XCOM 3: Release Date and 10 Predictions

XCOM 3, XCOM 3 Predictions, XCOM
XCOM's typically cheery imagery

With many of us reaching the end of XCOM 2, inevitably our minds turn to the future of the series

There’s no doubt that alien invasions have always been a popular topic in media across all platforms, but few have done it better than XCOM. Between it’s original run of games back in the 90’s and the new remakes by publisher Firaxis, this well-loved franchise has been delighting gamers for a little over two decades. With the massive success of XCOM 2 last year, there seems to be little doubt in anyone’s mind that a sequel is a more of a “when” than an “if”. So without further ado, let’s get to my 10 predictions for XCOM 3. If you haven’t already beaten XCOM 2, there will be some plot spoilers ahead, so consider yourself warned.

1. XCOM 3 will incorporate elements of both 1995’s Terror from the Deep, and 1997’s Apocalypse

Two iconic games being melded into one would be an amazing next step for the series

With the end of XCOM 2 we see Advent more or less defeated, and the future looks bright for the newly freed human race. All is not well however, as the game ends with a shot of a disturbance on the ocean floor which many have called out as an obvious reference to Terror from the Deep, the second game in the original X-COM continuity. Whilst I would agree that this reference is hard to ignore, I don’t think XCOM 3 will be that simple. Terror from the Deep was a very divisive game, with some loving it and some hating it.

One of the most common criticisms that I’ve heard levelled at it is that it’s aquatic setting made it samey, and that it was for all intents and purposes a reskin of it’s predecessor with what many considered an inferior plotline and overall gameplay experience. Games these days are continually getting bigger and more ambitious, and I think a remake of Terror from the Deep would feel every bit as antiquated as it’s classic counter-part. Apocalypse, however was praised as a means of wrapping up the story and of taking it beyond where it had already been. It introduced an explanation as to why the aliens keep coming to Earth and introduced a new over-arching threat to the XCOM world. It seems likely to me that they will combine these two games into one ambitious game of massive scope, to really round off and define the remade trilogy.

2. Missions will not be confined to the ground, but will take place in the ocean as well as in space

As I said earlier, games are forever trying to one up each other by forever striving for the most ambitious game that pushes the most boundaries. XCOM’s remakes have done a lot to modernize the games, but regardless of how varied the enemies and weapons are, one thing always remains the same; they are all land-based missions. As great as the missions are, eventually you tend to get bored of the same old “go to this building and do this” style of gameplay, especially given how long a game of XCOM can take to reach its conclusion.

Given my previous prediction that it will incorporate elements of Terror from the Deep, I think water-based missions are pretty much a guarantee, but I think a game as massive in scope as XCOM 3 is likely to be, will need something to make it stand out from it’s predecessors. Because of all of this, I think it’s quite likely that we will not only see ground and water oriented missions, but also space missions. With the aliens potentially having oceanic bases in this sequel, some kind of operation on the moon would seem to be logical for whatever evil plan they are hatching. Also missions to board alien craft, or even take the fight to an alien world as a finale, would greatly expand upon the scale of the story and the gameplay.

We live in a world where games are constantly getting bigger, and I think that is all but guaranteed for XCOM 3.     

I just hope the aliens don’t find Rapture, because I refuse to have to fight Big Daddies all over again.                                                                                                                             

3. XCOM 3 will be the final game in this plotline

Let’s face it, most good things come in threes. Mass Effect? Trilogy. Witcher? Trilogy. Ezio’s arch in Assassin’s Creed? You get the idea. Trilogies are everywhere in gaming, and it barely seems like an amazing game can come out without it being almost an expectation that it will be part of a three-part set.

The surviving members of XCOM from the first remake are not getting any younger, and if every familiar face dies of old age, it would pretty effectively end any emotional continuity that exists in the series. The original series is often considered a trilogy with 1998’s Intercepter receiving relatively poor reviews and not feeling like as much of a solid part of the ongoing storyline.

With XCOM 3 potentially taking elements for Terror of the Deep and Apocalypse, (the original second and third games) it seems quite likely that XCOM 3 will end the series with a big finish. The series itself is very likely to continue until it ceases to be profitable, but this story line with these characters is quite likely to end with 3 in my opinion.

4. The Commander will die in XCOM 3

Bouncing right off of the last prediction, it’s a common writing theory that the best endings are bittersweet. As a writer you want to wrap up the story in an interesting way that has a good mix of emotions attached to it.

I think to achieve this and properly end this storyline, the Commander will die at the end of the game. He’s lived through quite a lot, he was there during the first invasion, and helped liberate the world from Advent, I think he will be there to turn the tide against the new threats one final time, and will die in a suitably heroic fashion.

 If they do have a mission to take the fight to an alien world, I would not be surprised if it was a one-way ticket and the Commander (and likely your favourite Squaddies) volunteer to lay down their lives to save the human race.

Ah, back when the world wasn’t conquered and Sectoids were cute little balls of malice

5. There will be no fewer than 20 new species of aliens added to XCOM 3

Two games worth of enemies to carry over into a new game is already quite a lot. With the aliens on earth more or less beaten, I’m not sure how likely it is we will see many of the XCOM 2 variations on aliens, but old favourites from the two games are quite likely to make a return (I’m looking at you Sectoids and Thin Men).

Whilst the previous two games had more than enough enemies to keep you occupied, with the addition of Terror from the Deep, and Apocalypse, They have at least 20 new enemy types they could potentially bring into the gleaming age of HD textures, possibly even more if they create some new enemies which seems quite likely to me if they do in fact combine the two games.

