Yet another excellent entry from Shenandoah Studio, Desert Fox: The Battle of El Alamein may be priced a bit steep, but it’s a well-executed package that functions as both entertainment and interactive history lesson.
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+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Yet another excellent entry from Shenandoah Studio, Desert Fox: The Battle of El Alamein may be priced a bit steep, but it’s a well-executed package that functions as both entertainment and interactive history lesson.
Read The Full Review »
There’s been a fair amount of buzz surrounding Breach & Clear even before it was released on the App Store last week. And with good reason: it’s pretty awesome. However, there’s a bit more to the story of this mish-mash of genres and themes, including some rather unexpected sources of inspiration. Josh Fairhurst (president of Mighty Rabbit) and Wes Keltner (Creative Director for Gun) took a few moments out of their busy schedules to share some of the juicier tidbits with us.
148Apps: Breach & Clear uses a great combination of strategy mechanics. What were some of the least likely places you pulled inspiration from?
148Apps: The weapon attachments all have some sort of statistical trade-off. Was this intentional as a means to prevent players from relying too much on relying on their equipment rather than stats and tactics?
148Apps: Were there any classes or skills that had to be cut due to time/space/balance? And if so, were there any you regret not being able to include?
148Apps: What are some of your preferred class combinations and loadouts?
148Apps: What’s next for Breach & Clear?
Our thanks go out to Wes and Josh for discussing design and tactics amidst all the post-launch hullabaloo. If you haven’t given Breach & Clear a spin yet, you should probably go ahead and nab it off the App Store for $1.99.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown has been out on iOS for less than a week, but that didn’t stop it from making a bit of a splash on the App Store. So far it’s taken the number 3 spot for paid iPad apps and number 4 for top-grossing iPad apps, as well as being named Editor’s Choice by Apple on the App Store for the week. It’s a designation that we here at 148Apps wholeheartedly agree with.
During these past few days, the Council has been keeping tabs on all of XCOM’s operations. And in that time they’ve recorded the loss of 143,900 soldiers. Almost 150 thousand lives lost so far, and that’s not counting civilian casualties. However, they’ve also discovered that there have been 1,775,322 x-rays taken down in the process. That roughly averages out to one operative lost for every twelve aliens. While it’s unfortunate that so many have had to sacrifice themselves for the sake of humanity there’s some consolation in knowing that we’re still coming out ahead. There’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel, but we could all stand to do a little better.
It’s true that only time will tell who will come out on top, but my money is on us. It kind of has to be. But we must all remember not to get too carried away, either. The battle for mankind’s survival is important but there can also be consequences to spending too much time worrying about Sectoids and Mutons, and not enough about work and stuff. It’s all being documented in a new video series – “XCOM: Enemy Unknown Consequences,” the first of which can be seen below.
Just remember, we can and will win this war, but only if all of our operatives play it safe.
In the world of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, even the lowliest of alien adversaries can be lethal. Especially early on. Whether it’s a Thin Man’s poison or a Heavy Floater’s mobility, every single species has at least one kind of combat specialization you’ll want to look out for. Simply shooting at something until it’s dead can certainly work, but if you want to kill it and keep your squad alive, you should probably take a look at the tips below.
[SPOILER WARNING: This guide lists all of the aliens you'll encounter on missions throughout the game. If you don't want to be surprised, please stop reading now.]
Sectoid – Sectoids are one of the most fragile aliens you’ll encounter, but that’s no reason to take the lightly. They’re numerous, they’re quick, and they can boost each others’ combat abilities by linking up telepathically. Of course if the Sectoid that initiated the mental link is killed, both will die. Just stay in cover and pick them off and you should be fine.
Floater – Dealing with Floaters can be a bit tricky because of their mobility. They can simply fly up to “the high ground” whenever they feel like it for an accuracy and defense bonus, and can even airdrop themselves anywhere on the map at the cost of their turn. When one or more Floaters goes missing, it’s a safe bet that they’ve repositioned themselves and are planning to flank you, so make sure to keep everyone in Overwatch whenever possible.
