Title: X-COM 2
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Price: $59.99/59.99 Euro
Release Date: Out now
Tagline: Well developed strategy title hindered by bugs and odd design choices
Family Friendly: Click here to read more
Verdict: Wait for a sale
Someone at 2K Games must have fallen out of a tree when they decided to greenlight a sequel to a long dormant franchise like XCOM. But whoever that person was found lightning in a bottle, as XCOM Enemy Unknown was a huge financial and critical success on both consoles and PC. Now, four years on, we have a XCOM 2, a PC only sequel that changes the dynamic of our troops’ situation. However, stability and mission mechanics mar what could have been a fantastic sequel.
XCOM 2 moves the narrative from the first game forward, with the Earth’s forces losing the battle to the aliens. Now coalesced as ADVENT, the aliens have fully integrated themselves into our world, allowing those that sympathize with the aliens to become successful and forge a living, while the disenfranchised are left to be collected and thrown into prison camps or labs. XCOM forces are now relegated to the shadows, hunted and constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the ADVENT forces. It’s a perilous step between survival and destruction for the XCOM unit.
Moving from a point of force to one of a defensive nature is a nice change of pace for the XCOM series, and it actually makes a bit more sense for the narrative of the sequel. XCOM 2 allows our heroes to have to scrape and save for every piece of equipment or piece of land. You can’t just expect an endless stream of personnel and support staff; you have to perform missions and tasks to get the supplies you need.
While all the tactical options from the first game are present in XCOM 2, the class structure has been refined, and for the better might I add. New classes are the Ranger Class, and a modification on the Specialist class. The Ranger class focuses on close quarters combat, including the carrying of a shotgun, but more importantly, they carry a blade that can be used to devastating effect. Melee combat is risky, but with that risk comes the reward of heavy damage and a lot of one hit critical kills on the enemy. The Specialist, on the other hand, adds a computer companion that can be used to assist in medical aid, hack enemy turrets and mechanical enemies, turning the alien forces against their own people. Both of these classes join the Sharpshooter and Heavy Weapon classes that return from the first title, with little change.
With XCOM forces being the underdog this time around, mission structure have changed, and while some of it is for the better, there are some nagging issues here that make things more irritating than fun. When you enter a mission in XCOM 2, you normally enter under the guise of stealth and concealment. Your forces can drop in quietly, and move towards their objective undetected. With this concealment option, you can now plan ambushes, setting up aliens in a deadly crossfire from your troops, so you can maximize your power with proper tactics. Once you fire or are seen by an enemy, combat moves forward under normal rules. Many of the missions this time around also have a sense of urgency put behind them under the guise of timers.
In the first XCOM title, there were a few missions that required you to finish the objectives within a certain amount of turns. These were a nice break from the normal slow and go progression that many used for standard missions. In XCOM 2, most of the missions you encounter are presented under the timer structure. While it does make sense, you being the underdog, it changes the dynamic. Gone is taking your time and using overwatch, as you are forced to push forward with reckless abandon and normally putting your squad in huge danger. Again, the timers make a lot of sense, but they fundamentally change the way that XCOM veterans will play the game and it does not equate to more fun.
As mentioned earlier, XCOM 2 has been designed from the ground up as a PC exclusive, with no console version in sight (at least as of yet). With that comes some nice additions, like tons of graphical features and mod support; XCOM 2 adds a lot of nice detail features for the gamer that has a top notch video card and processor. It looks great on a nice monitor with every graphical option pushed to the max. And when you get a bit bored setting those graphical options, you can also hit up the integrated Steam Workshop support to add new weapons, squad modifications and even language options. Mods are simple to install, and you can turn them on and off from the start menu. One caveat is that save games will break if you turn off a mod, so do be careful when you employ mods with your XCOM 2 experience.
While XCOM 2 strategies and looks excel far beyond its predecessor, it seems to be hampered by a bevy of technical issues. Several times while playing, I have had the game randomly crash back to desktop, hang on turns, have research turns go into negative numbers, and graphical glitches that leave the game stuttering. Then there are the odd loading issues that plague the game constantly; everything seems to take forever to load. Going into a mission, leaving a mission, turns on the battlefield and more, just seem to crawl along at times. There have been several patches that have fixed things a bit, but still, loading times are obnoxious to a fault.
Even with its technical issues, XCOM 2 does take the series into new directions, with an interesting story, new character classes that expand on the tactical action and the concealment mechanics that allow for ambushes. It can be a pain to wait for the action to load and it you can lose some progress with its crashes, but it somehow still generates so much enjoyment at the proficiency of its tactical genius. It’s by no means perfect, but it is a lot of fun when it works.
Stomping Alien Fun:
- Ranger and Specialist classes are excellent additions to the battlefield
- Battling from a position of weakness makes for tense moments on the battlefield
- Mission structure is far more diverse than the first title
- Far too many missions fall under rigid time constraints
- Mission map can become cluttered and littered with objectives
- Never quite explains all its new mechanics
X-COM 2 is fairly safe for most ages due to a lack of language and blood. It does have a lot of gunplay and close ups of both aliens and humans being killed. X-COM 2 also becomes very challenging at the 10-12 hour mark, which might frustrate younger players that do not have the patience to find a path to success. Maybe keep this one for those over the age of 14 to be safe.
This review was prepared using a Steam code provided by 2K Games.