You Wouldn’t Steal A Skyranger: X-Piratez Is An Outstanding Total Conversion Of UFO/X-COM

In my intro to Silent Storm, I mentioned both modding scenes and UFO (used to distinguish the 1994 original X-COM from the 2012 Firaxis one, and not only out of increasingly sad Eurocentric obstinance) without tying the two together. That, it turns out, was stupid, because X-Piratez, a UFO mod in active development by Dioxine, is the best total conversion for any game I’ve ever played.

Based on OpenXcom Extended, a long-running open source clone of UFO, it takes the story and gameplay structure of the original, and a huge stock of resourcefulness, and turns them into something that’s simultaneously very similar and completely new. The result is a dangerously addictive compound of comfortable old UFO with constant surprise, discovery, and content.

The imaginative premise brings together influences from all the X-COM games, as well as smaller touches from spiritual successors like the UFO Aftermath/Afterglow/Aftereight/etc series (principally in its ‘after the end’ setting and colourful story, the strongest draw of that interesting but flawed trilogy). If anything it fits better than the original story, as a small-time group of ambitious bandits should scrabble for resources a lot more than the combined military elite of the entire planet, something that players of Aftermath or XCOM 2 have likely already observed.

What’s that about bandits? Oh yes. Let’s talk about the premise.

X-COM failed. The aliens conquered Earth, had their gross tentacly way with it for centuries, and then, at some point, buggered off. Earth is now a forgotten backwater of some stellar empire, awash with mutants, human collaborators, and abandoned underlings of the terrifying, but absentee Star Gods. Your band of all-female mutant pirates has stumbled across an ancient military research base. From here, you decide to make a living cowing the world with acts of theft and violence against the filthy human agents of the Star Gods, extorting protection money from petty local governments and seizing goods, weapons, and captives to ransom from everyone else.

It’s bloody brilliant. Your mutants are naturally thick-skinned, stronger and quicker-witted than regular humans, and consequently quite effective in battle even when running at the enemy stark naked, screaming and waving a pipe. So they do. Tool them up with knives, primitive flintlocks and blunderbusses, and a pile of black powder bombs and molotovs made by your “runts”, and scout out the local shipping for plunder. Everyone uses ships, not just hostile invaders, so you carry out these raids indiscriminately and incompetently at first. Who are you preying on? Who can you fight? What kind of ship is that, and what kind of resistance and booty can you expect from it?

To begin with, you’ve no idea. It’s perfect thematically because you’re a gang of ignorant pirates, and your understanding of the world extends no further than your local area. Goods are bought at extortionate prices from an illegal settlement your people visit. As well as working thematically, the ignorance also works as a gameplay device, leaving you in the dark until you learn, through in-game research and direct experience, what’s going on.

You’re not required to attack every ship you see, as you’re not there to stop a hostile invasion – you’re a band of pirates. You only need to hit the ships likely to carry loot you can use or sell, or that threaten your reputation or safety. You can get by with a few great missions in a month and ignore every other target. This is a blessing, as missions can be long and drawn out, and there are times when you dread the appearance of another ship not because you can’t handle it but because it’s such a hassle doing another mission when you just want to get that research finished or a workshop built.

But that’s true of every UFO game, to be fair, and X-Piratez gives you much more room to breathe. While protection funds are useful, the bulk of your income comes from plunder and manufacture. It’s also where tangible resources like fuel, ammunition, and metal come from, because, again, you are a band of pirates.

All the unknowns give you an incentive to research. There are heaps of things to discover. The simple pistol/rifle/heavy, ballistic/laser/plasma weapon table is gone, and in its place are countless conventional guns, alien weapons, and derivatives of both to buy, steal, and/or research. Other technology (including a wide variety of outfits offering loads of tactical options) piles up too, and hostages can be interrogated in order to learn about the world.

You can maybe use that unfamiliar rifle if you get hold of it, but you won’t know how to reproduce its ammunition without having your “brainers” study it or through interrogation of an expert, which might also lead to conceptual breakthroughs. There’s a much slower arms race than in traditional X-COMs and their variants; you won’t find 90% of your gear quickly becoming obsolete, as weak enemies never truly go away, hard times pass if you stay alive, and a juicy under-staffed cargo float or passenger ferry might come along next.

It all feels satisfying, as your incentive to improve is based on your increasing ambition, not on a brutal Sisyphean treadmill. You can’t powergame your way through, as you’re rediscovering science and industry from base principles, not rushing to end-game superweapons. Even with foreknowledge of the game, the logistics of your operation make truly advanced technology (already scarce as the Star Gods control access) untouchable until everything else is in place. Those ancient Roman steam engines were just a novelty without the tools and infrastructure available today, and a similar principle applies here.

