Xenonauts 2 Is “More Likely Than Not”

XCOM 2 [official site] is a hugely exciting prospect (so much so that I’m genuinely grumpy about the delay), but XCOM and X-COM are so very different things by now that it’s unlikely to slake anyone’s thirst for a true-blue, Gollopy experience. Fortunately, sounds like we might also be in for a sequel to unofficial X-COM spiritual sequel Xenonauts [official site], 2014’s Cold War-set alien invasion strategy title.

The 2014 game was well-received (and even has its own, ongoing, spun-off community edition: the student has become the master), and now devs Goldhawk Interactive are on the verge of deciding whether to make a second one or not. Two more X-COM follow-ups, each exploring a different facet of the game, then: the cosmic ballet continues.

“The chances of us making Xenonauts 2 as our next game are better than even,” wrote project lead Chris England on the Goldhawk forums. “The response to and feedback given on a potential sequel by the community has been remarkable and has gone a long way to convincing us that it would be a good idea.”

Seems like there’s been a reasonable amount of drawing board action already. For instance, they’re planning to move from 2D to 3D for the next game, if they can make it work. “Our biggest concern regarding Xenonauts 2 is whether we can create a workable 3D art style – this not only has to look good in 3D but ideally will also reference the 2D sprite style of Xenonauts 1.”

They also talk about redesigning Xenonaut’s aliens “to make them more interesting, both visually and in terms of the core mechanic for each race”, and emphasise that they want them to look more alien than last time around.

The air combat is in far a major overhaul, with Chris England saying of the first game that “I don’t think it really lived up to its potential” in that respect. There’s a long breakdown of his current thinking for the mode in Xenonauts 2 here. In short: quicker, less micro-management, more variety.

There are a few more bits and bobs here, including some creature and level concept art.

32 Comments

  1. Uglyduckly says:

    For those unfortunate souls who haven’t played this before it is currently part of the Humble indie bundle 11 for 6.7 USD. Go get it.

    • d32 says:

      Obligatory rant: Just a week after I bought it for three times the price! But hey, I’ve been enjoying it the whole time, so I guess it’s OK.

    • Neutrino says:

      Thanks for the heads up. I got it :)

  2. Troubletcat says:

    Xenonauts was really good, but I’d agree that it didn’t quite live up to it’s potential. A bit too fiddly in some respects (the level of complexity was great, though, I’m talking more about a UI and control problem), quite repetitive, and just generally not quite as fun and exciting as one could hope. So much about it that I liked more than XCOM, but at the end of the day I had more fun with XCOM because of how much better its execution was.

    It sounds like addressing these shortcomings would be a big focus for the sequel so… woot!

  3. Dorga says:

    Graet news indee!
    I was actually looking forward to see more of the other game they were working on.

  4. karthink says:

    Xenonauts is Goldhawk Interactive’s first game, and it was made with contractors working remotely from across the world. That it came together so well in the end is commendable.

    Having read the Xenonauts development postmortem, I mostly blame their choice of engine for whatever niggles the game shipped with. A move to 3D sounds good.

  5. Anthile says:

    Horror from Below, please.

  6. cpt_freakout says:

    Yes please!

  7. boner says:

    Great news, really really enjoyed this game.

    This time I hope the bring in a few curve balls as the game progresses as I felt it become a bit samey after a while.

    • Chris Cunningham says:

      So was the original. I don’t blame them at all for sticking to the formula when that was precisely what the community had been asking for for over fifteen years.

      I’d happily fork out for exactly the same game again if it were ported to a full-3D engine (with real, working line-of-site) with properly destructible terrain. I loved the aesthetic, I loved the various tweaks they made to the formula to remove clutter and hassle, and once I finally got the hang of it I grew to love the enhanced aerial combat.

      Speaking of 3D remakes, I see UFO:AI is still chugging along, even if they’re continuing the baffling policy of only actually making releases every couple of years.

  8. The_invalid says:

    “…ideally will also reference the 2D sprite style of Xenonauts 1”

    Oh. Oh dear. I was kind of under the impression the reason they went with that style was lack of art budget rather than any deliberate stylistic intention. Don’t get me wrong, I love Xenonauts, but the art style was… not good.

    The late 70s setting had a whole boatload of potential to be a really evocative reference point for the game’s style. When I heard about the game as ‘Cold War-era X-Com’, I imagined lots of old Soviet weirdness, dirt, old videotape, etc; but Xenonauts seemed to use it as more of a crutch to rely on some really unimaginative and utilitarian visual design.

