Turn-based combat and realtime resource management. Kill and capture aliens and sell off laser pistols.

The mid-90′s were the heyday of Microprose. Still riding high on the coattails of Sid Meier’s Civilization with successes like MOO and MOM, they were the darling of the gaming world. X-Com UFO Defense was one of the innovative, interesting, FUN games put out by Microprose during this period. This was a time of setting trends in gaming, and this title did it.

This relatively freeform game required you to start an X-Com base (preferably somewhere near where your biggest national financiers were), respond to alien invasion threats, find out what they were up to, study the alien biology and technology to creat cheap knock-off blasters for your own troops, and eventually end the threat of the invaders. This game kept me up way way too long into the night, the hallmark of a great gaming experience for me.

Resource management was fairly typical, even simplistic, by today’s standard, in many ways. In some ways it was fairly complex. Not only did you have to hire "soldiers" and "peons", you needed a staff of technicians and engineers and scientists to decipher and develop new technology and then synthesize it in your workshop. This all cost a hell of a lot of cash, not to mention the fact that you needed to add sections to your base for living quarters, warehousing, vehicle bays, defensive systems, scanners, etc. A lot of times I was forced to hire as many technicians as possible and have them create laser weapons (which used no irreplacable alien resources to create) and sell them off on the global black market. Who the hell knew who was buying this stuff, but who cares… Mu’s Lasers-R-Us kept me well in the black even after China and India stopped giving me grants.

The turn-based combat was very interesting. Using a similar system to Jagged Alliance and JADG, you hired your troops who all had individual dossiers and characteristics, outfitted them as you saw fit (and as well as you could afford to), and moved them around individually on the encounter map, which was a huge tile-based multi-altitude map with true line of sight considerations and such. High-level tactical thinking was important if you didn’t want to spend all of your money hiring new green troops every mission. The huge size of the maps provided for a more realistic combat scale, but posed some problems as well… battles could take over an hour, especially nighttime town-based fighting where aliens could (and did) snipe you from a window, duck out into and alley, and hide in the next building, waiting to kill you when you went to the first house to investigate. Then there was always that one annoying sectoid who insisted on hiding in the corner until you managed to weed him out. Nevertheless, battles were extremely interesting, and damnit the play was fun.

Interestingly, I took a look at Gamespot to find a release date for this game, and player reviews have been written as recently as 1998, giving it impressively high ratings consistently, comparing it very favorably to X-Com Apocalypse, one of the line of endless bad sequels that spelled the doom of Microprose.

Mu Rating: 8/10. The ending sucked. Everything else was great.

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