You can’t reproduce your single laboratory, and even with massive investment can’t accommodate more than about 15 brainers. This, again, fits the setting – you’re pig-ignorant savages in a ruined Earth, not SETI – and works well with the endless options, as you’re pursuing your own ends, not trying to uncover the one way that works. When you can’t have more than a few researchers, hiring and directing them becomes less opaque.

In UFO it was never clear whether you should have 50 scientists, or 180, or 410, but here you make do with the few you can accommodate and don’t worry about it. Meanwhile, under-expanding isn’t a kiss of death because escalation is less drastic and even starter ships have a global reach. Building bases becomes a matter of convenience and preference, not the frustrating demand of protecting the world with radar that can barely reach across the street.

I’m pretty sure it’s impossible for one playthrough to cover everything – I’m over a year into a game and there’s no end in sight, but still tonnes left to see and do. Playing it requires a different mindset to that of any X-COM game. It’s simultaneously harder and more forgiving, with many dangerous foes and no easy countermeasures, but less of a “kill or be killed” situation. On top of that, more strategies and tactics are viable thanks to the sheer variety of stuff.

X-Piratez gives plenty of possibilities but forces you to choose between multiple right answers. Your decisions matter, and feed back into the story and your place in it. Due to concentrating on other things, it was months before I learned how to manufacture basic ammunition, so I’d relied on massed explosives, fire, and a pick and mix of captured guns. My lack of superweapons had me tearing my hair out over a series of disastrous fights with a bulletproof faction that shrugged off my “everyone gets a molotov to the face” policy (being set ablaze is guaranteed to panic most humans, which my researchers tell me is accurate with cold, haunted eyes), but I found ways to fight back and have fun, and learned that stealing a few guns and retreating can be a victory.

You’re pretty much destined to be a plucky guerilla underdog against well-equipped foes, so like UFO of old, your blood will run cold when you first see something new and clearly not human (I panicked and immediately began a retreat at my first encounter, such is the reputation of the Star Gods). By contrast, I keep a stash of muskets for a bit of sport when I come across the most pathetic prey. They’re quite lethal against unarmoured humans, and there’s something satisfying about using a primitive smoothbore, clubbing any survivors with it, then taking a swig of soothing rum from the bottle in your holster. Did I mention that you’re a band of pirates?

The base UFO structure is still there, but adjusted and turned to other ends. Terror missions, where aliens once attacked cities to scare governments into surrender, are replaced with mutant pogroms, where various forces victimise your fellow mutants. You’re not required to attend, but are asked for help by the Mutant Alliance, a major vector of your reputation, upon which rests your long-term survival.

The interface is improved with shortcuts and tooltips, but still very much that of the original, and parts, like the disassembly/manufacture menus, creak under the weight of options. Some of its presentation… well, I sigh wearily at the blimp-titted anime sex doll rubbish that accompanies some research screens, but its tone is benign, self-aware and never serious, so it’s easy to shrug off (to specify, I don’t have a problem with the option to send pirates into battle naked. “Screaming naked berserker” is a completely justifiable concept. I just wish they had less silly pubes). The many new graphical assets are coherent and broadly great, and it certainly has personality, something all too lacking in many strategy games.

X-Piratez isn’t only the greatest total conversion mod I’ve ever played; it’s fighting a fierce and convincing campaign to become the best UFO/X-COM game ever. If I have one real complaint, it’s that I can never again play it for the first time.

X-Piratez is free, but requires files from either UFO or Terror From The Deep, which can be purchased on Steam here. It is still in development but fully functional, and currently on version 0.98A, which is available on the OpenXcom forums here.

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  1. Wisq says:

    Amazing. This is going straight to the top of my “to play” list. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Shar_ds says:

    Oh dear

    Warning: mysql_connect(): Too many connections

    Any other mirrors?

  3. Stugle says:

    It sounds awesome and I’m liking all the fire in the screenshots. Does it have fire propagation? One of my joys in X-Com Apocalypse was to incessantly raid the temples of those UFO hippies and try to explode/burn the whole place down before I mowed down all their agents.

    Thanks for the recommendation. X-Piratez sounds like fun (even with that horrible ‘z’ tacked on the end) and I liked the joy you conveyed in your article.

    • Sin Vega says:

      It has some fire propogation, yeah, which has advantages and risks which you can probably work out. It’s not quite as advanced as in Apocalypse, but fires do tend to spread and cause problems for you and the enemy.

      Perhaps even more significantly, it also spreads smoke all over the place too – the small fire in the building in one of those screenshots changed that entire battle for me as it filled the stairs and much of the building with smoke as it spread, forcing me to evacuate one team and bring in another, as they were wearing smoke ops gear so they wouldn’t pass out after prolonged exposure.

      There are also multiple flamethrowers, and other fun toys I won’t spoil. Pro tip: grav harness + flamethrower = AAAAHAHAHHAH RUN PUNY HUMANS, FOR I AM YOUR GOD NOW

    • rabbit says:

      glad i’m not the only one to have their stomach turned by the arbitrary Z
      otherwise, sounds great!

