The holy grail of strategy-RPG hybrids

Can I even call myself a computer and video game expert, even though I have never played UFO: Enemy Unknown in my life? Well, at least I have Firaxis' remake from 2012 tried it for a few hours and found it to be good. But the original from 1994? No, not a chance! As a teenager, I was fully occupied with first-person shooters and point'n'click adventures on the PC, while Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo revealed the colorful world of console games to me.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/08/UFO_01-pc-games.jpg" alt = "The short intro of UFO: Enemy Unknown is reminiscent of a comic because of the small image details .
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The short intro of UFO: Enemy Unknown is reminiscent of a comic due to the small image sections.
(1)

Source: Mythos Games / media agency plassma




Another reason why I missed UFO: Enemy Unknown at the time was the trade press at the time. Even the Power Play that I really appreciate (the one with 86 points at least rated highly warned of "lengthy combat sequences" while the universally critical PC player in all seriousness questioned long-term motivation. In any case, it should be several years before I became aware of the game again and was really puzzled. The US website IGN selected the 25 best PC games of all time at the turn of the millennium and launched UFO: Enemy Unknown (known in the USA under the name X-COM: UFO Defense) with the following introduction on the throne: "Although there was a lot of argument between us about which games would be on the list and where, the number one was never discussed. X-COM: UFO Defense by Microprose is, to put it simply, the best pc game we've ever played and the main reason most of us got into the video game industry in the first place. "

That’s a statement! IGN itself dampened their self-made hype over time by pushing the game down piece by piece in subsequent lists. Nevertheless, it was clear to me: I have to answer again at some point … Okay, let's go!

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My first time with The Legend of Kyrandia: How does the adventure classic play today?

UFO hunting for dummies
In my archive there are several originals by UFO, including a complete copy for the hapless Amiga CD³² and as part of the PC game collection Power, Corruption & Lies (not to be confused with the album of the same name by the British band New Order). For reasons of convenience, I use the Steam version, which has been available since I bought the X-COM: Complete Pack slumbers in my huge library. Yes, the Pile of Shame.

After a short, nicely drawn intro, I'm right in the middle of the game. That makes me like UFO: Enemy Unknown straight away. In front of me is an angular but easily recognizable terrestrial globe. I instinctively click on Africa and should immediately set up a base there. A quick look on the internet tells me that the choice of location is important: Yes, you better choose a nation that is as wealthy as possible. After all, they would appreciate my activities on site and bring more money into my coffers. So I instinctively right-click the globe and choose the USA.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/08/UFO_05-pc-games.jpg" alt = "In the event of a terrorist attack, you shouldn't hesitate and your soldiers should be ready for a fight prepare the aliens so that you can continue to receive money from the various nations.
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In the event of a terrorist attack you shouldn't hesitate and prepare your soldiers well for a fight against the aliens so that you can continue to receive money from the various nations.

Source: Mythos Games / media agency plassma




But what now? What should I do anyway? The question is meant seriously, because if there weren't any aggressive aliens to be seen in the intro or on the packaging, then I wouldn't have a clue what my job in this game is.

That's why I first click through the available options a little haphazardly and get to know the individual menus. Among other things, I take a close look at my base and notice that eight soldiers, a sky ranger and two interceptors are under my command. I am also allowed to recruit further units (be it as scientists, engineers or additional soldiers), buy various weapons and equip my base with new rooms.

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My first time with Dungeon Master: How does the classic role-playing game play today? Our author Benedikt played it for the first time.

I could force the scientists to research new equipment, such as a laser weapon. But I can't do anything with the engineers at the moment. Hmmm … why not? Wouldn't it be better if I read the printed instructions for my original game? No, I'll wait a little longer … after all, in 1994 I would have trusted the "learning by doing" principle.

Because nothing else happens, I decide to just wait a bit. I can use several time-lapse buttons for this, thanks to which, for example, a day passes in a second. And indeed: Shortly afterwards, the radar system at my base spotted an unknown flying object! Fortunately, time freezes and I can set the speed back to the basic setting so that I can plan my next move in peace.

Now I could either send my Sky Ranger or one of the interceptors to take a closer look at the UFO. The latter turns out to be unsatisfactory: I see on a small radar how the hunter approaches the UFO and it escapes, never to be seen again, before I can give any further orders. It gets a lot more interesting when I send the ranger out at the next opportunity: He catches up with the flying object and there is a direct confrontation between my soldiers and the aliens.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/08/UFO_03-pc-games.jpg" alt = "If you want to intercept a UFO with your Sky Ranger, then you must first all soldiers Maneuvering out individually – quite annoying in the long run.
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If you want to intercept a UFO with your Sky Ranger, you first have to maneuver all soldiers out one by one – quite annoying in the long run.

