MobyGames Classic: X-Com: UFO Defense

MobyGames.com Classic returns with X-Com: UFO Defense, the 1994 strategy-RPG originally released for PC that spawned numerous sequels on multiple platforms.

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Ask fans about X-Com: UFO Defense and you'll likely be told enthusiastic stories about what's largely regarded as one of the turn-based genre's seminal strategy games. The game put players in the role of the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit (X-COM, for short), a secret squad responsible for fending off an alien invasion by assimilating their technology. Tactical combat, global strategy, UFO lore, and a heavy emphasis on resource management joined a host of player-driven customization options in order to create X-Com: UFO Defense's incredibly beloved formula.

Today we add 1994's classic strategy title X-Com: UFO Defense to our growing list of video game classics, presented by MobyGames.com.

In his Moby Games review, titled "Best PC Game Ever," Tim Scott notes that while certainly a classic, X-Com is one of the few games that holds up well, even though it's just a couple years shy of being two decades old. "X-Com is one of those rare games that gets just about everything right," Scott states. "I've always thought this was one of the best games I ever played for the PC, but recently began wondering if nostalgia was simply making it out to be more than it was. I've been playing it recently for a week straight, and have quickly come to the conclusion that this IS my all-time favorite PC game," he explains.

Moby Games reviewer James P. Wong also notes how well the game conveyed a sense of atmosphere and tension that was atypically strong for a turn-based strategy game. "The game also captured a very eerie atmosphere for a turn-based game," Wong writes. "Sometimes a mission would involve exploring a farm in the pitch black of night, with only lights from the troops to see just a few feet around. I know others understand how startling it may have been to follow along a fence, turn the corner and then suddenly realize that a Sectoid was right in their face. Were there enough action points to do something else?"

Much of the sentiment relayed via X-Com's Moby Games reviews echo that of Moby Games reviewer Zovni, who gushes: "X-Com's is the crowning achievement for PC hybrid/genre-bending games," . "No other game had ever managed to combine strategic depth, resource management, rpg-ing and tactical squad-based combat into a cohesive and well-crafted package. Truly the game is amazing, even by today's standards."

Tell Us Your Stories! We want to hear about your experiences with X-Com: UFO Defense. Tell us your stories. Why did you love it? What drove you crazy? Remember it fondly with us in the comments below. We'll select some of your thoughts and memories and add it to a Weekend Update to this feature.

X-Com: UFO Defense on MobyGames.com

In the year 1998, the amount of reports of UFO sightings has been drastically increased. Stories about abductions and alien attacks became more and more widespread. Finally, after various nations of the world have failed to intercept the UFOs, their representatives met in a conference of global importance in Geneva, Switzerland. It was eventually decided to organize a secret paramilitary group, dubbed Extraterrestrial Combat Unit (X-COM). Starting with one base, two fighters, one transport, and a few soldiers, X-COM must locate the aliens, learn about their origins and technology, find out where their base is, and destroy it.


    MobyGames Classic is our chance to look back at the games that helped shape the video game industry with the help of our sister site MobyGames.com. It combines a short history lesson on the title and anecdotes from the Shacknews community.

    From The Chatty
    • reply
      January 11, 2012 3:30 PM

      Shack Staff posted a new article, Moby Games Classic: X-Com: UFO Defense.

      MobyGames.com Classic returns with X-Com: UFO Defense, the 1994 strategy-RPG originally released for PC that spawned numerous sequels on multiple platforms.

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        January 11, 2012 11:10 PM

        I've personally pumped easily over 1,500 hours into this game playing it over the years and am an enormous fan. This is the only game that I really go back to time and time again. X-COM is one of my personal favorite games and probably will be till the day I die. There is so much to say about X-COM about why I like it but where to start is difficult and there is so much to say so I will start about how the game captured my heart. I love UFO lore, X-COM hit the sweet spot and was and is probably one of the few games that really banked on popular UFO culture and created a believable story line out of it. All or most of the aliens from X-COM are based on or similar to alien races found on popular UFO related websites. The Sectoids for starters are based on a race called Zeta Reticulans (AKA The Greys). I really loved the fact that you could just pick apart all the UFO lore down to props on the downed UFO's such as alien food containers and to researching why aliens are here on earth and what their goals might be from capturing live aliens and interrogating them. I loved the fact that you could take and dissect dead aliens and see their body structures and learn how they work and function. Almost everything in the game you can research and pick apart letting you get deeper and deeper in the games UFO rich lore. The game does have a story, for those that do not see it were either oblivious to it or did not bother paying attention. The basis of the game on how X-COM was started perfectly reflects on how UFO sightings have become more and more intense over the years and in this game Goverments of the world collaborate together to deal with the alien phenomenon or possible threat and created the organization called X-COM to combat this with the worlds best scientists, soldiers and technology available. I really like how natural this approach this storyline takes more so than other games that try and copy off X-COM. You basically ease into the alien threat, learning what its all about and over time find out just how bad things are getting and try and find a way to eliminate or stop the aliens from advancing. You go from downing your first small alien craft to eventually taking it straight to them.

