Everything you need to know about XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM Enemy Unknown title

Since XCOM: Enemy Unknown was announced, fans of the original have been juddering with excited questions. We don't know all the answers yet, but we've gathered together the XCOM facts we know and answered the most common queries below, including choice quotes from PC Gamer's interview with lead designer Jake Solomon. For more details, and some exclusive screenshots, check out the latest issue of PC Gamer UK , or subscribe at a discounted rate.

Are the original creators involved at all?

No, but lead designer Jake Solomon has contacted Julian Gollop since going public. "I've actually been in touch with him, on a very high level. Not in terms of - you know, I've asked him to adopt me. But no, I have reached out to him in fact in a very short exchange, so I'm guessing he doesn't hate me, and that's good. He's a personal hero of mine so I've tried as much as possible to honour him."

Is the environment still desctructible?

Yes. Walls can be destroyed, along with scenery items like cars and bus stations. Floors and ceilings cannot, and there's no physics system, so buildings won't collapse. It's essentially the same as the original game.

Do soldiers still die forever? Is it generally as hard as the original?

Yes, there's still permadeath for soldiers, and you can still lose the entire game if you make enough mistakes. There's an easy mode, in which the game will do its best to make sure you don't fail. The hardest difficulty mode is called "Classic", and it will be freaking hard.

Is the strategic layer - your base, the Geoscape, etc. - still real-time?

Yes. When researching and scanning for UFOs, time proceeds in real-time. If you want to speed it up because you're waiting for something to complete, you can skip forward specific chunks of time.

Are Time Units still used to measure time during turns in battles?

No. "We had time units in our game, and we said, 'Can we improve on this?'" explains Solomon. "Yeah, I think we can. Time units are a great mechanic, but the player spends too much time thinking about that system. We want to add so much to XCOM - classes, perks, a ton of new weapons and a cover system and new mission objectives - and you cannot add that much stuff without making sure everything in there is carrying its weight."

Can I still manage my soldier's equipment?

Yes. You still equip your soldier's weapons, and they now remember their loadouts between missions. The biggest change lies with ammo, which you no longer need to be constantly producing and distributing. Instead, telling your soldiers /when/ to reload their weapon is more tactical, as it counts as their action for that turn.

Do I still build my own base?

Yes. You start with a barebones underground base, and excavate deeper to create new rooms. There's a lot of strategy involved. Some rooms unlock new abilities, like new avenues of research and new perks for soldiers. Certain rooms give adjacency bonuses when placed alongside each other, like boosting research speeds. You'll have to juggle these factors while keeping up your power supplies and paying more each time you excavate deeper underground.

What's the new music like?

They're going for a somewhat similar tone, and working samples from the original game's music in to the soundtrack. Don't expect cover versions of the original tunes, however.

Will it have mod tools?

Maybe. Not at launch, but it's something Firaxis are talking about for after release. The Unreal Engine 3 that powers the game should make it easy to release the tools.

Has it been simplified for consoles?

No. "There's no reason to pull any punches with any platform," says Solomon. "Because, when it comes to input, X-Com is not particularly complicated. I don't feel the need to streamline any aspects of gameplay because the player's interaction with the game experience is still simple." The PC version will have its own UI specifically designed for use with a mouse and keyboard.

How involved is Sid Meier with development?

A little. He's Creative Director at Firaxis, and oversees all their projects. "He and I interact on an almost daily basis," says Jake. "I say 'Look, I have this problem. What do you think I should do?' and he's a very gifted designer. He can look at a situation and he can say "have you tried this?" And I'll be like, "oh, that's really good." I claim all the credit for it, but I rely on him so much. I'm now to the point where I can basically hear his voice in my head, which is probably not healthy. He tells me to hurt people. [laughs]"

Will it have multiplayer?

The official line is that they're not discussing that at this time.