1 October, 1979: Unidentified forces presumed of extraterrestrial origin arrive in Earth orbit. Panic spreads globally when attempts at communication fail and initial attempts to repel the invaders are met with heavy losses and little success. The only successful interception occurs over the Baltic sea, conducted by modified interceptors which prove at least partially resistant to extraterrestrial weaponry. A clandestine organisation known only as the ‘Xenonauts’ claims responsibility, offering nations protection in exchange for funding and full freedom to operate within their territory and airspace.
For humanity, a glimmer of hope remains – if they can withstand the attacks long enough unravel the secrets of the alien aggressors, the Xenonauts may find yet a way to defeat the alien invasion. Should they fail, millions of years of human history will be brought to a close in mere months…
Xenonauts is a strategy game in which you control a multi-national military organisation defending a Cold War-era Earth from alien invasion, using small squads of persistent soldiers to eliminate the extraterrestrials and recover their technology in turn-based ground combat. A detailed strategic layer allows you to co-ordinate the defence of the planet, using your interceptors to shoot down UFOs and researching captured artefacts to learn about your foes and unlock new combat equipment to use on your missions.
Xenonauts is a spiritual successor to the classic X-Com strategy games from the 1990s. Devoted fans should love this game, but we’re also keen to introduce the joys of old-school grand strategy to a whole new generation of players who might not otherwise experience it!
Detailed, Emergent Simulation:
Xenonauts contains no scripted missions, just broad rules setting the pace of the invasion. As such, no game plays out the same twice. If you shoot a Scout UFO down over a polar area, you get a Crash Site mission where you can capture a crashed Scout UFO in an Arctic tileset. Commence a battle at night and you’ll be fighting the mission in the darkness with reduced sight range. If your base is attacked, you fight the defence in a perfect replica of your base. A lot of time has gone into weaving the two very different halves of the game together into something that feels both natural and enjoyable.
Soldiers in Xenonauts are persistent from mission to mission, improving their stats and gaining ranks with combat experience – but their deaths are always only a single bad move away. You will grow to care about the brave men and women under your command as they slowly grow from green rookies into hardened veterans, but that only makes it more painful when their heroic tale is cruelly cut short by a burst of plasma fire…
Xenonauts has an extensive research tree with almost a hundred projects to unlock, each with its own unique description and painted artwork. It slowly reveals the intentions and origins of the invaders, while also unlocking new battlefield equipment, aircraft and vehicles for you to use as you harness alien technology and turn it against them.
You will also be managing the defence of the planet, dealing with the invading alien UFOs with your customisable interceptors. You need to balance the needs of your funding nations with your own. Your funds are limited – are you going to spend them on battlefield equipment, more scientists, or expanding your coverage of the planet? Your priorities must be balanced carefully if you are to win the war.
Xenonauts delivers tense turn-based combat across realistic, varied and fully-destructible battlefields, against almost fifty different variants of enemy. Missions range from capturing crashed UFOs or alien bases to defending cities (or even Xenonaut facilities) against alien attack. You’ll experience the chill of encountering a new alien for the first time and the joys of test-firing a new weapon for the first time. Deeply asymmetric combat keeps the battles interesting – after all, you’re fighting intergalactic invaders with 1970′s ballistic technology!
We have now released Xenonauts V1.0 on the Steam Stable branch, which marks the end of formal development for Xenonauts. This is effectively the final version of the game, minus any stability patches that may be required. We will shortly be rolling it out to the Humble Store and Desura etc too.
Official release and leaving Early Access for the game is in about two weeks (tentatively pencilled in as 16th June), but the remaining time is mostly going to be spent on sending out review copies, the PR around the launch, porting to Mac / Linux and getting the Kickstarter rewards sorted out etc.
We will continue to work on fixing any crashes / hangs encountered in the game, and any non-crash bugs that render the game unplayable in other ways.
We’ve fixed all the worst issues that appeared over the past few days of community testing, but as the game is 10-15+ hours for a playthrough we’ve obviously not been able to fully test the game internally after the last bunch of fixes. So there may still be some issues in the game – but if so, they’ll be addressed in the next two weeks before the official release.
There have been a lot of changes made since the previous Stable version. The game has a much smoother difficulty curve, more information for new players, new line of sight mechanics, much improved AI and all sorts of finer polish.
The choice is therefore up to you whether you want to play the “final” version of the game now or whether you’d prefer to wait a couple of weeks to make sure any stability kinks have been ironed out. We’ll make more of a song and dance about the release when it comes to the 16th, but I thought it was best to explain this update and make it available to anyone who did not want to wait that long!
Thanks for your patience and support over the past five years of development, it’s been a long and difficult journey and I doubt we could have got so far without the all help from our community!
