Games like XCOM

The X-COM series, at least the mainline games, have defined the Tactical Strategy genre for much of its existence.

From the game’s humble beginnings in 1994 as X-COM: UFO Defense, it has grown into a mammoth franchise spanning multiple video games, most notable of which is the reboot and its sequel (XCOM and XCOM 2), which brought the game to a more modern audience.

That said, even though XCOM 2 is still very much relevant and playable even now, there will come a time when you will want something else to sink your fangs into.

So the question is, what other similar games are available out there that are good enough to scratch the XCOM itch?

Let’s find out.

PHOENIX POINT

No discussion of “Tactical Strategy Games like XCOM” should be complete without a mention of Phoenix Point, which was developed by the man behind the original X-COM itself, Julian Gallop.

The game, however, is driven by an entirely different theme, with climate change and mutant monsters rather than adversaries that are more extraterrestrial in nature.

With many of the main features of the XCOM series combined with added depth and complexity in both the strategic and tactical layers, Phoenix Point was set to be the new shining beacon in the world of Tactical Strategy games.

Only, it wasn’t. At least not when it was released. A number of the new mechanics and ideas were a bit janky in terms of implementation. Some additions even felt like it was only there to ramp up the difficulty rather than to make the game more fun to play.

Either way, things did get improved with patches and additional content as time went by, and Phoenix Point is now in a lot better state than it was before.

So, if “XCOM but different” is what you’re looking for, then Phoenix Point should be on the top of your list of games to try out.

WASTELAND 3

The original Wasteland was somewhat well known as the game that eventually inspired the even more popular Fallout franchise (which in its early iterations was nothing like the Action RPG it has become since Fallout 3).

The latest game in this distinguished line of games is Wasteland 3, which was released in August of 2020.

With the same Post-Nuclear Apocalypse theme as the games before it, Wasteland 3 was everything that the previous games were and more.

Where it differs from XCOM is that it’s more a character-driven Tactical Strategy game than a squad-driven one, in which you maintain a roster of distinct characters rather than command a large pool of soldiers. There’s also a lot more focus on the story, with the character interactions driving up a narrative about the challenges of post-apocalyptic life.

Otherwise, the gameplay loop is pretty much similar, with an Exploration Layer replacing the Strategic Layer of XCOM and a real-time/turn-based Combat layer in place of XCOM’s strictly turn-based one.

There are also more RPG elements and character-driven exposition in Wasteland 3, but for the most part, the combat should be good enough to tide you over until XCOM 3.

BATTLETECH (THE GAME)

If you take XCOM’s Earth and turn it into an entire star map of galaxies, and take your squad of soldiers and turn them into a bunch of hulking robotic death-dealing Mechs, BattleTech (The Game) is pretty much what you will get.

Based on FASA’s BattleTech game franchise, which is probably more known to gamers as the basis for the MechWarrior action game series, BattleTech (the Harebrained Schemes game) puts you into the shoes of a lance commander in the first Tactical Strategy game within the franchise.

Even if you’re not into the BattleTech franchise (and all its mountains of lore), the game does still offer plenty to the Tactical Gamer. The Star Map, the game’s “Strategic Layer,” doesn’t feature much except for travel and acquiring new Missions, Mechs, or Pilots, but it is good enough as a placeholder to get to the meat of the game, which is its Combat Layer.

The combat in BattleTech provides plenty for an XCOM fanatic to get their fix from, with multiple options for strategic movement and damage-dealing at your disposal.

Additionally, the customization of your Mechs is pretty much a layer all of its own, and you will sink hours just optimizing the layout of every one of them. Similarly, a lot of time will be spent hunting for the Mechs themselves and for the parts to put into them.

As such, if tuning up war machines to perfection and then bringing them into hectic combat is more your jam, BattleTech {the game} will be perfect for you.

Additionally, there is a vibrant mod scene for the game for you to add EVEN MORE content to it and even enhance certain aspects of the Star Map so that it adds more meat to the Strategic layer.

These mods will only further extend re-playability, which is always a plus.

MUTANT YEAR ZERO – ROAD TO EDEN

If Phoenix Point is “XCOM with some additions and differences,” and BattleTech is “XCOM with Robots in Space,” then Mutant Year Zero would be “XCOM… but with Animals”.

Yes, you heard me right. Mutant Year Zero pits you as mutated, sentient animals toting guns and armor. Despite this far-fetched premise, however, the core gameplay of Mutant Year Zero is pretty well thought out.

A more character- and exploration-oriented game in the vein of Wasteland 3, Mutant Year Zero carries its unique theme with aplomb, marrying beautiful graphics (thanks to the ever-solid Unreal Engine 4) and engaging gameplay as you lead a loveable cadre of mutant animals called “Stalkers” in surviving a post-apocalyptic world filled with strange – and yet somewhat familiar – horrors.

Unlike Wasteland 3, however, combat is handled in a fashion that is more reminiscent of XCOM 2 (or Phoenix Point), with the camera swooping in for a closer view. This, plus the deeper tactical layer, makes for some immersive combat sequences.

Unfortunately, the enemy placement and numbers are usually not randomized, which does hurt re-playability by a bit.

Another difference between XCOM and the other games here is Mutant Year Zero’s focus on stealth as a mechanic. Setting up ambushes is part of the core gameplay, which helps considering that you’re usually pitted against more enemies than you have Stalkers.

In the end, as your mismatched troop of Stalkers uncovers more and more about the world around them with further exploration, it does pull you in a bit as you get more invested in finding out what happened in the world around them, though this is somewhat dampened by the fact that most encounters are pre-canned and could be handled by save-scumming.

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