Xenonauts Reviews

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They don't play - they live!

In the same time while people are argue about what best of X-COM is - classic or modded Firaxis' XCOM: Long War, in the shadow of such discussions we have Xenonauts and it's a miracle.

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Introduction:

Personally, I can't say that original UFO: Enemy Unknown/Terror from the Deep were games that I played for months of my youth, economic strategies wasn't what I got good, but I liked its tactical mode. For a reason I remember X-COM: Apocalypse more, especially destruction "skyscrapers" from sky with jetpacks). And I glad to found that all of it can be reached and refreshed with Xenonauts. To be fair, I like new X-COM: Enemy Unknown, it's spectacular tactical action, but this is trying to replace your imagination and moving in gutter of modern science fiction trends - super-duper organization with super-duper HQ is saving the world, so pretentiously. And this game started to grow in some different way, all these add-ons, hybrids, etc. Original X-COM/UFO represented absolutely different world and atmosphere that been grasped in Xenonauts.
X-COM: UFO Defense/UFO: Enemy Unknown it's the mix of tactical combats, horror, global strategy and economic micromanagement. An important nuance, initially the developers planned only tactical combats, but were forced to add the global strategy mode and research tree at the request of the publisher, who was guided by Civilization. This fact made X-COM what we know it! The Alien invasion caught the earthlings off guard, a player have to work with untrained "desperate housewives" only who wants to join the organization. Will be a great luck if some of them even know how to hold a gun. Aliens opposite has superiority over human civilization. Original game provided a little information about missions, weapon, enemies stats, etc. what we used to see in most RPG and strategy games. So practice is the only way to understand how works weapon on the battlefield and aliens' behavior, and you should to keep it in mind. You even didn't see how many TUs needed for an action. Personally, I think it was game design lack, Xenonauts fixed it with the way like OpenXcom did. Although OpenXcom allows to disable hints, Xenonauts not allows. All this things makes original game similar to the best representatives of horror genre, especially at night. Little Sectoid who attack you directly at the landing spot from the dark of apple orchard - it's really scary. Something invisible is killing us! Arctic landscapes like "Thing" movie - something is killing polar scientists, somewhere among frosty heavy machinery. A few steps in the cold dark and your people are laying on the red from those blood snow. Instead other UFO clones and official remake Xenonauts has grim realism. Some of your people just came back from Vietnam and now the new threat.
Despite the relatively primitive (but not incompetent) graphic, Xenonauts make some memorable things randomly. For instance, two of your soldiers has opened metal doors of a factory and found Sebillian soldier near opposite wall. As you fight them before, you presumptuously shot him with all what you have, but failed - the enemy isn't defeated and your soldiers has no time to step back. Doomed, you press END TURN button and hope for lucky chance to miss the back shot... and at the moment power shot from a side has killed your enemy. You sent your soldiers deeply to unexplored area of the factory and found there a security guard. Don't know who is he, even his name, but he saved two lives today. Exciting! Yes, there is civilian forces in Xenonauts who fight aliens themselves. However, after industrial espionage local forces around the world gets access to laser weapon. They are so weak, but could be useful even with small amount of damage. Such things are very important, I think, it makes illusion that the world live its own life. Not so bad for global strategy game.
AI is very good I found, as aliens are superior civilization, they almost every know where you are, but their behavior is unpredictable, some of them could keep certain territory, some hunt for you. But in terror mission they systematically clear streets, and it's different.

"Renaming soldiers after friends and family makes their deaths more tragic / hilarious."

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Differences:

Goldhawk Interactive tried to copy the game mechanics and even interface behavior as close to UFO Defense as possible, even style of art for Xenopedia. However, there are some simplification opposite UFO Defence, for instance:

  • Unlimited Earth weapon and any ammunition - don't sure how worse it, because for 1970 logically to have too much weapon on the Earth. In other hand it just allow to start quickly than before. However, some fans doesn't like it, and you can find mod which makes Earth weapon just a piece of scrap, so you need research and make laser/plasma weapon as soon as possible.
  • You can give multiple commands at the same time and don't wait while one of your soldier will end moving or shooting action.
  • No difference between nations - all bases has fixed cost and hasn't buff/debuffs. I think it isn't good enough, because you need to think only about map coverage and it's too simple. No politics and economic(
  • You can't get and use alien weapons, only research it (Vanilla version ONLY Community Edition fixed this lack).
  • Interception require more user control than original. Even if system gives you 0% chance to win, you can down enemies starship manually or make some damage to finish with another interceptor. After first phase of invasion, waves become bigger and you need every interceptor available, you shouldn't allow to yourself lost any. You can leave dogfight area almost every time and save aircraft. Some of neophytes found this mode useless, I don't know why they think so, it's very important and can save a lot of money.
  • There are some easy ways to finish missions. First, you can clean and capture an alien vessel for 5 turns, so you will finish the mission and not look for last hidden alien on the map, very-very convenient. You can also destroy power core on alien bases, you will not get any loot from the base, but mission will be finished, good if you have terrible loses on the base.
  • Lack of micromanagement. It was made for quickly gameplay, as I think, but could be a little bit frustrated. On other hand, it's good that you don't need to think about Drop Ship equip and extra ammunition like grenades and med-packs, clips, etc. You also don't need to equip each soldier manually, instead there is role system for it. But you also can't use crafting and alien weapons to get extra money. Why, God damn, it's so illogically. In other words, you must capture one of alien or its weapon for research for one time, and it makes nothing in future. And also you should craft only items to use, nothing more. Are you planning to play with two Drop Ships and 8 riflemen? OK, you need craft 8 MAG rifles. If you will be careful, you even doesn't lost any of them on a battlefield.
  • Event reports is very useful thing. In the beginning you have low range of radar and don't see UFOs. But reports can hint you where UFO was seen, crop circles (hello from the past), plane crashes, etc. Sometimes you will be lucky and found grounded UFO there with your Drop Ship which have long range. It will help you to save some reputation of countries outside your zone of influence.

