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Xenonauts: The Indie New X-COM Beta Phase 1 Starting Soon

By on October 31st, 2012 10:15 am

Xenonauts | "Welcome back Commander"

At least two X-COM remakes, perhaps a better wording would be reimagining titles, were planned for release this year. These were: Firaxis and 2K’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown and indie Goldhawk Interactive’s Xenonauts.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is available since October 9th 2012, and the general consensus is that this is a somewhat faithful but great X-COM reimagining game. X-COM purists point a few shortcomings over the original games though (OG from this point forward), like having a lighter inventory management system, few soldiers available in combat, less movement freedom and less map randomization. But, overall this is, in my opinion from playing the OG for many years, a faithful reboot and a highly addictive and fun experience. Overall it’s a true X-COM game, and a great success.

Xenonauts is the other X-COM reimagining attempt, previously targeted to reach Beta the same day XCOM:EU was released, which unfortunately didn’t happen. Having played XCOM:EU for more than 100 hours now, and the Xenonauts alpha back in April this year, I would say that Xenonauts promises to be a much closer experience to the OG.


And so another alien hunt begins | "Quiet... I think I heard something."

Graphics quality and production value may not be as good as in XCOM:EU, after all it took Firaxis and 2K about 4 years and millions of dollars to make their game. But, Xenonauts graphics are clean and crisp enough, as you can see above. And, they are surely an improvement over OG’s graphics. I can tell you that the X-COM game mechanics are also intact and that the atmosphere was successfully captured.

So, Xenonauts not reaching the Oct 9 2012 beta target is old news. What’s news is that after a long period of radio silence, Goldhawk Interactive announced that they’ve been doing good progress and that the plan is now to split the Xenonauts beta into two separate phases.

Beta phase 1 will be, in their words, “arriving eminently”. However, no firm date has been set, and they stated that  “it’ll be done when it is done”. Goldhawk explained that Beta 1 will allow a playthrough “with placeholders”. Game-breaking bugs are expected as for badly balanced gameplay as well. They say also that this is a first beta phase, where people are invited to discuss the core game mechanics and help shape the game to make it better. Examples of possible changes could include: Geoscape invasion AI adaptations, weapon fire costs updates and research tree re-structuring. In the meantime, the Xenonauts Team expects to be adding further AI and art assets to the game. Sounds more like Alpha still to me :)


Lots of weapon options. And look, ammo.

Beta phase 2 comes after that. They expect to have fixed as many bugs as possible in Beta 1, to have a new UI in place, and the majority of the art assets already present in the game. They expect a “fun and stable” game at this point, and the game mechanics should be locked when this new beta phase starts. Their objectives with Beta 2 is to do fine balancing, like for example: tweak the number of aliens, fix UI problems, tweak research times or weapons damage. But, they do not expect to change the research tree at this point, or any other game mechanics. Now this sounds more like real Beta to me :)

So, if you want to participate in the Xenonauts beta, and didn’t pledge in Goldhawk’s successful kickstarter, you will need to pre-order the game first. Then, there are two options available to you: a) you can help shape the game and report bugs in a phase where the game is still quite incomplete, or you can join the boat only when the sea is calmer and the wind is on your back, to help the devs smooth some bumps that may still be present.


2D Geoscope? Oh, well.

I think Goldhawk was very clever on splitting the beta stage this way. First, they gain more time and they clarify where they are now and help themselves and the fans focus better on what needs to be done to finish this complex game. This way people know what they are coming to. If you want to get your hands dirty in order to help the devs get through the roughest parts still, and help shape the game, you can join Beta phase 1 (coming soon). If, on the other hand, you only want to join when things are calmer, then you can do so as well, by joining Beta phase 2 (no date set for that yet).

You can read the full beta announcement here.

To know more about Xenonauts, have a look at my Xenonauts preview article (from April this year). I also invite you to take part on the XCOM:EU vs Xenonauts discussion here :) In this article you can find a preliminary comparison between the OG, Xenonauts and XCOM:EU, and the reasons that I think made the X-COM series so fantastic in the first place.

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  1. SQW says:

    I wonder how many clamouring for the old TU and multi-base mechanic will realise how archaic and unnecessarily obtuse they really are in 2012. Ironic that as we PC gamers lament the stale existence of the CoD series, any genuine attempt at innovation is met with howl of wounded nostalgia. The intercept mechanic seems way better than what Firaxis came up with though.

    Also, what ever happened to UFO 2: ET – Shadow over Earth?

    • Adam Solo says:

      About UFO2:ET, the release date is still set to Q4 2012 (although the date already changed more than a couple of times). As I said in another comment below, the UFO2:ET people are not replying to emails, at least not to me and Smoking Robot. And, there have been no news whatsoever in the recent months that I’ve noticed (last news piece was about delaying the release to Fall 2012, now Q4 2012). Or they are very quiet, and shy, or no progress has been done. I’ll be checking their progress.

  2. Jesse says:

    As someone who still plays the OG and JA2 at least once every year or so, I don’t find them archaic or obtuse. I find them granular, and allowing for the greatest tactical flexibility. I like sandbox type play, not rigid rules for the sake of easy balancing and pigeonholed decision making. I don’t think action points/TUs have ever been a problem in and of themselves, but their presentation definitely have room for improvement and innovation.

