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Video Game: Xenonauts

In 1958, Earth made first contact. A UFO was spotted heading for the U.S. Ruled out as an ICBM due to its suddenly changing course for Iceland, it proved deadly to conventional aircraft and was grounded but not destroyed with the Nuclear Option. A joint NATO and Soviet force moved on the crash site, but took bitter losses and failed to recover anything of worth. In the wake of the Iceland Incident, the Xenonauts were clandestinely formed through West-Soviet collaboration. As time passed and further alien contact failed to materialise, however, funding and manpower was cut, stripping the organisation to the bone.

1979. An alien fleet arrives in Earth orbit, refusing communication and resisting almost all attempts to repel them. The sole success: A mysterious interceptor taking down a scout craft.

The Xenonauts step forward and claim responsibility, asking the world's governments for funding and permission to operate in their territories against extraterrestrial forces...

Xenonauts is a Turn-Based Tactics game where you command the eponymous organisation, sending interceptors and strike teams out to fight the alien menace while researching their technology in an attempt to become strong enough to take the fight to them. It is a Fan Remake of X-COM by indie developer Goldhawk Interactive, mostly faithful to the original but with some improved mechanics like cover, suppression and a fully playable air combat system. Its homepage can be found here and was up for preorder; preorderers got to test the game as it undergoes development. A Kickstarter campaign to raise money to add new features finished on June 10, 2012. It officially went beta on April 4th, 2013. On June 1st, 2013 it was added to Steam's Early Access catalog. Its official 1.0 version was released on Steam and GOG.com on June 16th, 2014.

See also Community Edition, a semi-officialas in  mod that enhances certain features without fundamentally changing gameplay.

Tropes:

