Xenonauts is the long awaited spiritual successor to the classic PC strategy game, XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Although Firaxis released a more modernized and progressive version in 2012, the folks at Goldhawk Interactive took the more traditional approach of staying true to the core gameplay mechanics of the classic ‘90s XCOM title. Backed by supporters pledging more than $150,000 in the kickstarter campaign, the developers worked tirelessly amidst several delays to craft a game worthy of an XCOM series affiliation. The result is a polished, highly addictive game that pays homage to the classic title while building on the successful fundamentals. 

The game take places during the Cold War era between the US and USSR when an alien fleet made an unwelcome visit in October 1979. With no response to any communication, the fleet destroyed and wiped out all interception attempts made by powerful nations in the skies. The only success detected on radar was a classified interceptor taking down a UFO scout craft hovering over the Baltic Sea. Major governments around the world received phone calls from a covert organization claiming responsibility with a proposition – to receive funding and authority to freely operate in the airspace in exchange for protection against the alien threat. The major powers hesitate but agree to the proposition with you as the commander in chief of the secret organization known as the Xenonauts.

You will begin by choosing the base location on the Geoscape. A circular perimeter shows the initial radar parameters of your established home base. Funding is granted by the different nations in exchange for protection as you will have to manage more than one base across the continents to repel the alien invasion. Difficult decisions are made when there are varying distress calls and chaotic events happening around the globe. If you lose five or more funding nations to the alien menace, earth is doomed and the game is over. A massive state of urgency will be felt as updates are constant updates are given of vessel sinkings, city bombings, city terrors and civilian abductions. You are given the option to speed up time until a UFO is detected or crises occur on the Geoscape or radar.

The base is handled through a grid-based management system. You can build structures like radar array, hangar, living quarters, storeroom, medical center, garage, workshop, laboratory and the base defense battery. Stats of all personnel as well as monthly maintenance costs are displayed on the left side as you acquire more funds and construct more facilities. If you choose to demolish any of the facilities, you will receive half the value back in funds. Carefully managing your research, engineer and military personnel is vital to your success as funds are tight in the latter half of the game.

Combat operates on a turn-by-turn basis as you maneuver and position your soldiers strategically in missions to neutralize alien threats and safely recover their technology for research purposes. Green tiles indicate the distances of where your soldiers can move with red displaying insufficient time units to do so. A target reticule is used to indicate the accuracy of a soldier’s shot within a straight, narrow or obstructed line of sight. If a “suppressed” sign appears above a soldier, they will not move or return fire and will kneel or seek cover if necessary. The combat classes available are heavy weapons experts, assault specialists and snipers. Weapons and roles can be assigned interchangeable to all soldiers without any limitations placed on them with respect to their designated roles.

You have only a couple months to strengthen your base, interceptors and soldiers before the game takes on a very steep difficulty curve with rampant UFO sightings, cities being terrorized and alien races inflicting ungodly damage to your best soldiers. Many lives will be risked and lost in acquiring and researching alien technology to develop better aircraft, armor, facilities and weapons to slow the alien invasion. More bases must be built across the globe as well to ensure you don’t lose the support of the highest paying nations behind the monthly funding.

Visually, the game is very polished and detailed in the building structures, soldier and enemy character designs, special effects, burning wreckage and the Geoscape. The progression from day to night is very smooth and fluid on the Geoscape and the radars showing the aerial combat between the interceptors and UFOs are satisfactory. The soundtrack is a perfect accompaniment to the game with the proper aura of excitement, anxiety, fear, terror and mystery throughout the game as you unravel the mysteries and secrets of your alien foes.

Xenonauts is the spiritual successor that XCOM fans have patiently been waiting for. As a huge fan of the classic ‘90s XCOM title, the game kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat as I strategically planned my finances and base management to repel the alien threat. After putting in around 200 hours into this game and completing the final mission, I found myself eager to replay it again on the higher difficulty settings or the “Ironman” mode. Xenonauts is the game that I’ve waited over two decades to play and I can proudly say that it was worth every dollar and every hour of my wallet and time that I’ve invested and then some. Kudos to Goldhawk Interactive. Mission complete.


PROS – Engaging soundtrack, Intricate management system, Solid combat

CONS – Steep learning curve, Pacing issues


SCORE – 94%

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