Where the Aliens Have Names

I always find it interesting to play a game with no-name protagonists.  XCOM’s generic (though customizable) platoon of soldiers never say much, don’t interact with you and can die at a whim.  Still, they somehow manage to become a part of you – more so than the CO, Doctor and Engineer do at any rate.  You’re not so much the commander of the squad as the squad itself, which is certainly entertaining.

Now I’m a decent chunk in, when compared to other games, and feel I can weigh in some opinions.  First, the Tutorial is great but then sets you up for a massive challenge based on the limited choices.  Best bet, run the Tutorial, then restart a new game.  Second, and this is a personal thing, but save often.  This game might list RNG numbers (say 60% chance) but it is never RNG.  I reloaded a saved game 5 times in a row and made the same 17% shot, 5 times in a row.  This is cool in that is prevents you from saving and reloading to get a percentage to work but also a pain if you know that 5 of your guys are going to miss the shotgun-to-the-face attack on the enemy.

The pace of combat is interesting as well.  Things start off easy enough, then suddenly ramp up to fighting 3-6 enemies at once.  Moving a single square too much can unleash holy hell upon your squad, especially if it’s your last guy for the turn.  More often, it’s worth ending a turn with 6 guys around a door so that the next turn, one guy can open it with 5 others backing him up with guns.  Or, you could get a grenade lobbed and kill all your guys in 1 shot.  Your pick!

If I do have a gripe, and I always do, it’s in the balance between research and engineering.  The former only has a cost in time, not in power.  1 research guy can do everything you need, it will just take time.  The latter has a cost in time, power and resources.  Building a gun requires X engineers, Y materials.  Building a sattelite takes 20 days, no matter what.  Upgrading your base may need 60 engineers!  This essentially means you never need to build a lab, if you prioritize your research properly.  You do need to build workshops and link them.  Not only does this increase your engineer count but also massively discounts whatever you decide to build.

A final gripe, and one I had with the original, is that by the time you can train in Psi combat, your best guys are more than likely going to be crap at Psi, so you have to re-train a whole new set.  It feels really weird to take your colonel and say “Well, I know you did 30 missions, but Joe-Bob there, when he’s not picking his nose, he can open that can of soup with his mind.  See ya!” It’s a rather massive disconnect in gameplay.  I was kind of hoping I could train them in Psi, even if that meant benching them for a month.

All in all, this is a “just one more turn” kind of game, where 5 minutes can turn into 1AM in the blink of an eye.

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