In a last ditch attempt to utilize the X-Com brand, Infogrames managed to push one more game out the door in 2001. "Enforcer ... was just a quick run-and-gun game that was put out there to use the Unreal license that had already been paid for," says Ellis. "It used a bunch of the art assets that had been generated for Alliance. ... It came and went very quickly." Enforcer, hated by some and ignored by many, marked the end of the official X-Com franchise.

Whereabouts Unknown
Following the Hasbro shutdown, the X-Com license disappeared, but that didn't stop developers from attempting to re-create the mythical X-Com formula. The Gollop brothers started work on The Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge, hoping to start over with the original premise. But it was not to be: Virgin Interactive canceled The Dreamland Chronicles in 2002.

"I think if Dreamland had been released rather than canceled maybe things could have been different," says Nick Gollop. "Both me and Julian still regret the way things turned out with that project, as we feel it could have been the true sequel to the original game."

ALTAR Games, a small European developer, purchased the Dreamland assets and re-christened the game UFO: Aftermath. Aftermath and its sequels have since built their own fan base and franchise. They pay homage to the original series but fail to satisfy as true successors.

The Legend Lives On
In light of the failed attempts to deviate from the original X-Com formula, it's no wonder other developers have tried to replicate the original experience as closely as possible.

In 2007, Chaos Concept, a Czech development team, released UFO: Extraterrestrials. It was as close to an "improved remake" of the original X-Com as you could get. While it garnered relatively favorable reviews, something odd happened: It was widely criticized for being too much like the original X-Com. As with the response to TFTD, players were left wondering why they didn't simply go back and play the original.

image

The original X-Com has taken on a legendary status of its own; a mythical game that transcends the boundaries of ordinary play. Sticking too closely to the formula draws criticism and comparison to the original, while any attempt to deviate from the original premise and gameplay alienates the fan base. The gaming community can't win. Years of disappointing sequels and missed expectations have made the original seem relatively spectacular by comparison. Its interface flaws are overlooked in the name of nostalgia, and players remember only their favorable impressions from 15 years ago.

A successful sequel must incorporate the strategic/tactical gameplay mechanics and near-future setting of the original. More importantly, it must live up to everyone's unique expectation of the X-Com experience. It's an impossible task, and yet developers keep trying. In the meantime, I'll continue to play a 15-year-old game and wait for someone to get it right.

Alan Au is a freelance writer, academic, and games industry advocate. When he isn't busy defending the Earth from hostile aliens, he spends his time exploring the connection between games, education, and health..

Related to:
RELATED CONTENT
Comments on