Release day has finally arrived: Xenonauts has left Steam Early Access and made its way into big wide world! Development has taken five eventful years. I still remember taking our first pre-orders and the days of being banned from Paypal. Our successful $150,000 Kickstarter was two full years ago now, and *that* day when Firaxis announced XCOM: Enemy Unknown was even longer back.
This process has taken a lot longer than anyone expected it to, myself included. I originally estimated that it would take 6 months and $25,000 to make Xenonauts. It took ten times that long and…well, I’ve not sat down and totted up all the production costs yet, but I already know they are an order of magnitude higher than my original estimates. If you were one of the really early backers: I’m sorry that you had to wait so long.
At the same time, this game would never have happened if it were not for those early backers. It also would not have happened were it not for the people who backed us during our Kickstarter, or those who bought the game when it came out on Steam Early Access. That money has all been spent on development; all of it has been spent on making Xenonauts the game you’re playing now. If you bought the game at any point before it formally released, know that your money *did* help us.
I should also mention the team that worked on the game. Our successful Kickstarter let us get an office and form a core of full-time individuals that make up the heart of the company, but literally hundreds of people have worked on Xenonauts in some capacity. Many of these people accepted lower rates than they would normally charge for their work because they wanted to be involved – they were doing this for the love, not the money. They have my thanks for doing so.
Going forwards, we will not be making further gameplay changes for a while (although I won’t rule out a patch V1.1 at some point in the future). However, we will continue to patch any crashes or game-breaking bugs found in the game. If you find any, please let us know on our forums and we’ll do our best to sort them out.
Our more immediate plans are to add Steam Workshop support to the game – we have a busy modding / mapping community on our forums and I’m keen to help them reach a wider audience and make the mod-install process as easy as possible. We’re also working on getting Mac / Linux builds set up on Steam and finally processing the physical Kickstarter rewards. Still work to do, then – but it’s tidying up stuff around the game, rather than work on the game itself.
To end, a few mind-boggling community figures: Steam has logged well over 1 million hours of gameplay on Xenonauts in the last year alone. That’s over a century spent in-game. Prior to release, the *average* player had put 45 hours into the game each (taken from everyone who ever fired up the game on Steam). Not bad, eh? I hope you enjoy finally getting your hands on the game!
The ground combat missions in Xenonauts are the real meat of the game. They are turn-based battles between your soldiers and the alien forces, whether the objective be to capture a crashed UFO, clear a terror site of aliens or even to defend your base against an alien attempt to destroy it. The soldiers and vehicles you bring to battle are all that you will have to use in the mission – there are no reinforcements and no restocking of equipment. As your soldiers level up and grow in strength through combat experience, it is important you keep them alive – and you will quickly get attached to your favourite soldiers! Knowing that you are only one wrong move from losing them to a plasma bolt keeps even routine missions tense.
Units in Xenonauts recieve a set number of action points each turn, and can spend these performing all sorts of tasks – moving, firing weapons, picking things up, reloading, tending to wounded companions, etc. Once they are spent, the human turn is over and the aliens have their turn (it is possible for both humans and aliens to interrupt the enemy turn if they have unspent action points remaining from their own turn). The objectives of the mission depend on the mission type – on a terror site it may simply be extermination of all aliens, but in a UFO recovery mission it would be possible to win by capturing and holding the UFO as well as through extermination of all the aliens on the map.
The battlefields of the game are hugely important to combat. Evey single tile in the game is destructible, so you have the freedom to use whatever tactical approach you might want. Worried there is an alien guarding a doorway? Blow a hole in the wall and go in that way. Want to get through a fence, but don’t want to walk all the way round it? Drive a tank through it and then have your men follow through the gap created. With certain tiles being explosive and flammable, there are plenty of tactical options available.
Of course, the main feature of the battlefield terrain is the cover it offers. Xenonauts contains a fully-fledged cover system, as well as advanced tile modelling which allows different states of a tile to have different properties. For example, take a brick wall with a window in it - in its undamaged form, it can be seen through but not shot through. When damaged (shattered), you can see and shoot through it. When destroyed, you can see, shoot and walk through it. The system supports different stopping values too – you’ll have better chance of hitting your target if you’ve destroyed the window and the entire wall around it than if you’ve just shot the window out. This may sound complex (and behind the scenes it is), but the bottom line is that Xenonauts lets you interact with the battlefield in an unprecedented level of detail.
With a huge variety of vehicles, weapons, equipment and armour types available in the game, the ground combat has huge replayability. The randomised maps, several mission types, countless types of aliens to fight against and numerous different tilesets to do it in all mean that you will stay interested for a long time. Plus, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of trying out the new weapon you’ve researched for the first time!
