Firaxis Games’ reboot of the classic X-COM series continued in February of 2016 with XCOM 2, released on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC – Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux. XCOM 2 follows the events of the early versions of the series: Enemy Within and Enemy Unknown. Two years after its release, we take a look at what this game added to the franchis and how well it all holds up in terms of gameplay, atmoshphere and story in this XCOM 2 review.
|Type of game:||Turn-Based Strategy|
|Multiplayer/Co-Op:||Online Multiplayer, PvP and Co-Op|
|Developer:||Firaxis Games, Feral Interactive|
|Total Play Time:||between 30 and 60+|
|System Requirements:||CPU: Intel Core2 Duo E8400, 3.0GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+
GPU: 1 GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 graphics
RAM: 4 GB
OS: 64-bit Windows 7 or better
HDD Space: 45 GB
The World of XCOM 2
Below is a rundown of the features and story contained within this sequel. XCOM 2 was generally well received upon its release. It was nominated by multiple publications for 2016 Game of the Year, as well as Best Strategy Game. The Metacritic aggregation gives the Playstation and PC versions an 88/100 grade, and the Xbox version an 87/100.
Atmosphere and Location
XCOM games all hold a similar feel and weight to them. The game feels serious and intense because developers made it that way. Dark tones and colors hold the main theme. Fog and darkness are also main elements of game play. When a character cannot see past a certain point, neither can the player, thus shrouding spaces in mystery and suspense.
When inside, areas remain dark unless a light is illuminating the room. Within a forest, darkness can overtake a map. All these decisions give that weightiness to XCOM 2 that other turn-based games don’t have. Rather than feeling like a board game, this feels like a shooter that is carefully paced.
Each map is laid out like a board game board, with squares to advance to. Players move their characters through the area a square at a time, exploring for enemies or trying to complete objectives. Many map objectives are simple: kill all aliens. Some have different tasks, such as rescue missions of non-playable characters, extractions, recoveries of items, etc. There are timed missions as well, with the number of turns being the hinge point and not necessarily the amount of elapsed time. The varied tasks help to litter some variety into the turn-based structure.
In XCOM games – with XCOM 2 being no exception – there are few main characters outside of the player. The player is the leader of the XCOM military organization. He or she leads a group of soldiers into battle each map. These soldiers aren’t specific to the story. Instead, it is up to the player to determine which soldiers they want to use in which battles.
Soliders will die and need to be replaced. Rookie soldiers advance up in grade and talent. Those with more experience have more skills and are more useful in battle. Even still, the player determines which men and women are brought into combat.
Nevertheless, these soldiers can be customized to a player’s desire. Custom options include choosing gender, nationality, name, uniform design/color scheme, and even personality. This is where players create their “favorite” soldiers and the ones they prefer to lean on in important battles.
The XCOM military organization is on the defensive in XCOM 2. Set 20 years after the previous game – in the year 2035 – the aliens succeeded in their takeover and received surrenders from council nations. We are now battling for survival.
Rather than being the force that humans were relying on to hold off alien invasion, XCOM is now a small resistance force. The ADVENT administration controls Earth, and it is up the player, along with escaped Central Officer Bradford and rogue ADVENT scientist Richard Tygan, to fight back.
This is a drastic difference from past XCOM games, where humans were the aggressors. Rather than hunting down alien ships and bases, the player is now fighting to take back what the aliens have won, all from a mobile base, the Avenger.
The player, through attacks and raids, learns about a secret Avatar project being done by the aliens. This is the key to everything. The leaders of the ADVENT are apparently dying and must harvest humans to create new bodies for themselves, which are the Avatars.
Without giving away the ending, it is up to the player to utilize this information about the Avatar project to gain an edge on the ADVENT and destroy its stranglehold on the human race.
DLC and Expansion Packs
Before we end our XCOM 2 review, we should say a couple of words about the XCOM 2 expansion. As with the previous installment of XCOM, an expansion was released. The XCOM 2 expansion is titled War of the Chosen and was released last summer. Its features include brand new enemy types to battle. The “chosen” are super alien warriors who pop up randomly in battles and kidnap soldiers. The bonus to the player is that, if defeated, the “chosen” have special weaponry and equipment that can be collected. The “lost” are another enemy type new to War of the Chosen. They are human zombies that attack in large droves.
Besides enemy types, the expansion offers some new features to XCOM:
- special hero classes from rebel forces
- bond system between soldiers
- berserk mode
In terms of DLC, XCOM 2 offers reinforcement packs to those interested. As described on Steam, each reinforcement pack is a “unique new twist to the core game experience.” The options include Anarchy’s Children, Alien Hunters, and Shen’s Last Gift.
Players can get a discount if they buy the DLC packs together. However, all three may not be worth the price tag. The changes in Anarchy’s Children are cosmetic. Alien Hunters may be too tough for all players. Rather than buying a discounted three-pack, just trying out Shen’s Last Gift could be the way to go. It will depend on the player’s desires.
XCOM 2 has been on figurative shelves for two years now. Let us know about what you think of the game, how the series has aged, and any other spare thoughts.
As for a verdict, the results seem to speak for themselves. This is a really good game from a very solid series and creator. XCOM 2 is similar enough to past iterations that fans of the series will love it. The turn-based strategy isn’t game play that everyone will love, but those who do really love it.
This game is also different enough from those older games to impress classic players and bring in a new audience. Most publications give XCOM 2 a rating between 7.5 and 9.5 on a scale of 10. If you include War of the Chosen and the DLC, this is a thick and intense game that could give players nearly 100 hours of fun and strategy. It doesn’t get much better than that in terms of bang for your buck matched with quality of the product.
Would you agree with our XCOM 2 review? Let us know in the comments.