Xenonauts began life as a reimagining of the classic turn-based strategy game X-COM: UFO Defense. But where 2012’s excellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown modernized the setting and recreated the franchise’s systems in broad, easy-to-read strokes, Xenonauts threw itself headlong into the details. From individual, grid-based inventories to a line-of-sight cover system and destructible environments, every mechanic from the classic has been reimagined, rebuilt, and given an extra layer. The result is a deeply engaging, indie version of an alien invasion that stands toe-to-toe with X-COM—the classic and the reboots.
We came into the office today to a series of alarm klaxons alerting us to the version 1.0, real-deal release of Xenonauts, an indie reimagining of the 1994 classic XCOM: UFO Defense. The new XCOM is one of our favorites, sure, but there’s something magical about the isometric, grid-based perspective of the '90s.
Early buy-ins, crowdfunding and early access have taken game development (and more importantly, game funding) into crazy new directions in the last few years. An extensive set of interviews at Gamasutra asks some of the biggest names in early access funding like Dean Hall (DayZ), Markus Persson (Minecraft) and Chris England (Xenonauts) about their experiences developing a game with thousands of early adopters looking on.
Xenonauts begins quietly. Very quietly. In the pre-release build there is no objective stated and no opening cinematic, just a map of our pale blue marble half in darkness. Manipulating the time controls, I advance time until klaxons sound and a UFO appears over Ireland.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown went a long way towards tactically scratching my turn-based itch. But while it's slick, pacey action did a great job of capturing the threat and tragedy present in the original X-Com, that doesn't mean there isn't room for something deliberately slower and more methodical. The original is still easily playable, especially thanks to restoration projects like OpenXCom, but it would be nice to be working with a modern UI for a change.
Which is why Xenonauts has such promise. There's a clear aim to rejuvenate what made the original X-Com such a meaty experience for tactics fans. So it's good to see that the game's secretive organisation of planetary defenders is about to get much more visible, thanks to a release on Steam's Early Access program due later today.
You can't keep a good indie X-COM homage down. Several weeks ago, PayPal locked down Xenonauts developer Goldhawk Interactive's account for 180 days (presumably because PayPal has been infiltrated by Sectiods). To dodge that bullet, Goldhawk took a cue from fellow indie dev and PayPal victim Project Zomboid and and set up shop on the friendlier shores of Desura.
Xenonauts' Project Lead Chris England explained the move in an email sent to pre-order customers, and also announced a pre-order price drop from $30 to a more impulse-buyable $20. If you've already pre-ordered at $30, you're now signed up for a "premium" version of Xenonauts (though what exactly that means isn't specified) or you can accept a $10 refund. Both standard and premium customers will get access to the preview build of the game. Also, England says he plans to offer a choice of redeeming pre-orders on Steam when Xenonauts is released, if Steam accepts the game.
Xenonauts, the indie strategy game inspired by the original X-Com, has recently hit serious funding difficulties. In a post on the Xenonauts blog Goldhawk Interactive explained that they had been forced to stop offering pre-orders after Paypal froze their account. The situation is similar to Indie Stone's problems with Project Zomboid's funding.
PC Gamer routinely features Developer Diaries: tales of what goes on behind-the-scenes in the development studios making your favorite games. In this entry, Xenonauts Project Lead Chris England talks about the evolution of the look and feel of indie developer Goldhawk's X-COM: UFO Defense/UFO: Enemy Unknown homage. Let us know what you’d like to see developers discuss in future diaries in the comments.
When 2K Games announced its reimagining of the classic X-COM franchise (now called XCOM), many fans were disappointed to learn that the new version would abandon the 1994 original's turn-based isometric combat in favor of a first-person real-time style. But one X-COM fan, Chris England, seized the opportunity to announce his already-in-the-works homage to X-COM: UFO Defense/Enemy Unknown, Xenonauts. Developed by England's new independent development studio, Goldhawk Interactive, Xenonauts aims to recapture the glory of defending Earth from alien invaders by downing UFOs, engaging the surviving aliens, and capturing their technology to research and turn against them.
Until now, Goldhawk has shown off only the global management and air combat portions of the game, but today, in his first PC Gamer Developer Diary, England exclusively reveals the meat of Xenonauts: tactical combat, in which your ground troops engage the aliens. Click Read More to get your first look - and read the July issue of PC Gamer US for the exclusive hands-on preview!