Sid Meier Talks XCOM: Enemy Unknown Remake’s Action, RPG Angles

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The last time I saw Firaxis co-founder Sid Meier, he was doing a promotional spot for Zenph, specifically a digitally engineered re-release of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations. Speaking as a pianist and Gould enthusiast I was surprised to see him in the bunch…and then I wasn’t. After all, this is the remarkably multifaceted guy who released something called C.P.U. Bach for the 3DO back in that system’s brief but memorable 1990s heyday.

And now he’s lending his legendary hand to Firaxis’ out-of-nowhere X-COM remake, the one longtime X-COM series fans are actually excited about (as opposed to XCOM, 2K Marin’s first-person shooter series riff, due in early March, which nonetheless has plenty of potential given 2K Marin’s sterling pedigree). Firaxis’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which almost takes its name unchanged from the critically acclaimed original (as in 2K Marin’s version, the dash is gone), is billed as an “action strategy game releasing this fall.” In it, you assume command of a “secret paramilitary organization known as XCOM,” working like Mulder and Scully (except with massive governmental resources) to fend off a global alien invasion. You do so by managing resources, researching alien tech to develop your own bleeding-edge weaponry and going into the field, squaring off against extraterrestrials in tactical battles-scapes.

(MORE: 5 Reasons Final Fantasy XIII Worked)

Don’t be fooled by the “action” angle, because Firaxis says the remake “has both deep strategic elements and turn-based tactical combat” (yep, that’s no typo — turn-based). It’s not just for PCs, either: You’ll be able to play this thing on your PS3 or Xbox 360 with a gamepad, too.

But wait, isn’t the guy heading up this remake Jake Solomon (the game’s lead designer)? Sure, but as Sid himself says in this Game Informer sit-down, he’s Firaxis’ director of creative development, which means he’s always there as a “resource” for the designers.

“Every now and then Jake comes to me and says ‘Sid, you know … I’m wondering should I do this, or this, I’m thinking of this,’ or whatever, and we kind of have a little chat about what we used to do and how things might work. He and the team really take those ideas and bring them to life,” explains Meier.

And then he answers the million dollar question on everyone’s mind: Who’s this thing aimed at, really?

“In our dreams, we pull in strategy game players, we pull in action players, we pull in RPG players,” he says. “There are cool elements of all those gaming styles in XCOM, and they’re mixed together in an interesting brew.”

“Our goal would be to really appeal to all those players and introduce them maybe to some gaming that they haven’t played before. An action gamer might play the game for the action part, but think strategy is kind of fun too. It’s not trying to conform to a genre, but trying to find ways to bring this topic to life in the most fun and exciting way possible.”

Fingers triple-crossed.

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