Source: Mythos Games / media agency plassma





Playing hide and seek with aliens
Fortunately, my Sky Ranger is equipped with all eight soldiers who are available to me at the beginning. I now have to move them out of the plane one by one – which happens so slowly that I prefer to set the running speed to the maximum. In this context, UFO collects additional plus points, because I can find the corresponding option quickly and the control also seems quite logical to me. Although it relies on an icon system, its symbols are easy to interpret. The only annoying thing is the button with the crossed-out circle, which ends my move without any warning. Hmph.

This makes the isometric representation all the more difficult, which is why I occasionally position my soldiers incorrectly. This is particularly annoying because there is no undo function and therefore I am not allowed to undo an undesired move. However, I quickly understand why such a feature would be difficult to implement in a game like UFO. After all, I could make great use of it for spying on and discuss the positions of the aliens through stupid trying out.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/08/UFO_06-pc-games.jpg" alt = "This inconspicuous saucer has a few nasty surprises in store and is much more dangerous than one Standard alien.
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This nondescript saucer has a few nasty surprises in store and is significantly more dangerous than a standard alien.

Source: Mythos Games / media agency plassma




So I'm literally groping in the dark and first stumble across a large blue building that looks like a bunker. It seems to be crying out for aliens, but there is no trace of the little males. In addition, I can't find a door through which I could enter the building. When I exit the train, all I hear is a kind of hissing – as if an elevator were moving. However, this acoustic signal does not help me because I can neither assign it to a location nor to an opponent.

Well, the area is not limited to the blue building: I dutifully rattle around all the other corners and march across a large field until I come across a stone building. There I maneuver one of my soldiers on the very edge of the area towards the back door, pass an open window – and get shot. Just because!

Phew, luckily I had saved shortly before. Unfortunately, loading my old saved game is a rather cumbersome procedure: A corresponding option is only available in the main menu, which I only reach if I cancel the mission beforehand.

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My first time with Ultima Underworld: How does the classic role-playing game play today?

Because my next attempt also goes wrong and the aliens lurking in the house simply shoot down one soldier after the other, I come up with a new plan. I move half of my squad to the front of the building and pinch my opponents. So I finally shoot two aliens … and after that I am no smarter than before, because again I have no plan where the rest of the enemy brood might be.

I graze the entire area, but find nothing of importance and ask myself for half an hour: Where are these beasts? In my desperation you return to the blue building and now run bluntly against every piece of wall. And in fact I come across a completely inconspicuous door that can only be recognized by two thin contours if you look closely. Doh!

At least everything goes really quickly after that: The building turns out to be the UFO I hunted, which is teeming with aliens. However, because I take them by surprise with my team, I only lose one of my soldiers in the end. I can live with that. Back in the main menu, I'll recruit a replacement and get some new rifles. In addition, I am starting research for a motion scanner – the mishap from just now should not happen to me again!





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/08/UFO_08-pc-games.jpg" alt = "" Your goods have arrived ": We look forward to the arrival of fresh soldiers .
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"Your goods have arrived": We are happy about the arrival of fresh soldiers.

Source: Mythos Games / media agency plassma





To learn from mistakes
My next encounter with a UFO is almost identical, only this time I have no problems getting my second victory. Because most of the nations that finance me to fight the aliens are also satisfied with me, I even get a small raise and set up a new base in the middle of Europe. It doesn't take long there before the radar alerts me to a nearby terrorist camp.

Naive as I am, I immediately enter into the next confrontation and at first don't see much difference to the previous fights. In other words: I'm going with my troop through a small part of town and quickly meet the well-known aliens. But then suddenly a new type of enemy attacks me who looks like a miniature saucer. And of course it's not that easy to shoot with my cheap rifles.

In fact, I need four to six hits per saucer while losing several of my soldiers at the same time. And when I finally defeat the first guy, he explodes with a loud bang and kills almost all of my team, which I had placed far too close. As the icing on the cake, the surviving soldiers go completely nuts and can no longer be controlled due to rage and panic attacks. Running! In such a case, I can't avoid loading the save.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/08/UFO_07-pc-games.jpg" alt = "Defeated aliens can also be researched by scientists in order to help you in future battles To gain advantage.
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Defeated aliens can also be researched by scientists to give you an advantage in future battles.

