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X-COM: Apocalypse

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X-COM: Apocalypse
European cover art
Developer(s)Mythos Games
Designer(s)Julian Gollop
Programmer(s)Nick Gollop
Artist(s)Guy Jeffries
Marc Curtis
Composer(s)John Broomhall
Richard Wells
Platform(s)DOS, Windows
Genre(s)Turn-based/real-time tactics

X-COM: Apocalypse is a 1997 science fiction tactical strategy game. It is the third game in the X-COM video game series. It was developed by Mythos Games (the creators of the original X-COM game), and published by MicroProse in 1997 for DOS and Microsoft Windows.


Similar to the first two X-COM games, Apocalypse features a map-like management mode (the Cityscape) and an isometric combat mode (the Battlescape). The management mode takes place in a single city, called Mega Primus, rather than being spread out over the entire planet Earth as in the previous games. In addition, Apocalypse was the first game in the X-COM series to include a real-time combat option as well as the traditional turn-based mode.[2]

Apocalypse features a new interface with new graphics compared to the earlier two X-COM games. It is more complex, and the task of keeping and increasing the funding of the X-COM organization now extends to not only intercepting UFOs, but also to minimizing collateral damage, preventing alien hostile takeovers and even raiding the buildings of other organisations, of which there are many in Mega Primus.

X-COM: Apocalypse claims to have a self-learning AI-module. The game uses a self-adjusting difficulty where player performance influences the Alien's technological advancement of hand-held weaponry in future battlescape combat. A highly positive weekly performance will accelerate the advancement whereas sub-standard X-COM performance in battlescape combat will stifle alien technology and can even reverse it from gains made in the past. This gives the player the chance to amend their failures and rethink their strategy. Aerial UFO combat within Mega Primus determines the technology aboard UFO craft in the future. As with battlescape combat, a consistently high positive rating by destroying all UFOs that appear in the city will lead to better equipment aboard future UFOs. Essentially, the player can control the fine tuning of the available five difficulties by playing well which leads to a harder game in the near future, or easier, if willfully playing badly.


The city is run by 13 elected senators. Large corporations maintain the environmental, social and economic structure of the city, while the populace live in relative comfort. Mega-Primus has its own marginalized minorities, consisting of Sectoid-human hybrids and androids, both by-products of the previous wars. These minorities have set up their own political pressure groups. When the aliens invade, the city government reestablishes X-COM. This time there is no absolute support by world/city governments. Mega-Primus has its own governing body who supply nearly all of X-COM's income. X-COM would have to support its income through the sale of alien artifacts captured from missions, and items manufactured in their own workshops.

X-COM must maintain a good rapport with other organizations in the city. If X-COM angers any of them, or fails to contain the alien incursion, organizations will demand compensation or even actively attack X-COM forces. They will also withdraw their support (if any) for the X-COM project. For example, the Transtellar organization would prevent Agents and science personnel from travelling around the city. The corporations and political organizations will make profits, manufacture items for sale, and even fight covert battles with one another independently of the player. One of these organizations, the Cult of Sirius, is a group of religious fanatics who worship the aliens, and is inherently hostile to X-COM. The aliens, rather than simply signing non-aggression treaties with the various corporations, will attempt to infest their corporation and take control of the organizations themselves leading to a possible infestation across most of Mega Primus.

If the Government becomes hostile towards X-COM for any reason, such as alien interference or excessive damage to Government property, the X-COM project will receive no further funding. This is a potential disaster for the player and can lead to X-COM's financial stress. Possible solutions are purposely raiding a company to steal items to use or sell. Raids are an optional battlescape mission within X-COM Apocalypse which can be started as desired. With strong military performance and efficient management, X-COM can overpower Mega Primus and also the UFO threat leading to military dominance of the city but also the Alien's homeworld.


Half a century after the end of the second X-COM campaign, the last battle of T'leth has severely damaged Earth's biosphere. As a result, several self-contained Megalopolis-type cities were proposed to provide habitation for humanity. The game follows Mega-Primus, the first of these cities, built over the ruins of Toronto, Canada. Meanwhile, the off-world colony of Mars is exploited by the Elerium mining corporation, Solmine, and oppressed by MarSec (MARs SECurity).

The alien threat in the game is presented by a new race of organic, extradimensional aliens that initially seem to have no relation to the aliens of the previous two games, though later missions set in the aliens' home dimension reveal they have enslaved Sectoid survivors. These new aliens attack the city through tetrahedron-shaped teleport gates. The player must find out how to send their own aircraft, along with X-COM agents, through these gates without being destroyed and take the war to the aliens. Apocalypse has 14 races of alien beings including Anthropods, Brainsuckers, Hyperworms, Megaspawns, and Micronoids. Each race has various strengths and weaknesses, and some races are dependent on other races. The "alien life cycle" plays a crucial role in the game.

