“This council of nations has chosen to activate the XCOM project.”
If you pre-order XCOM on Steam now, you get a bunch of free crap…including a free license to Civ 5 and the ability to customize the look of each of your soldiers more than normal…armor deco, color, and I guess some extra faces and haircuts in addition to the more important and standard stuff: name and nickname. (Thank the rest of us who pre-ordered before, indifferent to this added benefit. Our pre-orders unlocked this fancy stuff for all of us.) Of course, you probably already did pre-order XCOM, but if you haven’t because, maybe, you don’t know about it, I’d like to give it a mention here.
You remember Mythic? Mythic had one major, positive contribution to the industry…and it most certainly wasn’t Warhammer Online. (It’s cool if you like it; I’m not saying it’s necessarily negative…I am saying it isn’t major.) It was their approach to PR. Remember Paul Barnett and Friends blabbing, on a regular basis, about how awesome the game was and about what cool stuff might be in it? Mythic may not have been the first group to do this, but they made the biggest show of it and it got a lot of people very excited.
I have a quest for you. Hit up Youtube today and search for “XCOM enemy unknown”. There are a lot of videos on there for this game (I personally recommend the Last Stand trailer – the best video game trailer I’ve ever seen – and the two ‘Deep Dive’ trailers, one and two) and they all fit that same bill – devs getting out there, talking to people about their game. There is a fundamental difference here that I really hope becomes a new trend.
They are not just Barnetting (I made up a wurd) about how awesome their game is. It’s not just:
“Hey, guys, listen up! Our game is going to be so awesome. (No, we can’t show you yet.)”
Instead, they are saying:
“Hey, guys, check this out. Our game is demonstrably so awesome. Seriously. Play it. Right now.“
And so Gamespot, Rev3Games, XBox Mag, and easily a half dozen other groups are hanging out with the lead designer, Jake Solomon (Sid Meier’s accomplished apprentice, by the way) and the producer and they are playing the game. They are playing a LOT of this game. (Check out that Gamespot video, it’s 2 hours long, solid game play.) They’ve been showing this game off for months and it looks fantastic. People wander by and mistake it for an FPS due to the ‘glam cam’ swiveling in to show off your soldier taking out an alien. It is a solid strategy title: turn based, move your four to six soldiers like a table-top game; build and customize your soldiers, your base, your research and equipment; play a game without a safety net. If your soldier dies, your soldier is gone…taking all of that hard-earned experience and skill with him (or her).
Interviewer: “Is there going to be an Undo Move button? Like, if you make a mistake and lose a soldier?”
Lead Designer: “No. I mean, we let you save and reload, but only if you don’t play in Ironman Mode. You lose an experienced soldier, that soldier is gone. That’s XCOM, baby.”
(That quote is paraphrased but is genuine; it’s in one of the two dozen interviews and demos I have watched these past three weeks.) This is a beautiful return to the strategy game of old and I sincerely hope that it kicks off a dozen copy cats. The game looks amazing; like one of the very old games I always loved and still fire up and play at times. I admit, when I was younger, I completely missed out on XCOM. Master of Orion 2 was my old, old game that has no successor. XCOM was my friends. He got his remake first…and, damn, does it look good.
I hope this game is tremendously successful. I hope it breathes life back into this genre. A departure from FPS and MMO-land would be nice for us all.
I’ll be kicking off my XCOM experience in Classic (Hard) Ironman (one automatic save, I can’t choose to reload a back-up) mode. It’s the way it’s meant to be experienced and I’m excited for it. The fact that loss can be real in the game really does mean that victory will feel much sweeter. I want that kind of excitement in my video games, as it’s been sorely, sorely lacking this past decade. It’s why beating Contra the first time felt eons and eons more rewarding than beating virtually any game I’ve played recently. Well, that’s my feeling anyway. I’m going to put it to the test.
That is, if I have what it takes to beat XCOM.