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Xenonauts Leaves Early Access, Officially Released

By on June 19th, 2014 9:29 am

Xenonauts | Sci-fi strategy game by Goldhawk Interactive - Spiritual successor to the X-COM series

It’s been a long ride for the indie studio Goldhawk Interactive and its first game project, Xenonauts. They did Alpha funding on Desura, succeeded at Kickstarter, sold Alpha pre-orders on their site. Early Access. These guys did it all! And, managed to go indie all the way. And now, after five years in development, they finally announced that Xenonauts has “officially left Early Access and became a complete game”.

If you’re not familiarized with this game, Xenonauts is Goldhawk’s spiritual successor to the classic X-COM series from the 90’s, where the most notable entry is the first game, X-COM: UFO Defense (also known as UFO: Enemy Unknown). In 2012, Firaxis released XCOM: Enemy Unknown, an excellent remake to the series.

Xenonauts is a single player sci-fi strategy game for the PC, where, like in previous X-COM games, your task is to defend the world against an alien invasion. You use interceptor planes to engage UFOs and then deploy a special group of soldiers to investigate crash sites in order to unlock the secrets behind the alien origins, while combating the aliens and trying to obtain knowledge on their advanced weaponry to hopefully stand on an equal footing with them as soon as possible.

Xenonauts | Sci-fi strategy game by Goldhawk Interactive - Spiritual successor to the X-COM series

Goldhawk’s goal with Xenonauts was to “improve the graphics, add new content and streamline the interface whilst still retaining all of the key mechanics of the original games”. Did they succeed?

We did a lot of coverage on Xenonauts, including an Alpha preview and a Beta impressions article. So, you can look there for our initial thoughts on the game. But, no coverage is complete without a proper review, so look up for that in the near future.

PS: Also in X-COM news, OpenXcom has achieved v1.0 recently. It’s a free, open-source remake/clone/mod of the original game with some extra features and customization options. So, if you want to try X-COM: UFO Defense with more options and improvements, you should check out OpenXcom (you need the original game for that). Xenonauts is inspired by X-COM but it’s a completely different game.

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  1. RandomBlue says:

    I’ve played about an hour so far and I’m enjoying it. Wish the game had more of a tutorial and it’s still a little rough around the edges. It plays like XCOM, so a tutorial isn’t entirely necessary but it would’ve been nice to be introduced to any new features/mechanics that they’ve added/changed from XCOM.

    There are also a few intro screens / walls of text that have the text in the window cut off on top and/or bottom with no way that I’ve found to scroll the contents of the window. A friend of mine also pointed out some semi-major bugs in gameplay but there are workarounds and hopefully it’ll be patched quickly.

  2. LuckyLuigi says:

    Been playing several hours and not noticed any bugs so far. Manual air combat is a bit tricky but cool. You know the drill, get a tank asap :P

  3. SQW says:

    TU is a terrible choice! Go to the xml file in the Asset folder and change the turning-your-head cost to 0 and you’ll have far less frustration in calculating the TUs needed for that crucial shot.

    Having said that, I played it for a week straight and, despite some rough edges (terribly generic alien/tech and some unclear game mechanics), Xenonauts is more fun than the recent XCOM+EW.

    It is also very much bug free. The invulnerable bug seems to have been fixed in v1.40 and whatever bugs are still present are so obscure you’d be hard pressed to realise it actually happened. Ironically, my PC decided to throw up ‘unable to reference memory 0x000000c’ error tonight so no Xenonauts for me. =(

    Anyway, for $20, it’s a must buy for anyone remotely interested in the Xcom franchise.

  4. Smoking Robot says:

    It’s nice to see a kickstarter game actually get released. Sure took a long time.

    I have concerns about mid to late game difficulty levels, but I’m enjoying this a lot so far.

  5. Triarius says:

    Hey guys, could you please tell me how well the AI fares in this game? Is it any good, does it pose any challenges, or is it braindead? How does it compare to the AI in XCOM: EU? I remember watching videos of Xenonauts alpha builds, but the AI seemed pretty weak. This game caught my attention, but I’d like to hear the opinions of those who’ve played the game thus far. Thanks!

