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X-COM: Apocalypse

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X-COM: Apocalypse is the third game in the X-COM series of computer games. It was developed by Mythos Games (the creators of the original X-COM game), and published by MicroProse in 1997 for DOS and Microsoft Windows (32-bit family).

Story

Half a century after the end of the second X-COM campaign, the last battle of T'leth has severely damaged Earth's biosphere. As a result, several self-contained Megalopolis-type cities were proposed to provide habitation for humanity. The game follows Mega-Primus, the first of these cities, built over the ruins of Toronto, Canada. Meanwhile the off-world colony of Mars is exploited by the Elerium mining corporation, Solmine, and oppressed by MarSec (MARs SECurity).

The alien threat in the game is presented by a new race of organic, extradimensional aliens that initially seem to have no relation to the aliens of the previous two games, though later missions set in the aliens' home dimension reveal they have enslaved Sectoid survivors. These new aliens attack the city through tetrahedron-shaped teleport gates. The player must find out how to send their own aircraft, along with X-COM agents, through these gates without being destroyed and take the war to the aliens. Apocalypse has fourteen fictional races of alien beings. Each race has various strengths and weaknesses, and some races are dependent on other races. The "alien life cycle" plays a crucial part of the game.

Gameplay

File:XCom apoc screen1.jpg
File:XCom Apoc screen 2.gif

Similar to the first two games, Apocalypse features a map-like management mode (the Cityscape) and an isometric combat mode (the Battlescape). The management mode takes place in a single city, called Mega Primus, rather than being spread out over the entire planet Earth as in the previous games. In addition, Apocalypse was the first game in the X-COM series to include a real-time combat option as well as the traditional turn-based mode.

Apocalypse features a re-done interface with new graphics. It is more complex, and the task of keeping and increasing the funding of the X-COM organization now extends to not only intercepting UFOs, but also to minimizing collateral damage, preventing alien hostile takeovers and even raiding the buildings of other organisations, of which there are several in Mega Primus.

A new feature is the choice of playing the tactical missions in either the familiar turn-based mode or real-time. In the turn-based mode, the aliens and humans switch turns to perform actions while in real-time, everything happens simultaneously, though the game can be paused at any time to issue orders to agents.

X-COM: Apocalypse claims to have a self-learning AI-module. The developers' homepage suggests that one may copy the AI file and swap it with another player's AI file. The result should be a different playing experience (at least in terms of AI behavior). There is little evidence to suggest that self-learning AI was actually implemented. Although, it is evident in the game that aliens react intelligently to certain player tactics, such as grenade attacks, hand-to-hand attacks, and smoke cover.

The game features self-adjusting difficulty, where player performances influences the Alien zeal to expand and infest. Sluggish X-COM responses, total failures, and a bad weekly rating slow the alien build-up of weapons and creatures (but not ships) on their homeworld. This gives the player the chance to amend their failures and rethink their strategy. For example, a high rating in first five days can make the Aliens attack your HQ head-on with a large heavily armed mob often. Conversely, a low rating in the first five days can make the aliens only incur twice a week, with a very small force. This also affects the equipment quality of the aliens, so if a very high score is acquired quickly (for example by using a bug that allows the player to raid allied organisations without hostile response), the very first batch of aliens might be found with personal shields and disruptor cannons (which normally would appear only much later in the game).

Mega-Primus

The city is run by thirteen elected senators. Large corporations maintain the environmental, social and economic structure of the city, while the populace live in relative comfort. Mega-Primus has its own marginalized minorities, consisting of Sectoid-human hybrids and androids, both by-products of the previous wars. These minorities have set up their own political pressure groups. When the aliens invade, the city government reestablishes X-COM. This time there is no absolute support by world/city governments. Mega-Primus has its own governing body who supply nearly all of X-COM's income. X-COM would have to support its income through the sale of alien artifacts captured from missions, and items manufactured in their own workshops.

X-COM must maintain a good rapport with other organizations in the city. If X-COM angers any of them, or fails to contain the alien incursion, organizations will demand compensation or even actively attack X-COM forces. They will also withdraw their support (if any) for the X-COM project. For example the Transtellar organization would prevent Agents and science personnel from travelling around the city. The corporations and political organizations will make profits, perform research, manufacture items, and even fight covert battles with one another independently of the player. For example, if Megapol, the city police, are making lots of money, they will be able to maintain a strong presence in the city, attacking alien ships and other hostile aircraft. The more damage to the city, and the greater Megapol's financial trouble, the less they will be able to respond to enemy attacks across the city. One of these organizations, the Cult of Sirius, is a group of religious fanatics who worship the aliens, and is inherently hostile to X-COM. The aliens, rather than simply signing non-aggression treaties with the various corporations, will attempt to infest their CEOs and take control of the organizations themselves.

If the Government becomes hostile towards X-COM for any reason, such as alien interference or excessive damage to Government property and personnel, then the X-COM project will receive no further funding. This is a potential disaster for the player, and can lead to X-COM scrounging out a miserable existence, stealing from other organisations in order to survive. However, with perfect management, X-COM can outpower the entire City's military, while being richer than even Food Monopoly Company Nutrivend, then destroy the whole city and get away with it, given the game's superb flexibility. Having friendly relations with both minorities (the android organisation S.E.L.F and the hybrid Mutant Alliance) can result in superbly talented recruits of these races becoming available in following weeks.

Originally the game was going to be much larger and be even more in-depth, with political intrigue helping to bring the city of Mega-Primus to life. An unimplemented weapon called the Tracker Gun could be fired at an unsuspecting enemy, attaching some kind of tracer onto his clothes. The person could then be trailed around the city by one or more X-COM agents. All of this political intrigue was cut down to the bare bones due to the aforementioned constraints.

Development

A large number of features originally planned to be in the game, but was never finished due to lack of time and problems implementing it. This includes multiplayer support for up to 8 players, a large number of skills for the agents, a scenario generator to quickly start a tactical missions where the players could control any organization including the aliens, and multiple alien dimensions, among other things. Some of this actually was in includeded in the beta stage, but they were removed for the retail release. However if one searches the contents of the CD, it is possible to find graphics for items (such as Sonic Cleaver and Energy Web) and monsters that didn't make it into the game but are still included there.

Reception

Re-releases

The game has been re-released as part of the compilations X-COM Collection by Hasbro Interactive in 1999, and X-COM: Complete Pack in 2008 and 2K Huge Games Pack in 2009 by 2K Games. On September 5, 2008, the X-COM series, including X-COM Apocalypse, became available for sale on Valve's Steam platform; the game runs in a specially configured version of DOSBox.

References

External links

fr:X-COM: Apocalypse

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