XCOM’s Free This Weekend, Or £3/$7 To Own Forever

Is it you? No? What about you? Or you over there, with the… oh God, what is that on your face? Oh, sorry, you’ve just been at the cronuts again, haven’t you? Well, I know it’s one of you. One of you hasn’t played XCOM: Enemy Unknown [official site] yet. Just the one, though. This means that this post will surely be our lowest-trafficking of all time, but I shall write it anyway as a public service. XCOM’s free on Steam this weekend.

It’s actually been free since last night, because ‘weekend’ is just an entirely nebulous marketing term now, but the important thing is you can sink as much time into it as you want until the end of Sunday. That might be enough time to complete it if you don’t sleep or eat, though this isn’t really a game you complete and then never return to.

If you, that single reader I am doing a solid for, like what you try, then XCOM is also discounted by 75% until that time. Which is, er, £3.74, or $7.50. Less than a pint (in my part of the world) for one of the best games of the last few years. Single reader, you can’t argue with that.

Meanwhile, in XCOM 2 land, pre-ordering the now delayed-til-February sequel gets you the ‘Resistance Warrior Pack’, which adds various costume, hair and hat options that make your squad look like plonkers from a 90s action movie.

It also has something involving a “survivor of the old war” who will join your squad “instantly.” Hopefully this stuff will be available as post-release DLC, because pre-ordering is EXTREMELY RECKLESS, even when it comes to XCOM.


  1. SquidgyB says:

    Yup, that one person is me. Sorry.

  2. XhomeB says:

    Still rather butthurt about this reboot, way too consolized for my liking. Crossing fingers the sequel turns out to be better, but judging from what Firaxis have shown so far, it’s all about baby steps instead of bold improvements.
    Still only one base (ludicrous- we’re talking about a resistance guerilla force here, establishing multiple small bases of operations all over the globe, reducing the risk of getting wiped out entirely would be much more logical) still the ant farm (makes no sense layout-wise,considering the base is flying ship), still only 2-3 choices on the map, still too much focus on a lame “story” instead of providing a proper strategy with an overarching goal, still the overly simple and limiting “two actions per turn” system, still no proper inventory mechanics.
    Seriously, I finished XCOM once and never felt like playing it again. ZERO replay value, it’s too shallow.

    • Asurmen says:

      Inventory mechanics were over rated and rarely came into affect in UFO except to annoy you with fiddling pointlessness.

      Actions per turn is also not crippling.

      • XhomeB says:

        The lack of Time Units/Action Points is incredibly limiting, and everyone who played X-Com, Jagged Alliance 2 or Silent Storm can easily prove you’re totally wrong.

        As for the inventory system – here’s a wonderful quote for you to remember:”Inventory is not boring, inventory is LIFE!”. Where is that line from?

        • Asurmen says:

          It’s designed around that limit though. TU is not outright better, it’s simply a different system which requires a different design to accommodate.

          I don’t know where that line is from, nor do I care. Nothing the inventory did in UFO actually improved the game. It was pointless micro management in the guise of depth and complexity.

          • XhomeB says:

            You know what’s also pointless in the reboot? Geoscape.Simplified to a fault, serves no purpose, it’s basically a “choose your mission” screen. Remove it.
            The story – utter crap and completely unnecessary. Remove it.
            Base building – limited to one, because “streamlined design”, everything’s tied to the “story progress” and lacks depth. F this unnecessary busywork shit. Make it automatic, why bother the player with useless filler, let him focus on pew-pewing stuff. The game would lose any resemblance to X-Com, but it’s not like it matters, right?

            X-Com was wonderfully organic. Lots of unexpected things happened, especially in tactical mode, forcing you to adapt on the fly. Ammo management was crucial. Even after all these years, watching other people play it, I’m seeing things I’ve NEVER seen before.
            XCOM, on the other hand, was designed by a team obsessed with the idea of forcing players to play exactly the way THEY intended. The scenarios are overly scripted. The combat is rigid to a fault, there’s no improvisation, no chance to be creative. The strategic layer is so bloody shallow and samey on multiple playthroughs it’s embarassing.
            They basically stripped the experience of complexity and gave NOTHING in return.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            I agree that the base was poorly utilised. Appropriate management of resources to progress at a sustainable pace was crucial and worthwhile but ultimately you would build pretty much the same base whatever happened – it would have been far more interesting to have to make even binary choices in /that/ area that would then impact what you could field in battle and what your strengths were so as to impact your tactical play.

            Given the initial claims about how dynamic the base would be (and the crew inside interacting, forming 1 to 1 relationships etc that would impact performance) I suspect that base design took a hit at some point during the project management.