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Community Edition:

I played vanilla game first time then tried Community Edition, so I highly recommend you to play CE first, because integrated some balanced mods, more content, maps, UI improvements, AI improvements, new weapon, alien behavior and fixes there.

Noticed differences:

  • Fixed work with multi-layer maps, now player can see ground through high buildings under cursor and where soldiers stand. In Vanilla, floor visability was global. Also camera doesn't switch to activated teleporter if teleported soldier not selected in the moment.
  • Small changes in UFO interiors gives more advantages to aliens.
  • Reapers are attacking your vehicle with one shot kill. In Vanilla they didn't attack vehicles at all.
  • Incendiary grenades and rockets sets nearby squares on fire. Now you can fight off Sebillians and Reapers whose not affected with smoke. Sometimes, accurate throw can save your soldier caught by Reaper in narrow hole.
  • Soldiers with a shield can't fly, it should drop the shield to the ground if quick retreat needed.
  • You can use alien plasma weapons and grenades as usual weapon, but only during battle, in the end all alien weapons will be sold/researched. Lore+ will explain why so. Military police confiscate all trophies from soldiers to prevent any fatal incidents and for resources.
  • New UFO class Assault Landing which too difficult to bring it down with regular interceptors. This type of vessel always has mission to terror a city or attack your bases.
  • AI is using covers often. Sometimes you even can't see its units because they found hidden corner. So you need look around on every place. Night missions looks more horribly, because aliens runs fast through your vision range, it look really scary when you open doors and don't know about area inside.
  • Vehicle weapon types has some changes, so you have only two gun turrets and two rocket turrets instead three gun and one rocket in vanilla.
  • Tropical jungles and swamp. Very annoying gameplay, you can't see the terrain quite enough and often have to move through open spaces very slowly. Snipers, Heavy Machine Gunners and Assault units fix good enough for such map type.
  • New cars, buildings and tilesets for Europe and USSR. Nothing specialm but more exposure of 70s environment.
  • New random maps, I never played one map twice in CE like it was in Vanialla (except Battleship crushsites, there the same situation - maps are very similar). Once I think that found the familiar place from Vanilla, but no - there was only one similar street. Some roofs now has covers along perimeter.
  • New Lore events in Xenopedia: soviet spies, anti-alien propaganda, black market, detailed alien units specifications and alien mission described there. It helps you to feel the World of Cold War better.

Generally, CE is harder than Vanilla, but more interesting and less bored with repetitive maps. Think about CE as about Semi-official patch. But some bugs are still there, for example: soldiers don't move if not enough TU for moving to clicked square if starting and ending points are placed on different floors or require change floors during moving; sometimes alien weapon doesn't reloaded with quick panel button due insufficient TUs, but it's mistake then you can reload weapon on inventory panel.

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Modifications:

If you want more hardcore even more than something before, you can try mods like X-Division, it's absolutely different experience. Creators say that it's like original X-Com, but it's harder, humans there even can't beat aliens quickly that's why they need to grab alien ballistic weapons to high up chances to get some craft materials and corps. And first part of the game is just surviving on the edge. But it's BETA and some things works not in ordinary way. On other hand, if you find the game as too long, you can use another mod On the edge which high up accuracy and reflexes to normal level for any new recruits. There are more modification, so you can change your experience in you way. Also the game has a quite simple architecture, so you can easily change or ad something by yourself, no clever packs, specified binary data, only LUA scripts, XML data of units and objects, PNG spritesheets and OGG music, like in good old days, neither? Of course, disadvantage of this approach is every addition takes too many disk space. For example every new unit type can take dozen of megabytes even if you need change only uniform color.

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Epilogue:

Of course, the game not ideal, some things bring me in cognitive dissonance. I didn't found shields, pistols, rocket launchers useful (more useful in CE, because too many buildings and aliens often hides on the floors, so it may be helpful to destroy the wall or long siege of building) at all.
In the last phase the game become too boring. Only one purpose of tactical combats in last phase is alloy and alenium grind to construct some high-end weapon and interceptors. But all these combats are the same. For a reason all maps with Battleship are the same (only different tileset) instead regular tactical combats. But there battleships only (Dreadnoughts and Scouts also appeared in CE, so you can promote your privates with weak enemies too) in last phase. At this point, I was upset at so much that almost quit playing, but fortunately I had enough good fighters and weapons to immediately begin ENDGAME OPERATION. I'm sorry for those who are not so lucky as me, because they would have to go through dozens of monotonous missions again and again to train good fighters.
But in the end, if you're looking for atmospheric retro-fashioned sci-fi tactical strategy game with good challenging AI in environment of good old good 70s Earth and you like original X-COM then Xenonauts is an option. Also this is MUST PLAY game for every newbie who wants to get classic tactical experience.

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[Edited by M_O_Z_G, August 01]

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