Xenonauts

Game review by
Chris Morris, Common Sense Media
Xenonauts Game Poster Image
Sci-fi adventure tale with some twists and a few problems.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Technically, the game shows humans working together to fend off an enemy invasion, but that's mainly a backdrop to the combat. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are fairly generic, so it's impossible to say whether they're worthy of being role models. 

Ease of Play

The game's controls aren't the most precise -- and the user interface is cluttered and not explained clearly. It's a game that requires a lot of studying from the player before he or she will completely understand what's going on. 

Violence

The thrust of the game is downing enemy spacecraft, then boarding them and fighting surviving aliens. Combat can be fierce -- and a wide variety of weapons is used in the game, from shotguns to lasers -- but there aren't any violent cut scenes or vivid depictions of blood. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Xenonauts is a downloadable strategy game that harkens back to the original XCOM, in which players must repel an alien invasion. There's plenty of violence, though it's not overly gory. The controls and user interface could frustrate players who simply want to jump into the game, but it's less worrisome than recent official XCOM games. 

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What's it about?

In XENONAUTS, Earth is under an extraterrestrial attack, and you're in charge of a resistance movement. This puts you in charge of both air and ground forces, along with decision making on research and development projects. After creating an operational base, you'll take down enemy craft through air battles, then send in ground teams to collect alien technologies via turn-based battles. (Your scientists will research those to give you advanced weaponry.) The trick is learning to vanquish your enemies before they take your troops out.

Is it any good?

You can't talk about Xenonauts without talking about XCOM, since this game is very much a remake of that classic. As a labor of love, it's admirable -- and the game manages to recreate a lot of what was special about the 1994 original. In the process, though, it also incorporates some of the frustrating elements. For example, the troops simply aren't that smart, sometimes firing at each other instead of the enemy and missing shots from very short distances. Plus, successfully clicking on the soldier to whom you're trying to issue orders is a hit-and-miss affair. 

The game is slow and methodical -- and there's a lot going on that's not explained well to newcomers. It requires dedication from the player, though it does reward that patience with an evolving story. You won't have to do some of the manual work that the original XCOM demanded, and there are some options in air combat. But the poor user interface and repetitive nature of the missions dull what could be a shining homage to one of gaming's most beloved titles, making it a good -- but far from great -- clone. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about persevering in the face of overwhelming odds. How do you keep motivated when things seem hopeless?

  • Talk about when it's best to stand and fight -- and when it's best to retreat, a strategy used frequently in Xenonauts. Should you even get yourself in a fight in the first place, or is diplomacy better?

Game details

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For kids who love strategy

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