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DOS Dungeon: X-COM: Terror From the Deep

With X-Com: UFO Defense being as much of a hit as it was, it would only be natural that a sequel would follow.  That was certainly the case, as just a little over a year later we got X-COM: Terror from the Deep.

Right off the bat, I have to say that there are three major sticking points with Terror From the Deep.

First of all, this game is hard.  Extremely hard.  Ridiculously extremely hard.  To the point where the easiest difficulty here is harder than the hardest difficulty in UFO Defense.  Yes, apparently veteran X-COM players complained that the Superhuman difficulty level was too easy (seemingly unaware that this resulted from a bug that reset the difficulty after the first mission) and Microprose responded accordingly, making a game that's utterly ruthless and hates you with a passion.

Second, you don't get to carry over any of that new tech from the first alien war.  Why not?  Well, the manual informs us that all Ethereal technology is found to be useless underwater, necessitating that we start the whole tech tree climb from scratch.  Fair enough, I guess; it would be pretty one-sided if you still had all of your psionics and plasma guns from the last alien war to use right out of the gate...

Third... well, we'll get to the third one as we go.  It shouldn't take long to spot it.

As the game begins, you position your initial base.  Since this game largely takes place underwater rather than on land, it would probably be a good idea to pick a spot that will allow you quick access to as many member nations as possible.  So a spot along the coast of Europe or Asia would probably be your best bet there.

After that, we have our base decked out with two Interceptors Barracudas and one transport sub with eight soldiers, all equipped with basic weapons in the form of dart pistols or harpoon rifles.  Because we're underwater, you see.

When you spot an alien ship, you're then tasked with disabling it so you can send in the troops, mop up any survivors and capture their technology.

This goes about the same as in the first game, though as you'd expect, the higher difficulty means you'll be facing much heavier odds against you.  Not only are these aliens more numerous, but they're also meaner, bringing in their heavy hitters right off the bat and not hesitating to fling grenades at the first signs of danger.  Fortunately they still don't work too well as a team, so you can use their somewhat inferior AI against them...

On the plus side, the underwater environments are pretty cool, with stuff like coral, seaweed and underwater volcanoes being common sights.  When they're not being blown up by grenades or rockets, of course.

Once the map is cleared, you capture some of their technology and equipment for later use... once you've researched it, of course.

Like the Sectoids, Ethereals and others before them, these aliens don't take too kindly to having their ships destroyed, so they launch occasional terror campaigns against coastal towns, requiring you to go in and stop them before they cause too much damage.  This is where you start seeing nasty foes like Deep Ones, Lobster Men (heavily armored behemoths with nasty claws) and Bio-Drones (floating brains in jars with laser guns).  Some of these guys are also prime research material, with the Deep Ones in particular being crucial to research Aqua Plastics (which are essential for creating new armor).  The tech tree climb is also a lot more convoluted in general this time, so you've got a bigger uphill climb just to get on even footing with your foes...

...Which is a considerable problem considering the high difficulty level of the game right out of the gate.  You can also see that the member nations are much larger chunks of the globe this time, which doesn't make your job any easier.

From what I've shown so far, you can now doubtlessly see the big, overlying problem with Terror from the Deep.  Virtually everything that was in the original Xcom has an equivalent here, with only a new name and sprite to distinguish it.  There are a few new ideas and weapons, some balance tweaks and even some subtle improvements here and there, but they're few and far between an awful lot of familiar ground.  Terror From the Deep is not a sequel to UFO Defense, it's an expansion pack for it; one Microprose had the gall to charge full price for, no less.  Admittedly, we have much worse money-scamming travesties in gaming these days (Exhibit A, B, C), but this was almost unheard of in the 90s and attracted about as much fan anger as you'd expect...

Still, for all the flak it's gotten, the game isn't a complete retread of the original.  It does add in a slightly more cinematic feel through opening and closing FMVs (which are admittedly pretty good quality for 1995).  The music and sound effects are also much improved, which lends the game a more creepy atmosphere than its predecessor.  Weapons are also better balanced (pistol weapons use considerably less AP than rifles but do less damage, for instance), and there are even some new melee weapons in the form of thermic drills, which can take down even the hardiest aliens in no time if you're willing to risk fighting them in close quarters.  Plus there is the aforementioned challenge, which is much higher than the previous game's in just about every way.  So if you're one of those die-hard gamers who thinks UFO Defense is too easy, give Terror from the Deep a go, because you're certainly in for a much more harrowing fight here.

Another benefit to running on the same engine as the original is that the same tweak and hacking tools also work on this game, including XcomUtil and X-Com Editor.  Both of which allow you to edit the game in various ways to make it easier or harder to your liking...