Matter Of Perspective: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

It’s more than likely we’re not the only planet filled with life in the entire Universe, and probably not the only one in the Milky Way. However, due to the huge distances between different solar systems it is incredibly unlikely that we’ll find that life any time soon. But there’s always been a theory that life on earth could be a simulation or an experiment for a much more powerful peoples, who have something planned for us.

Imagine being one of those scientists who has tried to run the experiment many times, but each one has been a failure so you’ve taken them and used the parts for your own army. It’s a cycle that repeats itself because no species has met the relevant criteria, until you check the planet Earth. Here’s a species which has been fed technology over its history and seems to be a candidate for the next stage, but it needs to be tested and checked.


The best way to test the strength of a potential candidate species is to see how it reacts to a threat, with increasing levels of force to see where the breaking point lies. The alien invasion in XCOM: Enemy Unknown isn’t about taking over and wiping out humanity, but just a controlled experiment. As the ones controlling this experiment, the Ethereal probably approached it thinking that this would be another failure.

However, the Ethereal didn’t expect such a heavy handed resistance as the human forces push back each and every attack, not just destroying troops but reverse engineering the technology they find. It may be that the Ethereal had become so used to seeing failure that the push back compromises the very mission, and the shock of it forces the invaders to take more drastic actions that take this from an experiment to an actual war of survival.

Imagine the state of panic the Ethereal would be facing as their experiment, and hunt to create a powerful ally to help in a future plan suddenly enters uncharted territory. There’s no contingency planned because as the most powerful beings known, the Ethereal fall victim to their own hubris, underestimating that anything could overpower their own troops and abilities to a point where their lives are in danger.

The humans manage to tap into their own psychic abilities bringing them to the level the Ethereal wanted in an ally, but the aliens didn’t factor in the free will humans would have too. If one of the controls of the experiment had placed a biological switch that would turn the experiments into an easy unit to command, activating at the time full potential was reached, then the Ethereal wouldn’t have to waste as much time and resources. Once under that kind of control early it’d be easy to test out the combat effectiveness, dictating tactics and orders.

Once humans managed to board the Ethereal Temple Ship there becomes a shift in the balance of power. It’s a humiliating loss that will bring ramifications back on the homeworld as news filters back that a new threat has emerged, one that was self created without proper oversight. The Ethereal homeworld would have to gear up for a full scale war, instead of smaller shock strikes. While the mobilisation occurs the humans would be able to ready up defences thanks to all the technology left behind.

The Ethereal now have to wipe out the potential hope they engineered for themselves, sacrificing lives and making themselves weaker for whatever comes next. The overconfidence has now put them in a position that jeopardises their future, and paving the way for someone else to take their place. The experiment didn’t just create powerful soldiers, it showed just how weak this powerful species really is when a real challenge appears.


1 Comment

  1. Interesting piece, thanks! I’d say the experiment part and Earth being a successful test is probably true but as to the true reasons behind it all, I thought they wanted the humans to be better than them. Possibly so they could take on an even greater foe that the Ethereals were too weak to face.

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