Thin Man – Thin Men are about as formidable as Sectoids (i.e. not very), but they’re far more mobile due to their ability to leap over large walls or on top of buildings. They’re also poisonous and can use that to their advantage by spitting venom at soldiers or leaving a noxious cloud behind when they’re killed. A Thin Man’s poison doesn’t do much damage, and it only lasts a few turns, but it can add up so try to stay away from those green clouds.
Muton – When you first encounter Mutons, you know things are getting serious. These green jumpsuit-wearing aliens are essentially the enemy equivalent of a typical XCOM soldier. They’re formidable, come equipped with Plasma Rifles, are a lot more accurate than most of the other aliens you’ll have encountered up to this point, can use their Blood Call ability to boost their allies’ offensive capabilities, and have alien grenades that they aren’t afraid to use. Mutons are Enemy Unknown’s first real test, but things will only get tougher from here.
Chryssalid – I mentioned Chryssalids in the beginners guide but the warning bears repeating: do NOT let them get close. Chryssalids are primarily deployed at Terror Sites and will often go straight for any civilians they find. When a Chryssalid kills a human (including your own soldiers), which is very easy because their razor-sharp claws to a lot of damage, they also implant a sort of egg into them. This will create a sort of zombie – which is also a rather durable and hard-hitting enemy – that will shuffle around for a few turns before bursting open as a new Chryssalid jumps out. Yes, they reproduce. They’re incredibly fast, do lots of damage, and create more of themselves by killing things. Never, ever, ever, ever let them get in close to your soldiers.
Cyberdisc + Drones – The Cyberdisc is basically the aliens’ equivalent of a light tank. It’s rather mobile in its disc form, and a horribly intimidating death machine when it changes into its combat form. It can lob grenades, fire off some really heavy hitting plasma weaponry, and is usually flanked by two drones that can also deal a bit of damage with some small lasers and repair damage that the Cyberdisc has suffered. While it might be tempting to take out the drones first so they can’t fix anything, the Cyberdisc is a far bigger threat that can usually be dealt with in one turn provided enough soldiers are close by and can perform actions when it appears. Another benefit is that the Cyberdisc is too big to use cover, although it does still benefit from elevation bonuses. Also, try to keep clear when you take a Cyberdisc down as they explode afterwards.
Berserker – Berserkers are a very intimidating breed of Muton which usually appear with two regular Mutons in tow. They don’t bother with fancy weapons, but rather bum rush anything they don’t like and try to rip it limb-from-limb. Much like Chryssalids they make up for their lack of ranged attacks by being more mobile, although Berserkers aren’t quite as speedy. The flipside is that they take a free movement action towards their attacker whenever they take damage. That, and they can Intimidate nearby soldiers, causing them to panic and lose a turn. This can be advantageous, however, as it’s possible to corral a Berserker over the course of a turn by taking pot shots at it with several soldiers while drawing it into range of the bigger guns.
Heavy Floater – All of the mobility, elevation, and air-dropping benefits regular Floaters possess are also a part of the Heavy Floater’s skillset. However the Heavy Floater is far more durable, uses stronger weapons, tends to be more accurate, and makes liberal use of grenades when possible. The same basic tactics for Floaters apply, but doubly so.
Muton Elite – Muton Elites are essentially badass Mutons. They’re tougher, hit harder, and fight harder than the average Muton. They wield Heavy Plasma guns instead of the more run of the mill Plasma Rifles, and like to use grenades a lot more. Oh, and they also like to show up in groups of three. Best to treat Elites as you would regular Mutons, but be a bit more cautious and don’t hesitate to bring out the big guns.
Sectopod + Drones – Whereas the Cyberdisc is the alien equivalent of a light tank, the Sectopod is more like a full on battleship. This mechanized walker fires a devastating laser (twice!) as well as a cluster of rockets, and it has the most health out of any regular enemy unit in the game. Oh, and it also has two damage-repairing drones with it. Sectopods are pretty much the entire reason for teaching a heavy soldier the Heat Ammo skill since it gives them a bonus 100% damage against robotic enemies. Assuming a heavy soldier is present and in range, a rocket certainly wouldn’t be out of the question. At the very least it should destroy the drones and damage the primary target. A sniper with Disabling Shot is also handy since they can use it to shut down the Sectopod’s primary weapon for a few turns and give the squad a chance to regroup.
