XCOM: Enemy Unknown

For the entire duration of the BBLC’s existence, XCOM has loomed on the horizon, a monolith timesink just waiting for its chance to halt all progress. Even as I hacked away at the number of games in the queue, its presence was felt- a long shadow bringing an uneasy chill to the otherwise warm feelings of cutting down my list. And now, my dice have decided, it’s time to combat this most mighty of foes- this 500-hour final boss, destroyer of productivity, bringer of sleepless nights and forgotten meals, and eraser of free time.

It’s not the first game of its kind I’ve covered (what even is this genre called? I’ve been using XCOM-like, but can I use that to describe actual XCOM?), with Invisible Inc and Chroma Squad having a fair amount in common with it mechanically (if not thematically).

And… well, the whole time I was playing it, all I could think was how much I’d rather be playing one of those instead.

Several reasons, but most pressingly for me- my soldiers feel both utterly disposable but also wholly indispensable. Random names and random skills, with no personality, they are Soldier A B C and D from the movies, who exist only for the named characters to kill or send to their deaths. They’re also flimsy enough that they feel like cannon fodder, able to withstand maybe 3 hits before going down.

But at the same time, the longer they survive, the more skills they gain, which means losing a soldier is a big loss in terms of investment. I can’t get attached to any of them because there’s nothing to get attached to, but I have to get attached to them because if I mess up and get one killed, it’s a detriment to my ability to continue. It’s the same reason I adore Fire Emblem, but didn’t care for Advance Wars at all.

Besides this, there’s an overwhelming amount of other stuff to keep track of, and I don’t use that positively in this instance. I have to reasearch new stuff, but I have to build new facilities, but I have to manage my floor plan, but I have to launch satellites, but I have to manage my fleet, but I have to recruit new soldiers, but I have to build new weapons, but I have to manage the panic level of various nations, but I have to manage purchasing decisions, but but but but but- too much!!!

Finally- and this is petty, I acknowledge- but I just don’t like military settings for games. I don’t wanna be The Big Gruff Marines And God Bless Not-America. Being an underground gang of noir-cyberpunk rebels or an indie TV studio super sentai team is cool; being the military is not. It’s the same problem I had with Strike&Suit+Zero.

Fin or Bin:

Alright, so here’s the rub. To get personal for a moment, I’ve been feeling pretty blue of late, because there’s no daylight and everything’s cold and rubbish. The day I played XCOM was a particularly dark day, both literally and metaphorically, so I was very conscious that it might impact my decision. In response, I bent the rules a bit and gave XCOM a second hour to prove itself. You can probably tell by now that it didn’t.

Even so, having had such a presence on my backlog, it feels anticlimactic to just Bin it now- like summoning Yojimbo to instantly kill Penance, or using the Cure glitch on the Dark King. But playing a game because I feel like I have to isn’t what this challenge is about- I’ll be moving on, saving it a spot in the Recycle Bin, but most likely passing it up to give Invisible Inc another run through.

(Steam)

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