With XCOM 3 still in the works, fans of this hit turn-based tactics franchise can turn to these games to get a similar serving of squad-based action.
Some people just can’t wait for Aliens to attack again and fans anticipating the next title in the XCOM franchise, a tactical simulator in which special forces fight off alien invaders, have several other turn-based games they can peruse in the meantime. These games also capture the same elements of organizational management and squad command.
When invaders from outer space attack, who will lead the charge to defend the world? In XCOM and XCOM 2, it’s the player who takes on that responsibility, building their organization, reverse-engineering alien tech, and leading squads of terrified recruits into battle against terrifying extra-terrestrials. Lucky and well-led recruits will survive consecutive battles and level up into veterans, while less than lucky recruits will perish in a number of gruesome ways.
Currently, there’s no news on when XCOM 3 will come out or what it will contain. Fortunately for fans, XCOM‘s unique combination of logistical management and turn-based tactics have inspired a host of similar games, three of which will really scratch the itch of fans waiting for the release of XCOM 3.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
In the post-apocalyptic ruins of the far future, the animal-headed survivors shall inherit the earth. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden transplants the XCOM style of gameplay to the wilderness of post-apocalyptic earth, with mutated “Stalkers” scavenging supplies for their community, fighting off ghouls and uncovering the secrets of their past.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden mixes the turn-based combat of XCOM with real-time exploration/stealth segments, where carefully planned ambushes can even the odds against difficult foes. The “Stalkers” of a player squad each have distinct animal features, mutation abilities, and personality traits, while the beautiful overgrown forest maps call to mind the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: a real-life post-nuclear wilderness.
In XCOM, you play a group of overworked special forces trying to defend the world from off-world threats. In Battletech (2016), you’re technically the off-world invader, a world-hopping Mech warrior with a giant, armored BattleMech. Based in the same setting as the Mechwarrior franchise, you play a mercenary pilot embroiled in wars of succession between feuding interstellar nobles, a setting best described as Game of Thrones with giant robots.
Between missions, you recruit mercenary followers, unlock their talents and customize their Battlemechs with different mixes of weapons and hardware. During missions, you maneuver your Mech squad between objectives, targeting the subsystems of enemy Battlemechs in order to salvage upgrade materials and expand the number of war machines in your hanger bay.
The turn-based tactics game Phoenix Point, released in December 2019, is particularly committed to refining and expanding the XCOM formula with a healthy helping of sea creatures and Cosmic Horror – not so surprising since Julian Gollop and other creators of the original 1994 XCOM helped develop this title. The titular Phoenix Pointis a network of operatives struggling to save the world from the Pandoravirus, an ocean-based contagion that mutates organic life into monsters and has driven humanity to the brink of extinction.
XCOM‘s turn-based combat is enhanced in Phoenix Point with a Battletech-style targeting system that lets squad-members aim at key enemy body-parts, while alien enemies can evolve between missions to counter the weapons and tactics players use. The three main survivor factions of humanity represent different ideological perspectives on how to “stop” the Pandoravirus while offering unique upgrades, units, and vehicles the more closely Phoenix Point aligns with them.
The charm of XCOM and similar titles lies in how it puts players in the shoes of commanders, burdened and privileged with crucial responsibility. The player must be clever and capable with their tactics, trying their best to keep their squad alive and learning from each failure to do so. Serious-minded players can embrace the drama of these games, while more light-hearted players can gawk in sickened awe at the abomination that just sucked out their soldier’s brains.