  4. Turin Turambar says:

    It sounds really interesting!

  5. popej says:

    Brilliant, will try this at the weekend (if I get 5 bleedin’ minutes!)

  6. Kaeoschassis says:

    Dammit Sin, I had just two hours ago decided getting a new copy of UFO wasn’t a top priority, and if anybody else had been writing this article it probably would have stayed that way. Oh well, there wasn’t anything else I especially had my eye on.

    This sounds bloody brilliant, and every other time I’ve grabbed a game on your recommendation I’ve loved it, so let’s have a go.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Indeed dammit Sin with your excellent writing and taste! :)
      I bought King of Dragon Pass after an article a year or so ago. It became my most played game for a long while.

  7. Ed Burst says:

    X-COM is now available on GOG at reduced price.

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      Andy_Panthro says:

      I picked up the X-COM bundle today! It was my intention to play Terror From The Deep, but I might have to play this instead…

  8. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    I just finished XCOM EU and I was trying to debate which of the many options to go to next (UFO, 2, Xenonauts, Long War) but I think you just made my decision for me.

  9. bamjo says:

    “I just wish they had less silly pubes.” Quote of the month right there.

    This mod sounds awesome! With my love of all things X-COM, I can’t believe I haven’t heard of it before.

    • PegasusOrgans says:

      Well, being so into X-Com, you must’ve heard about the Open X-Com series? All 3 originals are being upgraded via the Open project, not just the first game. Hell, there are many more mods on the site than just this, worth a look for any true X-Com fan.

  10. kud13 says:

    This sounds like it takes all the best things about Arcanum. And puts them into a UFO game.

    and it’s FREE

    that’s….. amazing

  11. klops says:


  12. Archangel says:

    Brilliant. I have always found the premise of X-COM (and XCOM) to be irredeemably contrived; this sounds like it meshes the mechanics with the (new) theme quite admirably. Thanks for the write-up!

  13. slerbal says:

    Genius! Definitely trying this!

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      caff says:

      Same here, never heard of it before but looks very interesting.

      Haven’t played the original for many years so I hope the UI makes sense. Are there now tooltips in any of the mods?

      • Sin Vega says:

        There are tooltips in the battlescape via openXCOM (which is included with x-piratez, or stands alone. Both require UFO or TFTD files to work), and some feedback improvements – e.g. the path displays of the soldiers, double click move/fire orders, stat and TU cost displays on the inventory screen, and several minor but useful tweaks. There’s only so much it can do, you’ll never fully unclunk any strategy game that old really, but they’ve done a lot of good work.

  14. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Capital work, Sin. You’ve unearthed a cracker this time.

  15. KovuTalli says:

    Anyone else having issues getting this to run? I download the latest version via mediafire, follow the installation instructions, run it but it gives me an error loading XCOM: Enemy unknown/UFO Defense.
    Geodata/world.dat not found. – yet when I go to the folder it is there, I’ve had a google around and can’t find anyone else having issues.

    • KovuTalli says:

      For anyone else having this issue, you need to copy files from the XCOM Folder within your UFO Defense/Unknown install to the UFO Folder in Piratez – the installation instructions are not very clear on this.

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    magogjack says:

    So thats where all the ork women from 40k went….

  17. Darth Gangrel says:

    “spiritual successors like the UFO Aftermath/Afterglow/Aftereight/etc series” UFO Aftereight? I’d love to get my hands on that one in mint condition.

  18. FreshHands says:

    Damn, this setting looks seriously interesting. Even the overabundance of cheap boobies fits perfectly into this kind of scenario. I am not so happy about the all-female squads however, personally I prefer a policy of strict gender equality in people I send to die/kill.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      But how many games do we all play that are all-male and not bat an eye at? It’s a weird choice, yes, but I’m pretty cool with it. Just think of it as a post-apocalyptic girl gang.

    • Solarius Scorch says:

      Male pirates are sort of planned – maybe as a mod, maybe integrated. But someone needs to draw them, and that’s unimaginable work. :)

  19. NephilimNexus says:

    What XCOM2 should have been.

    • Sandepande says:

      This is a far better deal, I can have both XCOM 2 and this. Win-win-win.

  20. Zetsumi says:

    May as well not bother, 4 hours of messing around and I still can’t get it to even run because MSVCP140.dll is somehow missing despite repeatedly installing, repairing, uninstalling, and reinstalling VC Redist 2015. What a waste of time.

    • IvanDogovich says:

      Yeah, the new features being coded in by Meridian right now, have made some of the recent builds a little tricky to get running. With the MSVCP140.dll issue, the trick is to install the 32 bit version of VC redistributables. I recommend passing issues/bugs to the Forum. link to

    • IvanDogovich says:

      BTW: The new version .98B should be free of such problems. It was just released this morning.