    • SQW says:

      99% of the time in the OG, the TUs are use to move, shoot and/or save for reaction fire – exactly what the Xcom 2-move system allows you to do. There are certainly room for improvement like giving us more options to use those moves but the combat now flows a LOT better. You must admit, planning a multi-prong manoeuvre in the OG was a nightmare of working out how much TU is needed for the whole squad.

      Personally I feel that I can’t go back to a TU based tactical game after seeing the alternatives and I’m an old-school 4X, RPG, Turn Based Combat PC gamer.

      • Jesse says:

        I’d say the OG it was around 95%, as it wasn’t too uncommon to be scavenging a splattered rookies kit, or stuffing an alien in your pack :P Also, multiple shot types, in theory, forced decisions, though everyone generally just burst fired, I think. Still, there was a great novelty in the freedom it offered, and I appreciate that. That said, OG tactical combat was crude when you compare to JA2, and I OFTEN burned AP on actions other than moving and shooting. Sometimes you were sneaking, sometimes you’d go prone, and burn all your APs to try to get that aimed shot as perfect as you could. Maybe throw a rock as a distraction/lure for an ambush.

        I’ve often wished that the evolution of TB games would find a new X-COM type game with the refinements of JA2, just because I love the strategy layer/setting of X-COM. The OG definitely wasn’t any pinnacle of tactical combat, though it was great for its time.

  3. Smoking Robot says:

    They weren’t very good games (not balanced well at all) but I loved the ‘go and stop’ system in the UFO Aftermath series. SO MUCH BETTER than pure turn based.

    Xenonauts looks good and I pre-bought but I doubt we’ll see version 1.0 before 2014.

    Whatever happened to UFO Extraterristrials 2? That was set for ‘Fall 2012’ now there are ZERO UPDATES on their webpage and they don’t answer emails.

    After my experiences with CiV V I’m not rushing out to buy the new X-Com. Firaxis seems to take forever with patches.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Xenonauts is better now than back in April when I wrote my preview. There are more maps now, and the aliens now move and shoot while back in April they just stand there and there was only 1 map. However, like you said, it’s unpredictable how soon we’ll have the final game.

      “Whatever happened to UFO Extraterristrials 2? That was set for ‘Fall 2012′ now there are ZERO UPDATES on their webpage and they don’t answer emails.”

      Exactly. I must have sent them more than 3 emails with ZERO answers till now. I wanted to help, but they don’t seem to be interested. That, or the email contact they have in the page goes no where.

      I agree on Civ5 and Firaxis support. It’s true that they do a great job with patches, but they take so long … For example, I set Civ5 aside for more than 1 year. Then G&K came and I fell in love with the game. Now with the new Fall patch on the horizon it seems that I’ll be back again for more. It’s the way they work. Hope to have at least the same kind of support for XCOM:EU now.

    • SQW says:

      @ Smoking Robot

      The good news: 2K’s xcom forum just post a patch note on the upcoming patch #2.

      The bad news: It’s coming *soon*.

      • Adam Solo says:

        This second patch is definitely good news. Especially because it shall fix two of the most annoying bugs I think the game had at release, which were the camera “up-and-down” glitches in the abduction ships and the SHIV (mini-tank) problems, i.e. not possible to deploy and can’t fire (I hope).

      • Evil Azrael says:

        Somehow last night i was not able to play. The game crashed immediately on start with an segfault in ntdll.dll. Now it works again. And i assume this was an problem on their side not with my PC.

  4. Ashbery76 says:

    In my view this game cannot come close to the immersion and feel for the setting that the new X-Com has but hopefully if Xenonauts actually gets an A.I that is not retard it might be a fun tactical game.I think from watching the latest builds on youtube by ClosedYeti it looks a long,long way from release.

    • Adam Solo says:

      I also thought it is different from 6 months ago, and I played for only 10 minutes or so. There are new maps available and aliens now fire, but … not quite there yet in terms of potent AI.

      Coming from 100 hours of XCOM: Enemy Unknown it does a feel a bit weird to pickup Xenonauts, as the graphics aren’t as good (mostly due to the XCOM:EU animations) and immersion doesn’t surface immediately. But, after a while, you do start to feel engaged. When done I’m actually quite convinced that Xenonauts can become as good as the OG or Jagged Alliance. Yes, it looks that good.

  5. Zero says:

    Xenonauts has a distinct indie feel and I think that is going to resonate well with people. They are going to have to differentiate themselves from XCOM by providing more depth and taking a few risks.

  6. JohnR says:

    Yeah Adam, I’ve been eying this one on Desura. Maybe it doesn’t have the snazzy graphic presentation of Enemy Unknown, but it looks to me like it will be a more deep and rich multidimensional gaming experience than XCOM: EU.

  7. CletusVanDamme says:

    I’m looking forward to Xenonauts but I have to agree with SQW above in that, while I enjoyed the OGs systems at the time, this is 2012 and game mechanics have moved forward. This looks more like a straight up remake than a reimagining and I’m not really seeing anything new being brought to the table. Maybe I haven’t looked far enough into it.

    So yeah, looking forward to it but not expecting to be blown away.

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