XCOM 2 – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Overview

XCOM 2 continues to push the revival of the franchise into a zone which will make PC Gamers proud and obnoxious of what often is exclusively available to them, all the while draining hours of their life away and causing frustration as they attempt to combat alien forces with various new skills and customizations.

Trigger Warning(s): Blood (minor), Guns, Death/Dying, and Building Explosions

Characters & Story (with Commentary)

It’s 20 years after the end of the XCOM and the aliens, ADVENT, have effectively taken over the planet and rather than be seen as the enemy, they are treated as almost benevolent. In fact, with their gene therapy locations, it seems they are offering humanity a future they have spent eons dreaming of. Yet, despite the propaganda, and many drinking the kool-aid, there remains a resistance force. One which has been diminished significantly, and doesn’t have government aid, but it remains very much alive.

Your job is to build up the strength of the resistance, slow down, and eventually stop, the plans of ADVENT which seem to be geared toward complete dominance, and destroy their sources of power and leadership once and for all. Otherwise, humanity’s graceful defeat may turn into a total annihilation.

Highlights

Moderate Difficulty on Easy: I cannot claim to be a hardcore gamer. Since childhood I got frustrated easily with games like Tony Hawk: Pro Skater and even in modern times I’ll stop a playthrough of Civilization, and load an earlier save just because someone declared war on me and I was in no way prepared. So, with that said, let me tell you off the bat I usually chose an easy difficulty. But don’t let my choice lead you to believe that easy mode, known as “Rookie” means I flew through the game.

With XCOM 2, I will admit I never lost a mission, but I did lose quite a few soldiers and had quite a few injured in the process. Which for those who have played XCOM before know, that means I can have the best soldier out there be out of action for days because they got shot. Effectively forcing me to change the way I play in my next mission for my star is out of action.

To add onto that, strategy is a bigger deal. For with the returning environment destruction, status ailments, including losing soldiers to mind control, and new aliens to worry about, try to play wild and solely with power if you want to. You’ll find quickly you going from the upper echelon to a bunch of newbies who don’t have much besides a basic gun and all your hopes of survival.

Customization Options: From the types of soldiers, and their skills, to how they, what upgrades you can give soldiers, and how you can customize their guns and some of their armor, the micromanagement has been upped a bit. But don’t think of it as just more things you have to add on or upgrade to survive, for more so it helps push your soldiers to work for the way you like to play. If you prefer mostly using snipers, and a handful of blade-wielding shotgun users, you can make aiming, critical hits, and execution accessories for your weaponry your focus. Say you want a team which moves quick, fights close, and has high HP. Well, you can choose armor which makes it more difficult for enemies to take down your HP, and may even give you a rocket launcher or flamethrower, and you can use anyone from the aforementioned blade users and a tech specialist who can hack enemies on the field and turn a giant mechs on your side for a number of turns. That is if you are lucky. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Mission Time Limits: Though it seems some have a mixed opinion about more than half of the missions being time limits, I personally liked the challenge. What these time limits do is force you to quickly get into the action and plan a strong first move. Also, it should be noted that sometimes this time limit is only for half of the mission. Two prime examples are that most time limit missions are about getting someone or stopping something from detonating. With those type of missions, after you get the VIP or stop something from detonating, the time limit is over and then you can handle the aliens. So, technically, if you know how to move around the map while in concealment [4], you can deal with the time limit issue and get to the fun part. Plus, the maps aren’t often huge on time limit missions, and you get an indicator of where to go, so it isn’t like you are searching here and there and wasting time playing detective.

Explore the World and Answer to No One: One of my major issues with the first XCOM was that it was difficult to keep everyone happy. In fact, no matter how I tried, I would always lose someone because I didn’t cater to their needs enough. With this game, though, you gain money, called supplies, by expanding from one section of a continent to another and placing radio relays. A welcome change for if you ignore one location, for they don’t have a reward you desire or the mission is a difficulty you think you can’t handle, it doesn’t affect your money. However, it isn’t just each mission’s reward you have to think about, but also the consequences for not choosing a mission.

For example, one mission could have it where the aliens, ADVENT, will use poisoned bullets if the mission isn’t taken, another will have these undercover aliens, named the faceless, appear more often, and the last one could push a game-ending project further to completion. With this system, I feel like there is a substantial enough trade off from you losing money for not doing one mission vs. you now making things a bit more restrictive or difficult in the future. Though all things considered, perhaps some of the consequences you may enjoy for they will present a new challenge for you to overcome. All the while, you get the ability to properly prepare for it.

Low Points

(Mostly) Non-Game Breaking Glitches: Most of the glitches in the game are minor like glass breaking before your soldier goes through the window or shots against you or an enemy, not showing. Outside of that, I experienced only three notable glitches/ bugs. The first one was a bug in which the aliens didn’t move or attack no matter how close I got, or if I attacked. The 2nd one was something similar, except in that case one of my soldiers couldn’t move and all he could do was attack until he was eventually killed. The last glitch was a major one for it made it seem like my game froze. I just completed a rather hard mission and at the autosave I found myself stuck staring at Europe with no button to click on and no means of heading back to the ship. Luckily hitting escape fixed the issue, but before trying that button I figured I did all those battles for nothing.

Once You Beat The Final Mission, It’s Over: After the final mission you are presented a cut scène dealing with the rise of the rebellion against aliens, and a part of me questioned why the player didn’t get to participate? For, before I did the final mission, there were a lot of areas I didn’t put radio relays up or made contact, so I thought not allowing the player to finish off the last of the aliens, and created a unified human front, was a bad move. Though I could imagine DLC perhaps extending the game past the final mission.

On The Fence

A Little More Information Please: There are many times in the game when it would have been nice for some clarification. For example, when it comes to skills, it would have been nice to learn if a skill was a passive one or one we had to click on in combat. Then when it came to weapons and armor, it would have been nice if it was made clear, especially in terms of armor, which ones were primary armor that everyone would get and which were singular items you could only equip to one player at a time. Also, and this may be a bit too much to ask, it would have been nice if the different research you did would have hinted to the reward.

No Facility Bonuses: Though you really only need to build, at most, two of one facility, since you can internally upgrade them, a part of me did miss how having two facilities side by side gave you a bonus. Especially in terms of features, I needed like soldiers healing faster.

Final Thought(s): Worth Buying

I won’t pretend that I don’t think $60 is a bit much for this game, but I feel that way about games in general, but despite that I do feel like it is worth buying (once the Steam discount rolls around). For while it only took me most of the weekend, and two nights after work, to beat this, this game felt almost as addicting as Fallout 4 when I started playing it. Plus, really the only true negative here to me is that the game cuts you off once you beat the final boss. Something which, as noted, could be fixed with DLC or even a patch which could allow you to find what remains of alien forces and wipe them from the planet.

Things To Note

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[1]: Your soldiers sometimes can gain skills from other soldiers’ experience tree. This feature is sadly random.

[2]: The new Tech Specialist uses a drone as a secondary weapon and it can do anything from hacking devices and enemies for various benefits to being an active agent in healing your squad. I mean, it will literally heal your entire squad, in one turn, if you choose that as a skill.

[3]: There is also the Psi soldier which has various devastating attacks which are almost like a slightly watered down version of the attacks the final boss/ strongest alien, has.

[4]: Armor now has various uses between burning an enemy if they strike you, healing you throughout the battle, and providing an exo-skeleton which allows the aforementioned rocket launcher.

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