Last year I played through Fire Emblem Awakening on 3DS. It was my first Fire Emblem, and my first real Strategy RPG. If you know anything about Fire Emblem, you'll know that permanent character death is a big feature of the game, and that the developers tried to make Awakening a more beginner friendly iteration by giving the player a non-permadeath mode. I didn't choose to use that mode, instead opting for the more traditional mode. In practical terms, however, I couldn't let my characters die. Should one of my beloved team fall in battle, I would simply restart the game and do the battle over, adjusting my strategy to try not to die.
Enter XCOM Enemy Unknown. I've been waiting to play this for a while, all the time knowing that it was probably my kind of jam, given my love for the whole Fire Emblem experience. I'd heard podcasts speak about about squads dying permanently, and players getting attached to their soldiers, even going so far as to name them after their friends and acquaintances. Could I subject myself to that same level of attachment, and invariably, that level of loss?
Turns out I can. I'm now in my sixth game of XCOM. Not because I've finished it six times, oh no. Because I've restarted it six times. I've yet to assault the Alien Base, which I understand is about one-third of the way through the game. Steam tells me I've been playing XCOM for a total of 22 hours now.
Hello, my name is Eugene, and I'm a perfectionist.
It's not that soldiers are dying. I've been naming them after twitter friends, gaming podcast personalities, family members, friends. I had my cousin, a sniper at the Major promotion level die on a mission. Whoops. I let it go. Losing soldiers is not as problematic in XCOM as it is in Fire Emblem. In XCOM, you can replace a soldier very easily, The training and experience that they gained is lost, but there's always another soldier to take their place.
I have restarted XCOM six times because I'm obsessing. One of my restarts was because I discovered that if you start the game without doing the tutorial, you can complete the first mission without losing three out of your initial four squad members. Another 2 of my restarts were because I didn't like the fact that I only had one Steam Vent area in my base on which to build a Thermal Power Generator. Finally I've been restarting over the council members leaving XCOM. If a countries' panic level gets too high, at the end of the month they will leave the XCOM project. The only way to reduce their panic level is to place a satellite over their county, or to successfully complete a mission in that country. I'm trying to achieve a play through where nobody leaves the council. So far on this current try I have lost two countries. I almost thought about starting again, but I think this time I'll just see it through, if just to try to make it to the end. I've only got 21 days until my other jam releases, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.
I can always try it again at a higher difficulty level once I finish. Because it seems I don't mind punishing myself with a great game.