  • 100% Adoration Rating/0% Approval Rating: Each of the world's ten regions has a separate relation rating to the Xenonauts. Successfully protecting the regions improves their relation and funding. When the region's funding drops to zero, it stops supporting the player and surrenders to the aliens.
  • Action Survivor/Badass Bystander: Unlike X-COM, some of the civilians are ARMED, which can lead to things such as a police officer suppressing an alien with his pistol, or a farmer killing an alien with his shotgun.
  • AKA47: Weapon names are generic, while aircraft include the "F-17", "MiG-32" and "CH-48". Can be considered a subversion, as the Xenopedia pages explicitly state the mentioned aircraft as being developed from or based on the real life aircrafts.
    • In some cases (particularly with the MiG-32) the Soviets were not willing to share the technology, especially since it wasn't even on the production lines yet. This doesn't bother the Xenonauts much; it's implied in the research screen that they take it anyway when the Russians aren't looking.
  • Alien Abduction: One possible alien activity, as in the original X-Com.
  • Alien Autopsy: Carried out automatically, and when completed, they give a small damage bonus against analyzed alien species.
  • Alien Invasion: You don't say.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Aliens can attack bases, just like in the original X-Com.
  • Always on Duty: No days off for the Xenonauts! Although when the aliens are not attacking, they often sit in the base for days on end, doing nothing productive.
  • Armchair Military: Seen on the title screen.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted. Even the earliest-researched Jackal Armour allows your troops to survive what would be fatal to an unarmoured soldier, albeit badly hurt.
    • Also invoked for the default armor (or lack thereof): the light gear is explained as giving your troops greater mobility since no known armor can stop alien weaponry.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Primarily in respect to the original XCOM:
    • Conventional ammo and weapons are free, and they will be automatically resupplied to your units after each battle.
    • Doors (including UFO ones) can now be opened while standing one square to their left or right, making breaching a far less traumatic experience.
    • Alien autopsies are performed without your input, instead of being a separate research project. If you do complete said project, your troops will receive a small permanent bonus against the researched race.
    • There are more options for capturing live aliens, namely stun gas grenades and rockets. Also, a stunned unit stays stunned until the battle is over.
    • Destroyed interceptors will be recovered and repaired, instead of having to buy/build a new one (though it takes much longer than normal repair jobs).
    • When moving soldiers, you can now see how many TUs it will take them to reach a certain spot before moving them, as well as whether they'll have enough left over if you've set them to keep some in reserve for reaction fire.
    • Calling airstrikes on crash sites allows player to skip ground battle sequences. Air combat can be auto-resolved as well. This helps a lot with the easier battles.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Soldiers are promoted to higher ranks based on the number of skill upgrades they achieve through training.
  • A-Team Firing: Most rookies, as per XCOM tradition. This is also the weak point of the Sebilians, due to their close range thermal vision, which is why they favor ambush and flanking tactics.
  • Attack Drone: Employed by the aliens in several variants.
  • Awesome but Impractical:
    • The Fury interceptor. It's the fastest interceptor, and capable of destroying any alien aircraft in one hit. On the other hand, it's also the most expensive to create, and its torpedoes instantly destroy any alien ships, leaving no crash site to recover.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The later troop transports (Shrike and Valkyrie), but the good old Chinook is pretty awesome too in its own class.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: The racial ability of the Androns, as well as Sentinel power armors.
  • Boarding Party: Arguably the most important element of the game is assaulting downed or landed alien ships to disrupt their missions and capture their valuable equipment.
  • Body Horror: The game over screen tells you that the remnants of humanity were changed into unrecognisable forms.
    • On a smaller, but no less horrifying scale, Reapers.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: One possible fate for the Xenonauts on the final mission. They kill the High Praetor, but get trapped by swarms of Reapers, and the game ends before they actually die.
  • Bus Crash: UFOs can now attack your transport helicopters (Fighter UFOs will). Not all of the carried soldiers may survive the crash.
  • Cannon Fodder: A tactic happily employed by the aliens and sometimes the player too, to a certain degree.
  • Cold Sniper: Harridans are the epitome of this trope, being genius marksmen but also completely oblivious to not only morality, but seemingly even reality itself.
  • Cold War: A setting choice that has helped set the game apart from the many other X-COM clones.
  • Cool Plane: All available interceptors-from A.K.A.-47 versions of the F-16 "Fighting Falcon" and the MiG-25 "Foxbat" up to (for the moment quite possibly) a SR-71 copy made with alien technology.
