XCOM: Enemy Frustration

User Rating: 6 | XCOM: Enemy Unknown PC

This is a game that had completely passed me by. I had HEARD of it, but had no idea what it was about, even what genre of game it was, until I was watching a Let's Watch on Achievement Hunter previewing XCOM 2. Looking at the style of play, this peaked my interest, and luckily the following week the original XCOM was available via a Steam Humble Bundle for $1 (around 60p to me). So, here we are, and I have some major gripes with what could be a great game but, for me, is a majorly flawed game.

First of all, starting the game. Being new to XCOM, I started in tutorial mode, which familiarised me with the controls of combat in a prelude mission, So far so good. But after that, the tutorial becomes quite annoying. I want it to give me hints and tips in the early going to let me know what I am doing. What it does instead is pretty much hold your hand and lock what you can do for a good few missions. Very annoying. But OK, let's start again, we've learned, and begin the game without tutorial on.

From here on in, the game is pretty good for a while. The tactical turn based squad combat is very satisfying when it works, and is a welcome break from these days of fast paced action games. This, when mixed with the resource management side of the game with the base, makes for quite an intense cerebral experience. You might find yourself starting the game again as (another minor flaw) the game doesn't drive home the importance of researching certain things, or make certain goals clear, but once you get the hang of things the game moves at a nice pace.

The problem is when the game starts to ramp up the difficulty.

Now, I know, games are meant to get harder as you progress. I also know that, these days, our games are a LOT easier than back in the day, so a difficult game today can be a sought after experience The thing is, these games are meant to be challenging but skill will see you through. If you are a twitch reaction master, you can speed run Contra. If you have your moves and tactics down to an art, you can bitch slap M.Bison on the hardest setting.

XCOM though makes you feel cheated. It really starts to creep into your head how often, if you have a sense of logic, you have been shafted. The game works on a hit percentage stat whenever a squad member takes a shot. Obviously 100% is a guaranteed hit. By the same token, any lower than that, there is a chance you could miss, even at 99%. But the alarming regularity a shot that has a high hit chance misses really starts to grate on you. Like I say, anything less than 100% is not guaranteed, but what really seems to happen is every shot that isn't seems to be a 50/50 flip of the coin rather than the chance it "advertises." With this in mind, you really start to wonder how much moving into cover and flanking enemies actually counts for anything.

Along the same lines, the game seems vitally flawed when it comes to its cover mechanic. The alarming regularity that full cover seems to count for nothing is also grating, as is what I can only assume are bugs in the coding. It makes absolutely zero sense to me that you can have an enemy within a few "tiles" of you and nothing blocking your line of sight, but that doesn't count as a 100% shot. Even more so, even if I take the idea of the game mechanics into account, it really p***es you off when you are DIRECTLY NEXT TO an enemy, which should be by the game's own rules a guaranteed shot, and the hit chance is less than 100%. This is added to your squad members seeming inability to look two ways around a section of cover, and the fact that an enemy can be completely in the open in relation to a squad member, but the game still counts him as in cover.

What we have here is a game that could have been truly great, and I think some people think it is, but when there are so many flaws that stop you suspending your disbelief and it genuinely makes the experience annoying instead of enjoyable, you have have to say "great idea, flawed execution."

Frankly, if I had spent more than a dollar on it, I would be quite angry, and I have lost the will to finish the game.