vived was rare indeed. The sequel, Terror From The Deep, was almost exactly more of the same, but set underwater. Same globe (only now you could only build in the sea), same base building mechanics, same isometric turn based strategy when you shot down an alien sub. Maps were a little bigger and more varied (albeit with a constant nautical theme), the aliens were more Cthuloid and tougher (Oh sweet Jesus the Lobster Men) but nothing crucial had changed. And it didn’t have to, because it was clearly a winning formula. The most important change was the improved lighting effects, as that made the missions even creepier. TFTD is still a wonderful blend of strategy/horror that can make the most hardcore gamer jump. People still play these games obsessively. I, myself, have never finished them, such is their difficulty and re-playability. These are true legends of the video game world. What I loved most about the games though was the faceless horror of the alien masterminds. You only ever meet the foot-soldiers of the invasion force, and you
only learn who they are and what they’re doing through bits and pieces of autopsies, interrogation and research reports. The game left it up to you to connect the pieces and realise just what the aliens were up to. Their reaction to your success was only seen through their changed tactics: After shooting down a few UFOs, they’d direct their foot-soldiers to human cities to terrorise the population, forcing you to up your game and respond to these attacks as well as maintaining your previous efforts. Then the aliens brought out the BIG guns. The aliens’ leaders, whoever they are, were the most terrifying force you’ve never met. This was indirect storytelling at its absolute finest. No cheesy heroes with corny one-liners, no over-the-top cut scenes to cover for a lack of substance, just a mystery to solve, piece by piece, and the worrying implications of solving it.
old-school gameplay and two decades of nostalgia combined? And it was coming out on consoles too! The subtle nuances of turn based strategy could never translate to a joypad held by someone who usually played Halo, right?
So when Firaxis announced Enemy Unknown I was sceptical. One only has to look at the attempted reboots of Syndicate or Prince of Persia to realise how badly it can turn out. And UFO was a classic of the ages. Surely nothing could measure up to the combination of
But then I saw how they’d balanced all of this out. You can deploy satellites over every country, increasing their funding, reducing panic levels, and improving UFO monitoring. The limited transport forces you to make tough decisions in a difficult game of balancing your
Oh man, am I ever glad to be wrong. I was at first disappointed by things that were stripped out of the originals. You can only build one base, in only a handful of locations. You only get one transport craft, ever. You get a maximum squad size of six. You don’t hire scientists and engineers, instead you get x amount each month along with funding after your report to the council of funding nations. The UFO spotting seems to be scripted now, instead of a near random occurrence, leading to far fewer encounters.
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