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XCOM: Enemy Within Mac Review

“Wait, EXALT are in my headquarters?”

The line above makes for one of the most – if not THE most – exciting and frustrating battle scenes from the past decade in a turn-based game. I’ll explain what it means in a moment, and why you want to make sure you beat the bastards before they take over the world. But first, let me tell you more about the best Expansion I’ve seen in a while.

XCOM: Enemy Within is a downloadable expansion pack for the turn-based military invasion game XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Just as the base game, Firaxis Games developed it and Feral Interactive ported it to the Mac in November 2013.

Get it as an in-app purchase within the base game from the Mac App Store.


Enter XCOM: Enemy Within on Mac

XCOM: Enemy Within (Mac)XCOM: Enemy Within takes all the polished strategy spit-shine from Enemy Unknown, marches it through the alien-infested sludge and grime from Firaxis and Feral and makes the first iteration of XCOM seem naked and empty after playing this skillful expansion. In the words of Syndrome from The Incredibles: “I’m still geeking out about it!

At first glance, the only addition to the core game is a new resource called “Meld”. This “Meld” material, randomly spread out in the various invasion sites, pops out with a turn-timer on the container, showing how long you have to collect it before it disappears.

At first I didn’t understand why I should care. Leave it to my always-mouthy, but somewhat attractive Dr. Vahlen from research, to explain later on how she could create super-soldiers with biochemical implants. Oh, and my brilliant engineer Dr. Shen can create super-suits out of the chemical as well. Now I had to work twice as hard to gather enough resources to upgrade my now seemingly weaker soldiers.

In case you weren’t aware, Firaxis is the brilliant studio behind the Civilization series, and the intricate and minute level of strategic detail is not missing in Enemy Within.

The finest parts of Enemy Unknown are still here: the challenge of keeping countries within the global alliance, all while maintaining engineers, scientists, money, satellites, buildings, and expanding the XCOM initiative. This all means that your choices can make or break a mission and ultimately sink you to the bottom of the XCOM corporate ladder. For example, losing one country means losing scientists and engineers, monthly income and possible EXALT infiltration into XCOM.

XCOM Enemy withinMissions themselves aren’t much different than before, except Enemy Within adds close to 50 more levels with varying degrees of difficulty. Ironman difficulty will kick your ass sideways and makes each turn more like a chess match than before.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of the first games that made me feel real life emotions. This continues with Enemy Within. After a brutal campaign, when only one rookie came back alive and the other five seasoned soldiers were DOA, my heart sank into my boots. The results screen appeared, showing the names and rank of the dead soldiers, their successful missions, their past kills, their badges, and how they were going on the Wall of Fame. /sniff.

But there isn’t time for crying, Commander. The surviving rookie deserves a promotion and a rocket launcher. And it is wise to recruit some new soldiers while we’re in the barracks. Better to balance your available resources than find yourself stuck with all rookies on a Terror Alert mission that could save a country from leaving the XCOM union. Again.

XCOM Enemy Within Mac 10

Other than the famous “Meld” material, the other biggest changes in Enemy Within involve improvements to the alien enemies themselves and a small enemy faction called EXALT.

First, the aliens are completely buffed. For example, Chryssalids went from “Oh look, there’s those jumping things on the bridge that turn civilians into zombies“, from Enemy Unknown into: “Well, might as well quit now and start from a save game…”. Aliens are now nightmare-inducing death bringers of pure hate. And as you venture further along the storyline, they only get more intense, from the face-eating Seekers (who stealth, by the way), to the new Mechtoid which is a Sectoid in a MEC suit (and hates you with a passion).

The EXALT bastards are a covert team of militant operatives trying to take over the world by using stolen alien artifacts. They are similar to XCOM, but you have to stop them from infiltrating the XCOM missions and decrypting the satellites. Sometimes a terror alert will show a few EXALT guys attacking you while they try to run off with alien tech, however trying to capture a EXALT member forces them to commit suicide.

XCOM Enemy Within Mac 7

Spoiler Alert: One of the best battles in Enemy Within is when EXALT attempts to take over the XCOM headquarters and failure to remove them means game over, reload from save game. Unless you’re playing Ironman, which means start a new game and buy a new mouse you just threw against the wall.


Final Verdict

XCOM: Enemy Within is a great game and I can’t recommend it enough. I throw this game to everyone who comes to visit and after 30 minutes, they usually give me a dirty look and tell me how much they hate me for making them buy ANOTHER game… it’s that’s addicting.

If you liked the base XCOM: Enemy Unknown, do yourself a favor and get this delicious Expansion Pack.

Get it as an in-app purchase within the base game from the Mac App Store.

Note from Ric: This Review comes from Chris Tallant, one of Mac Gamer HQ’s most loyal reviewers.

  • ex2bot

    Coincidentally, I just bought this for my PS3. I’ve been a gamer since forever but haven’t played XCOM until today. I’m sure it’s going to be fun.

    • Well, @disqus_tjssOjCkT1:disqus definitely loved it a lot 🙂
      Let us know how much you liked it man.

    • Chris Tallant

      I’m curious how the transition plays on a console, so please do reply with how much you enjoy or dislike. I still play EW and even multiplayer once in a while with my son (who cheats and gives himself the best armor and weapons in the game)..

      • ex2bot

        I’m actually working on Baldur’s Gate 2 right now (on my Mac), but I did play part of the XCOM tutorial to get a feel for the game. It was fun, and it seemed to work very well with the gamepad.

        It uses left and right on the PS3’s sorta d-pad to rotate the camera. That was a little weird at first, but I got used to it. It’s obvious they spent plenty of time tightening up the controls. Slick presentation, too.

        • Chris Tallant

          Balder’s Gate 2 is so good. If you enjoy the story and play style of BG, I’d like to suggest another from the original source (I’s been awhile) Icewind Dale.

          And thanks for the update on the PS3 version! I may have to pick up the console version of Enemy Within since it’s that good of a game and I can easily see this being a great console title as well.

          • ex2bot

            I started BG2 years ago, but back then I didn’t understand the concept of *optional* side quests very well. Burned out playing side quests in Ch. 2. I’m finally going to finish it. It’s a huge, amazing game. I’m having a lot of fun. I’m still in chapter 2, though. 🙂

            Icewind Dale – some day!

          • Chris, just one version of the game isn’t enough for you?… 😉

          • Chris Tallant

            Heh.. you’ve known me for how long?? There’s some games that simply give a different experience on a different platform. Take Fable on the original Xbox and look at the remastered edition on Steam…

  • ikir

    Great game, played a lot on my Mac!

    • Great game indeed. I never played it much but only because I knew that if I got into it, I would be forced to spend hours on it! And right now, that’s tempting but not an option!