When people ask me: "Mark, you like PC games, what's your favourite game?" I respond with "X-Com, with the - in it" and they often get confused with the modern XCOM
, but I further clarify with "The one from 1993". Which is normally the point where they pretend to look at their watch, make an excuse and walk out of the room.
So why in 2015 is my favourite game still this? Well firstly, I'm going to outline what makes this game so special. And then to wrap it up, I'll tell you how you can enjoy it in the modern world. Because for me this game is still my personal favourite
X-Com puts you firmly on the back foot from the very start. Aliens have invaded and it's your job to mount Earth's final defense against the Alien foe before we are all killed or enslaved or something
happens (the intention of the invasion isn't clear to begin with). What you spend most of the game doing, is trying to shoot down enemy UFO's with your rubbish fighter jets, and then trying to fight the Alien's at the UFO crash site with your poorly equipped troops.
I use terms like "rubbish" and "poorly equipped" because you are fighting Aliens here. Not Germans, not Japanese, not another nation - but mother-♥♥♥♥ing ALIENS. These guys have better weapons than you, better vision than you and more resources than you. They flew across the galaxy to fight us, and the only thing you can do at the start of the game is fight them off with humanities best and brightest, which just isn't enough.
This means that your troops will die. A lot. And it's mean, and it's unfair and the game is obviously hard because of that. But at great cost of life, humanity is able to claw it's way back and slowly put up more of a fair fight. As you recover Alien technology from your encounters, and spend time researching it, the X-Com scientists are then able to reverse engineer the technology into better equipment. This can be armour that can survive a few shots, or better weapons, or ground and air vehicles. Slowly but surely, humanity is able to avoid extinction.
You are fighting for the very survival of the human race, and that's not meant to be easy. Fortunately the game equips you with the systems you need to be successful but it's on YOU to work out how to do it. This is a game where you might have to watch some tutorial videos on YouTube
or read the manual
. And if you do these things, you will be rewarded with one of the deepest and enjoyable single player experiences that you can have.
So if you read this and you're willing to invest a bit of time to enjoy the game. After all, it is only £3! I recommend you use OpenXcom
to play the game. You won't be able to launch the game through Steam, but it gives you much better performance on modern systems than playing the original game through DOSBox. The alternative is that you check out Xenonauts
which is a faithful recreation of X-Com using an updated UI, better graphics and a bit more automation (such as not having to order ammunition and things). I know it sounds a bit odd, but Xenonauts is so faithful to X-Com that if you don't think you can cope with how dated this game is, I would encourage you to treat this as a review for Xenonauts. Other than very
minor tweaks, and a change to air combat, they are essentially the same game.