Xenonauts is the X-Com clone you have been dreaming of for years. No, not the new one that threw out the old gaming concepts that made the original so successful, but rather this is a remake of the classic X-Com game. The new X-Com was streamlined and almost arcade-like in its presentation. It was also simplified. There’s a version for the iPad that’s a perfect copy of its PC cousin. There’s something you can say about the ability to take a game and convert it to a touchpad system with simple hardware without the loss of anything during the conversion process. Gamers, at least those growing up cutting our teeth on classics like the original X-Com, almost require more in-depth games than what you see in a typical tablet. After all these years, it’s safe to say that the soul of the original is alive and kicking in Xenonauts.
"After all these years, it’s safe to say that the soul of the original is alive and kicking in Xenonauts."
Let’s start with the basics for those of you who might be new to this kind of game. In Xenonauts the Earth is imperiled by an alien invasion. The world’s governments are powerless to stop the invasion and have therefore pooled their resources to fund your organization to battle the aliens. You start with one base and enough money to buy basic structures ranging from additional laboratories or workshops to hangers and garages. What you build determines your style of play. Too few aircraft in the sky means less air superiority, especially when your best fighter gets blown out of the sky and the aliens start abducting with impunity. The more abductions and general mayhem, the less funding you get. However, too much air support leaves you light on the ability to respond to multiple ground situations. And the increased space of the hangars means you can’t build research laboratories or workshops that are core to your organization’s evolution. You will find that a country that pays for defense is likely to cut funding if you don’t actually defend them. However, spreading yourself out too thin means that you have far less resources to spend and your forces are too weak to stop the alien attacks. Everything you do has a consequence.
Xenonauts is not only a fantastic clone of X-Com, it surpasses the original in almost every way. It’s hard to quantify a game like this on a simple rating scale because anyone who plays this game will be playing a completely different game than everyone else. No two plays are going to be exactly alike. Do you defend North America from the alien invasion and then create a second base in Europe; risking the Russians allying with the alien invaders? Do you instead build one base and create an air force and ground force capable of defeating the toughest enemies, only to have the rest of the world cut their funding? The choices are endless and every choice is up to you.
"There are a few small quibbles, like how you can’t tell how much it will cost to hire soldiers and a few bugs with the medical equipment, but this game is a solid A from start to finish."
The game is played in stages: shoot down alien UFOs and then send in the cleanup crew to handle the “remains”. Only one thing, the “remains” tend to shoot back. You fight the survivors and haul back to base any loot you find. Then you research it and then manufacture new weapons, armor, and fighter jets based on the technologies you discover. Wash, rinse, repeat. It may sound simple, and it is to a point. But however repetitive the stages of the game are, it’s still miles away from a “cookie clicker”. The depth of the game comes from the customization of your ground forces and how you decide to equip them. You also have to determine if you keep your old jet fighters in circulation or eventually replace them with new designs. The air combat is difficult (I have the system auto resolve because I can’t figure out how to do it) while the procedurally generated ground stages vary from difficult to insane. All in all, Goldhawk Interactive has a solid winner on their hands. There are a few small quibbles, like how you can’t tell how much it will cost to hire soldiers and a few bugs with the medical equipment, but this game is a solid A from start to finish.
Review by: Mark Brenner | Reviewed on: PC