XCOM: Enemy Unknown (2012)

by Christopher
5 minutes read


An iconic entry in the strategy genre, XCOM: Enemy Unknown challenges players with defending Earth from an alien onslaught through careful planning, strategic thinking, and tactical execution.


A masterclass in strategy and suspense, XCOM: Enemy Unknown combines turn-based tactics, base management, and an engrossing narrative in a battle for Earth’s survival.


The game is set during an alien invasion of Earth in an alternative version of 2015. The player controls an elite, multinational, paramilitary organization called XCOM and commands troops in a series of turn-based tactical missions. Between missions, the player directs the research and development of technologies from recovered alien technology and captured prisoners, expands XCOM’s base of operations, manages finances, and monitors and responds to alien activity.

The game was initially envisioned as an exact remake of the 1994 game but the developers improved gameplay mechanics and introduced improvements to modernize the franchise for a new audience. Aliens from the original game return in “Enemy Unknown”, though Firaxis redesigned many of them. The game uses procedural generation for enemy placement and the development team handcrafted maps in the game.

“XCOM: Enemy Unknown” was announced in January 2012, and was released for Windows PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in October 2012. Handheld and mobile versions of the game, co-developed by 2K China, were later released. The game received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised the turn-based combat, presentation, emergent gameplay, difficulty, and replayability but criticized its multiplayer component. It was a commercial success for the publisher and several gaming publications nominated it for year-end accolades, including Game of the Year.

In November 2013, Firaxis released an expansion pack called “XCOM: Enemy Within” and a sequel called “XCOM 2” was released in 2016. “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” was often credited for renewing interest in the turn-based-tactics genre in the 2010s.


While focusing on the player’s strategic role, the game features a diverse array of customizable soldiers, each potentially developing into a unique combatant, alongside a cast of support characters integral to the XCOM initiative.


The gameplay intertwines base management and resource allocation with intense, turn-based tactical missions. Players must balance offense and defense, risk and reward, as they deploy soldiers to combat the alien forces.


XCOM: Enemy Unknown stands as a testament to Firaxis Games’ ability to reinvigorate a classic series, offering a compelling blend of strategy, tactics, and narrative depth.

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