Released in 2012, XCOM: Enemy Unknown turned out to be a huge success, leading to a renaissance of both the franchise and the entire category of tactical turn-based games. It turns out, however, that the project could have looked quite different. Initially, the plan was to focus on real-time combat.
This information was revealed by Jake Solomon, who was the game's lead designer. He shared a document with the game's initial concept, written down in order to convince the publisher to finance the development. It most likely dates back to 2005, meaning it was written three years before work on the new XCOM began in earnest.
Real-time combat would not be something new to the series. In 1997's X-COM: Apocalypse, players could choose between such real-time mode and traditional turns. The document also mentions vehicles for the player, which ultimately did not find its way into the game or its sequel. The plot was also changed. Originally, the campaign was supposed to revolve around trying to neutralize an alien conspiracy, but elements of that later appeared in XCOM 2.
Solomon's other ideas, such as 3D maps, research, and base management, are all close to what we eventually found in XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
The abandonment of real-time in favor of classic turn-based gameplay appeared to be a hit. The reboot of the series met with a very warm reception. The PC version has an average rating of 89% on Metacriic.
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown - game guide
- The Long War mod XCOM - download page