What XCOM’s success suggests about today’s gameplay trends

If you haven’t already heard, XCOM has quite a shot to be the game of the year. Look at it’s Metacritic score: it’s sitting happily at 89 right now. It’s fun and addictive beyond belief, and I haven’t been as enthralled by a game since Batman Arkham Asylum a couple of years ago.

You will believe that a turn-based strategy game can be fun!

But the success of XCOM says a lot more than that to me. This is a remake of a game that originally came out in 1994, using a style of gameplay that has since been decided by many modern gaming studios to be antiquated and obsolete. Because if the modern gamer barely has the attention span for twitch shooters like Call of Duty and Halo, do they really want to sit down and play a turn-based strategy game?

There were other sequels and planned remakes of this game, and all of them used different genres like FPS, flight-sims and third-person shooters to try to bring the classic series to the modern gamer. None of these other games came close to doing as well as the original or this recent remake. In fact, most of them tanked.

It looks outdated, but apparently the gameplay isn’t!

Why did this XCOM remake do so well then? In my humble opinion, it’s because it was a faithful remake of the beloved original, with changes that streamlined the gameplay rather than trying to “spruce it up” like a modern shooter. The graphics were nicer, but it played a lot like the original. Remember the old saying:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

So maybe, just maybe, the major studios are WRONG when they think that old-school styles of gameplay no longer have a place in modern games. Maybe gamers do want more than yet another Assassin’s Creed or Modern Warfare. I like those games too, but I sure do miss the games I loved from the 80s and 90s.

Honestly speaking, I’d like to see more faithful remakes or spiritual successors like XCOM made, because other retro games like Eye of the Beholder (which had a recent somewhat spiritual remake in the form of Legend of Grimrock), Flashback, and the classic Sierra point-and-click adventures are also as fun to play today as they were back in the day. In fact, I still play them using DOSbox when I have time.

Anyone remember Eye of the Beholder?

PS Look at how much more awesome the recent 2D-oriented Sonic Generations is compared to the 3D incarnations! And also bear in mind that the recent Syndicate re-imagining that turned a classic strategy game into a first-person shooter did not do that well, even with spiffy graphics and a dubstep soundtrack.


About Drew

I love videogames, movies, my wife and my dog (in no particular order). View all posts by Drew

2 responses to “What XCOM’s success suggests about today’s gameplay trends

  • AndyWatchesMovies

    I would have bought this day 1 if it had released over the summer. Now my holiday schedule is too tight with other games and I don’t feel like I can spend $60 on XCOM and get my money’s worth.
    That said, I’m really looking forward to playing it…Eventually.

    • Drew

      Oh you’ll get your money’s worth! You’ll probably end up replaying it over and over, with increasing difficulty and the dreaded Ironman mode with no load games.

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