  • Crapsack World: If you don't stop a UFO, the game gives you a popup message about how it's messing with the world and terrorizing people, and these incidents only get worse and worse as the invasion progresses. This damage progressively escalates over time to give you the feeling that you're fighting an escalating war and that the fate of mankind is at stake.
    • Moreover, the Xenonauts and their support personnel all have uniformly unhappy expressions whenever you see them. (Wouldn't you?)
  • Creator Cameo: You can get Chris England's face on your redshirts.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Many interceptors have no cannon, and rely entirely on missiles. Which many UF Os can dodge easily. The SR-71 looking craft only carries a single super-heavy missile, making it only good against enemy capital ships.
  • Death from Above: The aliens can conduct bombing runs on human territory. It's also possible to hand over UFO crash sites to local forces to airstrike to the ground. You will only get a fixed amount of cash (depending on the UFO type), and will lose out on the stat gains for troops, as well as alien materials. However, not having to do every last site manually really helps with tedium.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: A typical tactic used against stronger Sebillians, especially before advanced weaponry is researched.
  • Deflector Shields: Some larger alien ships are equipped with such. Curiously, while their efficiency is absolute, they take long to recharge, which has a major impact on air combat tactics.
  • Do a Barrel Roll: Most fighters in the game, both human and alien, can avoid missiles by rolling at the right moment.
  • Do-Anything Soldier: As there are no character classes as such, every soldier can perform all combat roles. This is somewhat averted with the aliens, some of whom specialise in particular tasks (Harridans are snipers, Reapers are close combat specialists etc.).
    • That being said, the randomized stats for all soldiers will of course render making absolutely any soldier perform absolutely any combat role nilly-willy detrimental and ineffective.
  • Doing Research: Wouldn't be an X-Com homage without tinkering with juicy alien technology. You also get a small damage bonus against alien species that are researched.
  • Dummied Out: A lot of things in between versions of the Alpha/Beta build (ex. certain types of researchable equipment]. Putting said things back in is one of the current hot topics of the Game Mod community.
  • Earth Is a Battlefield: A mild case, since the war is rather limited, but nevertheless any place on Earth may become a target at any time. It is an Alien Invasion game after all.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: Well, not easy at all, but possible. The reasons include:
    • The aliens are invading a planet that is nothing like the ones belonging to any of the constituent alien species - different oxygen levels, thicker atmosphere, etc.
    • The alien ships need to be refitted for atmospheric combat, which is logistically intensive and time consuming, forcing them to rely on small scout craft for the early phases of the invasion.
    • Ultimately, this gives humans time to research and reverse engineer alien technologies, to hopefully stop the Alien Invasion before it gets intense enough to actually go full scale, which is less then a year.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Quite a few of your Xenonauts hail from various special operations forces from around the world, such as the U.S. Army Special Forces, the British Special Air Service, the Soviet Spetznaz, and many others.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita / Monster Compendium: The "Xeno-pedia", which updates whenever you complete a research topic.
  • Enemy Mine: The Xenonauts were formed through NATO-Soviet collaboration.
  • Energy Weapon: The alien firearms. Laser weapons are the first step in humanity's efforts in this field.
  • E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: Alien technology helps popularize the Internet roughly 10-15 years ahead of schedule.
    Chief Research Officer: This morning we were able to transmit a mildly amusing image of a cat halfway across the world, suggesting it will be an excellent tool for sharing classified information within our organization. I named this impressive creation the "internetwork", and would be very surprised if it didn't catch on.
  • Expy: Reapers are Genestealers, with the added capabilities of Chryssalids.
  • Eyepatch of Power: After you hit Tech Level 3, the head scientist gains some sort of scouter-like device over his right eye.
  • Fast Roping: Made practical by the Valkyrie transport.
  • Game Mod: The current community is pretty active , working on anything from putting more Cool Planes on the game to adding More Dakka for the soldiers to modifying the Encyclopedia Exposita, providing more maps and putting the Dummied Out content back in. The developers have actually been pretty good sports about it.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The art book reveals that one of the original concepts for the Wolf Armour would have had these, though it was rejected for being too Helghast-like.
  • Gender Is No Object: Let's face it, having so many female officers in 1979 is a bit of a stretch.
  • The Greys: Caesans.