    • Kordanor says:

      The AI isn’t exceptionally good, but neither is it in Jagged Alliance for example. Aliens take cover, but they very often stay back so that you can move forward, shoot, move backward, repeat. It’s not ideal but I think the game works well anyways.

    • SQW says:

      It’s adequate.

      You might want to some figures in the xml file so the aliens assigned to defend inside the UFO isn’t too passive.

      Since the v1.30, breeching has turned from a bloody affair to a cake walk.

  6. Buxaroo says:

    I’m gonna pick this up at some point, but I can’t afford it right now because Steam Summer sales just started and I just threw down $16 for XCOM Complete Edition lol. Not to mention whatever goes on sale. But damnit, this game looks fun, and everyone that has it says they liked it more than XCOM because it can be a mean game. But I just couldn’t pass up XCOM now that it’s on LINUX. If XCOM wasn’t ported to linux today, I would have probably ended up buying Xenonauts instead.

  7. Edward Ryan says:

    I think it’s good but doesn’t have the same atmosphere as xcom

  8. Keith Turner says:

    I’ve not played this one, so I can’t comment on whether it is a quality title or not.

    I must say though that I’m surprised they chose to release the game right before the big summer Steam sale. As a developer on Steam they would have had forewarning of when the sale was coming (plus it was leaked publicly weeks ago). It’s going to have a hard time getting much exposure at this point.

    I know their team has been working on this game for several years now, and it’s kind of sad to see it fall off the main page so quickly. I feel like they should have either released a week or two earlier, or pushed it back a couple of weeks. Oh well, I hope the game is great and the release works out for them.

  9. Nicholas Lee says:

    Been meaning to buy Xcom EW and try the Long War mod. How does this compare?

  10. Mark says:

    I’ve had my eye on this one for a long time as the game that just might make up for the shallow, dumbed down travesty that was XCOM-EU.

    Glad to see its finally been released as a finished game. I’ll look forward to reading the review before making my mind up.

    • SQW says:

      Actually, in defense of Firaxis, XCOM has greater variety than Xenonauts. With Xeno, it’s basically shoot ufo, investigate ufo; there’s no council mission to break up the monotony. Sure, you can choose to target multiple crash sites with multiple teams in Xeno but in the end, it becomes such a grind you’ll use the auto-resolve ground combat option more.

      Also, if you think the cover mechanic in XCOM is bad, just wait till you try to figure out Xeno’s.

      Both side got something right and both missed the mark on others. I have a feeling XCOM EU with Long War mod will eventually prove to be the superior.

      • Happy Corner says:

        To be fair, Xenonauts also had alien base assaults. I mean, more than one. Given how bitterly some of the XCOM haters complained about the ONE scripted alien base mission in XCOM, that’s probably a big deal.

        That said, I’d agree that both games have something to offer over the other. I have trouble understanding where the hate for either one of them comes from.

        • Mark says:

          Hate’s a strong word, I don’t feel that strongly about XCOM-EU, I just thought it was a rather shallow, dumbed down game and a very poor, substandard successor to the amazing original. Disappointed is more accurate than hate.

          I’m hoping that Xeno will be deeper and more tactically complex, basically more like the original but with improvements. If not, meh I wont really be surprised and I’ll be happy to save my money.

        • Happy Corner says:

          I think you would find Xenonauts more to your liking, then.

          It certainly deviates much less from the original X-COM, and there ARE some definite improvements other than graphics. The weapon types are more distinct from each other, you can set how your troops are lined up in the carrier, air combats are more complex, and while the aliens aren’t that tough in the beginning, they put up a much better fight as the game rolls on. There are a lot more battles than the new XCOM, but the aforementioned auto-resolve helps a lot when it gets too grindy. Also, there’s no psionics for the human side, so don’t count on using mind control to curbstomp your way through the game like you could in the original.

        • Mark says:

          Certainly sounds promising from your description. Pity about the “no psionics” for the human side though. I would have thought that a worthy successor to the original would have *more* strategic options and interesting decision making points, not less.

