XCOM’s Peaks and Valleys

XCOM Difficulty Level

Welcome to What We’re Playing Monday!

XCOM is a roller coaster. It all starts out very fun, a little daunting, but once you get the hang of things, it seems like it will be a smooth ride. Then, things take a turn. The difficulty jumps up to a degree you didn’t anticipate and suddenly every alien turn is a stress-fest as you wipe your sweaty palms on your shirt while you pray to whatever deity you believe in for the aliens to miss their shot or FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LEAVE MY HIGH-RANKING SNIPER ALONE, YOU BIG BULLIES!

But then, with patience, careful movement of your soldiers and a hell of a lot of research and resources, things level off again. Suddenly, that sniper who struggled to finish off a Thin Man is double-tapping (attacking twice in a single turn) her way to victory, seemingly all by her lonesome. Your assault soldier’s useful shotgun is a now an Alloy Cannon of death and you almost feel bad for that Berserker that is about to get shot directly in his ugly face. Almost. This has been my XCOM experience.

Few games are like this in the modern age. Most games have a steady difficulty level that ratchets up only towards the end, but XCOM isn’t a smooth ride, but a nosedive full of peaks and valleys. One moment you are contemplating quitting and the next you are imitating Emperor Palpatine while lining up a 95% shot from your sniper: “No…no, no, YOU will die!”. Just a few days ago, I was sweating bullets every battle and now I am the picture of arrogance as my Psionic Heavy Mitch Harker (@mi7ch on Twitter) literally blows minds. I don’t know if I prefer this kind of experience over the traditional difficulty spikes, but it has been an amazing ride thus far.

Have you guys experienced anything similar with XCOM? What about another game that alternatively gave you fits of anguish and then joy? Or do you prefer the easier games of today? Hit the comments!

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Age: 34 PSN ID: Starkiller81. I've played games since before I can remember, starting with my dad's Atari and I haven't stopped yet. Keep them coming and I will keep playing them.

2 thoughts on “XCOM’s Peaks and Valleys”

  1. This was such a fun part of XCOM, and one of the reasons the game is such a joy to play. Every time I thought I was just flailing and useless (and getting a C/D report card to boot), and felt like I was on the edge of total collapse, things would change. And suddenly, I’m the meat grinder, tearing through enemies. And just when I feel like I’ve got a handle, it all gets harder again. It’s a great up and down system, and one that helps keep the game fresh as it goes. The final battle is such a test of endurance and skill, it’s great.

  2. My experience with XCOM is that you start the game off frightened by even a lowly Sectoid, but by the middle-end of the game your squad is a rolling tide of death, chewing through even the most powerful alien (Sectopods excluded).

    The game is so rewarding in the way it builds up your soldiers and your arsenal. Shooting down a UFO with a Firestorm for the first time feels so good. I wish you could sell your older model jets on the grey market so I could build a whole fleet of the Firestorms.

    The feedback loops in XCOM is executed so well. I think the inevitable sequel (the game sold well enough I believe) will have us glued to our screens even more than this game did.

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