      • Zetsumi says:

        Thanks for your efforts to help troubleshoot, sadly I am not on fast internet, so I’ll have to wait another 2 hours to download it over to see it it’ll actually help.

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          I dunno if you’ve grabbed it yet, but for what it’s worth, the new version fixed these exact problems for me, so it’s worth a shot, surely.

  21. klops says:

    By the way: Does X-Com: Apocalypse have any good mods?

    • Shadow says:

      Unlikely. X-Piratez exists thanks to OpenXcom, a rewrite of the original game engine made with moddability in mind.

      Apocalypse has yet to receive similar treatment.

  22. IvanDogovich says:

    Just wanted to pass along, that Meridian is doing a terrific Lets Play of X-Piratez right now on YouTube. Its a great way to get a look at the game in action! link to

    Also, there are two terrific resources for players right now:
    – The Piratez Sub forum at (link to
    – The online Bootypedia at
    (link to

  23. savagegump says:

    OK this looks excellent, I’ve been tempted to return to the original UFO/X-COM games recently but this looks like the perfect opportunity to get that fix while breathing fresh new life into it. Kudos to the creators!

  24. Chiron says:

    Oh my.

    Out of interest is there any tutorial for modding X-Com around? I’d love to do a Stargate style mod, or even a 40k one.

    • IvanDogovich says:

      Funny you should mention Warhammer 40k. There is a pretty good start on a mod, here:

      link to

      There aren’t any really good Modding tutorials at the moment, though there are decent Ruleset explanations on Ufopaedia.

      • Solarius Scorch says:

        Yeah, that WH40K mod is already very good. It needs more love though, since the author doesn’t seem to have much time and he’s quick to accept help.

  25. slerbal says:

    Sadly the website is still broken, but once it is back online I am looking forward to going full “Arrrr!” :D

  26. IvanDogovich says:

    Fresh Build Just Released: .98B
    link to
    This shouldn’t have the .dll hassels that other have experienced. And it comes with Parrots! Because… Piratez need Parrots! :)

  27. Melum says:

    I had things to do today, you know.

    Ah, who am I kidding? No I didn’t.

  28. Florp Incarnate says:

    Get XCOM, the original.
    Download the latest version of x-piratez (98B, which eliminates msvcp140.dll errors.
    link to
    Copy all files from XCOM install into OpenXcom_XPiratez\UFO
    How to play the actual GAME seems to be way harder.

    • IvanDogovich says:

      How to play the game is immensely harder! There are some strategy and starter tip threads in the forums, but this game can easily beg for spreadsheets to analyze weapons, craft etc. I usually play with the online Bootypedia open in another window. ;)

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      caff says:

      Thank you for the simple explanation. Some of us are just too lazy like me to go and find this sort of stuff!

    • Premium User Badge

      caff says:

      For those of you using Steam, you want to find a folder called something like:

      C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\common\XCom UFO Defense\XCOM

      Or wherever your Steam installation stores games.

      There should be folders in here named GAME_1, GAME_2 etc. If so, copy all files & folders here into a new folder called ‘UFO’ under your new “Xcom_XPiratez” directory, e.g. into:


    • Premium User Badge

      caff says:

      – Unpack the mod. It will create a complete Openxcom_XPiratez folder with all the files that you need; it will contain the correct nightly version and Yankes’s & Meridian’s custom exe named “OpenXcomExPlus29”.
      – Copy files from your original “UFO: Enemy Unknown”/”X-Com: UFO Defense” folder to the “OpenXcom_XPiratez/UFO” folder.
      – Use OpenXcomExPlus29.exe to run the game.
      – Choose “Piratez” as the master mod from the Game Options menu.
      – Includes four sub-mods: helmetless/maskless armor paperdoll variants made by Roxis231, the ‘naughty mod’ (it adds the option for gals to fight in the nude, with proper modifiers; do not enable if you don’t like such things) and a fun Star God commander replacement with Dioxine’s avatar by Alex_D :)

      It runs fine when I run without the mod, but when I enabled the Piratez mod I start getting this error on start up:

      “ERROR: Resources/Shiv.gif:Couldn’t open Resources/Shiv.gif”

  29. MeteorBear says:

    RPS content gets on my nerves sometimes, but this is an amazing find and why I always find myself coming back.

    Now please change back to your old format, I refuse to hit the ‘see older post’ button so you can cram in a few more page hits. Its not working btw, I read more when I can freely browse whats interesting to me without having to hit ‘See older post’ every 15 seconds. Destructoid and Polygon dont do this cheap crap. Thanks.

  30. PegasusOrgans says:

    It’s really bad that no one here searches for mods on their own. There’s a whole mess of great mods not covered by RPS that most of you are missing by only taking RPS suggestions.