It’s because of games such as XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Elite Edition that we’ve come to trust (and appreciate) Feral Interactive so much. Yes, Enemy Unknown has won numerous awards for its console and PC versions, but just because a game seems like a logical choice for a Mac version, that doesn’t always mean it’ll happen. Feral makes things like this happen, and we’re all the better for it.
If anything, I went into my review time with XCOM: Enemy Unknown with a bit of trepidation. Surely it can’t be as good as all the accolades made it seem, right? Well, it kind of is.
The story behind XCOM: Enemy Unknown is nothing new. Aliens are invading, the military can’t stop them, so we rely on our top secret military.
You really have to wonder why—if such a thing existed—we aren’t using them for more obvious purposes. If they have the ability to repel an alien invasion, surely they could also handle Afghanistan or Syria pretty easily, right? As such, it’s safe to assume we have no secret military organization, which means we’re screwed when the aliens finally do invade. Sorry, everyone.
As for the game, it’s split into three separate components. You’ve got your strategy section, which is when you recruit and customize soldiers, as well as expand your headquarters and plan your missions. You’ve got your tactical combat, which is when you order your troops around the battlefield all Worms-style, taking out the enemy and accomplishing your objectives. Then, you’ve got your RPG elements, which basically consist of leveling up your soldiers with advanced weapons and abilities.
The three game styles come together very well, which likely lead to all of the awards. When games mash this much together, you normally get too much of one or two elements while the rest just seem tacked on. Whereas I had the most fun with the turn-based combat, you won’t be able to get much done if you simply ignore or breeze through the other elements. Thankfully, Firaxis understood that not all of us are experts in the tree genres, and they offer plenty of help along the way.
There’s a lot to do in the strategic portion, for example: managing finances, conducting research, building new weapons and gadgets. It could all get overwhelming, especially if you’re really just playing the game to kick some alien equivalent-of-butt. XCOM: Enemy Unknown guides you through this well, though, if you want the help. When you start to get the hang of it, you can ratchet up the challenge to your heart’s content.
And because the strategic element is so important to and tied in closely with the turn-based battles, you’ll have more fun on the strategic side than you think. Keeping your soldiers alive means you can level them up and use them again later, and you’ll quickly develop an affinity for a few of them. This isn’t quite at the scale of, say, Fire Emblem for Nintendo devices, where every character has a story and a personality, but they offer more connection than lifeless mech units that are replaced by the exact same thing.
The aliens aren’t quite as varied as your soldiers, but why would they be? What matters with them is that they’re tricky and they’re deadly and you’ll have to quickly develop the proper strategies if you want to survive. You can’t just charge headlong into battle; you need to plan for discovering the enemy, luring them out, seeking cover from them, and setting up assistance from your squad members. Although individual soldier types are better against certain enemies, there’s really no one way to play XCOM: Enemy Unknown; figure out what you enjoy, then build your team around that.
The Elite Edition for Mac builds the game’s DLC into one package, so you’re getting a lot for your money here (believe me, it’s well worth the $50 price tag). You get additional missions, additional soldiers, wallpapers, the soundtrack, and even ringtones. There’s a multiplayer component, as well. Provided you’re set up with a GameRanger account, you can take on an opponent in mixed human/alien turn-based battles, if you’re able to find an opponent (sadly, online play doesn’t support Mac to PC). Although XCOM: Enemy Unknown does integrate Apple’s Game Center, it’s pretty much for achievements only. Still, the game offers such a robust single player mode that multiplayer is just a bonus with which you may not even bother.
By releasing XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Feral Interactive has provided Mac gamers with one of the most engrossing and entertaining games we’re going to play this year. It clearly illustrates the beauty of turn-based combat while offering enough to keep even the most hard core of action gamers captivated. The good story and solid graphics don’t hurt, either. Give XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Elite Edition a go, but be prepared to sacrifice many of your summer nights to the aliens.
Category: Turn-based strategy / RPG
Developer: Firaxis Games
Mac Publisher: Feral Interactive
Minimum System Requirements: OS X v10.7.5, 2 GHz Intel processor, 4GB RAM, 15GB disk space, 256MB graphics card
Review Computer: 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 iMac, 4GB RAM, 512MB ATI Radeon HD 5670
Network Feature: Yes
Availability: Out now