Title: XCOM 2
Version Tested: PC
Available On: PC
Developer: Firaxis Games
Official Site: XCOM 2
Release Date: February 5, 2016
Where to Buy: Steam
XCOM 2 is a turn-based step in the right direction in almost every way. Dramatically improving on some aspects of its predecessor, and subtly adding newer and better features in others. If you were a fan of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, this one is a no-brainer purchase, and if you’re new the XCOM series, there is still a ton to sink your teeth into. It’s a difficult but fantastic strategy game waiting to be tackled.
As she moves her way closer to the enemy lines, Ho Shen Mu, a Ranger, has remained concealed from the ADVENT. For the last five turn,s her 5 other squadmates have been taking out enemy Officers and Troopers while she sneaks up on the team’s main objective, disable the alien relay comms. As the Commander inches her closer and closer, she feels the heat from the Stun Troopers just a few yards away. Suddenly, she’s spotted. Before she knows it she must scramble to cover, her concealment has been broken and not two, but 5 enemies guarding the comms have their scopes set on her. Back-up is now a necessity, but can they make it in time? Mu is only equipped with a shotgun, Arc Blade, and Stun Grenade. This could get dicey in a hurry.
The above story is just one of the many organic examples of how XCOM 2 makes you care for your squad and invest as the underdogs for humanity on earth. This time around, the game pits you 20 years after the events of XCOM, the aliens have taken over, and the ADVENT is working in tandem to keep the world “at peace.” Now it’s your job as the new XCOM team to overthrow and bring your home back to where it’s meant to be.
The game now features a great world map for you to explore, assisting Resistance forces in different countries and continents, as well as stopping the major ADVENT and alien threats. As the player, you’ll be dropped into a random part of the world at the start. At first it’s a simple mechanic, take your ship and crew and fly from place to place in order to gain intel and help drive back the enemy forces.
The new world map is easier to navigate and understand compared to the previous game, but within the first couple hours of play, it quickly becomes a mash-up of calls for help and critical missions. This is both good and bad for XCOM 2. On the bright side, there’s always something to do, and always forcing you (The Commander) to make tough choices, there’s no right or wrong, you chose between two evils almost every time. On the other, there’s just too much to do. It can be real easy to do a few rescue side missions, and then completely lose track of the main objective on the map, falling so far behind that you’re heavily outmatched when you touch down to fight the enemy.
When you do touch down for your ground missions, the game shines just like its predecessor. You suit your team up with 4-6 squadmates, now with five classes to choose from: the close range Ranger, sniping Sharpshooter, the healing and tech-genius Specialist, the grenade launching Grenadier, and the new Psi-Operative (unlocked later in the game). Part of the unspoken key to tackling each and every mission is to have a variety of soldiers, the choice is a great way to increase your odds of success in fire-fights.
The great XCOM turn-based mechanics are back and in XCOM 2 they have followed suit, improving on some aspects from a few years ago. The biggest addition is the Concealment mechanic; some missions have your squad starting out concealed from the enemy, allowing you to carefully place your soldiers for an ambush and surprise attack to start off the mission. There’s nothing better than taking out 3-5 enemies in your first couple turns. The previously mentioned classes all have their own strengths and weaknesses, one more aspect that forces you to make tough decisions when plotting out your approach on the battlefield.
Losing a member of the resistance and squad is as tough as it has ever been in an XCOM game. 2K and Firaxis do a great job of making you care for the individuals you send out on your missions. Some of it are their personalities, which can now be altered down to their own customized backstory, and some of it is because it’s pretty heartbreaking to lose a soldier you’ve invested (for me in Ho Shen Mu’s case) 10+ missions and 15 hours of gameplay into.
Each mission and adventure on the ground consist of a the isometric view, turn-based gameplay fans of the series would expect. This time around, the developers doubled down on mission types, and the frequency of missions with a turn-based timer. This adds tension, helps give more meaning to your overall objective, but sometimes feels forced. While it’s cool to infiltrate an enemy warship and retrieve their tech, why does there have to be a “timer” on when you’re able to grab it? With a carefully maneuvered concealed squad, sometimes it felt like I needed to speed through my stealth tactic just to have enough time to obtain the main objective. At any rate, it doesn’t take away from the sheer fun of the gameplay in XCOM 2.
Between the simplified base management techniques, the variety of missions and locations, and the traditional XCOM gameplay (all much improved of course) gives the series a familiar, yet updated feel and look. The difficulty is still there, and as the underdog of this tale, some missions feel overwhelming. When you’re able to rally your crew and tackle the intense task at hand, XCOM 2 shines above all other strategy games out there.
- Gameplay: Turn-based, strategy and action.
- Graphics: A great looking line between sci-fi and near-future realism.
- Sound: Decent voice-over work, and great music.
- Presentation: Easy-to-use mechanics that allow you to plot your course on the map and the battlefield.
XCOM 2 Review
- deep strategy in every battle
- gorgeous character models and environments
- difficulty helps you learn from your mistakes
- new tweaks and mechanics improve upon its predecessor
- cut scenes leave something to be desired
- sometimes there's just too much to manage on the world map