the article you linked stated very clear: it's easier to get it right with less complexity (naturally). However, it doesn't mean it appeals to me personally, I have never been a fan of simplistic time-killers.

There are many examples of complex games who were completely broken due to poor cohesion, it's true, but there are many masterpieces which managed to tie the complexity properly, and turned out to be great games.

So, yes, there is such a thing as "dumbing down". You may think that's elitism (or insert your favourite -ism here), but it will not stop it from being a real thing.
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