X-Com 2 Review

by / Friday, 12 February 2016 / Published in Editorials & Reviews, News & Articles

I remember where I was when Kylo Ren died.

The squad was infiltrating a large alien base, everyone was all ready fairly banged up. But then a sectoid alien possessed Bill Murray, and he ran over to Kylo where he stabbed him in the chest with a glowing machete,  which was simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious. Later on my missions, Albert Wesker would give his life to save his fellow squad mates from certain death, and another time Master Chief got swarmed after running too far ahead of the rest of the squad and got destroyed.  If there was one thing, one reason to heavily recommend X-Com 2 over any other turn based strategy game, it would be making you care about your squadmates. That, and being able to write eulogy’s for the deceased.

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For those unfamiliar with the series, X-COM was a series of titles back in the 90′s that covered a wide variety of genres including turn based strategy and spaceship combat. Generally the plot of the games was to combat aliens and stop them from taking over Earth. Then several years ago, Firaxis of Civilization fame rebooted the franchise as X-Com Enemy Unknown, which was a fantastic game in itself, with its high difficulty and permanent death mechanics similar to Fire Emblem. X-Com 2 looks to up that ante by setting the plot to 20 years after Enemy Unknown. The aliens have successfully taken over earth and made ‘peace’ with mankind. So now, instead of being an elite military force facing an invasion, you’re a small resistance. This changes the game in a very significant way from it’s predecessor. In Enemy Unknown, you were reacting to the enemy. If they upgraded their weapons, you built defenses for it and so on. Here, you are always the underdog, and the aliens will instead react to you. Get better guns? Expect to find enemies with armor. Contact the resistance in a new sector of the planet? Aliens will try to destroy it. You constantly feel like you have to improve and it keeps the stakes very high. The aliens themselves are working towards a large scale project that, if succeeds means they win, to there’s little opportunity to hunker down. You have your ship that serves as a headquarters, allowing you to purchase upgrades, customize characters, and research new upgrade options. There’s also plenty of backstory you’re able to read up on, in case you need to be told why aliens invading earth was a bad thing.

High stakes are what makes the character customization very important to the games concept. It’s optional, of course. You can leave everyone the default names. Or you can create an A-Team squad consisting of Guile, Bill Murray, Cerys En Crete, Ted Cruz, Scotty, and Sisqo (I hope you remember the Thong Song). It’s not just looks, but you’re able to write entire backstories for your characters, assign nicknames, attitude, and voices. It makes you really care. And when one of them dies, you end up writing their obituary. The more you use a soldier the more they rank up, which unlocks skills for the class that are absolutely pivotal to surviving later missions. The ranger has a close combat sword that are higher ranks can allow more multiple moves in one turn. The sharpshooter can setup a cone and literally shoot anything that moves in the area. The specialist has a drone that can take control of enemy turrets and heal allies, and the grenadier and destroy enemy cover or suppress them to give them an aim penalty.  You’re also able to unlock a psionic class that comes with some absolutely devastating abilities that I wish I had researched earlier. You have to constantly put the squadmates you care about at risk if you want to progress, and that’s when X-Com is at it’s finest.

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“Well wait Vissari, I’ll just move incredibly slow on missions then and take my time!” That doesn’t quite work in X-Com 2. As the resistance, you are oftentimes running guerrilla operations, you have to go in fast and get out faster. Many missions have to be completed in 8 turns or less, sometimes as few as 4, which means you have to take chances, even be reckless on occasion. It’s a major thing that changed from the last game, and it may upset some people that prefer to take their time in games such as this. I encourage people to give it a go, but X-Com is also extremely mod friendly, including Steam Workshop content, and there’s nothing stopping you from modding turn timers out. You do however often times go into missions concealed, which lets you setup ambushes. The initial first shots

Is the game perfect? No, not by any means. There’s extremely odd performance issues that really don’t fit in with Firaxis’s typical game qualities. Thing such as low framerates on in-engine cutscenes, bugs during overwatch actions , it tends to hang in random places.  Firaxis has come out and said they are looking into the issue, but no major patches yet.

If you are a fan of the turn based genre, then you really owe it to yourself to pick this game up. If you want a challenge, you’ll definitely find it here, especially in Ironman mode, which overwrites your saves and every turn to prevent you from undoing mistakes. If the genre isn’t for you, I don’t believe it will suddenly turn you into a huge fan, but the game is quality nonetheless.

My friends asked me to chronicle my adventures on X-Com, so you can follow along here, see who else didn’t make it.  https://imgur.com/a/8gz0I

Score: 92/100

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