            However, your scathing response is perhaps an overstatement. XCOM was not X-Com but was still a good game in its own right and retained much of the spirit of the old games. If it’s not for you, that’s fine but your opinion or taste in games is not universal law. Many of the items you mention above (single base, actions per turn, story based progress, lack of inventory) are simply different design decisions and personally I enjoyed them. I can see what they were trying to do with the geoscope but it is another case of that not living up to its potential in my view. If you look at it as simply a mission selector then fine, it works nicely in that regard and is simply a stylistic choice. However, I feel it was intended to be a bit deeper than that and simply missed the mark. And /still/ it was a good game.

          • XhomeB says:

            I’m not disputing the fact it was OK, a fun game in its own right. But then, so was vanilla Civ5 compared to Civ2 or 4. Yet everyone complained like crazy many valuable ideas got lost. It wasn’t until Brave New World Civ5 finally achieved “a Civ game worthy of the franchise” status for me.
            Or perhaps a better comparison would be – Alpha Centauri and Beyond Earth. Is BE a crappy game? No. Is it an unimaginative, shallow mess compared to AC? Absolutely.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            Well, my position is that I do not believe that XCOM is a shallow unimaginative mess compared to X-Com. I believe it is a game worthy of the name. I feel that it takes enough of X-Com to retain its heritage whilst carving an entirely new place for itself. I admire the way that it does not attempt to displace X-Com from its throne but creates a place beside it, compliments it. It falls down in some areas of course. X-Com does too. But it is not, I feel, worthy of vitriolic scorn by any means.

          • Asurmen says:

            Strawman. Never said it was perfect. I was dicussing those two examples you used which I massively disagree with, but if you want to get into it:

            Base building was related to more than just story line. Don’t be disengenous. Expanding your base to allow more resources to effectively fight the threat was a requirement and a balancing act against other resources. UFO base building’s only requirement was defense which led to only 2-3 effective layouts. You start with everything else you need to effectively finish the game.

            One base does everything you need, within the context of the game. Why would you NEED to build more?

            Storyline I can take or leave, but it’s just driving the game forward. The same thing happened in UFO, it was just writing rather than voice acted. In fact, considering that the way forward in UFO was more or less random over time (having to collect certain pieces of research to unlock more research only happened because over time, you collected the correct bits of equipment and aliens through chance. One of the few times you were specifically directed was to capture a live base commander), actually telling you what you need to do next is a massive improvement from a player’s point of view.

          • DarkFenix says:

            XhorneB if you feel so strongly about all this why not go play Xenonauts instead? It has time units, multiple bases, inventory management. Lots of what you imagine to be ‘depth’, it should be the perfect game in your eyes.

            Personally? I like the new XCOM, I find it neither ‘consolised’ or shallow, to me it feels pleasingly streamlined compared to the original, neither an inherently better or worse game by design.

        • BloatedGuppy says:

          I played the original X-Com and JA when they were new. I still have JA2 installed with the excellent 1.13 mod. I consider it the finest tactics game ever made. In spite of playing these venerated classics, I consider the XCOM reboot an excellent game. Does it lack on the strategic layer compared to some of its forebearers? Definitely. Does it sacrifice some tactical breadth for pacing and ease of us? Definitely. This does not render it a “shallow” game. It is not the “Beyond Earth” of tactical games. It has some problems…most specifically with difficulty curve…but it also has elements of inspired design. The volume of your outrage is absolutely ridiculous. It’s also hilariously disingenuous to compare games across eras by cherry picking points of strength for bygone titles and completely ignoring the myriad ways that game design has advanced in the intervening years.

    • Neutrino says:

      I’d have though anyone playing XCOM now would treat vanilla as just a tutorial for the Long War mod.

      • BloatedGuppy says:

        Long War is a great mod, but it isn’t without its own design bugbears. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the definitive way of enjoying XCOM, the developer’s praise for it notwithstanding.

      • mouton says:

        Vanilla itself is excellent, despite its flaws.

    • Bull0 says:

      They streamlined it to remove pointless busywork. That was a bold improvement. If you want to play X-Com, it’s still there for you to play.

  3. SanguineAngel says:

    why yes, I /have/ just purchased this as a gift for my friend. Long has he suffered in the dark, unknowing of the divine misery that is watching his adoringly nurtured squad get irretrievably taken apart by the first pack of Chryssalids he encounters. perfect!

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Oh how I will revel as I observe my good friend weep delicious salty tears, warm with grief and betrayal. Why did I lead you to this dark place, my pitysome friend? So I could feast upon your misery and gnaw away your cocoon of safety, your false world of saves and reloads. Allow me now to nibble away your lying ocular orbs and suckle upon the sweet humours therein.

      Open your new eyes to the bright light of salvation of failure. Is not the clarity enough to arrest your gastric balance? Gaze in wonder on these sharp edges and fine details. Look back upon the dull and dirty illumination of continual success and know that your life thus far was viewed through a distorting lens! At last you have been elevated above the clamour of those yet to be purged.

      Come, new and tasty friend, clasp my talon in your own and let us dance into the world we now share. And there, let us feast upon this hapless soul I see crawling in the muck below. Perhaps he too will join us. Perhaps he will merely nourish us

      • WiggumEsquilax says:

        This is why XCOM should come with a Surgeon General’s warning.

