If you haven’t played XCOM: Enemy Unknown, then you may not know what Ironman Mode is.
Ironman Mode disables loading any save other than the most recent one that you make. Also, once you save the game it exits to the main menu. There is no way to load any other save point to correct a mistake or do a mission a different way. Any decision you make, mission you ignore, panic you let induce, or soldiers that you let die will stay that way and you must suffer the consequences. The game recommends that only experienced players use this mode.
I activated it on my first playthrough.
Ironmade Mode makes XCOM: Enemy Unknown more personal. You get attached to your squadmates thanks to the abilities and loadouts they carry. The way you build your base of operations and the boosts in stat changes or chances also become something take deep consideration. If you want XCOM to mean anything more than just a mission-based game, Ironman Mode is something you need to look at.
My problem is that I wanted to take this a bit further. I wanted to make each moment in this game to be tense and uncertain. After all, that’s the way an extraterrestrial attack would feel like, right? I think I took it too far.
I went into my barracks and viewed my soldier list. The first four were my first strike team. It’s who I bring into my missions. Each soldier can be injured and need to take a medical leave for a certain time. So far the times I have seen are 4 days, 8, 12, and 16. During those times, the game will automatically substitute more soldiers to fill in your mission team. You have a contingent of 12 available soldiers in your barracks. If one or more die or too many are injured, you can hire more.
You start the game with 12 soldiers. One of which is from the initial training mission. At this time you are allowed to customize each soldier. You can change their name, face, skin tone, hair, armor, and voice.
I changed all 12 initial soldiers’ names to that of my closer friend’s names. With me being the game’s commander leading the away teams, my “friends” would go out and complete the missions on my command.
I just lost my first soldier. It was stupid, too. The nearby cover was already taken by other squadmates. I positioned the soldier in question just behind the nearby cover to at least throw off some aim chance by the alien enemy. Alien activity gets noticed and a Thin Man sneaks up behind us. The soldier had no chance. She fell to the ground and suddenly, I realized all at the same time that an error in my command had just killed my field medic Lieutenant and a digital version of a friend.
Now, of course I realize that it is pretty corny to name these game characters as my friends. I used to make fun of my friends that did this back in RPGs. I just felt that with what this game is trying to do, making it so that you do your absolute best as the commander of the most important team in Earth’s history, having it so that when I see my soldier’s I see my friend’s names on the screen would make me try harder. I failed in my duty when my medic fell. The worst part? My friend was over here when the mission went down. She thought it was hilarious and a chance to take out some fun on me.
“You let me die?!” She kept saying that over and over again. “I can’t believe you would just let me sit out there in the open with ALIENS!!”
As much as I wanted to just burst out laughing, I did realize that my main mission team was highly hurt after this loss. That was my best field medic and second best Support soldier overall. After my friend left and I turned XCOM back on, I loaded the game and started up the next mission and was reminded that I had to build up a new medic. I also named this soldier after a friend. I’m not going to stop doing that, either. The way the one death in this game made me respond makes me want to keep playing but also do a better job.
This is the first game to make me feel like a loss on my team was devastating to my progress and made me have to rethink my strategy and my skills at command.
Needless to say, I may have made my experience with XCOM a bit too personal but I have also made it extremely rewarding when I complete a mission with zero casualties. In turn, I’ve made my time with XCOM some of the most intense and enjoyable memories in my gaming history.