XCOM’s best modders make an incredible grand strategy game

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the Terra Invicta would be special. An indie game from the creators of XCOM and XCOM 2’s ambitious Long War mods, Pavonis Interactive basically took a strategy layer from XCOM and turned it into a Paradox-style grand strategy game. The range was incredible from the start, and it never really stopped feeling that way. Every major nation on Earth in 2022 is simulated along with the entire solar system — all the way down to asteroids and ice dwarfs beyond the orbit of Pluto. Describing it sounds almost absurd until you see it yourself. Somehow it does work too.

The start date is now, and everything includes the Russia-Ukraine conflict and membership in multinational alliances like the European Union and NATO. Countries have a variety of ratings that affect the way they behave, from military skill level to political freedom to wealth inequality, and each country can nudge in either direction if you control their foreign policy. The biggest difference is that an alien spaceship has crashed somewhere on Earth and no one has agreed on what to do with it.

(Image credit: Masked Horse)

Unlike most grand strategy games, however, you’re not playing as a nation in Terra Invicta. Instead, you control one of several factions that have specific ideas about what to do with the discovery of intelligent alien life. The Resistance is the default faction, they are like a typical XCOM or Stargate Command – their main goal is to defend Earth from alien attack and ensure the independence of humanity in the interstellar space. The Protectorate, on the other hand, wants to obey the aliens as a vassal state, seeing protracted wars as doomed. Project Exodus thinks the community is getting a bit crowded and they’re only concerned with building a colonial ship that will allow us to protect the future of our species from far away.

At least in the early days, there was a pretty stark contrast between the absurd depth of the simulation and the relatively simple way you could interact with it. Yes, it will track carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere to simulate global climate change, sea level rise, and the resulting economic disruption, affecting some regions more than others. Yes, there are multiple Lagrangian points around Saturn’s moons where you can place a space station. But for the first year or so, it was essentially a spy game.