  • High-Altitude Battle: That often leads to a Low Altitude Battle, if the attacked UFO goes down. In the game data, flying crafts even have a maximum service ceiling, indicating that some of these battles might be close to outer space.
  • How Much More Can He Take: If it's an elite Sebillian, probably a lot more...
  • I Can Still Fight: Wounded soldiers can be sent on missions, as long as they're not too wounded. Their wounds have little impact on their performance anyway (especially because of the current Good Bad Bug that makes it possible to instantly heal these injuries with a simple medikit).
  • In Working Order: Partially applicable to alien technology. While it generally can't be used straight away without Doing Research on it, a soldier can simply pick up an alien plasma rifle and use it in the same battle with only accuracy penalties. It is only after the battle ends when alien weaponry becomes non-functional.
  • Insufferable Genius: The head scientist greets you by saying "Ah, Commander. Please, tell me how to do my job..." Then he only gets more bitter and snarky as he writes more and more Xenopedia articles.
  • Interservice Rivalry: The head scientist repeatedly snipes at the engineers in his Xenopedia articles.
  • Isometric Projection
  • Lean and Mean: Caesans have very slim limbs.
  • Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: Soldiers can be equipped with a riot shield. While this limits them to batons, grenades or pistols, the shield can take at least one hit from all but the strongest alien firearms, making them very useful for breaching alien craft.
  • Morale Mechanic: Every soldier has a Bravery rating. This determines their starting morale, which fluctuates through the course of battle as they and their team either inflict or take damage and losses. Soldiers with low morale have a chance of panicking, attempting to flee, or going berserk. Bravery also affects a soldier's likelihood of being suppressed by enemy fire, which causes them to lose the ability to reaction fire during the enemy's round and cuts their TUs in half on their next turn.
  • More Dakka: Some heavy weapons shoot 5-bullets in a burst, while normal weapons shoot 3. This can be (and sometimes is) modded to increase this number almost indefinitely, creating possibly unbalanced but nevertheless immensely fun weapons.
  • My Brain Is Big: Wraiths have bulbous, elongated heads.
  • Mundane Utility: The tanks have powerful headlights, which make them very useful in night missions.
  • New Meat: Supposedly elite-level recruits who can't hit the broad side of a barn.
  • Nintendo Hard: The original X-COM was a brutal game if you didn't know what you were doing, and so far Xenonauts looks to be at least as tough, if not harder:
    • You have very little potential to sequence break.
    • Interceptors have a realistic number of missiles, and UF Os can dodge them.
    • New gear takes months to develop, you need to develop a strong understanding of alien technology - averting Possession Implies Mastery - before you can even develop a human-material body armor to defend against the alien weaponry.
    • Alien weaponry plucked out of their users' cold dead hands is useless to the human soldiers, being made of materials too strong to be made ergonomic to human hands, unchangeable by human science, and totally lacking optics. Basic laser weaponry might take till December to finish.
    • Forget manufacturing items for profit: all items now sell for half their manufacturing costs, not counting engineering salary. The sale prices of all alien artifacts have been significantly lowered, and are sold automatically at the end of the mission, as you cannot use them later. Also, corpses now have no value now - no more sectoid sushi for you.
    • The psionics research tree turns out to be a dead end: Humanity has no psionic potential. Around the time you discover this, alien units which are extremely resistant to energy weapons have become common. If your researchers didn't take a different path at this point, all would be lost.
  • Not Enough to Bury: Both enemy aliens and your own soldiers can be "overkilled" if enough damage is done by the killing shot, totally destroying the body and any equipment it might have been carrying. Obviously, this is most noticeable when using explosives.
  • Not His Sled:
    • You might expect that psionics and energy weapons are your endgame tools, like in the original X-COM game. Nope! Humanity has no psionic potential and aliens highly resistant to energy weapons come into play. You have to take a different path and hope you can go far enough before it's too late.
    • In the beginning of the game, any player of the original XCOM game will quickly want to research the Alien Alloys technology, since it used to be the stepping stone to manufacturing armours made of alien alloys, which were incredibly useful in the early game. But not in Xenonauts: as your scientists notice in the research report, alien alloy would make an incredibly good armour material... if only they had any tool capable of machining or even cutting it. Instead, the first armours you get come (quite realistically) from studying alien weaponry, since understanding how it operates is the key to designing efficient protections against it.
  • Nuclear Option: The move that lead to the Iceland Incident. Also what can happen if you don't deal with a terror site.
