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You Will Be Challenged: Enemy Unknown, Terror From The Deep, Apocalypse
X-Com is a thing of beauty, with all its little bits integrating well together, but here, I'm just going to praise the tactical game because that's where you'll spend most of your time. The controls are fairly simple, but comprehensive enough you will not find their simplicity limiting your options. I first ended up playing an X-Com game (TFTD, in fact) I was without a manual but blundered about very little. This is truly something you can pick up and play quite easily, yet I can't recall ever encountering a situation that the available options did not cover.

But it's not a friendly game, when you get right down to it. X-Com is out for your blood. Enemy Unknown and Terror From The Deep lay in wait to eat hapless squaddies and able seamen usually...but not always. Apocalypse will eagerly hunt you down no matter the situation.

The tactical game is unforgiving as few other games are. One building unchecked, one corner unsearched, one false step, can cost you half a squad. This is the genius of the game. Even on the easiest difficulties, X-Com will unashamedly force you to lay off the Zerg Rush, can the Hollywood Tactics, and start thinking like the most important thing in the world is to see the next sunrise. You will learn patience. You will learn to be methodical. You will learn what Properly Paranoid really means. Or you will, at best, end up repeatedly gutting your squad to win. It is equally likely there will be no survivors.

You will earn your victories, not by overwhelming your opponents with numbers or with firepower, but by being smarter and more careful. Bravery is not required to save the world this time. Brains, however, will be.

And at the end, when you have mastered the tactical game, when you can lead your rookies against their first UFO or USO and lose not a one, you will have learned more about tactics than most squad-based games could ever teach. And you might perhaps smile, remembering your first time around; how badly it abused you and your hapless rookies, how you lost six of them and the tank that time. Revenge is sweet.
Bra-vo! I love games like XCOM that manage to be both structured and (in a way) open-ended.

Have you played UFO Alien Invasion bychance?
comment #1502 Charlatan 16th Dec 09
No, actually, though I mean to. It's on my list; right now I'm working through a different X-Com inspired game, UFO Extraterrestrials, and replaying UFO: Afterlight.
comment #1508 Night 19th Dec 09
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