The player is exposed to this "alien life cycle" through research and more importantly the lower level alien attacks during specimen gathering combat. Primarily the attack of the weaponized alien the Brain-Sucker which attacks individuals after landing from a pod launcher used by alien foot soldiers. The Brain-Sucker hatches and attacks the nearest individual by jumping on their head and seemingly injecting something into them through the mouth and dying immediately after the attempt.

The life cycle later takes a mysterious turn as it shows no connection between the lower alien forms and higher alien forms. Eventually, however, it is found that the leaders of the invasion are the Micronoids, a race of sapient, single-celled organisms that live in the bloodstreams of the other aliens. The ultimate goal of the invasion is to inject Micronoids into the bloodstreams of important figures, allowing them to control Mega-Primus through psionic domination of their hosts. The player is eventually tasked with invading the aliens' homeworld and destroying their side of the gate to stop the Micronoid infestation.


During the creation of Apocalypse, Mythos Games created the game but MicroProse wanted to create the graphics.[3] Julian Gollop called the relationship "disastrous", and said of the game "It was a disaster area. Apocalypse was quite a sophisticated and ambitious game, but it was a big mistake from our point of view. In retrospect, we should have originally agreed to do a sequel in six months, and spent a year doing it, like they did! It would've been a lot better."[3] Gollop recollected:

After completing this game I know how Francis Coppola felt after filming Apocalypse Now. Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and the amount of effort required to pull it into shape was immense. After three years of hard work and five different producers X-Com: Apocalypse finally hit the streets. The initial game design was definitely too ambitious and too complex. The aim was to recreate in some detail the events, organisations and personalities within a futuristic megalopolis. Each corporation had a leader who could be tailed, arrested, interrogated or assassinated. Organisations could buy and sell buildings as their financial fortunes changed. X-Com agents could spy on other organisations to gain valuable information. A sophisticated diplomacy display allowed the player to instigate aggressive or defensive alliances with other organisations. There were multiple alien dimensions, generated pseudo-randomly, and the aliens gradually expanded their empire as the game progressed. The game also featured a scenario generator and multiplayer options using a hotseat turn based system or a real time LAN option. Most of these features were implemented to some degree, but were finally stripped out due to the horrendous amount of work involved in QA and debugging.[4]

On XCOM: Apocalypse the team size for that actually was 5 of us at Mythos Games working on it and there was a team of artists at MicroProse working on it as well. Again, it’s a similar arrangement to the first game where we were doing the programming and MicroProse were doing the artwork. ... the MicroProse art team were trying to change the design of the game. Then they were failing to actually deliver anything that they promised. They just couldn’t get the isometric graphic system sorted out in their heads. They did things which just didn’t work, like they hired a guy whose name I forget to design the aliens, and this is a well known science fiction artist and he built these big models of the aliens and the idea was that they were going to scan them and put them into a 3D modelling software. It just didn’t work. He had all this fine detail in these models and this scanning system just wasn’t good enough. Then they had to recreate them basically in a 3D software they were using at the time. Yeah, they were awful, blobby things. They were nasty. Terrible graphics. It was very difficult.[5]

Artist Terry Greer recalled: "My main memory of Apocalypse was the pain we all went through. It was a hugely ambitious project and used a mix of rendered and hand drawn artwork from a variety of graphic styles (which didn't always work – although all the individual bits were great). Probably the worst fit was Tim White (an established SF artist) who had been commissioned to do the character designs. I like Tim's work, but his models were intensely detailed and quite unsuitable for reducing to the scale needed for an isometric game of this type. The creatures he designed looked great full screen, but reduced to the size they would be ingame they were often unrecognizable blobs. I don't know the reasons behind the decision to hire him, only that the problems were apparent to everyone in the art department, and I would have loved to have seen them ditched."[6]


X-COM: Apocalypse was originally released in the U.S. on July 15, 1997.[1] It was re-released as part of the compilations X-COM Collection by Hasbro Interactive in 1999, and X-COM: Complete Pack in 2008 and 2K Huge Games Pack in 2009 by 2K Games. On September 5, 2008, the X-COM series, including X-COM Apocalypse, became available for sale on Valve's Steam platform; the game runs in a specially configured version of DOSBox.



