If you were looking for the spiritual successor to the X-Com franchise, Xenonauts feels like the game you’ve been waiting for. Even though The Buraeu: X-Com Declassified and Enemy Unknown/Within were great games in their own right, they just didn’t quite capture the same feeling that the classic games had. While some things need to evolve and change, there’s something to be said about making a recipe with most of the same ingredients to enjoy the meal you remember. (That’s especially true if they are going to say that it tastes similar.) I covered a lot of the basics of this game in the X-Com: Enemy Unknown VS. Xenonauts review so I’m not going to cover everything since Goldhawk Interactive finished up everything that needed fixing to transition from Early Access to Launch status pretty smoothly.
Let’s start with difficulty shall we? That was a trademark aspect of the originals. (I still can’t complete TFTD.) I started Xenonauts on the Regular difficulty and had both starter interceptor planes shot down in one-on-one dogfights. (At which point I had nothing to shoot down enemy aircraft.) The enemy craft ended up landing after downing my two aircraft giving me my first mission… out of pity. During the pity mission (which happened to be a night mission of course) I had lost two soldiers before I got ten spaces from my Chinook from enemies I couldn’t see. Needless to say I started over and changed the difficulty to easy. I usually don’t like playing games on easy, but this game just kicked me in the nuts and laughed in my face.
Thinking that the game was going to be too easy after the difficulty was changed was a bad assumption on my part. That little dead alien in the corner reminded me that I shouldn’t let my guard down. This little bugger skirted around the edge of the map taking pot shots at my guys almost killing two of them. I was throwing out flares left and right to try to find him to no avail. I eventually found him by sending one soldier randomly to the side of the map and just happened to spot him. Needless to say, when he became visible, the bullets went flying.
Moving on, research has been overhauled to be more convenient for the player. Let’s just say that you go out on your first mission and you clean house very well. When you get back to base you have only a few options to research, general concepts like alien electronics or alien interrogations if you managed to capture an alien alive. What about the dissections and the alien craft that you left behind? Well, it’s being taken cared of. That’s being done behind the scenes and you’ll get that info in good time and the other related research options therein. You still have plenty of things to research so don’t feel robbed here; Xenonauts makes research feel streamlined.
Another interesting note is that wounded soldiers heal more realistically. This is a neat update while at the same time pretty frustrating. I liked it when people just took a few days off and then poof they were combat ready and good-as-new. In Xenonauts they take time to become combat ready with reduced stats and even more time to fully recover. When the number of days are up for your soldier to enter the field again, they are given a percentage of how much they’ve recovered. You’ll have less health to run around with and lose when you get shot. As time goes on, they do get better, but that’s with time.
There are plenty of different looking locals between deserts, desert bases, towns, farms and enemy bases. They have different maps for the same type as well so you’ll never really feel that “you’ve been here before”. That is a very nice feature, because few things feel as cheap than reused levels. Some may call the graphic choice dated, but not only does it look nice aesthetically, the devs do a great job setting a creepy atmosphere with it. I really like the presentation of Xenonauts.