Did you enjoy XCOM: Enemy Unknown? Me too. How about Enemy Within? Sweet Jesus yes. Well, hold on to your butts, because it sounds like XCOM just got a lot XCOMmier, thanks to the incredible power of modding.

XCOM: The Long War is a total game conversion mod for XCOM, compatible with both the vanilla version and the expansion. "But poco," you ask, "that game was already perfect; how much could a total game conversion really add?" Take it away, modders:

Some of the changes in this mod include:

  • An extended campaign requiring far more missions to complete
  • Tactical missions that allow up to twelve XCom soldiers per mission with the right upgrades
  • Eight soldier classes: Infantry, Assault, Sniper, Scout, Gunner, Rocketeer, Medic and Engineer, and eight MEC classes: Valkyrie, Marauder, Jaeger, Pathfinder, Goliath, Archer, Guardian and Saburai
  • New and modified perks, including Ranger, Sapper, HEAT Warheads, Lock N' Load and Javelin Rockets
  • New and modified technologies, including Xenopsionics, Alien Biocybernetics, Pulse Lasers, Gauss Weapons and Advanced Aerospace Concepts, and many new foundry projects
  • Five tiers of XCOM weaponry, many new armors and small items and S.H.I.V.s that can be equipped with perk-granting small items!
  • Much earlier access to psionics and vastly expanded psionics tree
  • A system of commissioning and promoting XCOM officers who provide bonuses to your entire squad during missions (replaces the Enemy Within medals system)
  • Overhauled interception game, with five new UFO classes such as the Fighter, Raider and Harvester, as well as six interceptors per continent, foundry projects to upgrade your aircraft, individualized pilot names and pilot experience, and the Stingray Missile weapon system
  • Overhauled strategy game, in which the aliens gather resources and conduct research — efforts XCOM must interdict if it hopes to save humanity. XCOM can now retake countries by finding and conquering alien bases in those countries. Help council countries defend themselves by fulfilling their requests for alien technology!
  • Aliens and EXALT forces grow tougher over time, gaining stats and perks
  • New weapons for XCOM soldiers
  • Soldiers rest after each mission, requiring the player to build a much deeper roster of soldiers
  • Modified Second Wave options to support longer campaigns

Honesty report: I haven't installed this yet, but I intend to tonight, and I'll update this post if it explodes my computer. Early reports seem to indicate that the bone-crushing difficulty of the original game is now bone-disintegrating. According to the modders, you will need to pick your battles and use strategic retreat in this mod, as the aliens will set you up for failure. This is mitigated by a more involved strategic game, where losing a funding country isn't necessarily the worst thing that can happen to you.

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A few weekends ago I started my third playthrough of XCOM, this time on Classic difficulty. It was just as wonderful and fun as ever, but at this point my familiarity with the overall game has changed the experience. The feeling of agonizing over every small decision was gone, replaced by a vague sense competency and smugness. Even as any given encounter would turn south, I'd still be content in the knowledge that I've saved the world before and I can probably do it again. It looks like The Long War will bring back that feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach every time the UFO Contact alarm goes off. And while the gameplay changes sound like they might have the potential to destabilize the delicate balance of the original game, if executed well they could add some truly fantastic depth. Plus, more character customization is always a win in my book (I WONDER IF THERE ARE NEW HAIRCUTS).

Whattaya think, TAY? Any XCOM lovers on PC planning to check this out? One thing to note, apparently it does break your game's Multiplayer mode, so if you're attached to that then do not install this mod. You can read some more impressions of it over at Polygon.