For those who read my column, you are probably expecting part two to my Dragon Age: Inquisition saga. Well, I was as well. However, there is a part where Dragon Age: Inquisition completely freezes. It’s the type of freeze up where I have to get up and shut down the Xbox 360 completely. When you are recovering from foot surgery, frequent trips to the console are a no go. So, I had my wife boot up XCOM: Enemy Unknown for me instead.
I remember the first time I played XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and it forever changed my life. At the time, the only turn based strategy titles I enjoyed playing were Fire Emblem. XCOM changed this with its interesting premise, base management mechanics, and intense gameplay. Later they released XCOM: Enemy Within that contained DLCs and new substories. For this Fresh Look column, I only got the base game, but that’s still a pretty good deal, especially now that you can find it for just about any platform at a reasonable price.
I’m going to be candid for a moment now, my dear readers. I have severe anxiety, and sometimes it helps me to play something familiar to calm my nerves. I got that feeling with XCOM the minute I heard John “Central” Bradford don his stylish green Army sweater and speak about the mission for the first time, one more time.
It also didn’t take me too much time in the tutorial mission to realize that I need didn’t need to play XCOM: Enemy Unknown like it was XCOM 2 or XCOM 2 with War of the Chosen DLC installed. That’s because Enemy Unknown moves at a much slower pace overall, and its random number generator also feels extra punishing.
I got to a point where the damage started to curve upwards a bit too steeply, and I felt unprepared because everyone on my squad did not have great equipment. It was too late when I realized that building satellites should have been an early priority to earn more money. Additionally, I made the mistake of not realizing that each unit had to have upgraded weapons. In XCOM 2, once you buy the upgrade, all applicable units get it. But in Enemy Unknown, you need to research weapons for each type of squaddie.
The team’s special abilities also came into play more than I expected. I’m used to moving the heavy weapon class to a good position and firing a grenade with the launcher in XCOM 2. In Enemy Unknown if you move your unit, you cannot fire the secondary weapon (in this case a rocket launcher) on the same turn. The sharpshooters were also a lot worse without a lot of their fancy pistol abilities. Overall, replaying Enemy Unknown wasn’t a bad experience, it was just a different experience.
I think that XCOM 2 improved on the general gameplay and made the battles flow better, which is one of the reasons why it was even more of a success than its predecessor. I will say that with Enemy Unknown, I enjoyed not having almost every mission having a turn counter on it.
The XCOM series in general also does a great job with its DLCs across the board, which is evidenced by the deluxe versions of their games that include XCOM: Enemy Within and XCOM 2: War of the Chosen.
In the end, it’s easy to see why XCOM set the gold standard for turn based strategy games that endures to this day. Most of all, I enjoyed playing XCOM Enemy Unknown. At the end of the day, the very best titles should be enjoyable to replay, even if they don’t have all the fancy bells and whistles of so-called modern ones. And they should be able to be played for hours at a time without crashing or forcing those with messed up feet from having to walk across the room to reset their consoles. Enemy Unknown nailed both of those.
That’s it for this column. Hopefully I will be able to make it over to my computer chair one day soon, which will greatly expand the number of titles that I can play. Oh, and in case you were wondering, no, I have still not finished Final Fantasy XIII.