Monday, September 19, 2011

The Joy of XCOM - Part 1

I remember the first time I played the original X-COM. It was the mid 1990's (1994 or 95). The internet was just starting to see widespread use at speed of 14 or 28k. I did not even own a PC, but a friend of mine lent me his when he went away for a few weeks.

I remember finding the game on his hard drive and starting it up, not knowing anything about it. The game didn't really explain what was going on (or at least I did not bother to read it). The first thing I saw was the globe with the terminator marching across it. I had one base and I remember clicking on it to open it up and wondering what I was supposed to do with these agents and fighter jets.

Suddenly the screen lights up and something is invading our airspace! I scramble my fighters to engage. The first one escapes without me even getting off a shot. I am better prepared the second time, but the enemy shoots me down! Third time is a charm, and I shoot them down. Now what? I guess it might be a good idea to find out what I shot down. Unfortunately, by the time I get there, they have left. Nuts! What is going on and what are these things?

Another incursion, this time I am ready. I shoot them down and have my troops ready to land on the site and find out what is going on. I remember the scene, a farm area with hay bales and most of the map dark. Where are these things? I spread out my troops and advance, moving from cover to cover, having no idea of what kind of monsters lurk in he shadows. I few turn pass and still no enemy, is anything even here? I scan the map several times and finally see a pair of non human feet poking out of the fog of war. What else is there? What are these aliens up to?

No game since has captured that level of tension. I never did finish the final Mars mission, but the sheer delight of not knowing what will happen, what new weapons I might be able to research and what these aliens were up to made the game a joy to play. I have been searching for a game with that level of joy of discovery ever since.

Part 2 - A discussion of the new FPS version vs the turn based.

X-COM Wiki

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