XCOM (xcom.com), which many believe is the best turn-based strategy game ever created, is made even better with the release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Developed by Firaxis (Sid Meier and company), the game features an elite organization called XCOM that is tasked with combating an alien invasion. Players control a squad of up to six soldiers who attack alien bases, intercept abductions and take down alien soldiers.
The action in Enemy Unknown takes place in a variety of locations, ranging from a rain-drenched street in Moscow to a burned-out bridge in the heartland of America. The XCOM soldiers wield an array of interesting weapons, from assault rifles to plasma guns, and boast deadly skill sets. Some soldiers are snipers, some are assault types who run and gun, and others are heavy weapons specialists.
The tense squad-level skirmishes would be enough to make this game great, but they aren’t the only course on the XCOM plate. Besides fighting aliens, players must manage research to access new technology, engineering to build new weapons and facilities, and recruitment to expand the ranks. In addition, they must ensure XCOM’s member nations have satellite coverage, or else those nations will exit the organization and leave it stranded without money.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown offers an exciting challenge. It is a great game that is highly recommended.
Dan Verssen Games is renowned for its solitaire air combat games. Phantom Leader is one of the company’s best titles, and now it is available for the iPad 2 and above.
Phantom Leader for the iPad (itunes.apple.com) puts gamers in the role of a U.S. Navy or Air Force squadron leader. As commanders, the players design strike packages and allocate pilots to execute the assigned missions. However, they must remember that while some pilots perform better than others, the best ones will wear out if chosen every time.
Politicians in Washington can further complicate matters for squad leaders. At times they designate the level of force that can be used, the altitude from which an attack can occur, and set many other annoying parameters.
Phantom Leader offers players a fascinating challenge, as the artificial intelligence ensures that even the toughest pilots have their hands full. But on the downside, the game could use a spell-checker.
Frontline Tactics (full control.dk) is a turn-based, free-to-play game for the PC, Mac and iPad. It is set in the near future and allows players to control an elite group of modern soldiers as they battle against terrorists.
The game boasts nice rules for cover, flanking fire, and “burst weapons” for striking multiple targets, but it does have some shortcomings. Thumbs up for the reasonably nice graphics, great concept and giveaway price, but thumbs down for the incredibly difficult missions that leave players no recourse but to purchase better weapons and troops from within the game.
Mark H. Walker is a retired U.S. Navy commander and veteran electronic entertainment/IT journalist who designed the critically acclaimed board wargames “Lock ’n Load” and “World at War.” He has authored or contributed to over 40 books, including his novel “Everyone Dies in the End.”
Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Armchair General.