Source: Mythos Games / media agency plassma




Apart from the fact that I want to keep more distance on my next attempt (Corona sends its regards), I am considering the use of harder guns. Because I haven't been able to research really advanced guns such as laser weapons or plasma pistols due to a lack of time, I dig out the grenades, each of which each soldier carries in his pocket. Unfortunately, they turn out to be a flop and feel even less damaging than my rifles. A quick search on the net confirms that the saucers are well armored against such explosive weapons.

Fortunately, I don't need any harder guns, just a little more caution and tactical instinct. As soon as I skillfully distribute my boys and girls and crouch behind the wall corners, the first saucer is quickly history – without any major losses on my part, of course. I'm also lucky with the other two opponents because they are floating next to each other. So I only have to shoot one while the other bursts without any further action due to the subsequent explosion.

In the end I will be victorious, but I have to lament many losses. So I buy more scientists and let them research weapons. Furthermore, I am stocking up on soldiers and increasing my quota to twelve members, all of whom fit easily into the Sky Ranger.

Unfortunately, research takes a long time; I have to do without new equipment for the next assignment. At least I have an increased team at my side – which I also sorely need: I am supposed to conquer the first alien base.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/08/UFO_09-pc-games.jpg" alt = "Warning, this black guy has it all: He turns soldiers into zombies in a flash who also mutate into aliens after their death.
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Attention, this black fellow has it all: He turns soldiers into zombies in a flash, who also mutate into aliens after their death.

Source: Mythos Games / media agency plassma





New play elements every hour
On site I get to know two completely new types of opponents, which I can easily differentiate based on their different colors. While the brown aliens are relatively harmless and challenge me to crisp shot duels, the black ones give me a big headache. After all, they are able to bite my soldiers into zombies – and if I shoot them in turn, they turn into black monsters too!

Towards the end of the mission I am again in dire straits when I take the elevator to a kind of command center. There the last aliens are already standing in line and mercilessly pound down every soldier I send up. If, on the other hand, I place them all around the elevator to plan a joint assault, the aliens fire a few missiles at me and eliminate my entire force in one fell swoop – not nice at all.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/08/UFO_10-pc-games.jpg" alt = "If you want better armor for your soldiers, you should definitely use the alien alloys explore.
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If you want better armor for your soldiers, you should definitely research the alien alloys.

Source: Mythos Games / media agency plassma




Again, I have to rely on an old save to load. And again I have to see such unpleasant surprises as a lesson that I use to adapt my tactics. On the one hand, this ensures that I am making steady progress – but on the other, only very slowly. For this reason I can understand the criticism of my fellow journalists at the time: UFO: Enemy Unknown is a very leisurely game in which every fight, no matter how small, lasts half an hour to a full hour. Maneuvering the individual soldiers alone is tedious and tedious.

I usually feel a little tired after a battle, so I want to take a break every time. On the other hand, the desire to play increases noticeably after a few hours, so that I always return in good spirits. In addition, the pace changes dramatically as soon as I've finally developed the first laser and plasma weapons: They reveal themselves as a real game changer, with which I shoot the aliens much more effortlessly than with the old-fashioned rifles and much less often have to load a game.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/08/UFO_11-pc-games.jpg" alt = "The equipment screen is simple, but functional and well sorted.
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The equipment screen is simple but functional and well organized.

Source: Mythos Games / media agency plassma




Anyway, I should have dealt with the research aspect earlier! Researching so-called alien alloys finally gives me access to better armor that massively increases my defenses. A mind probe tells me the character values ​​of an individual opponent and thus his individual strengths and weaknesses. And with the stun wand, I could knock out aliens instead of killing them. According to various game guides, this in turn is an important part of learning psionic skills, which unfortunately I couldn't deal with due to lack of time.

Conclusion: Fascinating tactics time waster
After my extensive "My First Time" session, I can fully understand the fascination behind the game concept of UFO: Enemy Unknown. The mixture of tactical round-the-clock strategy, "light setup simulation" and the feeling of having to save the entire planet in the truest sense of the word works perfectly. At its core are many features that gradually expand the game in a meaningful way and make it interesting in the long run.

So at the end of my report I can say without regrets: UFO: Enemy Unknown is a great game, even if round strategy is not my genre and I have by no means explored all facets of the classic. You need a lot of time and patience here – something that I admittedly could have raised earlier in 1994 than today. That's why I won't play UFO any more. However, I have not regretted having at least tried it after 26 years.

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