        The game play itself was fantastic and ultimately brutal. I can recall countless times not even a few turns after touching down with my Skyranger that my team of soldiers would fall victim to mind control from Sectoids and would soon be under alien control. Unfortunate for me, some of the soldiers that fell victim to the mind control would have rocket launchers equipped would panic and blow half my squad away in my Skyranger before I could even move most of them out. The ones that would make it out would also fall victim to enemy fire from the shadows of the fog of war soon as they stepped out into the open. X-COM would have many tools to help you combat some of this brutality, one of those tools would be smoke grenades. To prevent myself from getting slaughtered soon as I step out of the Skyranger I would throw a smoke grenade to mask my squad as they moved out into the open if there was no cover so that we could move freely without being mowed down by plasma shots coming from the enemy. I loved how enemies would be able to see you from open windows and take shots at you. I would take my soldiers equipped with rocket launchers and blow out the windows or structures that the aliens would be hiding behind to make sure they are no longer a threat. The fully destructible environment was awesome and nothing was more thrilling than being able to blow everything up with grenades, rockets and high explosives. Sometimes I would even try and collapse a ceiling to get at a pesky alien that would shoot my soldiers soon as they poked their head above a stairwell in a farmhouse or barn. Some of the alien species might be powerful and survive a few shots from my primitive weapons but have nothing on Mr. Rocket Launcher.... with the exception of the Mutons. With the more powerful armored aliens it definitely emphasizes the need to research into more destructive and powerful alien technology.





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          January 11, 2012 11:11 PM

          I like how the Aliens never really stay in one place with the exception of a few of the leaders. Some of the larger spacecraft I would set my squad around entrances and or lifts and wait till aliens would use it and soon as my squad would see them they would all auto fire on them and the aliens would drop dead one by one. If the aliens are able to do this when my squad get near, why not give them a taste of their own medicine I say. Not all these tactics work due to mind control and the occasional grenade throwing alien but this game has so many ways around situations that the amount of strategy you can put to use is only limited by your imagination. Imagination was a huge part of this game, I liked how I could rename and customize my soldiers. I would create my family, friends and hell even my pets names and send them into battle with my soldier with my namesake. With soldiers that I have taken a liking to and have become attached with, I was much more involved and emotionally tied to their survival.

          The music and sound effects in this game fit everything very well. The music was scary, foreboding and very atmospheric at times. This worked very well in capturing the tense firefights to the fog of war and even the various menu's and geoscape. If there was anything I can recall about any of the X-COM games was that the music always fit the game very well and was almost always memorable. I particularly liked what was done with the Playstation soundtrack. The intro on the PSX version was pretty epic and made me want to kick some alien ass. I liked the scream of the soldier as he reaches for the gun and the warning voiced by the computer that a UFO threat was detected.

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            January 11, 2012 11:11 PM

            In closing, the attention to accuracy regarding UFO's, the addicting game play, ever changing maps and environments, the nearly limitless strategy and music to tie it all in are some of the things that keep me coming back time and time again to make this game a timeless classic no matter how old it gets. I can only hope and pray that Firaxis gets it right, sure they can make a great strategy game but can they get X-COM right, a lot of time has passed and not everybody has played it or play it enough that can really say ... this is what makes a game X-COM.

            X-COM is more than just a formula that many try to duplicate, its more than just a random strategy game, its more than just a game that has aliens in it to blast. Its a game that has all these things and plays on the accuracy of UFO lore and puts it into one loving package that makes it X-COM. This is an experience that should not be missed by any gamer and the reasons I wrote above are why I'm fond of this game and love it so much. These reasons are why I was mostly disappointed with the FPS version of XCOM that was announced, it was as if they didn't even get what XCOM was all about that separated it from the trash. I hope Firaxis will carry the torch and bring the fans what we've all been waiting for all this time. The disappointment of X-COM Genesis being cancelled and even Alliance I'm not sure I can bear much more let downs. There is so much more to talk about but to keep this from getting too long I'm going to end this here. If you read this far, thanks for hearing me out.

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