September 27th quickly approaches, and for those not fortunate enough to have a gaming PC, this means you will finally be able to defend humanity once again against our evil alien overlords in XCOM 2. Firaxis Games caught a lot of flak when they boldly proclaimed that IRONMAN IMPOSSIBLE difficulty setting for XCOM: Enemy Unknown was canon. Humanity lost against the superior invaders and are now ruled by a “benevolent” alien government! There was an outcry, but seriously, have you played XCOM on IRONMAN IMPOSSIBLE without cheating? It’s a slaughter and few people in this world could actually win on that setting. Personally, I liked the idea of becoming human insurgents rising against the alien masters to take back the planet. It was a bold move, but the outcry quickly died down once people sat down and actually played the new game with all its new strategic and tactical mechanics. Bottom line – The team at Firaxis produced an amazing sequel.
I attended Firaxicon 2015 and we were given sneak peaks of the game and I was very excited for it. The game did not disappoint and I’m very happy that my PlayStation and XBOX friends can experience this amazing strategy game. Originally, Firaxis said that it was a PC only release because they made the combat maps procedurally generated and the Next-Gen Consoles couldn’t handle it. I’m not sure how they have overcome this issue, but at worst, the consoles will have slightly less varied tactical combat maps. If this is true, I am confident it won’t detract from the overall game experience. I’m curious how it will work and may even buy it for my PS4.
XCOM 2 is about decisions.
As insurgents, you have limited supplies, limited intelligence, but several fresh-faced rookie soldiers willing to lay down their lives to achieve victory over the alien overlords. Decisions weigh heavy, with varying benefits and consequences for every strategic and tactical choice you make as the Commander of XCOM. You are on the run but striking back from your mobile command ship, projecting insurgent power globally.
The game is punishing of mistakes, but generally fair. When a soldier dies, I usually understand the mistake I made which put the soldier in jeopardy. Other times… It’s just “XCOM, Baby!” Yes, you will still miss that 98% Chance to Hit shot and want to throw your controller. Other times, you will risk all on a 26% sniper shot and cheer for your Sharpshooter when she makes that impossible shot and saves the squad. Tension, fury, and elation are all here in this game.
After playing 11 games after its PC release at varying difficulty settings, I took a break from the game and decided to wait for all of the DLC to drop. Last week, I dove back in to the universe and was very pleased (and terrified) by the results. Even on just Veteran difficulty (Level 2 of 4 difficulty levels), the game was hard and I lost several XCOM Operators in the fight before ultimately winning the game. The base game was amazing, but the DLC made it even better, so if you are planning to buy XCOM2, I would highly recommend the Digital Deluxe Edition to get all of the DLC. Interestingly, unlike XCOM: Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2 doesn’t allow you to disable the DLCs in-game (I can disable them through Steam). I’m ok with that having played them and enjoyed them, but hope that will be an option for those on consoles who want to experience the game without Shen’s Last Gift and Alien Hunters DLCs.
The Alien Hunters DLC is especially challenging. Some of the regular missions are hard enough without running into an Uber-Alien out to massacre all of your soldiers.
In the end, this game is the best tactical, turn-based, squad-tactics game out there. Just because there aren’t many available doesn’t diminish its greatness. Some reviews passionately decry the decisions and the constant pressure of a ticking clock – I think it does as the developers intended and adds the tension needed to truly appreciate the struggle against a superior enemy bent upon your destruction. If it is a casual game for the story you are looking for, then by all means play on Rookie mode and save scum all you want – no one is judging. Enjoy the game your way and in the end, wait excitedly for the release of XCOM 3 in a few years. I personally can’t wait!