XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Strategy Game Of the Year?
Seeking more knowledge on XCOM: Enemy Unknown led us to the lair of one Garth DeAngelis, producer on the title at Firaxis Games. We threw some questions at him and, would you believe it, he answered – first of all on what the heck the studio thinks it’s doing with the announced multiplayer mode.
“It’s basically a toybox where you can select any unit from the game – any human unit, any alien, any inventory item. They have a point cost associated with them and then you can build your perfect squad within the budget of that point cost. You’re facing off against one other team and it’s classic last man standing wins.”
Which… alright, that sounds really good. It’s not an out-and-out ‘Multiplayer is insanely important’ announcement which might have taken some of the attention away from the core single-player experience, instead opting to just be, like DeAngelis says, a toybox.
As that central experience of offline play isn’t being taken for granted, we wanted to know what it is that makes XCOM – why it is the game we think we’ve been hoping for, for many years now. DeAngelis explained: “These are the things about the original that made it unique: the turn-based combat, the strategy layer on top of it, the fog of war, the destructible environments, the permanent death – all of these things we had to bring to the modern version.”
So a straight remake then? Hardly.
“At the same time we had to modernise it – game design has evolved in the past 15-20 years, we can’t just remake the same game with better graphics. There’s no perfect science to it but I think the team did a fantastic job of maintaining the spirit of the original with all those elements, but the mechanics underneath them have been updated and reimagined.”
One area we were fearful would be toned down was difficulty. That same area is one in which DeAngelis put us in our place, just as the game will.
“The original XCOM as you know was very challenging and we didn’t want to lose that. Permanent death is a big part of that… We needed to have the challenge there and I’m confident players will like it – there’s much more weight to the success. You know the potential consequences and the odds stacked against you – we had to have the challenge there.”
But one thing definitely added is a more focused storyline, though it’s not like you’re going to be confronted with a dozen cut-scenes during each encounter, as DeAngelis was keen to point out: “It can’t be a linear narrative because this is a game all about choices. For me, the more powerful element of XCOM is the internal narrative the players have…
That internal narrative, for me in XCOM, is much more powerful than having a super-scripted story, and we didn’t want to lose that… We have a little bit of both – I would say the internal narrative is more important, but we do have that narrative wrapper on top.”
But, as if to wrap it up neatly, these linear story elements that appear in the game will not be carried over into multiplayer. Back to DeAngelis: “We felt it was more powerful to just say ‘This is the ultimate toybox, do what you want, combine the abilities in ways you want and then see if you are the best deathmatch player there is in XCOM.’ Putting a story over that would be a little unnecessary.”
The more we hear about XCOM, the more excited we get, it has to be said and with the makers of Civilization at the helm, XCOM: Enemy Unknown has to be a contender for strategy game of the year.