Every action in the top games like XCOM and XCOM 2 is well considered. Regardless of how well-intentioned or poorly executed an approach is, they can go from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye. No matter whether you’re banging aliens or your own head against a wall after you’ve accidentally killed your favorite foot soldier, these games are masters of risk/reward balance. But are there any other games out there that work in the same way? Firaxis XCOM is, after all, an adaptation of Julian Gollop’s 1994 classic, X Com.UFO Defense, which popularized the formula. XCOM and XCOM 2 are two of the most popular video games on the market today.
1. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
Sniper ducks and tanks with explosive cannons are what you’ll find in this game. Turn-based combat in Road to Eden’s turn-based combat system may seem immediately familiar, but it also pulls away from XCOM in novel ways. In the first place, there’s the post-apocalyptic scenario, which is inhabited by animal/human hybrids with grim comedy. And then there’s the pre-fight skulking and looting.
Moving your three-animal squad past hostile blindspots as you go from The Ark to a new destination is the initial step in any mission. Your team can position itself for an ambush on a huge group or triple team an isolated enemy from the shadows as long as you stay hidden. The XCOM concept has been spiced up a bit with this pre-fight stealth.
For PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. If you’d want to try it out for yourself, you can get a free copy
2. Invisible, Inc.
A fast-paced cyberpunk spy game with a turn-based interface. Even if you’re undetected when you enter the enemy’s lair, snatching the gubbin you’re looking for and escaping is the ideal strategy. Unavoidable camera detection will set off an alarm, which will then lead to turn-based warfare with well-explained rules and the pandemonium of aggressive enemy AI.
The parallels don’t stop there, either.
A globe map lets you choose which missions to take, and if any of your team members are left behind, they are gone for good. Invisible, Inc.’s battles gain strategic complexity as you hack into cameras, uncover safes, and tag guards with tags. No matter how many times you play it, you won’t feel like you’ve taken a step backwards when you compare it to, say, XCOM 2.
In actuality, UFO Defense is a genuine indie replica of the modern XCOM games, with a few much-needed quality of life tweaks. You can still rename your squad of soldiers, which we love, but it makes it more painful when they die because the user interface is simpler but also more confusing and lacks a tutorial. Time units (action points) can be reserved between combat turns and scrambled jets can be used to engage in tactical aerial battles.
Outside of combat, you’ll be tasked with setting up and maintaining a network of radar stations and other outposts to keep tabs on any possible alien activities. You’ll begin by focusing on a small area of the globe, which means you have no control over the rest. As the casualty reports pour in, you’ll begin to realize just how urgent the situation is. This is exacerbated by the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, which is reminiscent of the Cold War.
4. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
If you’re a fan of strategy games, Kingdom Battle is for you. The strategy isn’t as complex as it is in XCOM, but the sheer quantity of foes and their ability to move about will keep you on your toes. Be prepared to spend an hour or more if you get stuck on a level.
In addition to the team jump, everyone in the cast is awe-inspiring in their own right.
The gigantic icicle golem ahead will be flanked by Mario and Luigi, who will spring from their brother’s hands. Even though the game’s developer, Ubisoft (a bizarre mashup in every way), has included elaborate animations for practically everything in the game, it’s a joy to see your team bounce and dance about stages with their blasters in their hands. In Kingdom Battle, you’ll find a unique blend of Mario mysticism and savage strategy.
5. Warhammer 40,000 Mechanicus
You play as a crew of devoted cyborg scientists engaged in turn-based combat with hordes of stubborn glowing green skeletons. While the fights are entertaining, watching them bicker is one of the best parts of the game.
Mechanicus is a good alternative to XCOM if you’re looking for something simpler.
The challenge isn’t necessarily in clearing each area, but rather in outfitting your mechanical priests with the right gadgets, gizmos, and firearms to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. It’s more of a power fantasy than a strategic conundrum.
Mechs weighing 60 tons can fire rockets and rip each other’s arms off, so be prepared to get a little bloody. There is no grid in BattleTech’s turn-based combat, which makes it more enjoyable. You have the freedom to move anywhere, assault from any angle, and arrange your team in whatever way you see fit. Taking out specific body sections on an opponent mech has a different effect depending on the portion of its anatomy you target while firing your weapon. You can target one of 11 body segments on an opposing mech. For example, a broken leg will fall to the ground.
Not to mention the heat management heavy weaponry on hot planets and the limitless mech modification between battles. Each pound of weight in your loadout is being scrutinized as you search for a means to add a heat sink without making your Centurion unmanageable. If you’re looking for XCOM’s open-ended campaign and constant threat of losing your troops, BattleTech has you covered there as well.
7. Skulls of the Shogun
A samurai-themed version of XCOM. Even while Skulls of the Shogun isn’t a full-blown XCOM campaign replacement, it’s a great way to wind down after a long campaign. With only five actions per turn allotted to each squad, the game seems manageable and small, and the eye-catching graphics emphasize the impact of each slash.
That doesn’t mean it’s a mindless activity.
You’ll be collecting resources, avoiding risks to the environment, and ensuring the safety of your army.
If they die, you’re out, regardless of what else is going on. Because there’s no grid, the movement is free and no two bouts are ever the same. Despite its age, it is still relevant today.
8. Battle Brothers
Mercenary management meets medieval turn-based combat in Battle Brothers. As the head of a gang of brigands, it’s up to you to make ends meet by clearing out bandit camps and killing goblins on a procedurally created open landscape. It’s a bit like being a handyman, but instead of hammers and nails, you get an axe and a shield. This is a well-crafted loop. Accept jobs, stab orcs, gather coins, use the money to hire other soldiers and buy gear, and then stab even more orcs.
Line of sight and the type of armor you’re wearing are important in hex-based combat, and it is incredibly harsh. A mangled eye, for example, is a permanent injury that your soldiers carry with them for the duration of the war, making them less effective. With too little faith, they may even give up their weapons and run. It is cruel, but clever.
9. Shadowrun: Dragonfall
Dragonfall was originally intended to be an expansion for Shadowrun Returns, but it quickly grew into its own title, and we couldn’t be happier. In a gritty, dystopian sci-fi backdrop, it’s a combat-heavy RPG with a diverse cast of characters. Your hacking character plays a mini-game as grenades, bullets, drones, and spells collide.
XCOM enthusiasts will recognize the familiarity of arenas strewn with cover and % odds to hit, but if you prefer to avoid fighting, the option is there. Shadowrun is one of the best tales in recent memory if that’s something you’re like.
10. Divinity: Original Sin 2
Okay, we’ll explain. Divinity. XCOM 2 is a far cry from Original Sin 2. In a magical fantasy world, there are no guns to be found in a 100-hour RPG with complicated speech trees. It has one thing in common with the series: deep, unexpected turn-based combat. Dousing an entire enemy squad in oil before lighting them ablaze is just one example of the kind of innovative ways you might combine the powers of your team. The more difficult the adversaries become, the more difficult it is to figure out new ways to defeat them with the resources at hand.
As a role-playing game, party management takes center stage. Aside from gifting your characters new things, you’re also going deeper into their backstories, which makes you feel more connected to your mages and knights than XCOM’s infantry, and that’s saying a lot!
Available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PCs
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