Strategy Game of the Year 2013

By Owen Faraday 19 Dec 2013 0
Hot stuff. Hot stuff.

Our Strategy Game of the Year is an instant classic served up in a different package.

When I interviewed X-Com creator Julian Gollop for Eurogamer last year and asked him what he thought of Firaxis's reimagining of his 1994 strategy classic, this is what he said:
"I think Firaxis has done a great job," Julian Gollop told me. The legendary designer of X-Com and Laser Squad has recently settled jumped ship from Ubisoft to work solo on remaking his 1985 design Chaos from his bedroom in Bulgaria, but the new XCOM has taken a good chunk of his time. "The game is addictive and absorbing, not to mention quite challenging on the classic difficulty setting."

If the guy who created one of the most revered strategy games of all time thinks you did a great job reinventing it, you're doing pretty OK.

And indeed, the new de-hypenated XCOM: Enemy Unknown is great. It's less of a sim and more of a board game than the original, but it's also more dynamically presented. One of the reasons that turn-based strategy games disappeared from the AAA menu over the past decades is that publishers thought that modern attention spans, compressed by smartphones and Netflix and SnapChat (probably) wouldn't stand for them. XCOM takes the turn-based strategy game and makes it into a Hollywood blockbuster, with every order liable to trigger a dolly tracking shot of your action hero squaddies.

In XCOM, you're managing the defense of the Earth from an alien invasion, and the experience feels right at home on a touchscreen. Panning the camera around the side view of your subterranean base as you construct new facilities and inspect your troops makes you feel like the near-future administrator you're meant to be. Manipulating the three-quarters-overhead view of the battlefield during missions puts you in the boots of a (hopefully more competent) Lt. Gorman from Aliens.

In my review of the game back in June, I called XCOM "one of the deepest and most satisfying video game experiences you can have on a mobile device". Half a year later that's still true, and if you're lucky enough to have one of the newest iPads, it might even be an understatement.

Runner-up: Ace Patrol Pacific Skies

Honourable Mention: RymdkapselEmpireFrozen SynapseThe Lords of Midnight

To see all the games recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2013 Awards, visit the awards index page.
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