Sectoid Commander – Think “regular Sectoid,” but on mental steroids. Sectoid Commanders are only slightly more sturdy than their underlings, but they make up for it with some pretty serous Psionic powers that go well beyond simple being able to buff their pals. Mind Control isn’t out of the question, actually, so it’s imperative to make Sectoid Commanders a top priority target, unless an Ethereal is present. Kill it and the controlled soldier will be free, but if not you’re going to have one heck of a serious problem on your hands.
Ethereal – These incredibly powerful Psionic aliens have no need for weapons. Their minds are weapons. Taking on an Ethereal is no easy task as it’s packed with offensive and defensive skills. It puts up a Psionic shield that makes it very difficult to hit, can prevent damage when it is hit, has a tendency to counter-attack, and has an entire arsenal of mental attacks at its disposal. If handled improperly, an Etheral can all but wipe out an entire squad by using mind control, causing panic, and simply tearing a target’s mind apart. The two Muton Elite escorts are just gravy. Thankfully mechanical devices such as the S.H.I.V. are totally immune to mental attacks and it’s possible to develop Mind Shields for your soldiers to equip in order to boost their defense against mental attacks. Treat with extreme caution, regardless. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little overkill.
We’ve already gone over a bunch of the basics when it comes to surviving (or at least prolonging) XCOM: Enemy Unknown. But what about more advanced tactics? That’s where these advanced tips come in. This article in particular is all about the soldiers; what gear compliments which class, what skills work best when paired with others, that sort of thing. This is by no means meant to signify the only successful setup, but rather to give players looking to optimize their troops’ effectiveness with a few guidelines to get them started. And by all means, if you have any related questions or would like to chime in with your own loadout tips, please do so in the comments below.
[SPOILER WARNING: This guide involves the use of armor, weapons, and skills that won't be available until late in the game. If you don't want to spoil anything for yourself, please stop reading.]
Assault – A very effective equipment set for an assault soldier is Ghost Armor, an Alloy Cannon, Plasma Pistol, and Arc Thrower. Ghost Armor allows a soldier to cloak for an entire turn (so long as they don’t shoot at anything), and when coupled with Run & Gun is ideal when trying to figure out where enemies are hiding without alerting them to your presence. The Alloy Cannon is simply a beast at close range, and when used in conjunction with Run & Gun can get the soldier up close for an almost inescapable blast of shrapnel. The Arc Thrower isn’t necessarily essential, but when using Ghost Armor it can be very easy to get in close to stun a target. Unfortunately Run & Gun doesn’t pair with the Arc Thrower, but it’s still ideal for closing large distances in a hurry.
Heavy – A good loadout to consider for a heavy soldier is Titan Armor, Heavy Plasma, and a S.C.O.P.E. Titan armor is the sturdiest armor available, and is immune to poison and environmental fire damage to boot. It’s not particularly mobile, but it’s incredibly durable. Heavy Plasma is, of course, the nastiest of the heavy machine guns but as with all the other versions it’s not remarkably accurate or frugal with ammunition. This is why I recommend the S.C.O.P.E over, say, a Nano-fiber Vest; because that extra 10% accuracy bonus can make the heavy a far more effective alien killer without resorting to using rockets prematurely.
Sniper – I’ve yet to find a more effective set of equipment for a sniper than Archangel Armor, a Plasma Sniper Rifle, Plasma Pistol, and a S.C.O.P.E. The rifle and S.C.O.P.E are kind of a given, but pistols are also important because a sniper’s accuracy doesn’t only pertain to their primary weapon. And since it’s only possible for them to move and fire their rifle in the same turn with a particular skill (and the shot still suffers an accuracy penalty), the pistol is great for repositioning them and using Overwatch. The Archangel Armor is the real star, though. Everyone gets an accuracy bonus when they’re positioned higher than their target, but snipers can get an even bigger bonus with the right skills. With this armor equipped, all a sniper has to do is fly straight up as high as they can and wait.
