For those who played the first XCOM by Firaxis Games would be familiar with its steep difficulty and probably failed many times, forcing a reload of a previous save game. Well that has come back to haunt us as in XCOM 2, well the aliens won and the world is now under the dictatorship of the ADVENT government which is run by the aliens and therefore obviously not a good thing.
Thankfully all is not lost as Central Officer Bradfort (we knew a few aliens ain’t gonna take him down) is back once again with a whole new setup and you Commander are back once again to lead what’s left of the original XCOM, now known as the Resistance, to take back our planet. So bring your brains, your guts and a new game plan as you will need it (queue in ID4 president’s speech for added effect).
The XCOM series has always been a two part strategic base management and tactical battlefield control game and XCOM 2 is no different. For the strategic base management, now you get control of The Avenger, a reconditioned alien spacecraft that acts as a mobile HQ for the Resistance. Here you will research into alien technology, built your arms and various alien butt kicking devices and oversee your squad deployment for the battles ahead. The same “Ant Farm” view returns as you manage your facilities and the little dialog from the notable NPCs such as Shen your Chief Engineer, Tygan you Chief Science Officer and good old Central Officer Bradfort add that little touch to make the base alive.
On the battlefield, veteran XCOM players will feel right at home as everything good was kept from the previous game and anything that needed improvements like a more random area of operations aka the map is now present. Sure there are still the good old kill everything alien, blow up the facility and recuse/secure the VIP mission objectives but at least the map feels more random this time. The enemy on the other hand are still as ruthless as before. Make one mistake and you better start praying to the RNG (Random Number Generator) code god that you either managed to critical hit a low percentage shot or that that alien with the huge gun misses a 99% shot. Yes the RNG is still gonna either be your best friend or your worst enemy again in XCOM 2. Alien variety this time is smaller compared to the first game but the new ADVENT troops kind of make up for it as the new staple rather than the small easy to kill Sectoid from the first game. I will leave you to find out who these Advent troops are as you go about killing lots of them in the first few missions.
Another new thing to take note for players is that now since every supporting nation has ran off to support ADVENT, you are now on your own to secure supplies (the new base currency) from various resistance groups which you have to make contact with. Little side mission which takes a few game days to complete the Geoscape activity as you “pass” time waiting for a new mission to pop up. While this sounds easy, the game is not going to go easy on you as you have to decide which side mission to take up as they do expire. Yes, this game is not only hard on the battlefield but also forces you to make tough decisions sometimes which can in turn affect your progress in the long run like selecting which dark event to counter.
Overall while the whole game feels shorter with less content than the first game with no sending of planes to shoot down alien UFOs and not much capturing of aliens alive (you get something close but meh, nothing beats hauling a unconscious alien back for the doctor to examine), the game is more unforgiving this round. From a mistake in not picking up extra intel (another of the game’s currency) to trade at the black market to overselling at the black market or even spending the last of your supplies on the wrong weapon, XCOM 2 will make you sweat every time you make a choice.
The steam workshop also adds another interesting area as you already get 3 mods on day 1 release from the good people behind the original’s The Long War and today as I type this out you can bring to the battlefield a corgi gun and add berets to the list of headdress available for customisation. XCOM soldiers can be fully customised which makes it more painful when you lose them on the battlefield and I am sure the modding community will come out with more cool stuff.
I remember the hype train for XCOM 2 going crazy when it was first announced that it will take on the storyline of XCOM losing the first war against the aliens. While sceptical at first being a fan of the original series, I can say that the decision paid off with the number of positive reactions on the internet. XCOM 2 is a good game to pick up for fans of the series and strategy fans in general. In fact, I would recommend getting the original after you are done with XCOM 2 as it is going cheap on STEAM for their Lunar New Year Sale!
Oh and talking about the original series, well it looks like the game developers just might be going down that route for the next content, be it a full game or expansion, looking at the end game video.
Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
By Kenneth Wong
© POPCulture Online 2016