XCOM 2: Review

Rarely has a turn-based strategy game like XCOM 2 given me the chance to endure both love, and hate for a game with very high praise.

XCOM 2, developed by Firaxis Games, and published by 2k Games, released on PC February 5th 2016, is the sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which was met with critical fanfare and won countless "Game of the Year" awards.

Formalities aside, this game is phenomenal. I was never a huge fanboy of the series until I watched a series of Lets Plays, it definitely caught my attention, the fluidity of controlling your troops, the various ways to customize and upgrade your army’s gear and weaponry, everything about it from that initial perspective blew me away, I had to have it. 

The premise of the game, is an answer to “what if the aliens successfully invaded earth?”, well, the answer is, a lot happens, people love the aliens, other people don’t. You play as the Commander, who fought against the aliens from the first invading force 20 years prior. You recently are released from stasis, where the alien race had you under observation and various testing (no anal probes I'm afraid). You are rescued and then awoken by the human resistance known as XCOM, from there you are tasked with building an army to take the fight to various alien races now inhabiting the planet. To put it very basically, you build an army, research various things to improve your teams gear, and eventually take back control of Earth by uniting the various militia factions scattered across earth.

Gameplay in XCOM 2 is very similar to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you strategically place your soldiers on certain "tiles" in order to get both high defence and high percentage to hit the target, arranging and moving your soldiers into various positions to try take the enemy out with ease and efficiency. There are various classes in which you can upgrade, or "promote" your soldiers, ranging from an engineer/hacker type, which utilises a "GREMLIN", a flying machine capable of hacking doors or reviving/healing fallen soldiers on the field. My personal favourite class is the Grenadier class, mostly because I like blowing buildings up, but it's also very useful when taking out multiple enemies within a blast radius.

The enemies within XCOM 2 are varied enough to remain feeling fresh, each enemy type has their own unique special attacks and perks that make fighting them incredibly tricky at times. Enemies range from your typical "Soldier" grunt type, to a vanguard that rains down rockets across the battlefield. Each time I have discovered a new enemy, I was equal parts in awe and shock as I made multiple mistakes in order to figure out how to effectively take out a heavily armoured mech-type alien. XCOM 2 can be extremely unforgiving, enemies are smart and aggressive, constantly keeping you on your toes. The perma-death aspect within the game is another element you need to be constantly aware of, if one of your party falls in battle he/she is gone for good. Leveling a team member for hours to become a wrecking machine only to see them fall in battle is never easy to digest.

The "Alien Hunters" DLC adds a new tier of enemies that can teleport or run, these enemies are upgraded versions of your base type of enemies that you encounter on occasion. The thing is though, you kinda have to focus fire on these upgraded aliens, in order to kill them properly, otherwise they run after a few turns.

As for the downloadable content, it’s fun and makes things interesting. Creating fresh scenarios in normal missions where you encounter highly dangerous aliens, mostly representing an upgraded or heavily modified/experimented version of the enemies you have faced prior. If you face a snake/serpent enemy, expect a rather nasty boss that is, as they call it “The Serpent Queen” or something along those lines. Anyway, go for it, the DLC is good, worth the money, adds content and increases the already massive longevity of XCOM 2.

Now this game is not without flaws (hence why this review is 4-5 months late). The excessive load times, even when running on a fast Black Caviar WD drive, were still anywhere from 2-4 minutes, became painful. I noticed frames regularly dropping (especially during the cinematic start sequences of each mission), the inconsistent frame rates took me by surprise, a turn based strategy game creating problems, while The Witcher 3 at max graphics without issue was annoying. 

The modding community is something I strongly hope will bring me back, with multiple ways to customize your troops, in either funky ways, or to transfer Star Wars skins (and weapons) to the game… There really is so much more that I can say about it, but, I haven’t applied mods so, I can’t say from a first hand experience what the mods are like… but rest assured, from the look of the mods and the positive feedback, I can’t wait to try it (after I actually finish the game).

If you’re looking for a new title to sink countless hours into, with grand replay value and immersive gameplay, I cannot suggest XCOM 2 enough (minor issues and all).

3.75 out of 5

+ High Levels of Customisation
+ Tactical Gameplay is Tightly Tuned
+ Gorgeous and Destructible
- Performance Issues
- Repetitive Gameplay