          Done properly, psionics – like any other tech – should be a trade off where the benefit in developing it is balanced against the time spent which could have gone into other areas. I agree that it was overpowered in the original but there’s no reason it needs to be that way if balanced correctly.

          I don’t really care about lots of tactical battles, that’s what X-com is all about after all. I wont ever be using “auto resolve”, I love tactical battles and if I end up buying it that will be the primary reason.

        • SQW says:

          Mark, I bet you will use auto combat. A LOT. =)

          UFOs in Xeno come in waves. By the 3rd month, every wk you’ll be shooting down 4-6 ufos. The AI in Xeno is also not enough of a challenge nor does the map/mission offer enough variety to justify combing through the 20th identical UFO crash site for just 50% more cash reward.

          I do hope the game gain some popularity because it desperately need modders to flesh it out more. Generic weapons, Aliens and mission variety really keep Xeno from becoming an instant classic.

        • Mark says:

          @ SQW: Well I do like tactical combat A LOT :) but even I have my limits. If the game throws that much alien spam at you that it just isn’t fun any more then that’s a serious problem with the game design and I probably wont bother buying it.

        • SQW says:

          Actually, I feel the quick resolve button is one of few things Xeno does better than the original X-Com.

          There are just two ways to represent increased UFO difficulties: small number of highly advanced UFOs or large number of easier pickings. The former means if you fall behind, you’ll never catch up and the latter means grind. Quick resolve solves the grinding problem nicely while still giving you the option to get your hands dirty.

          I seriously recommend you pick this game up in the near future. The vanilla version is very enjoyable despite some rough edges and the devs deserve some financial success for actually coming through with a decent product.

        • Mark says:

          @ SQW: I’ll be getting it if it scores a good review from SpaceSector and contains the depth and complexity I’m after. It’s been way too long since I played a half way decent X-Com game that didn’t feel like it was designed for 9 year old console-kids with ADD.

      • Gray Carlyle says:

        Xenonauts has a really interesting huge mod project going on which is called XNT v5.0 Into Darkness. Below is the link to forumthread of the mod.

        It adds new aliens (complete new models), new weapons, alters the Aircombat, improves the AI and much more. Overall it makes the game a lot harder, but satisfactory.

        *Important is to forget about any tactic you learned in the vanilla game*

    • ashbery76 says:

      The new X-com was great and I’m liking Xeno too.The tactical A.I in X-com is better,more fluid and realistic.Xeno tacticalis still good but like the old X-com the aliens do not feel like intelligent beings but static and stupid.

      Xeno has a better strategic game from my limited play so far.

      • Gray Carlyle says:

        You should take a look on the XNT mod, it does a great job in making the AI take better tactical decisions.

        Regarding Xcom:EW: I also took a look at Long War Mod for xcom, and wow this project is also amazing, now its hard to decide which mod to play first. xD

  11. Ace of the Stars says:

    Ok… Why the hell can´t I see my soldiers in ground combat? I get to select them but I can´t see them… What´s the point in playing this then? Anyone has the same bug?

    • Happy Corner says:

      I haven’t seen this bug myself, but you will probably have more luck posting this on the Xenonauts forum (if you haven’t already).

  12. Markypoo says:

    Just got this, mad fun. A lot of different layers and they’re all fun. (Air combat is kinda boring but I appreciate that it’s there)

    They got a good spooky vibe going when you’re on the ground. Can’t wait for a base attack mission.

  13. whocares says:

    Xenonauts is an excellent game. At last an XCom game with base defense, real ones, not the scripted one happening once in XCom:EU/EW. Plus you even get several ‘invade alien bases’ missions!

