XCOM Legends preview - "Valiant effort, but who is this really for?"

Everyone's a little confused at the moment

XCOM Legends preview - "Valiant effort, but who is this really for?"

Controversial but a hot topic nonetheless, XCOM Legends has been stirring up trouble in the mobile gaming space for the past few days, trending on Twitter and prompting netizens to gang up on a certain media outlet.

Now, I don’t want to get involved in any of that toxic noise, and I honestly feel for Iridium Starfish who developed this new entry in the beloved IP. So, as a gamer who’s never played any of the titles in the franchise before, I’ve hopefully got a fresh perspective on this without any of the baggage and the hate that this iteration of the squad RPG has been getting lately.

XCOM Legends gameplay

At its core, XCOM Legends is basically just you collecting a squad of heroes and sending them off on endless battles against aliens (or shadow versions of themselves). You can go through the missions in the PvE campaign, level up your collected heroes in the War Stories mode, or collect materials in Special Operations.

You can also test your team’s offensive and defensive capabilities against other players in the Shadow Arena, the PvP mode where you can score rewards and climb up the ranks.

That’s it, really. The story is nothing to write home about, and it uses a mysterious “Archway” to somehow explain how you’re collecting the essence of these XCOM characters from the void. The Archway is also responsible for creating shadow versions of your heroes so you can fight against them, because “science fiction”.

XCOM Legends gameplay

Gacha mechanics and graphics in XCOM Legends

The RPG elements go hand-in-hand with the gacha mechanics, as summoning a unit means you can upgrade its equipment and stats using materials you collect from missions. It’s very unfortunate that, even in this Early Access version of the game, the paywall does seem huge and unforgiving.

I had to clear the whole first chapter and a few extra missions just to have enough Elerium (the in-game currency) for a single summon, and I ended up getting some random gear - not even a low-level character I could use to complete my squad (I only have four people out of six in there).

There are idle rewards that you can collect over time, as well as Research Facilities where you can upgrade your heroes’ stats (like health, offense, defense, and so forth.), but they all take time, and speeding them up means paying up. It does feel like you’re being asked to cough up some dough with every move you make, so there’s nothing left to do but to leave your folks on auto-pilot with the 2x speed and the auto-fight button.

XCOM Legends idle rewards

To be honest, watching your heroes do their thing on the battlefield doesn’t even look appealing. Graphics feel very clunky and outdated, and the artwork and backdrops aren’t stunning in the least. It ultimately looks pretty boring to me, even with the special moves of the characters that have specific animations.

What’s the appeal?

Now, this could all be because I’m not an XCOM fan, so I’m not exactly invested in these characters at all. I keep thinking that if this were, say, StarCraft and I were seeing Kerrigan, Artanis, and Raynor duking it out with Amon (can somebody please make this game happen), then yes, I’d probably care about levelling them up and sending them to battle.

But right now, all I see are random people in random space suits fighting random aliens, so there’s really no appeal.


I’m thinking, then, that this game is likely targeted towards XCOM fans, but feedback online says otherwise. It appears that XCOM fans are a bit of a niche, and are looking for hardcore gameplay with in-depth strategic elements in their XCOM titles - which, sadly, XCOM Legends does not have.

Overall, XCOM Legends does have its moments - but to be honest, in the sea of other, more enjoyable titles out there, I’d rather invest my very limited time elsewhere. I do feel bad about whoever greenlit this game though, and given that it’s only released in the Philippines and Malaysia so far and I’m part of the lucky (or not-so-lucky) few who can give it a go, I can only hope it will still undergo major improvements when it finally launches worldwide - if at all.