    I mean I’m sure whatever they come out with will play excellently, it just dismays me a bit that the one thing they’re stating on record that they want to retain is a visual style they resolutely half-assed first time around.

    • rabbit says:

      mm I did notice on playthru #2 (post xcom this time) just how … lifeless and uninspiring I found the visuals in xenonauts.

      definitely would welcome a sequel though.

    • SlimShanks says:

      Well, maybe I’m biased, or just have poor taste, but I really like the visual design of Xenonauts. It’s certainly not as well rendered as it could be, however the visuals are a) situationally appropriate b) generally functional and c) important for tone and feel. I think if they just do a better job of the same style, it should be ace.

    • SuperCaffeineDude says:

      Yeah I’m playing through the “Xcom: UFO Defence” and I find myself preferring the power-rangers/fallout style, xenonauts feels to me comparatively clinical.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        Meh, I loved the old classic, but honestly I prefer the more realistic art style. More fitting for a game like this were the discontinuity with the aliens is more striking. Really they just need better alien art. The soldiers are fine.

    • SlimShanks says:

      Now that I think about it, I must be totally insane, because I don’t even like the art style of the first game. Disregard me, I’m going to go lick my walls now.

  9. hungrycookpot says:

    Aw, why do they have to go 3D? I liked the art style of Xenonauts a lot, and it ran great on my laptop too. I’ve got XCOM and the coming XCOM2 for my 3D alien smashing pleasure..

  10. RegisteredUser says:

    For a lot of titles, moving from really pretty and well done 2D to “clumsy, but hey, its now 3D1!°!11” has only been a sad, disappointing development.
    On the other hand, if this would be something like Silent Storm’s multi-level destructible world and at least as “pretty” / visually functional, then fine by me.

  11. nimbulan says:

    Xenonauts 2: Terror From the Deep?

    • Joshua Northey says:

      How about X-COM 2 the great crash.

      Alien mother-ship crash in Antarctica or Australia and they send out ships from there, and you do rapid response to incursions and infiltration, while others fight the land war. The underwater setting never made sense.

      • rmsgrey says:

        The underwater thing pulled off a couple of things:
        1) It explained why you couldn’t just dust off your Blaster Launcher stockpile from the first invasion and had to go back to conventional weapons
        2) It explained the mystery from the first game of why UFOs shot down over the ocean couldn’t be salvaged in any way

        Okay, the whole “super-advanced tech that dissolves rapidly in sea-water” thing starts raising awkward questions if you think too hard about it, but as long as you don’t pick at it, it explains how you can be unprepared for the new threat, and how you need entirely new technology to face it rather than being able to develop from where the previous game left off…

        The whole Lovecraft angle was just a bonus.

  12. buzzmong says:

    I enjoyed Xenonauts, and after being involved with in since the alpha and arguging with Chris @ Goldhawk for and against some of his changes, I have to say the game turned out quite well.

    Hopefully with a decent engine behind them instead of the horrible one they were lumbered with, they can make a much much better game.

  13. cptmold says:

    Since when is this a good thing? I mean, is it mediocrity week already? For all the shit people give to AAA companies and the November Overhype Train, nothing quite shocked and disappointed me like Planetary Annihilation (a shameful attempt to cash in on the beloved Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander with dumbed down mechanics and a bad joke of balance) and Xenonauts (a degenerate XCOM ripoff that both lacks the excellent isometric gameplay of OpenXcom and the polished class system of Firaxis’ reboots). The fact that both of these are asking for more money for perhaps even more disappointing products is pathetic, especially when PA’s is just there to fraudulently ask $90 Alpha purchasers to pay another $20 so that the “Mixed” rating on Steam’s store will go away.

    • Hayward1066 says:

      I cant comment on the annihilation games as i have not played them, but Xenonauts was made for people who wanted a direct xcom remake rather than the streamlined Firaxis version (which has to be played with a mod to get close to its full potential. Xenonuats actually improves on some of things from the original game and of course its not as polished, its made for a fraction of the budget!

      Frankly your comment comes across as smug and mean spirited By all means get of YOUR rear end and show these indie devs how it should be done.

      • cptmold says:

        Oh, yay, another ‘fine, you try making it’ argument. In truth, I actually plan to. It’s going to be a true-to-the-source remake, whether it bears the XCOM insignia or not. Aside from fully fleshed out mechanics, it’ll be cleaner and streamline the more convoluted areas of the game without taking away from the options of approaching a situation and expand upon them.

        Xenonauts had some good ideas behind it, like the risk/reward balance of launching an air-strike on a downed UFO if you don’t have the resources to deal with it, but the bad vastly outweighs the good.