I hate to admit this, but XCOM: Enemy Unknown never entered my radar until the day it released and I realized it was a strategy game. All that time I ignored it thinking it was a shooter. I hang my head in shame, but I also admit that this is one of the best games to release this year. Well, that is if you are into commanding marines to protect us from aliens.
As for the XCOM: Enemy Unknown strategy guide, well, it is a bit of a mixed bag. Let me start with the negatives, beginning with the fact that the cover says it includes the PC but many of the controls listed throughout the guide neglect to state the PC commands. For example, in the Basics chapter it tries to detail how to move the camera with the right control stick while zooming in and out is mapped to the L (XBOX) or L2 (PS3) buttons. Nowhere does it state that PC gamers rotate the camera with the Q and E keys or that zooming comes courtesy of the mouse scroll wheel. Yes, I know I can play the game with a controller, but I prefer a mouse and keyboard.
Next, readers have to endure some bad editing and sporadic information that contradicts itself. By bad editing, I mean spaces missing between words and spelling errors. For the contradictory information, there are heaps of tables detailing items from the game and then a blurb on said item and its advantages/disadvantages. These generally pull a screen capture showing some significant number, but then the blurb contradicts what the screenshot shows. So anyone studying this guide as a bit of pre-planning before tackling a mission will want to confirm what they read in the guide with what the game tells them.
Finally, we get to the beast that is XCOM itself. Those who don’t know, this is a game of randomness. Random missions, different troops for every replay, and a lot of death all play a major role in making this game entertaining while baiting players to chuck their control devices in frustration as their favorite marine dies due to a sneaky alien. This also makes it difficult to write a detailed walkthrough of the game. Therefore, anyone expecting to see complex maps or tips on how to tackle a specific instance in a particular mission is sorely at a loss here. That is just the downfall of a game such as this.
So what is good about this guide. Well, while it pretty much regurgitates in-game information, it presents it in an easy to read manner. The walkthrough may not contain every little area of the game, in fact the last mission is the only thing receiving immense details, but it does help players determine when it is best to research this item or that weapon. This is very handy for those times when debating on whether it is better to go for an upgrade to armor or progress the story and bring on tougher enemies.
While readers may not find the walkthrough overly fantastic, the Research Lab and Barracks sections are full of goodies that ease the burden of strategy. These areas make all the in-game information fast and easy to read, with the keyword being fast. I saved a fair amount of time and money on development/building, thanks to these two chapters. Even assembling my team was easier thanks to knowing the capabilities and weakness of each class. I spent the bulk of my gaming time here as I found them the most useful of the entire guide.
The multiplayer portion is kind of a combination of the Research Lab, Barracks, and Walkthrough chapters. Summaries of how to build a squad, equipment stats, enemy details, and whatnot all come with blurbs on what makes a unit great to have in a squad or what to watch for in a particular baddie. Plenty of charts crammed full of numbers help speed up the decision-making processes compliment all this.
We finally arrive at the end of the guide, which happens to be 25-pages of art. Now I love a good art book, so this totally made me happy. If you’re not into screenshots or concept art, this will most certainly feel like wasted space. However, it is nice to see artists sketches turned into gaming assets.
At the end of the day, the XCOM: Enemy Unknown strategy guide takes the information in the game and presents it in an easier to read fashion. This is for those players that want to quickly glance down and find what they are looking for fast and effortlessly. Those players wanting some handholding through the entire game will want to stick to whatever they can find online. This is a decent guide that helps fans figure out how to tackle a game that punishes without remorse.