X-Com’s ground combat missions were one of the first examples of emergent gameplay, and their spirit lives on in Xenonauts. The game does have a story (told through the Research projects), but that is not the story you’ll remember after you finish playing the game. The story you will remember is the heroics of your crack team of soldiers as they fought their way from the beginning of the war to the very final mission, the story of how they lived or how they met their end. That’s the real story of Xenonauts…but you’ll have to buy the game before you start telling it.
Air combat in Xenonauts is initiated when one of your interceptor squadrons closes to attack range with a UFO on the strategic map (or vice-versa). It takes the form of pausable real-time combat between up to three combatants on each side, seen from a top-down perspective. Your aircraft are the same ones controlled on the strategic map, carrying the weapons you specified when you equipped them at base. If they take damage or destroyed in combat, they are damaged or destroyed on the strategic map too. The same applies to ammunition and fuel levels as well, so your interceptors are unlikely to survive being ambushed by UFOs when returning to base from a mission if you’ve fired off all their missiles and spent most of their fuel!
In the combat, there are two types of weapon. Rapid-fire weapons have fire arcs (shown on the screen) which the enemy must be within in order for the weapon to fire. These hits are assigned based on the weapon accuracy percentage rather than the position of the target, assuming it is within the fire arc. Missiles work differently. They must be be in range and locked onto a target before they can be fired, but hits are calculated based on the position of the target relative to the missile. In short, this means you can evade them if you have a sufficiently agile craft.
Certain types of both aircraft and UFO can perform special actions which can give them an advantage in combat. For instance, human F-17 interceptors and light UFOs can perform an ‘evasive roll’, which allows them to dodge either left to evade incoming fire or missiles. These special abilities are on cooldowns, so must be used wisely. They also cost extra fuel, the universal currency of air combat in Xenonauts. The interceptor fuel level, less the distance to return to base, is imported from the strategic map. Fuel is burned rapidly in combat, so it is always a race against time to destroy the UFO before your aircraft are forced to disengage and return to base. Engaging the enemy on the very edge of your operational range is a risk, but if you’re fighting the aliens close to your base you’ll have plenty of fuel to burn on special abilities!
There are over a dozen types of UFO in the game with different stats, weapons and fire arcs, each requiring different tactics to defeat – air combat in Xenonauts should be a whole new challenge for even experienced X-Com veterans! (The game also contains an autoresolve system for those players who would prefer not to deal with the added complexity this brings to the game.)
The strategic management layer of Xenonauts is where you co-ordinate humanity’s response to the alien invasion. You control interceptor aircraft and build bases on the a map of Earth, responding to alerts of alien activity at they arrive. The game throws up many different scenarios as the invasion progresses, ranging from the detection of squadrons of UFOs entering our atmosphere to alien terror attacks on civilian or military infrastructure!
This level of the game is where you control the Xenonaut research efforts, studying alien artefacts recovered on the battlefield to learn about your foes and unlock new equipment and technology to use against them. The research tree both tells the narrative of the game and provides the progression – you will need to hold off the invasion for long enough to discover the truth about how the aliens can be beaten once and for all! To do this, you will need to manage your spending priorities carefully – do you want to speed up research by hiring more scientists, or buy a new interceptor to help stem the flow of UFOs? Would you rather build a new base to protect a new region, or expand capacity at your existing one? Do you want to manufacture half a dozen laser rifles, or would you rather spend the time manufacturing your soldiers better armour?
These funds are granted each month by the Funding Council. Each region is a funding bloc that will alter your funding every month based on how well you have defended them – shooting down the UFOs intruding into their airspace and responding to terror sites caused by alien ground troops. Perform poorly and region will reduce your funding, then abandon you altogether. If too many regions give up the struggle and sign treaties with the aliens, it’s Game Over! Balancing expanding your coverage against protecting what you already have against the strengthening invasion is always challenging!
Xenonaut force on the strategic map is projected through construction of base facilities. Bases contain the radar installations which detect UFOs as they appear, and also house the various aircraft, vehicles, soldiers, scientists and technicians that you will need in the battle to save the Earth. Each base is fully customisable and can contain up to 36 structures (eg. hangars, laboratories, living quarters, hospitals, radar arrays) that benefit the installation in some way. If sufficient funds are available, new bases can be built in any human-held territory in the world – but this represents a significant investment of money and resources.
The aircraft, vehicles and soldiers housed in these bases are persistent. These are the units you deploy in either Air Combat or Ground Combat, but the results of these battles are felt on the strategic map. Play badly and lose an aircraft or a vehicle in battle and you’ve lost it on the strategic map too – you’ll need to buy or build a new one! For soldiers it is even more important you keep them alive, as they level up and become more powerful through combat experience. All three types of unit can be equipped with different weapons or equipment when back at base, allowing you to customise them to suit your battlefield tactics.