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XCOM: Public Demo Review and How to Make it Harder

Well, the XCOM demo dropped less than a day ago, so I’ll start with some easy info which might help some diehards out there out- While the steam demo locks you in on easy mode, did you know you can ramp up the difficulty?



From the XCOM forums, it seems as if people have been rooting around in the config and .ini files, and their old school mucking in guts have paid up some dividends:

Just go to the XCOM demo steam install folder (\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\XCom-Enemy-Unknown-Demo\Engine\Config).

And then open “BaseGame.ini” with notepad, edit the line “GameDifficulty=+0.0” change this to “GameDifficulty=+3.0”

The guess is that 0.0 is easy, 1.0 normal, 2.0 classic and 3.0 impossible. Let me tell you, classic and impossible is where things really get dicey. And REALLY FUN. It’s too bad we got ‘stuck’ with the easy mode in the demo. Speaking of the demo…

What did you guys think of it? At first I didn’t have a great reaction to it, but I think it was primarily a knee jerk. Considering the fact that I’ve been devouring videos and articles of stuff that was happening 10-15 hours in I guess it’s to be expected that I’d bust a gut when we only got a two-mission demo (and a very heavily hand holded two mission demo at that).

The steam demo walks you through the first discovery of the aliens in an abduction attempt in Germany, and then a (very very) quick run through of your base, and then hustles you over into the next mission. Both missions are kind of tutorials for the main game, so I guess I expected hand holding, but the level of scripting for the first one… ouch. Thankfully they let go of your hands pretty early in the second mission, although not before you’re forced to meet the aliens for the first time. And while the aliens should have reacted decently enough against a new player, the hard wired easy mode meant that they were woefully underprepared for anyone who’s into XCOM, or any reasonably skilled tactician for that matter. The UI was also a tad finicky sometimes (the mouse scroll seems slow and unresponsive, and the snap-to function of the grid also seemed a bit meh), but fiddling around with the mouse sensitivity, scroll speed and what have you fixed the problems right quick (and I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to customize our hotkeys in the full game).

Which I guess makes sense. The hardcore guys may complain, but they’ll still preorder (I did) and/or find some workaround solution to make things harder (I did). This demo is aimed at the new people who haven’t tried XCOM before to get interested and think about buying the game, and I think Firaxis did their job pretty well in that respect. If the small spike in their steam preorders (now sitting at 56% towards getting a free copy of CIV V) is any testament, I think other demo-players thought so too.

The only thing that really got to me was the fact that we had almost NO play time in the strategy layer. The strategy layer where you plan yoru research and engineering builds are just as important a part of the game as the more visceral, immediate tactical layer. It’s where you build your guns and hire your guys to shoot the aliens after all. I really feel the strategy layer is where the game gets its real depth and complexity. Considering most of the previews have concentrated on the tactical maps, I would have hoped that we would have at least had some sandbox time. That we didn’t was slightly disappointing.

Even then, XCOM is still the game I’m anxiously waiting for this year. I had a small dose of reality; the game can’t be perfect, but after all no game is. And it still looks like it’s going to be a whole lot of fun. Unless the full game is NOTHING like the demo and NOTHING like what I hoped for, I can still whole heartedly recommend purchasing XCOM.

After all, nothing can disappoint me more than Mass Effect 3, right?



Singapore’s resident Press Ganger, that is, the man to go to for Privateer Press’ WARMACHINE, and HORDES. Kakita also dabbles in Games Workshop’s WARHAMMER FANTASY and WARHAMMER 40K lines.

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  1. So I been looking around for ways to edit the demo this was the first place I came across was cool but the second thing I found is amazing. If you found this to be pretty sweet. Check this out on the 2k forums some one made a editor lets you change what aliens (Slightly spoilrish as) a few I think might of been unannouced. Bump up how many squad guys you got to 6 their hp some weapons lasers and plasma. and mess with the armor.

    The one sad thing it doesnt do : / is you still have to play through the first heavly scripted area bleh.

    1. Yep. I linked to it in my other article too. It’s pretty awesome. I’m getting some problems with the animations but other than that really fun.

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