on Oct 26, 2007
Widely regarded as one of the greatest strategy games ever, X-Com is a game with compelling gameplay and generous depth even by today’s standards, and was an amazing achievement given the technology available in 1993. IGN calls it the #1 PC game of all time.
|The world map is astounding. It’s a real 3d world you can spin and view in real time, like Google Earth. No, you can’t zoom in and see things in detail, but you can see national borders and major cities.|
|Unlike in the movies, the aliens aren’t just here to conquer New York or LA.|
|Here one of my units has entered a room with a couple of filthy alien scum. You can tell they’re evil by how purple their funiture is.|
The game begins with the geoscape, a map of the Earth where you can see your bases and order your forces to move against any enemies you’ve managed to detect. There is a running day / night cycle, and you can plan missions to take place at day or night, depending on your preference. (Super-secret expert hint: It is dark at night.)
|The base view screen. You can have up to eight bases anywhere on the globe. All of them are belong to us.|
|Your soldiers gain experience and improve with each mission, assuming they survive. You can hire more soldiers whenever you like, but constantly marching into battle with a collection of pants-wetting noobs is not recommended.|
There is a lot here, and I’ve only scratched the surface. I can’t believe this game even fit into memory back then. (It only requires 2MB.) There are two or three strategy games layered together here, and all of them are compelling and fun. I went through the game last weekend in preparation for this post, and it was just as fun now as it was four years ago. The patched version is also easy to get running, without needing to fiddle with DOS emulators or slowing down your CPU. The graphics, while old, are still nice to look at.
If you’re running Windows, you can get a working version of the game from The Underdogs. It’s just a 3MB download, although that site is throtled back so much that it took me 15 minutes to get the file. If that site is too slow or you can’t get to it from where you are (I’m talking to YOU, people surfing the ‘net from work) then I have the file mirrored here. Just run the installer and then run xcom1fix.exe for Win 2000/ME/XP.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.