During our visit at Gamescom last week, which takes place once a year in Cologne, we got the chance to check out 2K Interactives upcoming Title XCOM - Enemy Unknown. Basically the game is an improved remake of the original which had been released all the way back in 1994. Nevertheless, the concept and the ideas 2K is pursuing sound promising.
Back in 2005 publisher Take 2 Interactive bought the rights on the brand XCOM. Until then the two founding fathers and brother Julian and Nick Gollop coded quite a few successors of the original XCOM. In fact they released their first game back in the eighties, which was called Laser Squad. The concept behind is the same like with XCOM, which means that they had developed the first termbased strategy game out there. 1994 the original XCOM UFO Enemy Unknown had been launched. After That XCOM Terror from the Deep, XCOM Apocalypse and XCOM Magic & Mayhem followed.
After 1998 when the last sucessor had been released the game had a huge fan base that supports the game up until today. Thanks to lots of community patches it's still possible to play the game on today Windows versions.
Today Firaxis, the developers behind Civilisation have taken over the lead for the XCOM project. As developers of very well known strategy games this seems to be the right studio to trust when it comes to such a well known and still broadly accepted game.
Casey O'Toole, lead programmer of the new XCOM, doesn't describe the game as a remake. When he speaks he's talking about a reimagining. At this point Lead Designer Jake Solomon adds in that basically they wanted to implement all core principles of the game and then make it sexier and more fun to play. One important thing is that the player operates as commander of this squad, which happens termbased. In the original you got a certain amount of time to perform actions and moves. This principle Firaxis wanted to simplify a bit. What they did is, they transformed these time units into a number of move the players can perform. So they still have to take care how many moves they perform to not put the squad into dangerous situations. Furthermore different members of you squad can get various abilities and that's where the command center comes into the equation. Firaxis kind of turned it into a hive where you find certain departments. Once you visit them scientists or developers request you to research or develop new weapons or technologies. Basically you can research or develop new abilities after every mission you finish successfully. Those upgrade are really important because a rocket launcher, grenades or a sniper rifle can really help you out once you got into a tricky situation.
During Gamescom last week we were able to try out the XBox version of XCom. In an intro mission you're going to be made familiar with the gameplay. It is not trivial but once you got the hang on it, it's quite intuitive. You'll also quickly find that you better take your time to perform actions otherwise you might end up ignoring the strategy part of the game. Something that really make the game more entertaining is that the the camera swithes when you perform actions. For example, you're throwing a grenade right into the face of an ugly alien, then the camera is following the grenade showing you're decent kill nicely. In the command center things are kind of similar. Everytime you visit a department scientists or developers start talking to you, asking for permission for example or show you stuff they did.
Playing XCOM is a very relaxing experience. The fact that it's termbased and you have plenty of time to perform your moves and actions makes it the perfect game to play it after a busy day and chill in front of your TV. If I had to describe XCOM using other games, then I'd say that it some kind of mixture between Heroes of Might and Magic and Command and Conquer. Once XCOM hits the stores I'm quite sure that I'll get myself a copy.