Arguably one of the best games to ever come out in the last few years are the games in the XCOM series by Firaxis Games. The game is a turn-based tactical game, and that in itself is surprising because of the current fascination for fast-paced and quickly resolved conflicts. Get your PCs and gaming laptops ready because we’re going to tell you why you should get this game right now.
What is XCOM?
XCOM is a science fiction video game that came out in 1994, developed by Mythos Games. It’s about a fictional elite international organization that is tasked with defending and protecting our planet from hordes of alien invaders. There are technically two modes to the game, tactical turn-based and management simulation. You handle the day-to-day operations of your bases, assigning scientists to research alien tech, interrogate live aliens that were caught, training soldiers, building your base, and having your engineer recreate the weapons and tech of the aliens. Then when you fight aliens, you switch to a tactical turn-based game where you sweep through a particular area. You will attempt to eliminate the threat without suffering casualties (pretty bad in the game). It gets harder when you need to take aliens alive for interrogation, knowing that they are automatically hostile.
The game has spawned a few follow-up games that cemented its cult status, but it recently gained international acclaim when Firaxis Games rebooted the series. Using the same dual game path but with incredible improvements proved to be a winning combination, especially in the current gaming scene where hyperactive games are all the rage.
Why should you play the new XCOM series?
Currently, there are three games under the Firaxis franchise, two main games and an expansion spin-off of one.
The first game, XCOM Enemy Unknown (and it’s expansion, Enemy Within) is set during the inception of a massive alien invasion. At the start of the game, the Council of Nations (a UN analog) is formed to create XCOM. XCOM is the most elite military and scientific conglomeration ever assembled in the history of human which will defend humanity from the invasion.
You assume the role of the commander of XCOM: you will assign research and manufacturing tasks, weigh out which immediate response to attacks you will address first (you can only save one area at a time), and guide your squad to fight the aliens. You can gain funding by financial support from the Council of Nations, so you have to make the right decision when it comes to which countries get rescued. Individual countries would be forced to surrender to the aliens if they get attacked too often without XCOM support. You also have to chase UFOs that will be scouting all over the world.
Add to that, a human organization that sided with the aliens keeps harassing you. Meaning you have to send out spies to find their main base and eliminate them.
That’s pretty much it. Your squad is a response team that you will outfit with the best tech possible, from researching, manufacturing and even salvaging alien tech. It will give hours of fun and frustration trying to get the best score in the game, or at least, soothe your pride in getting the best results in each mission.
The second game, XCOM 2, flips the game around. Set 20 years after the events of the first game, telling us that the efforts in the first game were for nothing because the aliens have taken over, passing themselves off as benevolent visitors ushering our world into a new age. But everything isn’t what it is; the world is under martial law, and lots of things are kept from the world view. You play the same commander from the last game again. This time, though, you maintain a flying base that has to elude being captured by the aliens. You’re the one being chased now. Plus, during missions, you’re hiding from the enemy because they might have more people than you. This time around, setting up ambushes is the most efficient strategy to utilize. It’s a tremendous upgrade from the already fantastic game before it.
The game is unforgiving and unrelenting. The AI will always give you a hard time, and the variety of aliens will provide unique headaches for you and your squad. And that’s what makes the game fun. The one consistently great thing about the game is that they have great classes for each squadmate. You have the option to make cyborgs, psychics, and genetically modified humans, aside from the standard classes.
Also, the story isn’t half-bad at all. And the graphics are stellar.
As mentioned, you will get attached to your squad. Every shot, injury, and casualty is something that you will take personally. You can see it in the faces of your team when you go home from each mission. A misstep can kill your squad or kill just one of them, each decision you make will carry a heavy burden of picking the greater good. That is one of the greatest and most human aspects of the game.
Take a break from all the shooters and RTS games. Enjoy an engaging and immersive game that will suck you in. It might even make you attached to your squad (since you can personalize them and you decide how they will grow as individual soldiers). You don’t even need the best gaming laptop to play them.
So, go out and get XCOM. The best gaming laptop needs the best games to go with it, Commander (don’t worry, you’ll get this reference when you play the game).