After Action Report: X-COM – UFO Defense
|This was a fancy title screen back in 1994.|
So, I’ve decided to go a little old school with my next AAR, opting to pick up X-COM – UFO Defense, which is the first game in the X-COM series. I’ll be honest and admit that I only played the X-COM games a very little bit when they first came out. I had a friend that had them and always thought they looked amazing, but never picked any of them up. Now that my shame is out in the open, I am going to stumble my way through one of the best games 1994 had to offer (one of the best games history has had to offer, according to many). I figure, while the game may be old, it is particularly pertinent with the launch of Goldhawk Interactive’s Xenonauts approaching quickly (a spiritual successor to X-COM) and Firaxis’ XCOM : Enemy Unknown reboot due out in October.
Now, I have a vague idea of what I’m doing (very vague), but X-COM: UFO Defense doesn’t have any sort of tutorial to speak of and I am willingly not looking up a beginner’s guide on the internet. So I will screw this up. Badly. In order to get any information from within the game, you have to wade through the UFOpedia, which is just an encyclopedia of everything in the game. So I will blindly stumble forward for a while instead. I load up the game and decide to put my home base in the northern portion of the south U.S., since that is where I am from and take stock of my base.
I’ve got eight soldiers, a team of 10 scientists, a Skyranger (for delivering my troops to landed UFOs, it appears), and two Interceptors for taking down those pesky UFOs. My base appears pretty well stocked, although I decide all willy-nilly to take an extra research lab onto it. Sadly, I don’t have enough scientists to fill up my first research lab, so this turns out to be my first (of what I’m sure will be many) waste of time. The game’s graphics have not held up all that well over the years (I would say it is a few years before that starts happening, when Fallout comes out in 1997 and Baldur’s Gate in 1998, both games that look quite good even at present, so far as I am concerned).
|I have no idea what is going on here!|
In any case, it is still neat to watch the day/night cycle go by as you wait for things to happen in X-COM. It isn’t too terribly long before I spot a UFO in Canada heading southwest towards Vancouver. I send one of my Interceptors to try and take it down and I do manage to intercept it, but it turns out that I have no idea how aerial combat works in this game (tactical combat I get). I sort of figure out what’s going on as I stare confused at the screen for a few moments but, as it dawns on me, the game informs me that the UFO has gone away. Well, that was sub-optimal. My Interceptor returns to the base to fuel up and, I assume, feeling more than a little sad. At least it should.
I click on the Research tab and realize that the various world governments are currently paying 10 scientists to do absolute nothing. While that sounds like a realistic simulation of global politics, it is not what I want for my UFO-researching force. I decide that I would like better weapons and put them into researching ‘Laser Weapon’ technology. I also start to feel antsy and (this is my second rather silly mistake, if you are counting) decide to build a second base well before I am ready to have one. The base comes basically completely unstocked and – by the time I put in a hangar, a living quarters, and a small radar, never mind anyone to actually work at the darned thing – I am down to just about $1 million, which is several million below where I started. The facilities are going to take three to four weeks to construct, but I feel at least slightly heartened when I see that the game lists my research progress as ‘Good.’
|Yep, this is a picture of me wasting money on a new
base I totally don’t need!
I speed the game up while waiting for another UFO to appear (I have already spent enough money, so I figure I should start producing some aliens before I waste all my money). The research on Laser Weapons is completed and all of the scientists reassigned to designing a Laser Pistol shortly before UFO-2 appears on the ground up in Canada. I send my Skyranger to go after it, but the thing takes off before I can land and claim all of that beautiful alien technology for my own. A third UFO appears shortly and I feel confident as I send both of my Interceptors after it, no longer content to mess around. That one gets away, too. I see a demotion in my very near future. I hope they at least have to have some sort of hearing before relieving me of command: “You saw three UFOs within a few weeks and you couldn’t take down one with your super-secret fighter jets?!”
Finally, a fourth UFO appears to the southeast of the U.S. on the ground. Feeling the sting from my last several failures, I send both of my Interceptors and my Skyranger to get the thing. Unlike the previous grounded UFO, UFO-4 does not take off and fly away when I get near it and I enter tactical combat against the aliens for the first time. I ready my eight soldier squad and get prepared to take down some aliens. Will I succeed? We’ll find out next time!