Don Parsons, our PR Manager and now a named soldier in my squad, crept toward the ledge, hiding behind a lamp post for protection. He started scanning the area for approaching foes. A sectoid dashed out to his left. Don opened fire, trying to take down the brute before he could get in position. Hands shaking, he overshot and the alien, taking cover behind a truck, took aim to fire back. Staring at Don through his dull black eyes, the alien opened up with plasma, striking Don in the shoulder. It was a grave injury but Don had his medical kit. If he could just drag himself to safety…
Don looked out across the small, deadly space, and noticed the second sectoid. It was too late. Safety would never come.
X-COM: Enemy Unknown has some decisive advantages over other games in the strategy field. Having been allowed the luxury of a big budget, a long development cycle, and access to Firaxis’ deeply experienced team of developers, the game was sure to have both immensely high production values and gain the notice of the gaming public at large. I wish that every strategy game was afforded these amenities, for they take the excellent base of the game to undeniable heights. But the best part of X-COM isn’t related to its excellent gameplay or stellar visuals. No, the most addicting property of the game is the hold that your team of battle hardened soldiers takes over you. Losing your PR manager because you left him too exposed provides a meaningful experience, as does watching your reviews editor grow to be an unstoppable badass. The game has a narrative, to be sure, but the subplots evolving from the gameplay overtake that story and come to dominate your existence. And, like any good turn-based game, X-COM steals your sleep like none other. X-COM is not only the best strategy game of the year, but one of the year’s finest games period.
-Tony Odett, Features Editor
Runner Up: Crusader Kings II
While XCOM: Enemy Unknown shows how transcendent a strategy game can be, Crusader Kings II shows how deep and fascinating a they can be. The sheer randomness each game of Crusader Kings II brings to the table makes playing it over and over an endless joy. You can play the same starting character half a dozen times and, even if you change your gameplay style, you’ll be met with a different game. Trust me, I’ve tried.