Support – My ideal set for a support soldier includes Ghost Armor, a Plasma Rifle, Medkit, and Nano-fiber Vest. Why Ghost Armor? Because it can be incredibly useful to be able to make the squad’s primary healer invisible for a turn. That and it’s possible, with the right skill selection, to increase a support soldier’s movement distance. It’s not quite as good as Run & Gun, but when coupled with invisibility it makes them a very effective scout. The Nano-fiber Vest is more of a take it or leave it thing, but another handy perk support soldiers can get is the ability to carry two items instead of one. Unfortunately it’s not possible to equip two medkits, but the added durability provided by the vest can certainly help keep them alive longer. An Arc Thrower is also a perfectly reasonable choice.
Assault – As I’ve mentioned, it’s unfortunately not possible to use an Arc Thrower along with Run & Gun (Squaddie). However, Killer Instinct (Colonel) works quite well with it as it boosts the soldier’s critical damage by 50% for the rest of the turn. The catch is that it only applies to critical damage, but a number of skills such as Close and Personal (Sergeant) and Aggression (Corporal) make critical hits a lot more likely. Since I tend to push my assault soldiers into harms way I prefer to stick with the more defense-oriented skills such as Lightning Reflexes (Sergeant) and Tactical Sense (Corporal). I’ve also found that using Flush (Lieutenant) while another soldier, probably either a heavy or support, is suppressing the target can be very effective as Suppression not only reduces the target’s movement and accuracy but grants the shooter a free shot if they attempt to move. So a successful Flush won’t only damage the target but also force it out of cover, which will in turn give the suppressor a follow-up shot.
Heavy – Bullet Swarm (Corporal) is certainly a tempting skill as it gives the heavy a chance to attack twice in one turn, so long as they don’t move, but I vastly prefer the accuracy bonus Holo-Targeting (Corporal) grants. Especially when paired with Suppression, which will keep a target pinned down, reduce their accuracy, and boost the other soldiers’ accuracy against it. Similarly the choice between Rapid Reaction and Heat Ammo (Lieutenant) might seem easy, but note that Rapid Reaction only grants a second reaction shot if the first is a hit. And later in the campaign the chances of most target surviving the first hit are pretty slim. Conversely, getting a bonus 100% to damage against robotic enemies can be a godsend. Mayhem (Colonel) is another great skill to pair with Suppression as it grants a damage bonus. So the heavy can suppress a target, hurt it, reduce it’s everything, then probably kill it if it even attempts to move.
Sniper – Squad Sight (Corporal). Forget about being able to move and fire the sniper rifle in the same turn with Snap Shot (Corporal), Squad Sight is a sniper’s best friend. Being able to move and shoot might be handy in the early stages of the campaign, but there’s an accuracy penalty associated with it. Plus there’s really no substitution for flushing out enemies with other squad members, then mopping them up from over halfway across the map. Squad Sight also works incredibly well with Damn Good Ground’s (Sergeant) higher elevation accuracy bonus and some of that Archangel Armor I mentioned previously. Pair all of that with Double Tap’s (Colonel) tendency to let the sniper fire off a second shot during their turn and you have an extremely formidable killing machine the aliens won’t ever actually see. Seriously, one of my snipers that was using this setup took out a Sectopod single-handedly in one turn.
Support – Support soldier builds can essentially go one of two ways: healing or buffing/debuffing. I prefer healing as it’s far more useful (and likely) to repair damage than prevent it. The Sprinter (Corporal) ability can be incredibly useful because it gives the support soldier a few more tiles worth of movement that can, and often does, mean the difference between getting to an injured comrade in time. Similarly, Field Medic (Sergeant) is another great way to keep the squad alive since it lets the soldier use a medkit up to three times per mission. Revive (Lieutenant) can also be incredibly handy as it not only stabilizes a downed soldier but can put them back in the fight, effectively keeping the squad at full strength. Savior (Colonel) and its bonus 4 health whenever a medkit is used, when combined with upgraded technology at the forge, means the support soldier can bring just about anyone back from the brink and keep them in top form.
For those of you who don’t know, the original X-Com: UFO Defense is one of the most beloved strategy games in existence. It was only fitting for it to receive a modern update of sorts, but XCOM: Enemy Unknown turned out to be a modern update that was treated with the utmost respect by Firaxis (Civilization IV, Civ. V). Now that same re-imagining of a genre cornerstone is coming to iOS. XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s lead designer, Jake Solomon, was kind enough to answer some of our questions regarding the upcoming mobile release.
