XCOM 2 is a direct sequel to the incredibly popular XCOM Enemy Unknown, that was released in late 2012. This turn based strategy shooter has improved greatly since its predecessor, but that is not to say it is without some flaws.
XCOM 2 suffered from a problematic launch, with many players reporting problems with crashing, game breaking bugs and glitches, and performance issues. Even on high-end gaming computers, the frame rate becomes so jagged and horrible that it was practically unplayable. Thankfully though, in the few weeks since its launch, many of these problems have either been patched, or people have found their own fixes and shared them among the community.
The game begins with the planet already under occupation by alien forces, with only a small group of humans being aware of this. You control and manage this group, known as the XCOM initiative, in order to push the aliens back off the Earth. This can be achieved by researching alien tech, training different specialty soldiers, building up your own base of operations, and creating new and experimental weapons to use against the aliens. You must not only make contact with other resistance forces throughout the world but also save the human race from a danger they are not even aware of.
Let’s discuss the game-play now. The game offers two separate game-play types. Firstly the turn-based shooting, in which you control a squad of soldiers. You are required to move them through different areas of the world on missions, saving the civilians that are in the vicinity of an area under attack, protecting valuable tech for later use, destroying alien devices to hinder their progress, and much more. The second game-play element is the base maintenance, which sounds slightly boring when you first hear it, but it is actually more involved than most people would initially expect. You are required to build different facilities, such as workshops and laboratories, in order to advance your own progress, prioritising the importance of an item to build or research at the time. Most importantly though, make great use of the world map, in which you must fly your mobile base around the world, scanning multiple locations for resources and opportunities for attack. This is a great way to break up the fun, but also offers stressful combat scenarios.
The combat has been vastly fine tuned since XCOM Enemy Unknown, making it easier to navigate the map and fight the aliens. A few new additions break up the combat, such as concealment which allows your units to be hidden from view until such a time as you decide to attack, or you are accidentally detected by the enemy. This unlocks a bevy of initiating options, making it that much more enjoyable. The percentage to hit makes its inevitable return, and is just as intense as ever, engaging your powers of deduction. Do I take the 50/50 shot from a safe distance, or do I move closer for a better shot but putting this soldier in danger? You are always making risky decisions, and because of this the use of the save option has never been so greatly appreciated.
The absolutely stunning range of enemies makes for enjoyable and intuitive combat. Every enemy can pull their own weight and make you think twice about your next move, and as new enemies emerge, the older ones do not seem as weak or useless. In fact, they actually make it more difficult, as a unique range of enemies in a fight can really make every single little decision count. One example is the “Sectoids” that are one of the first enemies you fight and are rather weak, but their psionic powers can wreak havoc with your squad, especially when they are mixed in with tougher enemies.
There are four different types of soliders in this game which you can fully customize and upgrade to your heart’s content. The “Ranger” has a sword and a shotgun, and is designed for fighting up close. Due to this, it has a range of abilities which deal tremendous damage, or allows them to move a great distance away and still attack. The “Sentinel” uses an assault rifle and has a robotic friend who can hack machines and robotic enemies. The “Grenadier” has a machine gun and a grenade launcher, which you use for controlling large groups of enemies and destroying their armor. Last but not least, the “Sniper”, who executes the enemies from afar. This small but vastly different line up allows for a multitude of combat elements, allowing you to effectively deal with all of the different types of enemies in the game.
While XCOM 2 is an incredibly fun and intense game, it still struggles with a few issues that could have easily been resolved before the launch. Around two thirds of the way through my 32 hour game, all of my research, facility and item constructions were complete, and I had my soldiers max ranked. For the remainder of the game I was running through it with the best gear and not a challenge to be seen because of it. That was, until the final battle, which, without any spoilers, will cause more than a few naughty words to escape your lips. The difficulty curve was pretty strange, it started off really well, leaving you with a sense of always wanting to better your soldiers and your equipment, but then plateaus during the rest of the game, until the final battle.
Do not let any of the negative points dissuade you from playing this game though. I spent a total of 32 hours in this game, and I plan on returning, with the game set on a harder difficulty. XCOM 2 has improved upon so many of its predecessor’s mechanics that it makes this one of the most enjoyable strategy games I have ever played.
I give XCOM 2 85/100, a masterpiece of strategical game-play, which is slightly diminished by its launch problems and strange difficulty curve. Nonetheless, it is a must play for those who love intense and gripping strategy.