There is More Riding on XCOM's Success Than You Think

10 Oct 2012

The Penny Arcade Report's Ben Kuchera has penned a piece concerning the possible consequences of the success (or lack thereof) of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, not only for the franchise but also for the turn-based strategy genre at large.

Here's an excerpt:
Think of all the right moves that have been made with this game. It would have been nearly impossible to get a turn-based strategy game greenlit without a known property attached, ant XCOM is still a powerful draw for core gamers. There is multiplayer in the package, and it’s fun, but the appropriate amount of resources have been allocated to it. You can pick a level, create a force out of existing character models and assets, and fight against your friends. It adds value to the game without spending a large amount of the budget and resources forcing an intricate multiplayer system when the real draw is the intense single-player game.

This isn’t to say that the game has bowed down to modern sensibilities. Enemy Unknown features an extensive tutorial that does an amazing job of introducing players to the game, but you can also turn on Classic and Ironman mode if you’re ready for a more anachronistic challenge. This modern XCOM is willing to coddle players who need it and punish players who ask for it. Even with quick-saves you can lose the game if enough countries pull out of the XCOM project due to your inability to protect them, which means that if you make enough poor decisions early in the game it can be hard to pull out of the nosedive. In many cases it seems like the hardcore fans are confusing the game’s welcoming nature for a game that has been dumbed down. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dead soldiers stay dead. It’s possible to lose on both the micro and the macro scale. You learn the importance of cover very quickly.

Turn on the right settings, and the game is willing to break your nose for your mistakes, and even on normal difficulty you don’t win the missions easily. The game may bump you in the right direction to move the story forward, but that’s it. Success or failure is up to you. In many ways this is an incredibly hardcore product, but it’s wrapped in enough modern trappings that a wide audience may try it, and fall in love with this style of play.

Compare the savvy way this game has been updated and changed for modern audiences with the clumsy Syndicate first-person shooter, or even the fabled XCOM first or third-person shooter that has apparently fallen on hard times. Enemy Unknown isn’t a shot-for-shot remake, nor is it a complete re-imagining. It’s something in between, and it has the potential to put this style of gaming back into the mainstream.