  4. Neutrino says:

    I haven’t played it either, but it was already next on my list so thanks for the heads up. Just got the complete pack for a fiver.

    Looking forward to starting this right after I finish HalfLife.

  5. Darth Gangrel says:

    You can also play Saint’s Row: The Third and Saint’s Row IV for free this weekend, but I guess that wasn’t important enough to mention.

  6. GallonOfAlan says:

    I also am one of those people. But at that price I am across this shit.

  7. ElkiLG says:

    Is it bad if I will never buy it because I’m pretty sure I won’t like it?

    Also, your pints cost way too much, you should consider changing your part of the world.

    • Xocrates says:

      Maybe consider trying the free weekend then? I mean, that’s why it’s there, so you’ll know for sure.

  8. Michael Fogg says:

    Pretty fuckin tasteless to pose like that around a dead alien. Would they also urinate on the corpse? Or take trophies?

    • Jay Load says:

      They would if the alien was called Michael.

    • Sarfrin says:

      Ah,the natural progression from posing to weeing to mutilation. That’s why the 80s went out of fashion so quickly.

  9. TheWhippetLord says:

    I’ve just realised, thanks to that terrible picture. The pitch for XCOM2 may well have been ‘XCOM meets Red Dawn’. The horror!

    Terrible alien overlords battle against Earth’s secret weapon – spunky* teenagers.

    *may be censored in Germany.

  10. slerbal says:

    I bought XCOM last time it was super cheap and so far I really don’t like it. I don’t know why, as I should, but everything about it rubs me up the wrong way. Compared to X-Com, TFTD or Apocalypse it just felt… meh/dead/sterile. This isn’t me having a go, it is just my opinion and in all honesty I’ve barely got into the game because I got so bored. Most likely it is my tastes that have changed as other people really seem to like it. It just didn’t click for me.

  11. teije says:

    I shamefully admit to never playing any of the XCOM family (regardless of casing). Despite being a huge fan of games such as JA2 and Silent Storm. I have no valid excuse.

    So my weekend will include rectifying this horrible and inexcusable oversight.

    • Frank says:

      Heads up: JA2 is better than the entire franchise, says me, guy on the internet.

      • teije says:

        I hear you – JA2 is better than the entire output of most studios.

      • Nasarius says:

        You’re probably right. I loved X-COM, I enjoyed XCOM, but JA2 does so much more. The characters, exploration, taking and defending cities…it’s all so good.

  12. Horg says:

    To anyone playing for the first time this weekend, I recommend starting on Classic difficulty. The game does not tell you this, but on the lower difficulties XCOM aim cheats in favor of the player. This somewhat kills the point of the game as a turn based risk management experience. The story is fairly weak and does not justify neutering the game play just to reach the end faster.

    • JFS says:

      Classic, however, is really difficult. I recommend Normal with a few Second Wave options. They make the game a little more difficult, but not as extreme a jump as from standard Normal to Classic.

      For scale: on Normal, I lost about one soldier in the whole game. Classic: squadwipe on first mission, and worse afterwards. The difference is big.

      • BloatedGuppy says:

        The problem with normal difficulty is that XCOM starts off with a very steep difficulty curve (particularly for new players) that evens out by mid-game and then completely falls off a cliff in late game. That’s on CLASSIC. On normal, you might as well consider the game won if you haven’t blown everything up by the second month.

        • JFS says:

          That may in fact be true.

          • Banyan says:

            If I survive the first four months or so, I know that I’ll just coast to the very “meh” end mission. So I just stop playing and count it as a won game.

            This is largely why the Long War is intriguing. Everything is mind-meltingly difficult. I never feel that I’m over the hump and always feel I’m at most a few decisions away from disaster.

  13. mpk says:

    XCOM was a good game, but pretty much just that – a solid 7. It lacked a bit of flair and pizazz, but then it was a Firaxis game.

    I’m hoping that the sequel loosens the inherent limitations it imposed on itself first time round: no real strategic influence on the world map; limited tactical choices in battles; all of, what, six different maps? With just one crash site?

    Give me more weapon choice, and earlier. Give me more skillpoints and more varied skills to apply them to. I liked the class selection, but give me more. And please, oh please, get rid of those gorram cut scenes every single time we sight an alien.

    • Bull0 says:

      No, there are way more maps and crash sites than that, and you can turn off the action camera stuff in the settings. Did you play it much?

      • mpk says:

        Played the game start to finish on release – and having multiple start points, or changing the time of day doesn’t hide the fact that maps repeated far too often.

        As for the action camera – I did not know that that is what that setting did.

  14. Neutrino says:

    Bought it and it seems pretty good even though the graphics are pretty awful.

    But please for the love of God how the fuck do you stop the camera zoom from resetting _every_single_time_you_select_anything_!!