The game received favorable reviews. Next Generation said, "In the end, Apocalypse is a step in the right direction, but a step with a wobble. With better control over the cityscape, and more distinct atmosphere and character, it would have been a smash. As it is, it's enjoyable, and well-worth the investment in money and time, but not what it could have been."[13]

Despite the troubled development, Apocalypse was well received. GameSpot included it on their 2000 list of the most disappointing endings, criticizing the game for its "colorful, almost humorous tone," but added that otherwise the designers "did a great job."[18]


The game debuted at No. 6 on PC Data's computer game sales chart for the month of July 1997.[19] It secured 18th place the following month.[20] By July 23, the game had shipped 120,000 units to retailers globally.[21] Market research firm SofTrends estimated sell-through of 32,812 units during July alone.[22]


The game won the award for "Turn-based Strategy" at PC PowerPlay's 1997 Game of the Year Awards.[23]

Open-source remake[edit]

In 2014 a group of developers formed to remake the game from scratch in C++, under the OpenApoc title. By 2018 the remake had reached an Alpha release state with the entire game playable from start to end and a growing community of developers and players.[24]


  1. ^ a b "THE WORLD'S MOST INSIDIOUS ALIENS LAND ON COMPUTERS WITH THE RELEASE OF X-COM: APOCALYPSE™". MicroProse. July 15, 1997. Archived from the original on January 20, 1998. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  2. ^ "PC GamePro Previews: X-COM: Apocalypse". GamePro. No. 104. IDG. May 1997. p. 59. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Bickham, Al (November 28, 2010). "The Story of X-Com". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
  4. ^ "XCOM Apocalypse". Mythos Games. Archived from the original on April 11, 2001. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  5. ^ Griliopoulos, Dan (April 28, 2013). "Julian Gollop interview: on X-Coms old and new, the Ghost Recon strategy game that never was, AI, auteurs and "Fork My Fruit" (Page 4)". PC Gamer. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  6. ^ "XCOM Apocalypse". Terry Greer. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  7. ^ Chick, Tom (July 22, 1997). "X-Com Apocalypse [sic]". Gamecenter. CNET. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  8. ^ Royal, Tim (1997). "X-COM Apocalypse". Computer Games Strategy Plus. Strategy Plus, Inc. Archived from the original on December 17, 2002.
  9. ^ Carter, Tim (October 1997). "Little Green Men (X-COM: Apocalypse Review)" (PDF). Computer Gaming World. No. 159. Ziff Davis. pp. 264–65. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  10. ^ "X-COM: Apocalypse" (PDF). Edge. No. 48. August 1997. pp. 82–83. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  11. ^ Reppen, Erik (September 1997). "X-COM: Apocalypse". Game Informer. No. 53. FuncoLand.
  12. ^ Dulin, Ron (July 25, 1997). "X-COM: Apocalypse Review". GameSpot. Red Ventures. Archived from the original on February 10, 2005. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  13. ^ a b "X-COM: Apocalypse". Next Generation. No. 35. Imagine Media. November 1997. pp. 204, 208. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  14. ^ Novicki, Joseph (October 1997). "X-COM: Apocalypse". PC Gamer. Vol. 4, no. 10. Imagine Media. Archived from the original on March 2, 2000.
  15. ^ Sharpe, Peter (August 1997). "X-COM Apocalypse". PC PowerPlay. No. 15. Next Media Pty Ltd. pp. 54-56. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  16. ^ McDonald, T. Liam (September 23, 1997). "After Hours: The Aliens Are Back". PC Magazine. Vol. 16, no. 16. Ziff Davis. p. 329.
  17. ^ Suciu, Peter (1997). "Game Reviews: X-Com Apocalypse". Science Fiction Weekly. Archived from the original on March 25, 2009. Retrieved January 22, 2023.
  18. ^ "The Ten Most Disappointing Endings (Page 11)". GameSpot. CNET. 2000. Archived from the original on October 28, 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  19. ^ "Top Selling PC Titles [date mislabeled as "April 26, 2000"]". GameSpot. Red Ventures. August 26, 1997. Archived from the original on March 11, 2000. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  20. ^ Gamer-X (September 24, 1997). "August's 30 Best-Sellers". Gamecenter. CNET. Archived from the original on May 6, 1999.
  21. ^ "Three Compilations from MicroProse". PC Gamer. Imagine Media. July 23, 1997. Archived from the original on October 12, 1997. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  22. ^ "Best-selling Games in July". PC Gamer. Imagine Media. August 28, 1997. Archived from the original on October 12, 1997.
  23. ^ "Game of the Year". PC PowerPlay. No. 20. Next Media Pty Ltd. January 1998. pp. 30–31. Retrieved November 14, 2021.
  24. ^ "Official webpage". OpenApoc. Retrieved November 7, 2021.

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