Xenonauts
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Strategic View

It’s all up to you now. It is the year 1970, and Earth has come under attack by a large alien invasion force who have no interest in peaceful negotiation. Small resistance forces have failed to fight them off and casualties are rapidly climbing. Under your command, a new clandestine alien resistance and fighting force known as the Xenonauts has taken over, making every possible effort to quell the invasion. Using your various combat and research resources, as well as strategic planning and modified technology, you will take on the alien threat and save the world.

Note: Xenonauts is a strategic game that is still in an early development phase. The final version is set to be released in late 2013. Though it is technically not 100% finished, it is mostly complete and is largely playable with only a few features missing.

Setting Up Shop

Upon the opening of the game you are presented with a map of the world and asked to choose the location of the first base, and then name it. Your location can be anywhere in the world, and in the early game it really doesn't matter where you settle. Each base has a radar range as well as aircraft locations that will help you detect and intercept incoming UFOs and alien ships. Within each base is a limited area that is cordoned off into square sections, where new hangers, living quarters, radar dishes, and storerooms can be built. By adding more of each of these structures you increase the functionality of the base; adding more aircraft, housing more soldiers, and increasing the range at which UFOs can be intercepted and taken out. Additional buildings require a construction cost, but also a monthly upkeep. You can also research and manufacture new technology and equipment, that will increase your impact against the enemy forces. Everything from new planes and trucks to alien armour and biology can be researched over a period of time. Of course, you'll need scientists (and housing for them) to do research. You can assign how many scientists you want on each project which affects how fast the project will take. Once you research a new technology, you can manufacture it with workers who function on the same basis as the scientists.

Strategic View

The main overview of the game is the world map you saw at the beginning. From here you can manage your bases, as well as track the location of both your units and alien activity such as sightings, abductions, and crash sites from successful interceptions. You can launch planes and investigate activity from this view as well as run the research and building in each base. Though much of the time will be spent in this view, most of the action is in the air and ground combat.

Combat

The first combat in a standard encounter is air to air combat, of UFOs against your fighter jets. When you finally make contact with the enemy, the game will switch to a top down, tabletop view of the combat. The planes move and fight on their own but you can give some orders, such as telling them to use afterburners or evasive manoeuvres, or even to retreat if the fight isn't going your way. You have the ability to pause and play the fight at any time which allows you to react to enemy moves. This will not be necessary to begin with as the first aliens you encounter are just scouts, but later encounters will require more strategy and knowing when to engage in battle and when to retreat. I liked the ideas that they had going here but I almost would have liked more interaction with the decisions that the planes make. I guess that this would be overwhelming when there are large numbers of aircraft at a time, so this design is probably for the best. As planes fly and fight they take damage and use fuel. Upon returning to base, there is a downtime where the planes must refuel and be repaired before being launched again. If your interception was successful, it's time to send in the ground troops.

To do this you send in a landing craft which can hold up to eight soldiers. Soldiers must be hired and can be customized in their loadout and role in the squad. You can designate them as assault, snipers, riflemen, and heavy weapons soldiers. There is a small assortment of basic weapons including rifles and shotguns as well as pistols and grenades. Each soldier has a primary and secondary slot as well as limited space on their belt and backpack. Inventory works in a manner similar to Deus Ex, where each item takes up a number of blocks in the predetermined area in the pack. When it comes to the combat itself, the game is turn based, played on a map from the selected environment. At first the maps are very small, but they will gradually increase as you progress. Each soldier has a limited amount of action points that can be used each turn, either in movement, shooting, or other actions. I found the combat to be fun and challenging but also familiar which made it easy to jump into. If you have played games such as the XCOM series, then you will already understand how the combat works. Each battlefield provides cover and movement lanes, but be careful what you take cover behind because every tile is destructible. This makes suppression and shooting through objects important to winning in combat. Soldiers are persistent in the game, meaning that you play with the same characters that will level up as you play; but that also means that if they fall in battle, they are dead permanently, and you must hire new recruits.

The part that I liked the best about combat in Xenonauts is the sight lines of the soldiers. As you move around, you can only see what would be seen by your soldiers. If part of the map is out of your line of sight then it will be black on the screen until you move a character to a place where they have a clear line of sight. This makes it vital to spread out your team enough to see but not too much to thin out your defences. You also cannot see enemy movement unless it is happening within your line of sight. With different buildings and enclosed spaces to explore, it is important to thoroughly clear every part of the battlefield. Overall I would give the combat mechanics very high marks, with my only complaint being that there were times when it seemed like the balance was shifted heavily in the aliens favour. I suppose that part of this could just be my lack of experience or skill with this genre.

Final Thoughts

Though the game is not 100% complete and polished, the quality of the game at its current state is pretty impressive. Though I did not get much in terms of a tutorial or guidance in the beginning of the game, it was pretty easy to jump into and enjoy. I would imagine that any fan of the XCOM series or similar game would enjoy this game and I recommend checking it out. You can find the game in the early access part of the Steam store. I look forward to seeing how this project progresses and I believe that the final product will be quite the experience.

Conquering the..little farm area...