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Released in the summer of 2014, Xenonauts is a turn-based tactics game that was heavily inspired by X-COM: UFO Defense. (That would be the 1994 predecessor to the 2012 update XCOM: Enemy Unknown.) But it grew into a deeper and more detailed game that proved a triumph of rebooted game design, as we said in our review: Difficult and unforgiving, but still a deeply engaging, indie version of an alien invasion that stands toe-to-toe with X-COM—the classic and the reboots. That's high praise indeed, and so it's not at all surprising that a sequel has now been confirmed.
It's also not surprising because Project Lead Chris England said last year that developer Goldhawk Interactive was actively designing and prototyping Xenonauts 2, but at that point the studio hadn't actually committed to making it. Now it has, and while a full announcement, with a website, concept art, and other such good stuff won't be coming for a couple of months, the studio decided—nudged a bit by the looming launch of XCOM 2—that now would be a good time to let the world know what's happening.
Like XCOM 2, Xenonauts 2 will not be a chronological sequel, but will instead take place in an alt-history timeline, during the Cold War. This means humanity does not start with the advanced alien technology unlocked in the first game, and we also have the freedom to subtly alter the story, setting and enemies in order to make a more interesting sequel, Goldhawk explained.
The new game is being developed with Unity3D and will make use of 3D graphics rather than 2D sprites, which will enable things like rotating cameras and physics objects. Ground combat will be enhanced with more tactical options, air combat is being redesigned to be turn-based and more tactically involved, and the Geoscape is being opened up as well, to give players greater research and organizational flexibility.
Some of the issues in the original game were caused by our lack of experience / lack of early funding, whereas others were caused by the constraints [of] remaining faithful to the design of a game dating back to 1994, the studio wrote. The experience and income we have accumulated from the development of Xenonauts mean that we can make a sequel that significantly improves and expands on the first game—and this time we can be more innovative than before.
An Early Access release is planned, but details beyond that won't be revealed until the full announcement comes out. For now, you can stay on top of the situation by signing up for the mailing list at xenonauts2.com.
Over on the Goldhawk Forums, Xenonauts project lead Chris England is raising everybody's hopes for Xenonauts 2. His language is tentative but promising. "We're still evaluating the possibility," he says, "But I'd say the chances of us making Xenonauts 2 as our next game are better than even."
Apparently community feedback has helped to convince the team to make a sequel, but it's still possible that they might go in a different direction. The codebase they've been working on in the time since releasing Xenonauts would work for any "squad-based tactics game" they want, so it's possible their next game will tell a new story in the same genre.
However, it does look like they've been doing a lot of thinking about Xenonauts, for instance testing a 3D art style, redesigning the aliens from the first game, and considering whether they're able to create a new strategy layer. England says that at this stage the team is "actively designing and prototyping" Xenonauts 2, but it'll probably be one or two months until we know for sure whether they'll commit to it as their next project.
XCOM 2 [official site] is a hugely exciting prospect (so much so that I’m genuinely grumpy about the delay), but XCOM and X-COM are so very different things by now that it’s unlikely to slake anyone’s thirst for a true-blue, Gollopy experience. Fortunately, sounds like we might also be in for a sequel to unofficial X-COM spiritual sequel Xenonauts [official site], 2014’s Cold War-set alien invasion strategy title. … [visit site to read more]