  14. csebal says:

    The bad:
    There is no funding overview – sure you have funding information scattered here and there, but no clear overview exists

    There is no alien activity overview – you get a lot of reported alien activity and that’s a nice touch, but there is no way to check the history of that log, so if you time accelerate, that information is gone. unless you look at the game at a relatively slow pace, there is no way to know where the hot-spots are.
    The way you have to manage your soldiers is very painful

    The soldier management is horrible – you have one screen where you can assign your soldiers to your craft and a different screen to equip them, however you cannot assign them from there. Placement in the drop ship is also problematic. If you have a tank and 6 troops in it, you have to unassign the tank if you want to move it in front of the soldiers.

    On the soldier hiring screen, you seem to be stuck with the same set of hires even if you do not hire them for a month, so you are forced to hire useless troops eventually.

    Base overview is also lacking. Utilization of my hospital for example is not available on the base screen, but instead only on the soldier equipment screen.

    Tactical combat is sometimes made more difficult than how it should be due to the way isometric view and the inability to rotate it is limiting selection possibilities.

    On the bright side:
    – The game is quite challenging. That first terror mission was brutal.
    – I do like the tactical combat, even with its quirks
    – I really like the aerial combat. Lots of potential there, though I reckon it might get grindy after a while
    – I love how they streamlined baseline technologies by automatically upgrading certain items. Also like the new storage system, where mundane items are provided in infinite quantities, so I do not have to play accountant and order every last roll of paper towel manually.
    – I love the little reports of alien activity on the geoscape as well as the causality counter.
    – I like the option to carpet bomb sites in exchange for a reduced mission reward.

    I have mixed feelings about the game. Lots of very good innovations in it that I like, but some glaring UI flaws that I just cannot stand behind wholeheartedly.

    Would I recommend the game? For those who liked the original XCOM, I believe I would. Despite the flaws I mentioned, the core ideas seem to be solid, the game is challenging (I played on veteran) and it most certainly had the “just one more UFO” effect when playing.

    With the summer sale being held on steam and for those hesitating, it might be worth watching out for this getting into a flash sale or daily sale.

    • SQW says:

      You don’t exactly need a funding overview. You only ever need to know how much each area is giving you, how much each area is changing its funding, total income, total income change and total expenditure. All the info is there without having to make another page.

      You CAN assign soldier to transport from equipment screen. I know, it’s not obvious (just click on the transport black box in the soldier info panel on the left from the equipment screen)and I had the exact frustrating experience until I clicked on the black box accidentally.

      You don’t need alien activity screen a la the original. All activities in XENO are caused by UFOs and affects your income if left untreated. On this point, Xeno is actually much simpler than the original. If you want to know which continent to protect, just hoover over the area and it’ll show the amount of money being lost – the more money lost, the greater the activity.

      Hospital. Why would you want to see who’s injured in a separate panel? The roster/equipment screen shows all you need to know.

      • csebal says:

        I need a funding overview so I can tell which regions are in need of additional effort without being forced to hover over all of them one by one. Sure the info is there without such an overview and this is why this is called a bloody overview.

        The fact that I DID NOT FIND a way to assign soldiers from the equipment screen pretty much proves my point about the UI being poorly designed.

        Again, I do not need an alien activity screen, just as I do not need to play the game to begin with. Its not about need. Its about giving the user information in a clear an concise manner.

        As for the hospital, that’s a simple story. I was having 4 wounded crewmen and had no idea how many the hospital can treat at one time, so I was looking for info on the utilization of my hospital. There is none. I guess you can check the tooltip and see that it treats 8. Then check the soldier screen and see that you have 5 wounded and do the math yourself, but would it not have been easier to just go to some overview screen, where there is a line that has a max capacity of 8 and a current usage of 5? Rhetorical question.

        A little addendum to my previous assessment of the game:
        Aerial combat is extremely grindy, especially since you have to play many of those by hand. I can beat a fighter wing of 3 with 2 fighters of my own 10 out of 10 times, but would I let the same go with auto resolve, I would have a 0% chance of victory.

        Generally you have to play everything that has a fighter escort manually, and most of the late game ships do have those. It gets real tedious real fast.

        • Happy Corner says:

          As a counterpoint about air grinding, I got through the whole game (on normal difficulty) without having to play a single air combat on manual.

