Posted: July 22, 2014
I finally completed my first Normal Ironman run in Xenonauts after many rage quits, forced restarts... and forgetting to deactive my C4 explosives only to pink mistify half my squad (way... waayyyy too many times). There were many moments that had me mumbling at my screen in frustration or outright had me getting up from the computer, going to the gym, and lifting things up then putting them down over and over again to get the angst out.
It was incredibly frustrating to have some of my wet-behind-the-ears soldiers survive a few missions and pulverize some Xeno scum, only to watch them get one shot by a well placed shot or devoured by a Reaper I didn't plan for. Cover isn't intuitive (or at least for me it wasn't) and there were multiple times I took position only to watch the alien turn, smirk at me, then plant a plasma bolt square between the eyes of one of my soldiers. Refer back to the rage and lifting portion.
Eventually, after epic (and possibly unhealthy) amounts of nerd rage and QQ'ing over cheating alien scum, how insanely difficult breaching UFOs is (Corvettes! I'm specifically hating on you!), and having to make aggrevating economic decisions... I learned from my mistakes (gasp!), had to learn to accept losses, and got better.
I actually started using squad level tactics like hugging walls, throwing down smoke grenades if I absolutely had to turn a blind corner with no indication of what could be waiting on the other side, NOT sprinting down the middle of the street with my entire squad, then getting upset that I got sniped from a random window, making liberal use of explosives even if it meant I lost some money breaching UFOs, and generally just accepting I'm supposed to be out gunned.
The game is remarkably well paced, freakishly so. Due to the ticker implementation RIGHT when you finally have outfitted your fighter jets or soldiers with the appropriate gear new bigger, badder aliens show up that almost make your hard fought gains obsolete. One step forward, two steps back is a common theme throughout the game that makes you BETTER because you have to actually think about WTF you're doing and why.
I'm a father of three, married, and I have a job that has me at work anywhere from a standard 40 hours a week to almost 60, so it took me a month to get through the game. I guess I could've used the common complaint/logic "I don't have that kind of time" or "I want something I can sit down and beat in a few days" but this was far more rewarding. Yes, there were days where after a 12 hour shift I certainly didn't come home and boot up any games, but the time invested was worth it.
I'm glad I stuck with Xenonauts despite my initial frustrations and will be putting many more hours into it either by tweaking the config file or by downloading mods. I actually tried playing XCOM: EU again and couldn't bring myself to do it.
If you've made it through the wall of text (hurray!) I guess I'd split it into three categories:
-Excellently designed game that gives you total freedom, no ♥♥♥♥ty tutorials shall be thrust on you here.
-The pacing is genius! I don't know how long it took them, but the game ups the difficulty at the right moment. (unless you're playing bad, then you'll never catch up)
-Soldiers have no role, you determine what they do based on what equipment you give them. Have a guy with high TU (action points)? Make him your scout! Have a guy with amazing accuracy but maybe his HP is kind of low? Sniper! Found a meat shield with high HP and incredible strength, but he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn at point blank range with a fully automatic weapon? Give him a metal shield and let him be a bullet sponge! Or don't do any of those things, it's up to you.
-Aliens appropriately out tech you through out pretty much the entire game. You genuinely feel an overwhelming sense of dread as you play the game.
-You will take losses, but that doesn't mean you'll lose the game. You can have pretty substantial set backs and still come out on top. (kind of like how life is!)
-Using squad level infantry tactics ACTUALLY works and is necessary.
-Well thought out tech tree and research progression.
-You can mod and edit the crap out of the game to your liking.
-Music is well done and adds to the setting.
-Even on Easy this game will be too much for a lot of people. This will be viewed as an "elitist" comment, but I think that's more indicative of the gaming industry as a whole and not to Xenonaut's detriment. Nintendo games were soul crushingly difficult and only had one mode, now many games I can hand my six year old that he can beat without having to read any of the text.
-Still some glitches/bugs, namely shooting through walls. It doesn't happen too often, but it can make a huge difference to how that one map will play out.
-The game doesn't explain a lot of the mechanics adequately. This can amplify frustration or make it more rewarding as you progress, depends on your perspective.
-Mind control late game is a bit out of whack. I thought it added a great deal of intensity and dread, but it was depressing to watch two of my colonels that had managed to survive +30 missions get possessed and murder each other. I think it's a great (and necessary) part of the game, but still needs tweaking in either lower % success rate (which you can do yourself) or a turn delay the same way Wraiths can't teleport and shoot in the same turn.
-Graphics. Eventually they grew on me, but it was admittedly jarring at first.