JustTheTip EP.10 ~ X-COM: Terror from the Deep
Today I played (for the second time) Terror from the Deep. I’ve played a lot of games in my life, likely a hundreds at minimum. But there are few that just chew me up and spit me out. This…well this was certainly one of them.
I played both days on Beginner. I figured that this would mean I could get a solid hour in without looking like a complete scrub. Boy was I wrong! The mortality rate among my soldiers was nearly 100%. If you signed on for the measly 40,000 dollars that I was offering you were likely surrendering your life in a single mission. Every turn ended with anxiety, every heartbeat irregular with stress. My strategies fell apart quicker than they could come together. My bullets seemed to bounce off the enemy while theirs burned through me like molten lead through butter. I was beating down a concrete wall with a load of bread.
Yet…I was having fun.
The aesthetics in this game are wonderful. The sprite artwork is some of my favorite from the 90’s. Everything has a hard edge to it that really adds to the cold and hopeless feel of the game. The colors are vibrant enough that, usually, you have no trouble discerning what is going where. It’s also kinda fun to fight underwater. One of my favorite zones in World of Warcraft is an underwater zone called Vashj’ir. Most people hated it but I adored it. My stories revolve around the horrors of the deep dark sea and this game helps to encapsulate that fear.
The amount of content to simultaneously parse is pretty high. You’ve got a base to build with limited spots (though you can have multiple bases), soldiers to keep armed, each soldier having stats and ranks. You’ve got vehicles to upgrade and more research than you can shake a stick at. The game also comes with a encyclopedia called the UFOpedia that catalogs every single thing in the game with sprites and some fun back story (where applicable).
Different monsters have different strengths and weaknesses. My experience in the first hour put me up against taller more humanoid aliens and small little blue bastards. Both had little trouble nearly single handedly wiping my entire team of 8 to 10 men (and women) off the bottom of the sea.
The music, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, is perfect. Every note is just off enough to keep you uncomfortable. The more I listened to it the more I found myself getting sweaty and scared. My wrists leaving moist impressions on my keyboard rest. My feet and hands became ice cold. I was genuinely scared by a tiny window at the center of my computer screen. This isn’t something I feel these days. I found myself laughing through most of dead space.
But here? No, lord no. My dart guns were all that stood between my team and death. Some watched their comrades die en masse to explosives and panicked. Dropping all their gear and shivering in fear. I waited turn after turn hoping that one of them would pick herself up and get in the game. She did, and a few turns later she too was dead.
It’s a hard game. A ruthless game that will give you no more rope than is necessary to hang you with. Every moment is tense, every turn a gift wrapped in a curse. But if you are willing to put in the time you’ll find those victories to feel so great. Very few times in my life has defeating a handful of pixels been so rewarding.
One of the hardest games I've ever played in my entire life. The first hour is an engrossing experience that leaves me wanting to try over and over again. My biggest qualm, and indeed what brings the score down, is that on "beginner" I should be able to learn the ropes without losing my entire team in a single turn. This was a different time though. This game has stood the test of time and I genuinely think it is worth >your< time. Someday I'll be coming back to it and I do plan to beat it.