On September 9th, Xbox One and PS4 players will finally get the chance to play XCOM 2, one of the current generation’s most exciting titles. The sequel to 2012’s acclaimed series reboot, XCOM 2 may have entered a more challenging market, but it’s been thrilling lucky PC players for several months. In a rare reversal of fortune, though, console gamers have been left high and dry until later this year. For those of us without PC gaming money, it’ll be a long, alien-free wait from now until September 9th. Since there’s no other game like XCOM on the market, sating your desire for some turn-based action between now and then means one thing: revisiting the original.
XCOM: Enemy Within puts gamers in the nearly God’s-eye-view role of a commander trying to wrangle world leaders, scrap together funds, and fend off an alien invasion against which you are hopelessly outmatched. Build a base, develop new tech, and lead your soldiers in the field in order to squeak through an attack that will likely mean humanity’s total extinction. The original XCOM is a brutal game that hits gamers with permadeath penalties and incredibly rough moral and administrative decisions.
If you’re one of the handful of gamers who’s never gotten on board the XCOM train, or you just want a refresher before the console port of last year’s best strategy game, or even if you have no clue what an XCOM is and you’re just looking for a distraction while you’re sitting on the train on your way to work, don’t dust off your Xbox 360 or PS3, check out the mobile edition of the original game, XCOM: Enemy Within.
The Real, Full Game
A lot of times when a triple-A console or PC title makes the leap to mobile, the gameplay is stripped down or scaled back. Sometimes the game is changed completely into some bullshit brawler that doesn’t resemble the game whose title it shares.
That isn’t the case with XCOM: Enemy Within. the strategy title made the leap to both major mobile platforms completely in tact. Everything in the game looks and plays like it did in the original, only slightly smaller. There’s the same base-building, turn-based combat, and punishing difficulty you’d get playing on a console, with one exception.
Touch Screen Commands Are Where It’s At
Since you’re playing on mobile, instead of using a mouse or a controller, XCOM: Enemy Within uses touch commands. As it turns out, touch commands feel more natural to XCOM: Enemy Within than its original control scheme. A lot of that is due to the game’s smart layout, which have been massaged slightly to make them more accessible on a small screen. The result is actually extremely well done. Even on a tight cell phone screen, things never feel cramped and the tech is good enough that accidental taps are pretty uncommon.
For some super dorky players, the touch screen commands actually lend Enemy Within an extra layer of immersion. After all, if you’re playing the game as a commander watching from some distant post, are you really going to be picking up the sticks?
All the Bells and Whistles
First came XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which was very good, but also very straightforward narratively speaking as well as completely absent of sick ass mechs. About a year after the base game was release, Enemy Within fixed those flaws by adding a complex new storyline and another enemy to the chaotic alien invasion storyline. Most importantly, Enemy Within adds mutants and giant robots to the core experience, and anyone who wants to play the version of the game that doesn’t include robots beating the crap out of one another is someone I don’t need to meet.
Mobile players actually get another freebie. All of the DLC and extra goodies that were offered outside Enemy Within are baked right into the mobile experience at zero extra cost. That means you get every possible piece of XCOM material possible without having to think about it.
For some people, cost isn’t an issue (and more power to you), but for others, you might be hesitant to throw a bunch of money at a three-year-old turn-based strategy game. Well, hooray, because Enemy Within is cheap as Hell.
Full disclosure: if you’ve still got a working PS3 or an Xbox 360 copy of the game, you can still check out Enemy Within for about $17. Downloading it on PC will typically cost you around $30. The mobile, however, is only ten bucks on either iOS or Android. If you’re absolutely dead set on playing XCOM on a big screen, it’s certainly doable, unless you only own a PS4, in which case you’re shit out of luck.
Sweet, Sweet Customization
While the sequel has doubled down on the customization options, Enemy Within is still no slouch in terms of character customization. Players can send their players into battle with a variety of different armor styles and colors and play as a variety of soldiers, men and women, from across the world.
Throughout the story, upgrades to the tech provide even more options for customization for both your soldiers and your other creations. At the top levels of gameplay, the variety of squads you can lead into battle are extremely diverse.
Seriously, Get It
Even if you’ve already dumped hours into XCOM: Enemy Within, the mobile port of the game is a good backup game to have on your phone. It’s pretty close to the perfect mobile game strategy experience. Not only is it something that can help you kill DMV-level amounts of time, but it’s also something you can play for ten minutes and save at (nearly) a moment’s notice.
The plot is easy to follow, yet compelling; the combat is fast-paced and brutal; and the administrative aspects are delightfully torturous. If you have a powerful PC, then I highly recommend you pick up the sequel right now, but if youre one of the millions of gamers biding your time until September 9th, then the mobile version of XCOM: Enemy Within, mobile is the way to go.