  • Oddly Small Organization: The supposedly last line of defense against the aliens command 20 - 30 troops at most. There are various explanations of this state, mostly revolving around some political plot. More justified in this game thanks to the presence of police, soldiers, militias, farmers with shotguns, etc., as well as nations having limited capability to shoot down UF Os on their own.
  • Only Mostly Dead: There's a small chance that a "dead" soldier may actually survive a battle (though in critical condition) if their body is recovered. It depends on how far their HP drops below zero, though — if it falls below a certain threshold, Final Death is guaranteed.
  • Outranking Your Job: A particular xenonaut's rank depends only on their combat experience, unlike in the original X-COM games. Players who are skilled and lucky enough to keep their veterans alive for long periods of time may end up with squads composed almost entirely of Colonels, Commanders, and Majors.
  • Plasma Cannon: The only weapon type employed by the alien army (excluding Reapers). It ranges from relatively weak, short-ranged pistols to powerful, well, cannons.
  • Powered Armor: The final two armour types, the Predator and Sentinel, are these.
  • Red Shirt Army: What you have to make do with once you hire more soldiers after your experienced starter squad.
    • In later phases of the invasion, nations will start giving the player more experienced soldiers, as they are no longer able to combat the alien forces alone with human technology.
  • Short Range Shotgun: Zigzagged. Obviously they are most effective in closer ranges where all pellets are likely to hit. The accuracy reported over medium ranges is somewhat misleading - it seems to represent the chance to hit for each individual pellet, so the chance that at least 'one' of them connects is a little higher. They are also great for causing suppression.
  • Shout-Out: Kickstarter pledgers who donated at a certain level got their names added to the game as randomly generated soldiers.
  • Sitting Duck: Approaching a landed UFO is a very tricky and dangerous business, but if it works out, it's as good as ours.
  • Sniper Duel: May happen annoyingly often if both sides are unwilling to leave their cover. This is actually a poor tactic, since aliens have unlimited ammo...
    • On the other hand, when your enemies are armed with pistols, and you have sniper rifles, you have a slight advantage.
  • Spiritual Successor: To the original X-COM
  • Stat Grinding: Xenonauts' stats are not gained by leveling up, but by performing appropriate actions (strength is increased by carrying close to the encumbrance limit, accuracy is gained by shooting, etc)
  • Stun Guns: The shock batons can be researched early in the game, and allow xenonauts to subdue aliens for capture.
  • Tactical Withdrawal: usually employed by human fighters fighting a heavy UFO (or a formation of them). After unloading all missiles to wound the enemy, the planes are supposed to disengage and return to base, letting the next squadron deliver the killing blow.
  • Take Cover: The game features more sophisticated cover mechanics than the original.
  • Tank Goodness: After researching, the player can build scout cars, tanks and hover tanks to assist the xenonauts on missions.
  • Unobtanium: As in X-COM, you can salvage the alien fuel source, Alenium, which cannot be reproduced terrestrially. Incidentally, even before attempting to use it as a power source, Xenonaut scientists decided they made for even better missile warheads, giving your interceptors an early shot in the arm in terms of firepower.
  • 2-D Space: seen most prominently during air combat battles. Interceptors and alien aircrafts are placed on a single plane, and your movment options include turn left, turn right and occasionally Do a Barrel Roll.
  • Urban Warfare: Terror missions, naturally. Some other maps, like fan-made desert villages, also require similar tactics.
  • Vertical Mecha Fins: Harridans' armour has these.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: In an apparent attempt to dissuade veteran X-COM players from applying the usual "level everything in sight" tactics, you suffer a rating penalty if civilians get caught in the collateral damage.
  • The War Room: Seen on the splash screen and represented by the Command Center during base defense missions.
  • Unstable Equilibrium:
    • TU is gained by spending at least 250 TU in a single battle. For a solder with 80 TU, it means spending 3 turns running around or shooting. Someone with 50 TU will need to spend 5 turns doing that. In short, the higher TU is, the easier it is to level up.
    • If the player plays poorly and loses experienced xenonauts, subsequent fights will get harder and vice versa.
    • Likewise with funding, as the amount of funds you get is directly tied to how successful you are at destroying UFOs and bases and stopping terror missions before the aliens can wreak havoc. Fail to adequately cover one region, and it'll pull its funding from the project completely, making it more difficult to maintain your bases and replace future losses.
  • With This Herring: Averted in the sense that you get lousy newbies only if you manage to get the reasonably-experienced starter squad killed.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Absolutely averted by both sides. The aliens love hunting civilian humans, and Xenonauts treat alien non-combatants (or more accurately, alien crew members) like alien soldiers.

XCOM: Enemy UnknownMilitary Science-FictionSchlock Mercenary

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