Saving The World on Hard Mode: The XCOM Project

XCOM Enemy Within: Ironman Mode ON

Hello, everyone! I’m Daniel Castro, and you may’ve make up your mind about the kind of games I tend to enjoy thank to my contributions here at CultureMass. While I tend to gravitate toward more action-oriented games (like Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Super Smash Bros, or World of Tanks), I have some sort of guilty pleasure toward turn-based strategy games. This time around I’d like to talk about XCOM, my newest gaming obsession.

First off, I freaking love XCOM.

I have to admit that I hadn’t played other game from the series before XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but when I did it took me by storm. The gameplay, the setting, the attention to every detail, and (of course) the randomness of the events within the campaign, which makes every playthough different and unlike anyone else’s.

The game does have its flaws, the most notable for me is that it lacks some major plot than just “same humanity from the aliens”, as well as the ending itself is not that great.

But still, XCOM: Enemy Unknown managed to latch onto my heart so strong that I just couldn’t let it go. I played quite a few campaigns before I felt satisfied enough to give it a rest. Then, on January 14th I found a 75% offer for XCOM: Enemy Within (the major expansion for the game) I just couldn’t resist, and I found myself geeking out all over this title once again.

During my time trying to catch up with my other titles in my collection, I found myself finding a little time to keep playing XCOM every now and then. I have to put an end and completely erased some campaigns that didn’t turn out good enough, but I was satisfied of beating the game in both in Normal and Classic difficulty.

Still, there was a challenge looming over the horizon: “Maybe I should try to beat the game in Classic difficulty, with Ironman Mode on.”

For those unaware, Ironman Mode is the pinnacle on video game masochism; this option let’s you play your game via one single save state that continually overwrites itself during your gameplay. It also doesn’t let you make other save states for the game, effectively giving you no other option than sticking to every decision and every mistake you make.

This kind of challenge is something I’m very fond of (trying to beat Spelunky in one go is another example of my “strange” condition), mainly because you can’t really learn about your mistakes without proper consequences, and save states—while convenient—tend to make you use a “trial an error” approach instead of actually devise your tactics, and work around your results.

Remember when Tom Cruise lost his save state in Edge of Tomorrow? Only then he worked around a proper strategy to beat the aliens.

I realized I should try that at some point, but there wasn’t a reason to get so worked up about that… but then I found a reason.

According to the game’s lore March 1st, 2015 is the day when the XCOM Project was initiated, so what better way to celebrate it?

I present to you The XCOM Project, Ironman Mode ON.

And here we are; it’s been a week since I started this challenge, and I’m equally excited and terrified about the final outcome of this project. Considering previous campaigns, there’s a good change it may end in utter disaster, and here I am, broadcasting it for everyone to see it!

On the other hand, I learnt from all those previous gameplays, so new measures are in place for making me avoid falling into the same mistakes. So, here are the rules for this challenge:

  1. No more than one mission per day. Easier said than done! Firaxis Games (like the Civilization series) are famous for being awfully engaging.Not do only I need to establish this rule because there are other things I need to do during my day, but also because most of the mistakes I made in the past could be attributed to the levels of exhaustion I use to get myself to because I just couldn’t resist to play “just another turn.”
  2. That includes not even seeing what will the next mission will be. That’s another trap on this game: many times I wondered “what will the next mission will be about?”, and after seeing it, I end up thinking that this missions is too easy/interesting/exciting that I can’t leave it for later, or maybe there’s an update I really really want that will come after said mission, so… no, suspense kills me, but it’s torturing to keep thinking about that specific mission I’m about to play.
  3. I’ll be updating daily (as long my time/Internet connection allows me to) on my Twitter account about my progress, as well as I’ll be writing a report (like this one!) on a weekly basis, but I’ll try to cover any important event.
    Also, I’m planning to record a random mission an upload it to Youtube, so you can a) watch the actual strategies being played, and b) so you can testify that I am indeed playing with Ironman Mode On, and witness every step of the way while I try to keep my squad alive. Possibly, I’ll try to record some of the most important missions.
  4. While I’m commanding this operation, I’ll let you play the role of the council. You can read my progress via Twitter, and here on CultureMass and make me suggestions about incoming research projects, new building projects and general allocation of my council’s resources, and I’ll take those considerations in mind before making a decision.Unfortunately, you won’t be able to help me out during the Strike Team’s missions, that will be my full responsibility, and you will only be able to witness in awe/despair how some battles unfold.

So, that’s it for now, join me next time as I report how the XCOM Project can handle with the extraterrestrial threat under my watch!

Daniel Castro

Daniel Castro

Daniel is an engineer, teacher, and freelance writer and translator. He considers himself blessed to be born during the the times video games were created, and has followed their development as an entertainment and artistic media ever since. He loves talking about video games as much as he enjoys playing them, and he's always ready to introduce gaming culture to a newer audience.

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