More than Just a Guerrilla Movement

It’s been 22 years since the very first XCOM game, UFO: Enemy Unknown or otherwise known as X-COM: UFO Defense. To say that XCOM: Enemy Unknown was simply a successful reboot would be a severe understatement. Not only did it serve as the new XCOM game fans craved for so long, but also set an extremely high bar for turn based strategy games. So when XCOM 2 was teased and inevitably announced, a lot of hype surrounded the game. XCOM 2 did exactly what Enemy Unknown did, set the bar even higher for turn based strategy games, even if technical bugs hold it back sometimes.

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The size of some of the late-game enemies is huge!

Join Us or Become Them

XCOM 2 takes place 20 years after the events of Enemy Unknown, but don’t fret if you haven’t played Enemy Unknown. On their first play-through, most players actually lost the war against the aliens in Enemy Unknown and so the canon ending is that the aliens successfully invade earth and take charge. The form the Advent group, made up of high ranking alien and human officials. You play, once again as the commander for the XCOM initiative tasked with overthrowing the aliens and taking back Earth. I really liked this setting for the story. It feels like it’s a desperate last attempt to defeat the aliens, using anything and everything you have at your disposal to do so. A short way into the main story you discover that the aliens are preparing the Avatar program. I won’t get into specifics to avoid spoilers, but all you need to know is that completion of this event is a game over. This brings an excellent sense of urgency and purpose the revived guerrilla movements of the XCOM program. The story was surprisingly good in my opinion and moves with the various missions fluently.

Archon
This is the Archon. Awesome design!

The Strategic Layer

If you’ve played Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2 will feel familiar in terms of gameplay, but with a few new additions. You’ll be spending most of your time on the Avenger when outside of missions. The repurposed alien supply craft serves as a mobile base of operations for XCOM and its facilities. Here you can research projects, build items, customise soldiers, seeing what the Proving Grounds can come up with, and build new facilities to meet your requirements at the time. The Proving Grounds is a really cool idea, you build items that you don’t get an unlimited supply of such as Wrath Suits, W.A.R Suits and Spider Suits, which are as cool as they sound. You can also create experimental grenades, ammunition types and heavy weapons which give you random variants. For example experimental ammunition can create ammunition with poison effects or tracer rounds which increase your aim. The character customization also received a massive overhaul and it is wonderfully detailed, allowing you to create friends and loved ones in the game to create an attachment to your soldiers. Your main resources are Intel and supplies, each serving their own purposes. You’ll be faced with multiple decisions at different times, each with different outcomes, so choose wisely. Dark Events are a new addition to XCOM and make it even more difficult to make choices. These Dark Events act as de-buffs and come in threes. The catch is that you can only counter one, meaning that one of the other two can activate at any time. I really liked this system and it gave me something extra to think about during missions. Speaking of which, missions mostly play out the same way as they did in Enemy Unknown, just more refined. It still runs on the same R n G formula and all levels are procedurally generated, which allows for lots of replayability. One of my favourite parts of XCOM 2 is the various enemies you encounter. Throughout the campaign you’ll meet different enemies of varying sizes and threats. All returning enemies like Sectoids and Mutons have been changed too. Advent troops are the main enemies you’ll be seeing, and after a while they start to get repetitive but you can expect to find a new enemy every few missions. One enemy I like in particular is the Archon. I don’t know why I like it so much, I just think its design is really cool. Through combat, soldiers get promoted to a class out of Ranger, Sniper, Specialist and Grenadier. Each class and both skill trees for each feel fleshed out and viable in any play-through making it once again, hard to pick out of two very useful skills. XCOM acts as a guerrilla movement, Firaxis took this opportunity to implement a new mechanic called Concealment, which is signified by a light blue outline around the edge of your screen. Most missions, all of your units will be concealed, meaning the aliens aren’t aware of your presence and will continue patrols as usual. This allows you to setup your units for an ambush, meaning you can clear a group of enemies in fell swoop. Pulling this off feels incredibly satisfying and I really hope this mechanic returns in any future instalments. Multiplayer also makes a return in a similar form to Enemy Unknown. You make your own custom loadout, choosing from all human units and all except 1 alien unit from the main campaign. I never experienced any connection issues in the multiplayer segment of the game and I intend to keep playing it.

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The blue streaks represent concealment.

A Rocky Revolution

XCOM 2’s biggest problems are fortunately technical ones. I say fortunately because Firaxis and 2K are aware of said problems and they will eventually be patched. However, during your 20-30 hour play-through expect to experience bugs, minor framerate issues and game breaking glitches. Some of these didn’t affect me all that much such as guns not rendering in when shooting at enemies, units not rendering in general and as I said small frame rate issues. I did however encounter a few bugs that did inhibit my enjoyment. The first bug I encountered was when I took a 100% shot at an Advent soldier, only to watch my soldier turn 90 degrees to the left and fire into open air, not damaging the enemy unit and I was punished heavily for it, so I had to reload my save. I never experienced this bug apart from this one occasion though. The second bug I encountered was on a particular mission called Operation Spectral Fog. Once I reached the end of the mission, I saved and stopped playing. When I came back to finish the mission off, I tried to load my save only to find that the game would crash every time I reloaded any save from that mission, forcing me to effectively restart that mission. This bug appears to happen in other missions based on other posts I’ve seen by other players, however I never experienced it apart from this particular mission. It did frustrate me, as it was a story mission and one of the longer missions in the game.

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Concept art for the Advent Stun-lancer.

Verdict: Must Buy

XCOM 2 is a must buy if you’re a fan of XCOM or turn based strategy games in general. If you aren’t terribly interested in strategy games or the XCOM franchise, I highly recommend you look into various reviews and opinions before you buy it if you haven’t already. If XCOM 2 interests you at all, please look into it and if you like what you see, buy it, you won’t regret it.

Positives

-Concealment mechanic

-Story and Setting

-Alien Design

-Strategic Elements

-Customisation

Negatives

-Small Performance Issues

-Technical Issues

Thanks for reading guys, Dying Light: The Following is next!

Harry.

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