Video games are a big part of my life, and I wish I wanted them to stay that way.
Just recently I plowed my way through XCOM: Enemy Unknown on nothing but my wits, will, and a bottle of Gentleman Jack. Having managed to do so on Impossible difficulty with Ironman mode turned on, I figured it was time to write a little review on the game itself to tell others about my experience. You see, I'm the type to rush into games because of the hype that surrounds them, and very often I am disappointed by what the game actually delivers.
Having been released nine years ago, in 2012, I wasn't expecting XCOM to deliver me much of anything special. In fact, I was expecting to refund the game as soon as I made it through the first mission. However, that just wasn't the case, I slogged drunkenly through the entire game, and now I'm ready to give a rundown of it for prospective buyers.
Spoiler Alert: You have been warned! Without further ado, let's hop into the nitty-gritty, and answer the question, "Is it worth buying?"
Turn-Based Tactical Combat
The only turn-based tactical combat I've ever genuinely enjoyed would have to be the Warhammer 40k tabletop games, and I think that still holds true to this day. It is hard to create a game that really encompasses the feel of a real battle, provides the freedom of choice necessary for tactical decisions, and does both of those in a way that feels natural rather than contrived. XCOM: Enemy Unknown, however, seems to hit the mark for an overall-pleasant turn-based tactical combat experience.
When it comes to warfare I like the battle to be fast-paced, and I like my shots to count based on my skill and not some random variables assigned to my character. Turn-based tactical combat just isn't my forté, and that cannot be expressed enough. I'll destroy you at checkers, and annihilate you at chess, but I'd sooner throw my laptop out of the window than get stuck playing turn-based tactical combat games.
To give credit where credit is due, though, XCOM: Enemy Unknown really hits the nail on the head as far as turn-based combat goes, and if you're a fan of turn-based combat systems then this game is right up your alley. Every mission, every step of the way through the plot is a major turn-based thought process. Even when it comes to base-building, one wrong move and you may end up losing everything you've worked so hard to accomplish.
Unfortunately, I spent so much time focused on the combat that I paid very little attention to the story itself.
The Story Had a Plot, I Think?
Though I am ashamed to admit it, I spent 10 hours straight grinding my way through this game, and I have no idea what the plot was about. If I ever had to describe the plot of this game to someone, the story behind the action, I don't think I could come anywhere close to describing it as it really is. Perhaps it is the Gentleman Jack that is to blame for my lack of attention to such details, but I'm going to recall it to the best of my ability anyway.
From what I can recall, the game begins as you'd think any alien invasion would. Spaceships come into the atmosphere as wary onlookers peer up at them from the ground, and then the ships drop some scary monster machines that cover people in green goo as they scream for their lives. This continues, basically, the entire game and will be referred to as 'acts of terror' throughout your time running missions. These acts of terror push The Council, a shady government of alternate-reality Earth, to activate XCOM.
Basically, the government was ready for aliens to come and mess up Earth, and I guess we are just supposed to accept the 'death by one-thousand cuts' strategy the highly-advanced aliens are utilizing rather than just straight up destroying Earth. I suppose it wouldn't be much of a game if the aliens activated a black hole right from the get-go. Poor planning on the aliens' parts, but beneficial for XCOM and the Earth as a whole.
Point in case, if you are the type of individual to enjoy a game because of a strong plot then this game probably isn't for you. The plot is there, but it feels more like a bonus feature than the main course. For me it was negligible and substandard, but it is excusable because that is not the main facet of the game.
Even the enemies were not the main facet of the game, as there were very few enemy types.
A Lack of Diversity
Though it is arguable that diversification in environment, non-player characters, and enemy-types is necessary, I found myself wanting for more as it concerns the types of enemies I faced in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. From what I can remember—as that is all that really counts when playing a game, what you recall from playing—there was only like six unique enemy-types. Normally, I like a wider variance in the enemies I am battling.
It must be said, however, that there are more than six types of enemies. Equally so, it must be said that those enemies that fall outside of the main enemy-types are simply reskins of the same basic enemies, but with much higher stats. Enemy-types in the game felt unique to the XCOM universe, but they also felt lazy in design.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown made the mistake that so many other Sci-Fi mediums have made: They chose to make their aliens overly-familiar, humanoid, and banal.
Why, I ask, why?! When you have the opportunity to create entirely new species of beings, from an entirely new area never-before-seen, why would you choose the same style of humanoid aliens everyone has already seen? Sure, it is a bit familiar and inspires familiar feelings I've enjoyed in the past, but the Sci-Fi fanatic in me was disappointed deeply.
Overall, because I prefer the lazy bullet-storms with wide varieties of enemies in first-person and third-person shooters, XCOM: Enemy Unknown disappointed me. I do recommend this game highly, though!
Who Is This Game Actually For?
If you have an acquaintance, friend, a family member or even you yourself are looking for a game to really press them to their mental limits, a game that does not forgive nor forget, then you need to pick up a copy XCOM: Enemy Unknown. In all honesty, I wouldn't have been able to make it through this game without chemical assistance. The frustration the difficulty in this game made me feel, well, let's just say I am no genius tactical strategist by this game's standards.
Every step of the way through this game was mired by consistent struggle to succeed. Whether it be a lack of resources leading to sections of my base losing functionality, or losing high-level units en masse due to a careless mistake, I was always finding reasons to take another shot of whisky. I don't know how anyone could do a perfect playthrough of this game, but to those who have you have my respect.
This game seems like it is the perfect gift for those who enjoy the hardest of challenges in life, those true warriors with the grit of demigods. Chess masters, generals, god-tier strategists, and anyone who considers themselves forward-thinking will find great enjoyment in conquering this beast of a game. Of course, those who simply want a hardcore turn-based tactical combat experience won't find a better medium for that desire.
Final Verdict: A Must-Buy for Any Hardcore Gamer
When thinking about how to review this game I wanted to end this in a negative way, and I wanted to do so because I haven't enjoyed turn-based combat video games since the KOTOR series. You see, I like a challenge and a narrative, but XCOM pushed me to my limits as far as capabilities go. I'm definitely sharing a love-hate relationship with this game in which I am loving that I hated it.
It wasn't until I actually finished the game that I decided it was worth buying, and this is because of how difficult it was to beat. Sure, it only took me ten hours straight to beat it on its hardest difficulty set to Ironman mode, but that's because I read up on the game long before actually playing it. Even in reading up on the game and studying strategies for beating it, I was still pressed to my utmost limitations.
Though this game is not my flavor, it gave me an undeniable sense of satisfaction and relief to finally beat it. I'm currently doing another run-through just to pay attention to the story this time, except I dropped the difficulty to its lowest setting! Looking back, I suppose I'm just not the hardcore gamer I thought I was, the hardcore gamer that this game is geared towards.
So, to all you hardcore gamers out there, make sure you pick up your copy as soon as possible if you haven't already!
Kyler J Falk (author) from California on March 20, 2021:
Something tells me you are not into the gaming industry, Bushra, but I thank you all the same, lol!
Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on March 20, 2021:
Well-written! You have a gift for words, Kyler.