148Apps: You and the rest of the Firaxis team obviously have a ton of reverence for X-Com and it shines through in Enemy Unknown. Has X-Com had any influence over other projects you’ve worked on?
148Apps: What’s your fondest memory from the original X-Com? Mine is making it to the point where I’m invading alien bases without having lost a single soldier on the way.
148Apps: How about the aliens? Any particular favorite or least favorite? I find I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Cryssalids.
148Apps: Deciding what to cut, keep, and change when streamlining X-Com’s mechanics for Enemy Unknown must have been pretty tough. Was there anything you all were actually glad to see go?
148Apps: The iOS port of Enemy Unknown looks like it’s coming along quite well. Was an iOS version always planned or was it a result of the game’s PC and console reception?
148Apps: Please tell me the option to customize soldiers’ names and appearances is still in there!
148Apps: Have there been any features for iOS devices that aren’t prevalent on consoles/PCs (camera, QR codes, augmented reality) that you’ve considered incorporating into this version of Enemy Unknown? Not necessarily as major elements but as little extras or something?
148Apps: I could see Enemy Unknown‘s multiplayer working quite well on iOS, especially if it was asynchronous. Any chance of that happening or is the focus entirely on the campaign right now?
148Apps: Will the iOS version of Enemy Unknown include the “secret” characters and/or extra Council DLC missions? Or might the missions be available as add-on content?
We here at 148Apps would like to extend our appreciation to Mr. Solomon and the entire Enemy Unknown team for answering our questions and for making a remarkably excellent strategy game. No specifics on a release date or pricing are available yet but it’s due out “this summer” and will have a “premium” price tag.
Firaxis is known for its hardcore strategy titles, including Sid Meier’s games, but Haunted Hollow will be friendly for kids and casual audiences. Two players take turns (on the same device or via Game Center) trying to take over a neighborhood by summoning scary monsters to scare the townsfolk. They eventually form angry mobs and will try to burn the conquered houses and monsters. Expect this one in the coming months.
A number of players have been able to enjoy Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances in all its meticulously strategic glory for almost a full year now, but the experience has been tied specifically to web browsers. That’s a problem that will cease to exist in the near future.
Fans of the series should note that this isn’t a typical C&C. It’s not real-time strategy and its not divided into small half-hour long skirmishes. Each of the game’s 50,000 (that’s “fifty-thousand”) player servers houses a gigantic circular world map. Players begin on the outside and attempt to fight their way to the middle, which is far easier said than done. Simply reaching the center of the map can take months of planning and teamwork, and then there’s the matter of holding on to the bases that sit within those areas. Comparing this to the original series is sort of like comparing checkers to chess.
Tiberium Alliances is an incredibly player-driven experience. Hence the “Alliances.” NOD and GDI exist pretty much in name only here as player-formed groups can and will consist of both. Once these alliances have been established it’s up to the participants to figure everything out. Who wants to play the heavy hitter? Who wants to act as support? When will so-and-so be on so that you can coordinate an attack against a nearby enemy outpost in order to take it over and gain its bonuses for your alliance? There’s a ridiculous amount of strategy to be found if players are willing to travel deep enough into the rabbit hole.
Combat is also a rather involved affair with specific units gaining an automatic advantage over specific defenses and vice-versa. By the same token, different buildings within a base have different levels of importance in a fight. The Defense Facility, for example, will repair other buildings over time. Take it out and the base will take a while to get back to full strength. Or there’s always the Construction Yard. Kill that and the base is toast regardless. Of course not all bases can be overrun in a single attack, which is why it’s vital to communicate with other alliance members and really plan complex maneuvers ahead of time.
The overall experience is largely unchanged from the browser-based version, with the exception of a new touch-based interface. However, once the iOS version is released Tiberium Alliances will be totally cross-platform with players able to manage their bases and assemble armies on their computer, then immediately jump in where they left off on their mobile devices if need be. Which will be a boon for any serious players as the community is looking pretty intense and involved. In a good way.
Anyone interested in checking out Tiberium Alliances can do so right now through their web browser, of course. But in another month or so the entire life devouring, free-to-play strategy monster will go cross platform. And then there won’t be anywhere left to hide.