Back when I was a freshman in college, my roommate and I would often spend the entire day on Saturday playing X-COM and its sequel X-COM: Terror from the Deep. The premise is fairly simple, alien invaders of some kind have begun invading the earth, but on a small and fairly covert scale. To combat the threat, the powerful world governments have created a covert international strike force called (e)X(traterrestrial) COM(bat unit). It’s essentially a turn-based strategy game, where the units are actual individual soldiers rather than units or armies, which is more typical of turn-based strategy games. Also, it is just about the hardest frikkin game in the entire world. What makes it so hard is due to the complex nature of the strategy and battle. 1) The aliens you are fighting have superior technology from the get-go. That means they have weapons with better accuracy, range, and damage. 2) The worse you do on your missions, the less funding you get, so if you do badly it quickly becomes an irrecoverable death spiral. 3) The only way to improve your equipment is to capture alien specimens and technology intact, reverse-engineer them with your science staff, and then produce the new equipment. This all costs a lot of money. And since you’re trying to capture aliens and their artifacts intact, your battles are at an even larger disadvantage because the aliens don’t care if they kill and destroy everything, so they always throw grenades and rockets all over the place while you’re stuck with stun guns, stun grenades, cattle prods most of the time. You do have access to heavier firepower if you want/need it, but you recover less artifacts and specimens if you use it.
So I stumbled across this site yesterday called Let’s Play. Basically it has walkthroughs of all sorts of older computer games, but unlike most walkthrough sites (i.e. gamefaqs) it is mostly screenshots with minimal text. It’s a very interesting style and it makes the walkthrough more of a comic book-style narrative as opposed to just a list of necessary steps in order to beat a game.
Along this thought, the author for the X-COM walkthrough said the following:
X-COM (eXtraterrestrial COMbat unit) is a simple game with almost no plot – There are aliens invading earth, you don’t know why yet, you kill them, take their stuff and then kill them better. Battle sequences are done the way it’s supposed to be – turn based – None of this real time nonsense that every game nowadays has.
The lack of plot is just asking for someone to come along and write their own little story about it. I’ve already done that to the second sequel, X-COM Apocalypse. That thread can be viewed in the LP archive or the SA Goldmine.
I won’t be directly explaining the game mechanics for people who haven’t played before, but you can infer some help with my strategies and tactics as I write them in-character. I can however direct you to a download link somewhere. This really is a great game and has a very small learning curve. If you do have any questions about the game, post in the thread, everyone loves coming into these things and trading tactics, strategies and war stories.
And so the story starts here. It’s quite an interesting way to present a story, and I think it’s done quite well. Evidently when he first did this it was on a forums for Something Awful, and other people could include their characters into the write-up, so it became almost a role-playing game. The author would include the other character’s names into his roster of soldiers, and then the other people would write up their soldier’s point of view to what happened in each mission. If you have time, I recommend reading through it. I’m finding it quite entertaining.
Or even better, download a copy of the game and play it! It’s old abandonware now, so it’s easy to find and no one cares if you do. The two links above in the quote are perfect places to find it.