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XCOM Enemy Unknown is a beautifully crafted classic

Finally, I finished the campaign of XCOM Enemy Unknown. It has been one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences ever for me. I am already thinking about doing another run with some second wave modifiers. This post concerns the campaign only since I haven't played multiplayer nor am I really interested in it.

XCOM shines in so many ways I don't even know where to start. It does a tremendous job in implementing the mechanics needed for a turn-based strategy game. To do well the player must plan in turns, how far to move, when to reload, how far to spread out, when to use special abilities. Risk it and full send everyone or play it safe. The game forces you to make some hard choices on a regular basis. Risk the shot or hunker down and hope for the best? Sacrifice one character or the other? The way I connected to some of my soldiers made the decisions all the harder.

Even before going to kick some alien ass, you have to think about squad composition. Fill it with assaults for a head-on fight or make it a bit more tactical with snipers, supports, and heavies. Which equipment should you give to each character? There are so many options to fit the squad to your liking.

Even though the soldiers are randomly created and generic, I couldn't help but feel attached to them, it truly felt like they were my team. And that means that I had my favorites and "black sheep" in my team too. When a character performed well consistently, I would actually feel sad if I wouldn't manage to keep them alive. On the other hand, you have that sniper that seems to just never hit his shots. The soldier rank system is just fine, it feels not too hard, but not too easy either.

The base-building aspect of the game is alright, nothing too special. What I love about it though is the way that researches are beautifully tied into the story and the natural progress of the game. Makes it more immersive, and for the first playthrough, it feels like you are learning about all the technologies at the same time the researchers do, which is pretty cool. The council mechanic, with different countries giving different benefits is alright, but I think that it could have been more fleshed out.

The pacing of the game hits the spot for me. At no point was it boring or repetitive. New types of enemies are introduced regularly. There is always something to count down the days to, new research, a new satellite, new buildings, and monthly council reports. The fight would start slow and naturally build up tension. They would never feel as if they last too long unless I make them that way.

Overall the feel of the game is amazing, I would never expect a turn-based strategy game to be so immersive. That I think is mostly due to the cinematics which at some points felt like movies, but were never really in the way of gameplay and never lasted too long. I still remember the cutscene after taking down the alien base on Earth, it felt amazing. You can also fail a mission and the game would not be over, it would just be a setback, which I love. All the different aspects and mechanics of the game fit together so well and seem so natural, it is a real joy to experience it.

There are some minor negatives I have to point out though. One of them is that some of the soldiers' abilities seem to be unbalanced. I don't know why anyone would ever choose to be able to carry two smoke grenades instead of 3 medikits as support, for example. Maybe there was room for some more mixing and matching in that aspect.

Maybe this would be a thing at higher difficulties or with some modifiers, but I wish that equipment would get lost if the soldier dies, or at least if the whole squad dies, it would add to the survival thing and would give more incentive to retreat and abort mission instead of just not caring and sending the last two soldiers to death.

The council thing with different countries having panic levels and different bonuses could have used something more I believe, but it was ok like this too.

So that's it, that's my opinion of this magnificent game. Having not played turn-based strategies like this before, this was really a breath of fresh gaming air for me. Can't wait to see what XCOM 2 has to offer.

Some questions in the end. Are the DLCs for this game worth it? Are there any other turn-based strategies comparable to this? Should I just get the XCOM ultimate collection on steam?

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