If these guys make it into XCOM 3, I’m definitely making an Ellen Ripley squaddie

All together this would create an enemy roster that could be as big as 40 to 50 enemies strong. That’s a lot of potential variation for the kind of conflicts and strategies you might have to use on the fly. It would definitely create a very organic system.

6. XCOM 3 will be set between 10 and 20 years after the events of XCOM 2

Time jumps are great for storytelling. They let you drastically change the world you are playing in, and show you the long-term effects of your actions without having to spend hours of game time showing every stage of that change. After the time jump between XCOM 1 and 2, I think there will definitely be at least one more jump. We will see a world healing from the Advent occupation, with some familiar XCOM faces now older, and starting to ease into a retirement that some will be less willing to step into than others. Everything will seem fine, and then out of nowhere the attack will come. The world will turn to a mixture of new talent, and older leadership to keep an emotional continuity between the three games.

10 to 20 years would be the best range, I think, because it’s plenty of time for things to change and people to age, without going so far into the future that it would be unrealistic that various characters are still alive. It also makes it long enough that it would seem natural for many people to have started to let their guard down. The Aliens have been beaten twice now, it would make sense for them to hold back until people weren’t actually waiting for an attack, until people began to think they were safe.

“This is Sally the Sectoid and she will be your backup on this mission”

7. You will have alien allies

Time has passed. The Aliens have been defeated, but logically there would still be quite a few left on earth. With the time that has passed, it’s likely that they are either living in hiding, or imprisoned somewhere for study. With ten years to potentially do their own thing on a foreign world, I think we might actually have some that are willing to work with XCOM. This would definitely be in keepings with the idea of doing something new, and interesting. Plus it wouldn’t be so out there, because you have an alien ally of sorts in XCOM: Declassified.

The Infiltrator from XCOM: Declassified who was an ally for a time

I think alien allies would be the next step in terms of bringing something fresh to the game. You could recruit former enemies that maybe have been promised the ability to live in peace if they help defend the world. I think having Sectoids or Mutons on your side would make some interesting changes to combat allowing you to use entirely new tactics.

8. They will expand on the personalities of squaddies

For me, one of the things that made XCOM: Declassified shine was that you got to talk to some of the people you were working with and actually get to know them. Not your squaddies, but having the ability to get to know some of the people working with you really made the whole experience feel more grounded and real.

In XCOM 2 you got more ability to customize your squaddies, even going so far as to let you choose their nationality, name, appearance and even writing them a bio. I assume a lot of you did exactly what I did and made your friends group, and then regaled them with stories about how they were absolutely badasses, or how they were losers that were killed because they were standing on a burning car when it exploded, like my friend Bridget. This customization along with the memorial wall for fallen soldiers, really went a long way to make you feel every loss all the harder, and view your squad as actual individuals.

Ever a sobering place to visit on the ship

I can’t see them abandoning this mechanic, in fact I think they will make will expand upon it by giving your squaddies more depthy personalities and interactions with one another, something more akin to an RPG than your typical strategic shooter. XCOM is not typical shooter though, and I think we can definitely expect more life-like squaddies as time goes by.

Nothing says “I mean business,” like a Mohawk and nose ring.

9. There will be greatly improved character customization

More depthy personalities for your squaddies is great, but who doesn’t like the ability to dress their elite squad in bright pink leopard skin print? Is that just me? Okay … well this is a judgement free zone guys, alright? With the amount of customization that they brought into XCOM 2, I think it’s pretty obvious that they are only going to expand on this in a sequel. I have known very few games (and yes, I’ve played quite a lot of games) that decreased customization options in a sequel. *cough* San Andreas *cough*, okay so it does happen but it’s very uncommon. It's so uncommon, that I’m fairly confident that we can just accept that there is going to be an expanded customization system in 3. What will that be? Custom flags for new nations created after all that’s happened? Maybe. The ability to name weapons or customize their appearance in detail? Hopefully. While it’s impossible to say exactly what that customization will look like, there’s little doubt it will be in the game.

10. There will be controllable vehicles

In the first XCOM remake, you could dispatch Interceptors to take down enemy spacecraft, a concept that it shared with the original. This mechanic didn’t make a return in XCOM 2, largely because you were a resistance movement rather than a defense force, and shooting down ships didn’t make as much sense when the world had already been conquered. However with the victory of XCOM 2 and the impending threats from both the sea and sky, I think a version of this mechanic will make a comeback.

Let’s just hope pilotable vehicles works out better than last time

However with the larger scope and increased power in the engine, I think we will have a lot more control of vehicles in XCOM 3, maybe even being able to use them in operations as selectable units. This would extend not only to Intercepters, but to ground and ocean based vehicles like tanks and submarines. This would add the ability to engage in much larger scale fights and to take on much stronger enemies.

Of course, these are just my predictions. Firaxis has been pretty tight lipped on the topic, not really even confirming that there will even be an XCOM 3. There’s not a lot of doubt given how well the previous games have done, but they haven’t confirmed anything as of yet.

So it’s a waiting game now, and when it does finally come out it will be interesting to see how many of my predictions come true. Judging from the previous releases though, I think we can safely assume that we won’t be seeing XCOM 3 for ourselves until the fourth quarter of 2019 at the earliest.¸

If you liked this article, you should check out these other great articles:

10 Best Alien Invasion Games You Should Play

10 Things Firaxis Should Do To Make Xcom 3 Epic

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I've been gaming since before I could walk, starting my long gaming career playing Wolfenstein on my father's lap. I love stories and action, and geeking out about it with you fine people.
Gamer Since: 1998
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Currently Playing: We Happy Few, Divinity: Original Sin 2, Jedi: Fallen Order
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