23 January 2013 | dfle3
Not only insanely hard...but unfair too! 70+% (PS3)
Setting: Various cities and countries around the world. Many maps get recycled with new place names.
Story: UFOs and aliens attack Earth. You have to defeat them through your combat with them as well as through behind the scenes endeavours like research and weapon development.
In the combat sections of the game (which remind me of the system used in Mass Effect 2, although that is not fresh in my memory), you start out with a squad of 4 soldiers who are very inexperienced. With good planning, you will be able to turn them into a formidable fighting unit and expand their numbers to 6. For each soldier, you have 2 moves you can make with them...you may move them the equivalent of 1 square (as in chess) and then choose another move, like: shoot; stand still but fire if the enemy moves; take cover; other moves available too. Alternatively, you could "dash", which is equivalent to moving 2 squares on a chess board, but you may make no further moves...a risky proposition should you end up arriving next to a deadly alien! You do this 4 to 6 times for your every turn, depending on how many you have in your unit. In fact, this game wants your unit dead so badly that you could end up with 0 or just 1 soldier to move! The aliens then take their turns, with similar moves...the time this takes to do depends on how many aliens are in play...you could be outnumbered greatly, or just have to deal with one or two aliens. The idea is to not to lose any of your squad so that they can get promoted and gain more experience and superior weapons to make them even deadlier. Outcomes of individual battles amongst soldiers and aliens revolve around things like probability of making a shot on an alien and factors like who has the better position (high or low ground etc.) also factor into the equation.
In the strategy side of the game, you have to balance competing demands of nations under attack from UFOs or aliens. Successfully helping one nation lowers that nation's panic and gains you various kinds of rewards, ranging from experienced soldiers to money. The nations you do not help have increased panic. If panic gets too out of hand, they will withdraw from your organisation (i.e. XCOM). If too many nations withdraw (i.e. 8), it is literally game over. Other strategy concerns are research projects and building projects, which can improve your combat unit's chances of victory or just plain survival! Good about the game: * The combat missions are addictive and even more rewarding when you can promote any number of your squad to a higher rank, which unlocks more abilities for them.
* The game has great replay value...I have played this game more than just about any other narrative based game, apart from Metal Gear Solid 4...but I may surpass that sometime too! Misjudgements in the game: * The difficulty level for this game is insane...I've heard some game reviewers use phrases like "Normal is the new Easy"...but on this game "Normal is the new Hard"! There is just so much to get your head around in this game and I'm not even sure it needs such complexity. The game really should be nerfed so the difficulty becomes this extreme once you venture into the higher difficulty settings. It just really feels unfair.
* The pacing of the game also feels wrong...you are meant to feel inadequate with your forces against the aliens, but I think this could be achieved without this disparity being so marked for so long. Eventually you do improve your squad and strategic assets, but the difficulty curve strikes me as being to severe. The game shouldn't be so effective in destroying your squad or ending your game through too many withdrawals from your organisation.
Bad about the game:
* The game feels like a great beta. It's just a pity that it wasn't more refined. Which brings up the issue of...
* Bugs and glitches. There are quite a few of them. Having visited message boards devoted to this game, it seems if you want to play a really hardcore kind of game - one with no ability to save when you like, say - then you really should wait until more patches have been delivered, as the game seems even more unfair than normal on the higher difficulty levels with that feature in play. However, it should be noted that a game this complex may in fact have 'legitimate' reasons for quirky scenarios. In other words, it may not be a flaw of the game which you notice, but rather a feature of the game and one which you need to learn to survive.
* The game cheats! Well, perhaps not literally, but the design just seems unfair, which reeks of a lack of refinement to the gameplay. E.g. aliens may 'drop down' from out of nowhere to start their turn. Again, this randomness can be devastating to your chances of survival, let alone success. I'm not so much of a geek of this game to know the difference between a 'fair' example of aliens dropping out of nowhere and one which is a bug...but the message boards are full of chatter about "teleporting" bugs.
* There are some missions in this game where civilians can get turned into zombies! When there are so many enemies to take their turn, the waiting can get boring...not sure where to put this comment...here will have to do! Suggestion for new players to this genre...start on Easy with the Tutorial enabled, which seems to make the game play fairer. Furthermore, save often with multiple save points, in case you get into trouble...unless the prospect of having to restart the entire game again because too many nations withdraw from XCOM doesn't faze you.