The original X-Com is on my short list of favorite games. It was my first foray into tactical games, and since then, I’ve steeped my gaming sensibilities in other masterpieces such as Master of Orion 1 & 2, Master of Magic, Civilization, Front Mission, Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea and Ogre Battle. I never did play Laser Squad Nemesis, but the Gameboy Advance game Rebelstar: Tactical Command captured a bit of the old X-Com magic. One of the first projects I worked on here at NinjaBee/Wahoo was our little gem Band of Bugs.
Similarly, I’ve spent a lot of time reading about tabletop tactical games like WarHammer and WarMachine, and I’m developing one of my own I’m calling Zomblobs! that may well wind up being a sister game to another one I have in mind (the sooper sekrit *redacted* project), not unlike the mesh between WarMachine and Hordes. I have a lot of ideas for tactical games, and it’s been a blast to try to make one and see if there’s something to those ideas.
Let’s just say that I love tactical and strategic games. They run deep in my gaming DNA.
So when I heard that the BioShock guys were making an XCOM game, at first, I thought “great, a resurrection of the fantastic tactical game by some guys who have no small amount of game prettification experience!”. After a bit of cursory research, though, my response was pretty much the same as Shamus’ over at Twenty Sided and Jay’s over at The Rampant Coyote. In short, it wasn’t quite the Darth Vaderish “NoOoOoOOO!”, but it was pretty close. I had to go and play the original (I bought the whole bunch of them on sale over at Direct2Drive, also available on Steam, and conveniently on sale today), just to wash the 2K out of my brain. Shamus later followed up with this lovely extended rant, and I found myself nodding along. Seriously… this just bugged me so much I had to ignore it or slip into mild-mannered nerdrage.
…tangentially, I find it interesting that my flavor of nerdrage expression was to buy the original game in protest, even though I still have the CDs for the first two games in my library somewhere. That probably borders on ineffective. This might also be why my efforts to resurrect the Chrono series by buying ‘Trigger on all platforms and playing the OST for CT and CC every week isn’t doing so well. Anyway…
Yesterday, it was with much happiness that I found out there is a team of intrepid indies working on a game they call Xenonauts, a little gem that looks to be nicely faithful to the original X-Com. While I haven’t bought in yet, Minecraft is the only other game I’ve spent money on while it’s still in development, and I’m sorely tempted here. Maybe I’ll get it after passing on a few more junk food runs (my gaming budget is what I might have spent on junk food).
Then this morning, Firaxis pulls a vaguely mean move and announces their own resurrection of the X-Com name. I like Firaxis. I trust them, at least for now. I think they might actually understand X-Com and be able to bring it into the 2010s. That sure has the potential to put the bootheel of Bigger Business on the Xenonauts team, though.
As ambivalent as I am about Firaxis maybe poaching indie efforts, both teams really are poaching the X-Com name in the first place, so I can’t get too fussy about it. If anything, the competition between the two could be a healthy thing, making for better games. I do hope that the Firaxis effort doesn’t destroy the livelihood of the Xenonauts team, but mining nostalgia is a dangerous game. (Never mind the IP legalhounds and shenanigans that come up with things like the Chrono Resurrection project.) The squishy territory covered by tribute, homage, mimicry and plagiarism is a minefield.
May the true inheritor of the X-Com throne rise up!
…but if they both flub it, will someone else please try again?
…and I dearly hope that the 2K iteration doesn’t become the most successful one. That would just be… sad.
UPDATED with more info at the following pair of articles,