Games like XCOM coming to PC

If you're looking for games like XCOM on PC, you're in luck. XCOM is now its own genre, as creator Julian Gollop explained on this website late last year. This is a good thing. Turn-based strategy games have gotten surprisingly big, and it's not just happening on PC—it's evident in the XCOM-like Mario + Rabbids on the Switch, and in the Fire Emblem series.

On PC, we've got a lot of different games coming in the XCOM/X-Com vein, including one from Gollop himself. Below, we've rounded them up. 

Phoenix Point

Julian Gollop’s modern take on the original X-Com idea, Phoenix Point goes for a much more granular, simulation-heavy combat system than Firaxis’ XCOM reboots. Bullets are modelled individually, location damage can cripple enemies or remove combat abilities mid-fight, you can alter movement mid-run if you spot an enemy, and enemies include monsters the size of buildings.

There’s a much grittier tone, too, and the devs have talked about working Lovecraftian horror influences into the design of the enemy crab creatures menacing humanity. The creatures evolve to counter your tactics, growing gun arms to counter aggressive close combat squads, or chitinous shields to repel squads lacking in armour penetration. 

We played the first backer build a little while ago, and there's a second one available to backers now—you can get access with the game's luxury digital edition, but it's a steep $50, whereas a regular pre-order costs $30. It's got a long way to go, but its differences from XCOM are pretty exciting

Phantom Doctrine

It's exciting to see the XCOM formula applied to different themes. Phantom Doctrine is set during an alternate history Cold War, with both KGB and CIA storylines to choose from. You run a counterintelligence agency, and you can brainwash, interrogate and chemically enhance your operatives in order to battle a global conspiracy that's basically actioning the Cold War. 

You've got the option to play in a stealthy way with silenced weapons and quiet takedowns, or be noisy about how you operate. You also maintain a hideout where, among other things like pinning evidence to a conspiracy corkboard, you can change your agents' identities if they're at risk. There's a lot going on in Phantom Doctrine, then, and beating it will apparently take a massive 60 hours, but the mix here is compelling. 

Jody played Phantom Doctrine in June, and loved the aforementioned corkboard. During the initial infiltration stage, Phantom Doctrine is closer to something like Klei's Invisible Inc, but when the action kicks off, that's when it reminded him more of XCOM. You won't have to wait long to play it—it's out in August.

Xenonauts 2

We praised the original Xenonauts for hewing closely to the old X-Com formula but also building its own layers on top of that, including more flexibility for unit customisation. Years later, Xenonauts 2 is a nicer-looking sequel that has a pre-alpha combat demo on GOG Galaxy. It passed its Kickstarter goal of £50,000 within half a day.

In Xenonauts 2, the Cold War never really ended, and you have to rebuild your organisation from scratch. It's not a story sequel to the original, rather "an updated portrayal of similar events", according to the Kickstarter. The Geoscape has been expanded from the original, and Goldhawk Interactive calls this a game "loosely inspired" by classic X-Com and not a direct remake like the first game was. Some backers will get access to a closed beta, estimated to arrive in September, and the game will launch in Early Access before a full release. 

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

Based on decades-old pen-and-paper RPG Mutant, and from ex-Hitman developers, Mutant Year Zero is an unusual mix of stealth game and turn-based RPG. You explore environments in real-time, but when a fight kicks off, it enters a more familiar-looking XCOM combat framework. Wes described it as "really fucking cool", which is the sort of assessment italics were created for. 

Mutant Year Zero is set in a post-apocalypse where mutated humans and animals are vying for survival. This means one of your characters is Duck (called Dux), which is something none of the other turn-based games in this list can boast. Your party is limited to three, and around 30 mutations, granting different abilities, are spread out across the playable characters. These include moth wings, that let a character fly to get a better sniper spot. 

It looks beautiful, and it should be out later this year. 

Gears Tactics

Made by long-time Gears of War collaborators Splash Damage, this PC-exclusive spin-off was a big surprise from Microsoft's 2018 E3 conference. The Coalition's Rod Fegusson described it as their "take on the classic turn-based strategy genre, with a character-driven story, faster, more aggressive gameplay, a customizable squad and equipment". It'll also feature huge boss battles, in the style of Gears.

We're curious to see how well this universe translates to turn-based games, but that's pretty much all we know at this point. The screenshots suggest something familiarly XCOM-like, though. 

Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus

Warhammer 40K plugs so easily into the XCOM format that it’s puzzling there aren’t more. We’ve had Space Hulk, and a version of Mordheim based on the Warhammer Fantasy Battle skirmish game, but Warhammer 40,000 Mechanicus will hopefully be the first game to do the licence justice. It's early days, but as you can see above, you'll get to fight Necrons, which is an interesting choice of foe.

The Adeptus Mechanicus are transhuman builders and worshippers of the machine god. They work with the Space Marines, building their armour and running their massive Titan walkers, but they are an interesting fighting force in their own right. Their tendency to upgrade their limbs with experimental weapons could be very entertaining in an XCOM-style campaign. “DIFFICULT DECISIONS” are promised, as well as alternative endings and a story penned by Warhammer Black Library author Ben Counter.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.