Xcom 3: XCOM 2, the sequel to 2012’s reboot of the celebrated X-COM series, left a lot to the imagination. Not only did the creators, seemingly intentionally, leave some of the plot points unresolved, but that massive tease of an ending tickled long-time X-COM fans’ brains in just the right way. Meaning? We think that there will eventually be an XCOM 3. And by ‘eventually’ we don’t mean some vague time in the future when everyone’s excitement will have waned. Note that there has not been a peep from creators Firaxis Games or 2K about the possibility of a new addition to the series yet. But if the game does have to happen, an announcement is not likely to arrive before they are well settled on the direction that XCOM 3 needs to take. But in all likelihood, we should be able to see or hear something related to their plans in the near future.
The XCOM Backstory
If you’re not very well acquainted with the name and have taken an interest in XCOM recently, then you might be wondering what so many people are doing contemplating about a sequel on web forums when XCOM 2 came out not too long ago. Let’s explain.
X-COM is a brand that first reared its fantastic head way back in 1994 with UFO: Enemy Unknown. Since then, the turn-based strategy game has spawned a number of major titles, including sequels, games that never saw the light of the day, and of course, the series reboot that we have at present. The games were notorious for being some of the hardest strategy titles even the most seasoned players were accustomed to, and beating most of them was something to boast about.
The main X-COM games consisted of six titles in total, including one that was a play by mail, while the ‘re-imagined’ series stylized as XCOM carries two main entries developed by Firaxis, one pre-sequel, and an expansion. The original games, especially 1994’s Enemy Unknown, is considered by many as the ultimate strategy game to have ever been made, thanks to its awesome turn based tactical gameplay. The later additions kept up well with that standard, but the excitement ultimately fizzled out for the creators’ increasingly unimaginative approach that led to a slow death after 2001’s X-COM: Enforcer. That was until 2K Games and Firaxis decided to collaborate on a reboot.
The thing about reboots is that they often tend to veer too far off from the games they were inspired by in order to click with the current crop of gamers. Happily, that has not been the case with the XCOM games. While XCOM: Enemy Unknown was highly praised by critics for its intensely challenging gameplay and beautiful execution, its 2016 sequel, simply titled XCOM 2, pleased series veterans with its subtle throwbacks to the original franchise. While initial technical issues affected feedback immediately after launch, it still remains one of 2016’s best-selling video games. But to answer the question of why fans are dying to hear from the makers about XCOM 3 is another issue altogether.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
XCOM 3: Why It Needs To Happen?
Besides the fact that it is always profitable to come up with new titles in a successful franchise (often at the series’ own peril of being sucked dry), XCOM 2’s ending, in our opinion, and fans will agree, leaves no questions about the creators’ intentions about taking the series forward. Let us elaborate.
To really get into it, we have already said that the rebooted games have not only won over new fans but also players who have been acquainted with the series for a long time. While the challenging gameplay and the well-rounded storyline, what clicked was the fact that it a proper homage to the original. Let us take a quick look at the games’ titmeline. XCOM: Enemy Unknown was set in 2015, with its sequel being set after a gap of twenty years. That means XCOM 2’s timeline began in the year 2035. We will come back to how all that comes together for XCOM 3, but for now, let us revert back to what we are really here for: the ending of XCOM 2.
To put it briefly, the most recent game almost ends on an optimistic note. Almost. If you have had a chance at beating the game, you would know that the ADVENT forces were seemingly on the wane under pressure from the growing Resistance. But what about that strange light emanating from under the ocean?
That is a direct throwback to the sequel to the 1994 original, X-COM: Terror from the Deep. TFTD was set two decades after the events of the first game, where a new aquatic species of aliens were awakened by a transmitter to wreak havoc on mankind. X-COM: Terror from the Deep remains to be one of the hardest games in the series, and beating the game both brought victory to humanity and set the stage for the next game with the destruction of earth’s ecosystem.
The connection between XCOM 2 and X-COM: Terror from the Deep lies right here. The signal that is transmitted by that mysterious glow at the end of the 2016 title clearly hearkens back to the aquatic aliens from TFTD. Note the timeline too. TFTD was set in 2040, and XCOM 2’s story takes place five years earlier. Get the hint?
Sadly, we don’t have any insights from the creators about the possibilities of XCOM 3, but if a new game ever comes into being, we are pretty sure it will have something to do with nasty underwater aliens anew, for it doesn’t seem likely that such a huge revelation following the climax would be left unaddressed. We have our fingers crossed.
XCOM 3 Gameplay and Features Wishlist
As with all the best strategy games, it is impossible to guess at what features or new gameplay elements the next title in the series is going to bring in. But what we do know that a franchise that has already exceeded fans’ expectations will need to reinvent itself constantly if it is to retain its popularity.And the XCOM series is definitely about much more than popularity. Being one of the smartest strategy games around in its time has to be a challenge in itself- living up to those standards is an entirely different ballgame altogether. So many falter in the face of pressure and we are left with the sudden and unfortunate demise of a promising series, as was the case with the original franchise. We hope Firaxis exercises restraint and keeps bringing us more of the awesomeness with XCOM 3 instead of trying to make it overtly complicated just to achieve difficulty. We have a few things on our mind for a possible next title. Take a look and tell us if you agree.
More Story: We have enjoyed the detailed insight into the story aspect of things that has been maintained so far in Firaxis’s reimagination of the series. XCOM 2, especially, also gave us a look at the purpose of the aliens on earth, which is not to say that they have our sympathies as players, but it was a nice way to give us some closure. While most critics and fans have raved about XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2’s gameplay, we have to admit that the story element has been well fleshed out. Also, looking at the ending of XCOM 2, we think it is safe to say that there is more coming. We are sure that the challenge will be kept up, and what better way to give it some softness but with a great story that reveals itself as we go along? Otherwise, we would just lose interest. So yes, the first thing on out wishlist for XCOM 3 is definitely a detailed story that explains more of the earlier games’ untold secrets.
Better Replayability: We love the way XCOM 2 challenged the player by making it very decision oriented, which meant that your fate in the game rested with you. One of the best things about the last game was the map regeneration which was aimed at aiding the player in not feeling a general sense of repetitiveness. But it could use some improvements. Strategically speaking, the regeneration mostly helps with the move forward, but not necessarily in a wholly unique way. What we want in XCOM 3 is the ability to truly make our decision through the strategy levels to create a new game every time we play- more flexibility.
A Well Thought-out Launch: For a game that was so good in almost every possible respect, XCOM 2 fell short of its predecessor’s standards by being a mess when it first launched. Many players complained that the game did not work well on their computers- an embarrassment to the kind of following that the reboot had garnered when it first released. We are certain that the creators will think of such petty but no less pestering issues before launching XCOM 3, but we are just putting this out there for what it’s worth.
XCOM 3 Trailer
Considering that there is no real confirmation about Firaxis and 2K’s plans about the future of the series, we won’t be seeing a trailer or a first look anytime soon.
XCOM 3 Release Date
This is difficult to say, especially because XCOM 2 has released fairly recently and we expect a major expansion and other updates to still make their way into the game. We think there will be some time before the next game, if one is at all on the cards, goes into development. Watch this space for more.
XCOM 3 has to be a blast, for in a perfect world, it will bring the reboot and the original games together in the best possible way. We are naturally excited about it, as is every fan who can’t get enough of the striking balance the new games have struck between being interesting and difficult in equal measures. Let us know what you want to see in the possibly upcoming game. Perhaps the creators will take notice.