X-Com: Enemy Unknown
Platforms: PC, PS3, XB360
Reviewed on: PC
Reviewer: Maiyannah Bishop
Review Play-Time: 300h
Publisher: 2K Games
Review Published: 2013-12-23
Review Updated: 2021-12-19
+ Great mix of strategy and tactical aspects
+ Tight visual fidelity
+ Compelling “just one more turn” gameplay
- Redesign of weapons and armour into clunky
“Fisher-Price” variations unappealing
- Chrysallids much less challenging now
Editor's Note: Some spelling errors have been revised since the original publishing of this review.
X-Com: Enemy Unknown is a dual-mode strategy game developed and published by Firaxis Games.
Possibly the most organic dual-mode game that has come out in the past few years. The strategic mode leaves you researching and constructing a bunch of toys to use and looking forward to the missions where you'll get new resources and things to research, and the tactical missions leave you with new enemy after new enemy and all sorts of items to bring back. It evokes the feel of the original very well. I'm not the biggest fan of the change to a much more colourful and Fisher-Price type look of the tech and in particular the weapons, which all look like children's toys, but otherwise the visual look and feel is implemented very well and perhaps just as importantly consistently. The game just gels very well together in terms of gameplay, visual design, and sound design. The production values are high and so is the fun. The only real thing I felt was a misstep other than some elements of the visual design is the difficulty. While the original could be tortuous sometimes and some scaling back was probably necessary in today's gaming market, the game is actually pretty easy on all but the highest difficulty, as long as you stick with troops with good stats and stay on top of research and production of new weapons. One of the disappointing things for me in that regards was the chrysallids. In the original they were Aliens-inspired creatures that would zombify your men or civilians, and when you killed the zombie a new chrysallid would emerge. It made things very frantic when you saw one. Comparatively, the new chrysallids look and feel very different. While they do have an instant-kill melee attack (the originals actually didn't, except insofar as they hit like a brick shithouse), the zombies are mostly nonthreatening enemies and there's no extra chrysallid when you kill them. It effective neuters what was one of the original games greatest threats, because of how quickly a chrysallid could ambush and spawn more chrysallids.
Those gripes aside, its an engaging and well-done game which remains a time sink for me to this day. The only turn-based strategy game in the last decade which has had me going "just one more turn"