Xenonauts Early Access Review

Xenonauts Poster from Kickstarter Project

Xenonauts.*

*Sources of screenshots are listed in their respective file-names.

Xenonauts is an Early Access title in a Beta state, which means it is not fully optimized and bugs may be present. However, with a planned completion date of May 30th, 2014Xenonauts is very close to a final release and feels like a finished game.

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Commander, General Mikhail reports a situation on the Geoscape.

Patch me in.

Commander.

General.

This was the Geoscape at 19:54…:

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 4 (1)

…And this was the Geoscape at 19:55–two minutes ago.:

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 4 (2)

Looks like one of their Light Scouts–a couple of Condor interceptors should be able to handle it.

Unfortunately Commander, it isn’t that simple. This is the alert we received thirty seconds ago.

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 5 (1) Xenonauts Screenshots batch 5 (2)

So we have two speeding UFO’s, one moving towards southern Africa and the other towards–

the Soviet Union. Both provide significant resources to Xenonauts.

Correct…

I think a single Condor should be able to handle the Light Scout, but I want you to send a squadron to intercept UFO 13–a Condor and a Foxtrot. Be sure to provide the Foxtrot with Avalanche Torpedoes.

Affirmative Commander.

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 2 (11)

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 3

I assume you’ll handle things from here?

Of course.

…What if something goes wrong?

…What could possibly go wrong?

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 6

Units suppressed…

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 3

Heavy gunner killed…

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 2 (12)

Funding terminated…

Although Xenonauts is directly inspired by the X-Com series, it quickly forges its own identity through strong use of an atmospheric Cold War setting (a sample of the excellent soundtrack is included below).

 After the “Iceland incident” in 1958, the USA and USSR put aside their differences to create a last chance for humanity–the Xenonauts.

This fusion of the superpowers is best seen in the intricately detailed character art found when using sections of your base:

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 3 (1)

The arrogant scientist lording over the Laboratory.

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 3 (2)

The long-suffering Russian engineering department.

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 3 (3)

The straight-laced military officer found in the barracks.

As Commander of the Xenonauts, you’ll direct your unique organization through three distinct and complementary modes of play:

  • Geoscape
  • Air Combat
  • Ground Combat

Geoscape:

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 2 (4)

In the Geoscape, you’ll monitor the safety of the world, intercept alien craft and deploy troops in dangerous suicide missions. Since you can’t save everyone, you must make the difficult choice of which countries are worth protecting.

Players can tweak nearly every aspect of the Xenonauts organization in this mode.

From the construction of bases:

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 5

To recruits chosen:

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 11

To the number of bullets soldiers carry in their packs:

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 5 (2)

This (and several other details I won’t spoil) allows you to determine the exact type of organization Xenonauts will become.

Xenonauts also has a thriving modding community, so you can add a variety of content/options to your game (click here for a look at the mods currently available).

Air Combat:

Xenonauts Screenshot 1 from Steam Store Page

When a UFO is first detected, you can select both the aircraft launched in response to this threat and the weaponry used:

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 2 (8)

The “Launch Control Screen.”

The "Condor" interceptor.

The “Condor” interceptor.

Outsmart and outmaneuver the alien craft, rolling to dodge shots and using afterburners to zoom out of its line-of-sight. Overwhelm it with cannon and missile fire to finally send the UFO hurtling into the ground.

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 8 (2)

If you aren’t interested in this aspect of the game or (like me) just aren’t very good at it, you can also “autoresolve” combat in the UFO interception menu.

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 7

Ground Combat:

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 8 (3)

Ground Combat is the heart of the Xenonauts experience. After watching aliens terrorize our planet, you can now take the fight to them.

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 4 (3)

Battle is tactical, tense–almost paranoid. You’ll soon learn the value of keeping your squad behind cover and watching every entrance…

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 4 (2)

“You guys feel like something’s…watching us?”

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 5 (1)

“Target eliminated.”

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 5 (2)

“Incoming fire!”

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 5 (3)

Aiming at a distant threat…

Every time you forgo caution, someone inevitably dies.

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 3

At some point, these soldiers go from simply being pixels to valued members of your team. You start to recognize their names–Tor, Nina and Masaki…

You’ve transformed them from barely competent fighters to seasoned veterans. You’ve spent hours tweaking their equipment to match their natural abilities. All of this, only to have them ripped away in a single moment by a bolt of plasma.

Conclusion:

While Xenonauts uses the gameplay and 2D orientation of the original X-Com, its number of improvements and noticeable polish make it stand on its own as a marvelous strategy title.

Potential Concerns:

For those uncomfortable with this situation, female soldiers may be used in combat.

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 1

This is no surprise as the feature has been available since the first X-COM video game (Xenonauts direct inspiration).

Minor amounts of blood (both human and Alien) are shown.

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 4

Xenonauts Screenshots batch 5

The inclusion of aliens/alien civilizations.
These aliens can harness a variety of psychic abilities including mind control.

Finally, every copy of Xenonauts also includes a prequel novella by Lee Stephen entitled Crimson Dagger (found in the Extras menu). Though well written and informative, it contains several instances of profanity and intense violence not found in-game.

Xenonauts Novella Cover

Buy Now! (PC)

*This title was received for review. See our statement of ethics here.
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*More articles from Video Games and the Bible.

About Nelson

Writer, amateur #gamedev, and Founder o' Video Games and the Bible. My interviews bring the boys to the yard. Featured from Kotaku to Rock Paper Shotgun. Dropsy.
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2 Responses to Xenonauts Early Access Review

  1. Johnb833 says:

    I’m not sure exactly why but this weblog is loading very slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a problem on my end? I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists. cfadcegcaafd

    • Hi John, thanks for the notice!

      Video Games and the Bible uses a lot of photos and hyperlinks, so there may be some slowdown depending on your connection/pages viewed. You could try clicking on the specific article you want to read, then giving it a minute to fully load.

      Let me know if that helps!

      Nelson

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