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Char Aznable avatar 2:06 PM on 10.19.2012  (server time)
The Agony and the Ecstasy of XCOM

Disclaimer: I played through the game on normal, no ironman mode - I'm a wimp. Has it really been almost 3 years since I updated my cblog? Also, I made a new banner and everything, but I couldn't get it to update. Here it is: link

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the best strategy RPG released in years, and one of the very few to get a full retail release across multiple platforms. I want to scream from the rooftop how much fun I had with this game, how much nail-biting tension I experienced as my squad members held on for dear life, how much frantic cursing like "fuck, please, fuck, God, no, FUCK!" I yelled at the TV while hoping for an enemy to whiff on that last attack. Don't you want a taste of that?

If you've enjoyed games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, and Tactics Ogre, you will fall in love with XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Just give it a chance. Don't be scared off by what you've heard about the difficulty level, or your past experiences with XCOM games. Some of you, like me, may have picked up the original XCOM a decade too late when it was in a Steam sale, and couldn't even make your way out of the fucking lander on the first mission, when aliens incinerate you from offscreen. Followed by a ragequit.

This game is certainly doable, and the optional tutorial does an incredible job of quickly bringing you up to speed. XCOM strikes a perfect balance of making your soldiers feel extremely vulnerable, but capable of kicking major ass if you put them in positions to suceed. The game empowers the player in a way that few games do these days, which makes me appreciate the challenge that much more.

XCOM is tough, yet fair. Much like Dark Souls, if you die, it's usually your own damn fault. Shoulda picked that other position with more cover, pal. Shoulda been patient and waited for next turn to move forward, dumb-dumb. Shoulda used Overwatch instead of attempting that low-percentage shot, stupid. Every death is a learning opportunity, and a reminder of how NOT to play the game. You're not just smashing your head against a wall repeatedly until it breaks; you need to use that head to find a way around the wall and shoot it in the back (the wall's back? Where the hell am I going with this analogy?).

Wrenchfarm and akathatoneguy already did a great job of breaking down the game in further detail, so check out their blogs for more gushing praise if you're still on the fence. I just beat the campaign last night, and I want to get into some vague discussion of the game's story. Kinda-spoilers? I dunno, avoid if you're being careful.

--- Spoiler warning ---

The last mission is pretty fucking awesome. I won't get into specific details, but there's more story development here than in every other part of the game combined. That's my main complaint with the game (aside from an occasional glitch), as I really wish this story was spread out through more of the campaign. It's a shame that it's all crammed into one mission. I wanted to see those ideas explored some more, with further info on the invading forces. I liked where that last mission was going.

I was kinda hoping for some kind of New Game+ option, as well, to carry over my dudes into another playthrough on a harder difficulty level. Yeah, it would totally throw off the balance of the game, and you wouldn't have any progression if everyone's already a colonel, but still. I just don't want to leave my guys behind. *sniffle* Maybe a "custom game" kind of thing would work, where you can set up the two squads like in multiplayer and then have the computer play as one of them. Future DLC?

Also, the sniper is almost too damn good in this game. If the odds weren't so stacked against the player, I would almost feel a little guilty for dominating with this class. Almost. With a plasma sniper rifle and double tap (an ability to shoot twice in one turn), and the help of two critical hits, I took down the final boss with only one guy. My snipers ended up with like 4-5 times as many total kills than the average squad member. I don't know if it's my personal play style, but the sniper is clearly the best human unit in the game.

Sectopods are such dicks.

--- End spoilers ---

I pre-ordered XCOM on a whim, which is something I never do. I'm so glad that I followed the advice of a friend, and the excited first impressions I heard from Giant Bomb. I'm eager to get home from work and start my second playthrough on the classic difficulty level, or maybe mess around with the multiplayer for a bit. Any flaws that I've found with the game have been more than offset by the sheer fun I've had with the strategic gameplay. I encourage everyone to support this game and show that there's an audience for this type of thing. This is the real deal, SRPG nerds.

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