          Then again, I knew from previous games that I don’t really enjoy manual air combat, so I made a point of researching new interceptors (and aircraft weapons) as soon as possible whenever I could. It worked, and my interceptors were able to keep up enough for auto-resolve to stay at (or near) 100% the whole game.

          I had other problems, though. The ground combats get grindy, too… towards the end, I was only bothering when a new UFO appeared or I desperately needed more materials or something. I finished the game mostly out of obligation, rather than because I was really enjoying it.

          Not to start a flame war, but I understand more now why the new XCOM got rid of time units.

          Yeah, TU’s are more simulation-like and it’s easy (at first glance) to say XCOM’s two-action system is “dumbed down”, but the latter is a lot less fiddly and cumbersome. I found myself missing the more RPG-like feel of XCOM. In Xenonauts, I loathed all the times I reserved TU and my guy didn’t even take the shot no matter how much the aliens danced in front of him – or he DID, but he clearly took a bunch of drunken snap shots when I reserved for an aimed shot. I also dislike how it’ll tell you much the alien’s cover is obstructing a shot, but it never tells you how covered YOUR troops are. It’s also possible to downgrade your base defenses if you research the weapons slightly out of order. All these are just little annoyances, but they add up and the new XCOM avoids them.

          Don’t get me wrong, Xenonauts is definitely better than the original X-COM – at least you can tell which aliens are the commanders now, the designers did a better job of balancing the alien races, and I was pleasantly surprised to see an alien invasion story FOR ONCE address the question of “Wait, what if these bastards are just one arm of a galaxy-wide civilization?” – but like I said, I can see why the new XCOM was made the way it was.

        • SQW says:

          For an indie game that went through the ups and downs that Gold Hawk went through, I’m prepared to accept the lack of UI polish given what it did accomplish. For the record, I do believe Xeno lacked polish in many actual game affecting mechanics so this isn’t from a fanboy.

          You see, it’s about allocating limited resources. How often do you need to check for UFO activity? I bet it’s only when you have to plunk down a new base, which is what, once every 2 months on average? There are dozens of little things Xeno can polish up first rather than spending money on something that’s rarely needed. Same with a dedicated hospital screen; sure, it’s nice to have the info in one click but what would that extra info help you to achieve that you can’t accomplish already with 2 clicks?

          Yes, the dropship assignment button is a head scratcher. Yes, the UI, especially the roster screen, is a pain to use. I too, spent 10min looking for a funding screen at first. In the end, if those are your only complaints then Gold Hawk did a marvelous job of focusing on the meat of the game instead of getting tied up in little details.

          Can’t comment on the air combat though. I only went up to Cruiser on normal using auto resolve and only lost one condor.

        • csebal says:

          “For an indie game that went through the ups and downs that Gold Hawk went through…”
          I got lots of respect for the Goldhawk guys. Their attitude and commitment is admirable.

          However I am also a believer of judging games on their own merits and not based on the circumstances in which they were created. A game will not be better, just because it was harder to create it.

          Overall, I do find Xenonauts to be a good game, but with a few glaring flaws, just as I wrote a little above. Most of those flaws lie in the usability department. The game gets tedious after a while, its as simple as this.

  15. whocares says:

    You can get the worldwide funding overview by hovering over an ocean actually.

  16. Lance Elliott says:

    Its weird, you’d expect Xenonauts to be harder than Enemy Unknown since it more closely follows the original, and has much more complexity.

    But having tried both very recently, its oddly not true. Enemy unknown slaughters me, while I do great at Xenonauts.

    • SQW says:

      The larger starting squad, ability to shoot and duck back out of LOS and universal squad sight in Xeno makes early game quite easy. Generally, having a spotter in front and 2 machine gunners at the back will slaughter anything up to mid game.

      By comparison, the original X-COM was MUCH more brutal.

    • SQW says:

      The larger starting squad, ability to shoot and duck back out of LOS and universal squad sight in Xeno make early game quite easy. Generally, having a spotter in front and 2 machine gunners at the back will slaughter anything up to mid game.

      By comparison, the original X-COM was MUCH more brutal.

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