Ah yes, XCOM 2 the long awaited sequel to XCOM Enemy Unknown/Within by Firaxis. Does it live up to the hype that Enemy Unknown (a remake of the original UFO Defense) had especially with the Long War mod? Well that answer is a little complicated, it is yes and no.
XCOM 2 is a remake of not the 2nd game in the original X-COM series but in actuality the 3rd, X-COM: Apocalypse. In XCOM 2 you play as not a group that is defending their home world from the invading aliens but in fact the world actually ended up losing to the aliens and conquered Earth. 20 years after the events of Enemy Unknown, Officer Bradford (command) came upon intelligence that found where the ADVENT (the alien government) was hiding you, the commander, all this time. Once the commander is back XCOM is back and operational can commence the operation to find out ADVENT’s true intentions and to overthrow the alien government. Spoiler alert: The aliens are actually being bad, SURPRISE!!!
Enemy Unknown/Within’s main story missions were very unique in that they set up various challenges and felt completely different from the defense or rescue missions on the side. For example the Newfoundland Mission in Enemy Within was an absolutely hard and fun mission but those are no where to be found in XCOM 2. Most of the missions in XCOM 2 are, go here, defend this or attack that or save these civilians. Occasionally you’ll have a mission where you’ll attack an Advent facility to prevent the Advent project but those themselves aren’t entirely memorable either. With the exception of the missions where a UFO shoots down your ship or the final mission, nothing was incredibly memorable about the campaign itself.
XCOM 2 is much like its original in that it is a squad turn based strategy game where your team of 4-6 soldiers try to complete different objectives. There are five classes that are fairly similar to Enemy Unknown with a few new skills. Those classes include Ranger (close quarters), Grenadier (machine gun and grenades), specialist (robot hacking and healing), sharpshooter (sniper) and the Psi Op who uses various psionic powers as you train them in the Psi Lab.
As you progress through the game your objective will to be not only to discover how to defeat the Advent Project but to also make contact with other resistance cells in order to gain resources and intel to combat the ADVENT. The missions that appear on the world progress as you make contact with more resistance locations and the maps themselves during your missions are procedurally generated making no mission location to seem like the same. Though that does have a strange habit of making Siberia seem like it is in a desert location though that might have been a bug originally when I played.
While you are progressing in making contacts and that mad XCOM money you are able to purchase and research new armor and weapons that can further help your team survive out in the field. Along with the money you also get intel for completing different missions. This intel allows you to purchase different things from the black market and allows you to make contact with other resistance locations throughout the world.
Much like Enemy Unknown, you can’t just dillydally around the map. If you take too much time, depending on how many Advent facilities are in the world the Advent Project will progress where if it fills up you lose the game. On top of that the Advent have different resistance retaliation time periods where they will attack different resistance locations causing resources to slow down and if you don’t stop them at all either by not going there or failing the mission you can lose contact with that area all together and have to re-establish said contact. Another combat against you going slowly is over time the ADVENT will acquire abilities that change various things in game. Whether those be a UFO searching around for you, progress on the Advent Project, stronger armor, slower research, less intel or several others. These can hurt you but I noticed that they don’t change the game too much. Obviously they didn’t want to make the game impossible but it seems like the advent events could have been a little more impactful.
Let’s talk about the difficulty of this game for a bit. I know some found the RNG (Random Number Generator) a little harsh, missing a 90% chance to hit, but over the course of the game it will end up balancing out. I understand that sometimes it feels like those misses come at the most inopportune times but with the way you can get around the aliens from even being able to hit you with grenades, overwatch, the over powered mimic beacon there is always a way to keep the balance on your side. I would argue that this game is too easy and it doesn’t truly get hard until the last mission in the game that has no escalator in difficulty. In Enemy Unknown the missions ramped up in difficulty all the way until the final mission on the alien ship. In XCOM 2 the missions are all fairly simple, especially when your soldiers are properly equipped, until that last mission that throws a whole bunch of problems your way including mind controlling avatars at the end.
Also a problem I had with this game was it didn’t really feel like it was a step up from Enemy Unknown. Sure there are new classes and the new concealed mode but for all Firaxis’s talk about Enemy Unknown being a tutorial for the Long War mod, they seemed to not take any hints and try to add features that the Long War made better in EU. With that said however, Firaxis did allow for mods in the beginning include the vast steam marketplace that already existed just one week after the game launched. I have no doubt the Long War guys will make another or some other group of modders will make this game even better.
Graphics wise XCOM 2 is much better than its predecessor despite it running the same engine, albeit it is running on Unreal 3.5 opposed to Unreal 3. There is a lot of customization of your soldiers too, allowing you to make your gameplay unique and different. There have been reports of problems that I noticed myself however if you had vsync and FXAA on however that might be fixed soon in a patch. On top of the graphics, the soundtrack is also a huge plus on this game. I found myself singing along during a lot of the songs because they were extremely catchy and enjoyable despite them being replayed a lot during the game.
Overall XCOM 2 despite all its flaws is still a game I absolutely had a blast to play. Not many games make me want to sit all week and do nothing but play it but XCOM 2 definitely does such. There are problems with the lack of content and difficulty along with some early performance issues and a lackluster story but that doesn’t discount how much fun it is.