Xenonauts is finally out of alpha, beta and early access. Yes, it is now complete and ready to show everybody what a true XCOM remake should look like.
So although the original only had bits and pieces of story, Xenonauts has managed to put together an original and more coherent story that is explained in pretty much the same way as the original game. Through small messages sent to you by your bosses you’ll learn more about Earth’s current situation and what you are expected to do to turn the tide of battle.
Although it isn’t anything breath-taking or revolutionary, it ties the game together with good ideas and plausible events.
The one thing that really differentiates Xenonauts from XCOM and any other remake is the unique world events. As you play, you’ll often get little pop ups around the globe about kidnappings, weird interruptions to services or terrorist attacks of unknown origin. Of course you as the commander of Xenonauts know that most if not all of these activities are alien related.
Though you can see these events you actually have very little control over them, save shooting down all UFO’s possible. The more you leave lying around the more of these events that will occur. More events usually mean less payday at the end of the month as each country gets hit harder and harder.
Xenonauts returns to the simple days of 2D tiles and 2.5D characters with everything brushed up to exquisite quality.
Of course the game isn’t going to be winning any awards for stunning scenes, set pieces or modern 3D worlds, but this is a game made for serious gamers who don’t need fancy CGI cutscenes with Anti-Aliasing and all that jazz.
Instead what we get is a classic styled turn based game with well modelled soldiers and aliens, lovely terrain details and buildings that often look fresh and unique, even on the hundredth battle and plenty of detailed objects usually found in the real world, often scattered along roads, alleyways or inside buildings.
Some would say that the style the game has used is a little out of date, but to be honest, I think the style has never gone out of date. The original is still one of the few older games I can still play today and think, actually, this game looks alright. You can’t say that about many old games. This will have that appeal many years in the future.
This is the meat and potatoes of Xenonauts. This is where the huge influence of the original turn based games have all been brought and hammered into something well designed, good-looking and unique.
Most of Xenonauts is played out in two areas, the world map and the ground combat.
The world map is certainly different from what you would have expected. Instead of the classic globe in the centre of the screen, you’ll be welcomed by a large flat map covering the screen and allowing you to scroll from one end to the other. Although I do prefer the globe view for realism and for looks, I will admit that I found the flat map easier to work with. You no longer have to struggle with rotating a 3D map to get to all the areas of the world. Instead everything is nicely laid out on a flat map with all the continents, bases, ufos and allied aircraft all easily viewable at all times.
The whole layout has had a nice overhaul with most options now originating at the top of the screen with the bases there too. Yes, you can have multiple bases.
Most of the UI for the world map and base building is nicely done with many different scenes to explore as you go through the different services your base can supply. From typical research, goods production, hanger screens and troop equipment panels, each base has the ability to be an almost self sufficient entity if things really hit the fan.
One of the biggest changes and most unique features of Xenonauts is the air combat.
Typically you’d send out aircraft to combat enemy ufo’s and the combat would be mostly autonomous. Not in Xenonauts. Oh no, they thought that might be a little too hands off.
So they developed a system that gave direct control of each aircraft over to you. That doesn’t mean you’ll be in the cockpit but you’ll be able to tell the fighters how to fight, when to roll and dodge and when to get the hell out of combat. You’ll also be able to switch weapons on and off to conserve ammo, some of the small ufos can dodge missiles easily, so fire one and deactivate the other, wait for it to get a second or two ahead and then fire the second, they can only dodge one at a time and your second will get a direct hit.
Tactics like this are possible because the air combat is now a bigger part of the game. So it adds another tactical level that has never really existed before. The fact that you can also have upto three fighters in combat against a possible three ufo’s also means you’ll have to think of using your crafts strengths in your favour to win the day.
As for combat on the ground, this will be very similar to what we’re used to in the original and in some ways, the latest XCOM game.
Before combat, one of the base options is the ability to choose where marines and tanks can go in the craft. This is a brilliant feature as it gives you the option of where you place key soldiers with certain weapons on your craft, ready for when you want to disembark on landing. With this you can easily secure your craft on the first turn with experienced men leading the way and the correct weapons in positions that can do the most good. So no more getting your best men stuck behind rookies or that vital rocket launcher or medipack being stuck right at the back of the craft. The side doors also help clear the craft of men quicker and in a better spread to avoid easy grenade kills or accidental explosive damage.
After disembarking you’ll be able to use a fairly standard snap shot system to cover your forward approaches and can use cover to safeguard men against easy pot shots.
The AI isn’t the best. It does a good job of putting up a fight but it doesn’t really move smartly or in ways that could easily hamper your movement. Instead you’ll find that they have a rather predictable nature that shouldn’t surprise older fans of the series. It does have its moments when aliens run away to better cover or try and group together but it rarely makes much of a difference when you proceed smartly.
Destructible terrain and objects is back though with avengeance. Everything is pretty much destroyable and alien craft can be damaged in a variety of ways during crash landing. Buildings can of course be used as shortcuts, providing there are no civilians in blast range.
Talking about civilians, the game uses them wisely and much better than before. Regular civilians will want to get off the map as soon as possible while the civilians in services like the police force or local militia will actually lend a hand in combat. You have no control over them but they can take an alien down with rather primitive weapons like the starting shotguns. Of course, if shot, they’ll fall easily as their armour isn’t up to your quality and they don’t have the skills to sustain long turn combat against more advanced combatants. It still adds a nice touch that civilians aren’t just dumb AI but more involved in regular missions.
Stunning aliens, capturing equipment intact and keeping your men alive, along with civilians, is still your main mission goals during most missions. With the occasional terror mission ready to completely screw you and your team over.
Remember how the original XCOM used to make your spine shiver in fear with the deep undercurrents of slow rhythmic beats and strange alien instrumentals. Xenonauts has done a damn fine job of recreating music that sounds distinctly different and yet just as eerily creepy as ever before. With the pace of the music often quickening just at the right moments while you prepare for the worst and then continuing on in that same fashion to keep you on your toes, all mission.
During the quiet times on the campaign map, the music does allow a respite with soothing tunes that allow some relaxation while on the job. Although it’ll change as soon as a UFO pops its head out.
To say that the music in Xenonauts is good is a massive understatement. The game comes alive during the peak musical scores and doesn’t fail to keep you going and enjoying the game after many hours of play. As for the sound effects, well weapons sound deadly and futuristic and explosions sounds great. Alien rumblings and footsteps again leave the same horrific look on your face, with your mind racing to figure out what could be around the next corner.
I love the sound and music in Xenonauts. It’s done in just the right doses with exquisite taste and polish shown all the way through the game.
Grab your copy here on Steam or any of the other digital stores that sell the game. Enjoy.
- Faithful Recreation With Worthwhile Improvements
- Fantastic Musical Scores
- Splendid Graphics
- Weak AI
- Even Better Story Arcs Would Be Great