October is going to be a hell of a month. Both Dishonored and X-Com: Enemy unknown are going to come out and from what I’ve seen so far, both are looking like serious contenders for Game of the Year. I foresee many very, very late night gaming sessions. The demo for X-Com has been out for a while but I refrained from playing it in order to avoid any spoilers. I finally gave in today. Here are my thoughts:

  • Installation was painless. The demo runs without a hitch.
  • PC optimization looks good, the options menu allows for a fair amount of customization.
  • Not much in terms of story, normally this would bother me, but a game like this falls into the rare category that does not really need it. The opening moments set everything up with a short video. There is no need to explain things beyond the phrase “Alien Invasion”. Suits me just fine.
  • Bah, the first mission is a very tightly scripted tutorial. New hands will appreciate this I guess, so I can see the need for it. Nonetheless, I feel extremely restricted. Great to be playing something turn based though.

  • Stuff looks pretty. The game uses the Unreal 3 engine.
  • Once the tutorial ends, it brings me to what I know is going to be my favorite part of the game. The base. Different continents provide different base bonuses. I chose Europe for the research boost.

  • I love the anthill view. I can already see the endless number of hours I’m going to put into tweaking things around in the base. The demo does not give a lot of options but it easy to see the strategic depth here. It’s going to be epic!
  • One lone survivor of the tutorial has leveled up. This gives the chance to look at the skill tree. For the demo, Mr. Moreno is given only one option: The ability to use rockets. Cool, one can never have too many rockets.
  • There is a good deal of character customization on offer. It’s not particularly deep, but enough to make you get real attached your little army.
  • Right off the bat, I’m making an important decision. Should I use the salvaged tech from the last mission to research better armor, or harder hitting weapons? Hmmm. I opt for the latter.

  • Another decision to make. There are two missions on offer. The Hong Kong one gives me extra cash. The US gives me extra scientists. This one is a no brainer. I need more geeks.
  • Normally, I would take a long time choosing my squad for the next mission but the demo makes this decision for me. Boo! Well, at least my rocket launcher wielding vet Moreno is coming along. Experienced soldiers are going to be worth their weight in uranium.
  • The initial turns are scripted again. A few more turns go by before I get actual control.
  • Now this is more like it! Having control over my dudes opens up the game. Soon enough the alien baddies are toast. Moreno racks up 2 more kills. Go Moreno! He is a little injured though.

  • Positioning is everything here. Staying in cover is crucial, though it might be worth the risk to have a guy in the open for the accuracy bonus. I’m a little surprised there is no option to change stances (crouch, prone etc.) or the option to go stealth.
  • Apparently the mission isn’t over yet. I proceed across the map slowly. Eventually getting a visual on a couple of cyborg like aliens hovering menacingly. No probs, the team is under good cover and has all the angles covered.
  • What the?!? These guys can fly! They cover a huge distance in one turn and blow Moreno to pieces. Moreno! NOOOOOOOOOOOO….
  • This right here is what happens when you get too attached to a character. It captures the feeling of the original X-Com perfectly. Losing Moreno is a huge blow. It feels personal. Also makes me question my decision to upgrade my weapons instead of armor. Perma death people. It’s a bitch. But so very tense.
  • Fueled with righteous rage, the rest of my team avenges Moreno’s death. The mission ends with them neutralizing all threats. One plus side to losing Moreno: since he never got to fire his rockets, all the alien tech is left intact for salvage. Small consolation though. Dammit I should have taken the armor.
  • Back to base. Before I can prep another team though, an urgent message forces me to click on another mission briefing. A short video sets up the next mission and the demo ends. Aaaw.

The missions in the demo are enough to give one a small taste of what’s in store. It is obvious to me that that what I experienced is but a fraction of what awaits us. I know I’m grabbing this as soon as it releases.

You can get the demo on Steam. If you don’t want to bother with the 5 gig download, you can view the following trailer which gives you an idea of what to expect. It can be a little misleading as many of the pop ups that show up will not actually be in the real game. Still it’s worth a look.

For those who want a more in-depth look at things, I recommend the following video of project lead Jake Solomon playing with some folks over from Gamespot. Be warned, it’s a long one. But it does give you a much better idea of what to expect.

You can preorder on Steam right now. As a part of a promotional drive, pre-ordering now will get you a free copy of Civilization 5 as well. That’s a hell of a deal for 50$. As for me, I’m going to wait for it to hit the Indian retail market. Flipkart shows pre-orders for Rs 1000 (roughly 19$). There is no exact release date on the site but for what it’s worth, the game should out globally on the 12th of October.