XCOM 2 is the sequel to the critically acclaimed XCOM: Enemy Unknown and was released on February 5, 2016. It takes place 20 years after the original game, and humans have lost the war. The alien invasion was a success and now the ADVENT rules over the world. As a result, the last remaining members of XCOM have gone underground and form a resistance. The player controls this resistance as they attempt to fight back against humanity’s new alien overlords.
The game is developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games. Firaxis is also known for the Civilization series and other Sid Meier titles. They are also the developers of the 2012 XCOM reboot. It is a PC exclusive game, for now. There are rumors that it might be ported to console in the future.
There aren’t many new great tactical turn-based games lately. Though recent years have seen an increase, with the likes of Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun Returns, but they all don’t quite scratch that itch I have for something like Shining Force or Final Fantasy Tactics. Not to say that these aren’t great games themselves, because I played the hell out of XCOM 2 to the neglect of some other stuff I’m supposed to be doing. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
The combat system is similar to that of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, with a few notable differences. Mainly the addition of a pseudo-stealth component and different skills among the classes, such as the possibility of turning Ranger into a more melee focused class. The intensity of each turn is still around, especially in the early portions of the game. One wrong move could spin your entire mission out of control, losing you valuable troops and possibly costing you the entire game. It keeps you on your toes as you move around the map. This tense feeling is only compounded by the fact that a lot of XCOM 2 missions have timers, which means you will have to constantly find the right balance slow but cautious and fast but risky.
The customization available in XCOM 2 is top notch. There are many options to choose from, both in terms of soldier appearance and in terms of skills and weapons. As with XCOM: Enemy Unknown, soldiers have a choice between two skills upon ranking up. And the combination of skills that a soldier has can determine what role a soldier can play in a squad. Two Sharpshooters might not have the same tactical deployment capabilities. A Gunslinger focused Sharpshooter would be good in close quarters situation while a Sniper focused Sharpshooter would be godlike in an open battlefield. The only complain I have with the system, is the inability to retain a T-shirt and jeans, rugged resistance feel throughout the game, as later armors will not have an option for them, forcing you into bulky futuristic looking armors. XCOM 2 is moderately replayable. The story won’t be different a second time around, but your squad can be drastically different. Your best soldiers might be of different class combinations or even skills. And if you are like me, and only unlocked the PSI class at the end of the game, you can choose to research it quicker and play with more soldiers of the PSI class.
To be honest, I found the story of XCOM 2 to be lacking. There wasn’t a lot of meat to it. By the end of it, I was thinking “Huh, that’s all?” There were only a few main missions and either the maps are quite small or XCOM 2’s soldiers have better movement, because most of the main missions could be completed rather quickly. I still remember that there was a mission in XCOM: Enemy Unknown that included the invasion of an alien base that took me quite a while to traverse the entire thing. The inbetween missions while stellar, are not numerous. It’s not long before you start noticing that mission objectives keep repeating. Rescue this VIP, secure that cache, destroy that tower, rescue civilians. And while the missions themselves were fun to play, but by the fifth time civilian rescue comes around, my rolling and groaning at my screen. If only I could run away from them like I could run away from Preston Garvey.
Glitches are aplenty in this game. Sometimes they are minor inconveniences, like your soldiers clipping through walls, particularly when you’re taking cover next to a window and they somehow phase out through the window to take their soldiers. Other times, it can have consequences on your mission. More than a few times I found myself ordering a soldier to a square next to where I intended them to go, causing them to stand out in the open without cover. Once, my soldier was shot by some aliens and managed to somehow fly across the map, only to be at her original spot when I ordered her to move during the next turn. This happens in the strategic map too. I’ve scanned areas past 0 and into the negative numbers because something failed to pop up, usually a mission.
I’m not sure where I stand entirely on the Research and Room Building section of the game. At first, I was relieved that there were only twelve rooms I could build, which meant that I didn’t have to worry about positioning my generators and my labs together, like in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. This allows a more gradual difficulty creep but at the same time, it really removed a portion of strategic value in the game. The twelve room limit also meant I could just scrap a room and build another easily as I didn’t have to worry about focusing on constructing more rooms.
As for the Research, there really wasn’t much to decide on. You just look at what you think sounds great and then research it. There wasn’t really strategy in it, unless you go and read up on it. It’s not entirely obvious which research would unlock what improvements. And the fact that were only around two or three upgrades for the weapons and armor really made the game feel shorter than it really was.
XCOM 2 has a ton of mods already. Well, if you compare it to Fallout 4, it isn’t that many, but it still a good amount. Most of it are aesthetic mods, such as turning your alien killing team into a First Order Squad from Star Wars. But there are a few that make some gameplay changes to the game which can make it easier to play, such as turning off mission counters or the Avatar project altogether. Other mods make tweaks to the gameplay, which further increase its replayability. For me, I’m going to try out the SMG mod and the Leader class mod on my next run, if I ever get to it.
An excellent entry in the XCOM franchise and scratches the tactical turn-based itch that just isn’t easy to find anymore.