Xcom 2! a review of sorts!

Xcom 2 was the second game I was really excited for last year. Fallout 4 being the other. Well, it launched, and as expected I lapped it up. Here follows my thoughts on the game. Please be warned, it contains spoilers of sorts.

Pace.

From the outset, its obvious that for this game you’re on the back foot. You’re hounded from the word go, have inferior tech, and lower numbers. I’m not one for playing on easiest difficulty, but not enough of a tactical genius to play it too hard. From the word go, I was losing a trooper every mission. This made me sad, because I thought my tactics were perfect… but in hindsight, I think I was used to blowing the snot out of everything with a fully kitted out group. Splitting the group turned out to be a bad idea. Everything was frantic. Missions, over-world, research. Instantly I was hit with “Aliens have an end game, here’s your doomsday clock…” It really turned the thumb screws.

Research.

In the first (of the new versions) Xcom, you could be sneaky. If you researched the suggested topics, the game moved along, things got tougher, and you were hit with more varied beasties. If you ignored the recommendations, instead focusing on armour and weapons… you’d get the upper hand, and be ready for the tougher missions when you finally researched the recommendations. That doesn’t work now. didn’t stop me from trying though. My doomsday clock was four bubs from complete when I realised I couldn’t do the missions I needed to without researching the recommended trees. I’m still convinced that theres stuff I didn’t research. Things I may not have recovered or unlocked. In fact, whilst writing this, I’ve just had a text from my brother, saying he got a Blaster Launcher last night. God damnit, I want want a zing zing boom.

Engineering.

Thank god for the new engineering stuff. I bloody love it. Making something once, then having it available to everyone? yes please. using engineers to boost rooms in the base? Definately. Making drones that can act as engineering staff? Awesome. I also love the variant stuff you can make. different armour types, ammo types etc. Someone at Firaxis played far too much long war, and it shows (this is a good thing).

Psionics.

In previous games (all the way back to the originals) I’d have a troop completely psi-trained. They’d all be good at other stuff. Full on colonels, with amazing aim and will. They’d also be able to take over an alien with a snap of their fingers, and send them charging back against their friends. This time though, its a choice. You can either be a sharpshooter, grenadier, specialist, ranger OR psionics trooper. Not that this is a problem, just means properly balancing your troops. With six slots available, it basically means you take one of each, and a spare class. This extra for me was either a specialist or a ranger.

Classes

Guess I should have done this before Psionics, but… I love the new classes. They each feel ridiculously powerful, with sufficient options to twist them to your path of play. Rangers melee attacks are amazing, and if you spec them right, you can open up by charging in and stabbing someone. Then as everyone breaks away from you, you get a free stab on each of them. Couple this with Killzone for the sniper (oh god, the sniper…) and you can wipe three to four aliens in a single attack. The sniper though… Ladies and Gentlemen let me introduce you to death. Every sniper has squadsight now. Meaning the best use of a sniper is at elevation, tucked away with view of as much of the map as possible. This is convenient, because this is how I’ve always used them. Delve into overwatch squadsight, killzone, and some other lethal fun toys, and you’ve got someone who can clean up nicely. Speaking of cleaning up… Specialists have a nifty drone now. This isn’t your standard ‘oh god, now I’ve got a robot that takes up a squad slot, and is pretty crap’ xcom drone. No, this one hacks from afar, heals team mates, provides cover to teammates, and (I’m told) can damage enemies. I wouldn’t know that last part, because all mine were specced to pop out, resurrect a fallen friend, heal them, the protect them. All while the specialist is shooting shit too. I’ve always had a problem with Heavy Weapons troopers. I don’t know why. Perhaps its their smaller movement range (rocket launchers are heavy!) maybe its the fact that they’re carrying a rocket launcher that can’t fire from one end of the map to the other? Maybe its that gatling guns really aren’t accurate? However, grenadiers sorted this out. With trees that helped boost the damage of your colleagues. allowed grenade salvo’s, and generally effed things up for the enemies. I always wanted one along.

Tech.

I’ve already mentioned the awesome drone. But thats not all the shinies we got. We can now upgrade weapons with mods. Generally these are found on a single alien in missions, though you can also pick them up from the black market. Things like 1, 2, or 3 free reloads. Extra rounds, better accuracy. a chance of not using an action when firing etc. These mods are awesome. But, guns aren’t the only mod-able thing. Now there’s new armour options too. Yes you have your bulk standard armour types. (starter, improved, and awesome) but each of the upgrades has variants too. cut down with grappling hook, or heavy with built in weaponry. add to this the variable type of vest worn underneath, and you can get some pretty amusing (in a ‘hell yeah, you can’t keep me down’ way) combinations. Oh, and don’t get me started on the different types of explosives and ammo.

Aliens.

What xcom game would be complete without horrific beasties? Xcom2 doesn’t disappoint. straight off the bat you’re up against sectoids again. However these aren’t the same stunted kobold-healthed individuals. You won’t be one shotting these (at least, not just yet). Oh, and worse, these guys can mind control straight out of the gate. Fuckers. Sectoids got buff. Then we have Mechs, advent troopers, and snakemen. Why do mechs and troopers have that extra shield against their health bars? Oh, thats extra armour that detracts from every hit. Balls. And Snakemen can yank you across half the map and constrict you? This doesn’t seem fair. Then, suddenly, buff Mutons, Beserkers, and Faceless. All horrible. Though the Faceless immediately took me back to Xcom Terror from the Deep. I couldn’t remember if they were beasties in that? But its ok, I worked my way through them all. Tactics evolved. I was finally on top of them. All that was missing now was Floaters and Ethereals. Floaters appeared. They’re also buff now, though renamed and reskinned. (and bloody evil). Thats ok, focus fire on them, and all will be well. whats the worst that could happen? Whats that clanking sound? why does it sound like someones walking around in a robot the size of a bus? Oh, look. its a robot the size of a bus. Welcome to Sectopods. The aliens answer to ‘how much is too much?’ It goes on like this, each time you think it can’t get worse, it does. Crysalids, Giant metal balls of psychic death. Replicating cyber creatures. They outdid themselves.

Over-map.

This is where it fell a little short for me. I loved the idea of flying round in a giant base. I liked the idea of connecting with different resistance groups. But I was often hit with 4 or 5 different things I needed to focus on, to gather supplies, inventory, intel etc, and all while being constantly interupted with missions. It felt very messy. I would have preferred being able to send troops out or agents out to gather. Someone that would stay on that mission rather than needing to resubscribe to it each time I finished a fight. The doomsday clock was a nice touch, but to be honest it meant I was constantly focused on completing the game. There wasn’t a period where I could just sit back and enjoy the fighting without thinking “I should be taking down facilities and moving towards end game”.

End game.

This also felt a little off. It was staging area after staging area with preset mob numbers per room. I wouldn’t complain about this normally, but it felt very safe once I’d beaten each room. I had no qualms about using full movement to get everyone into position for the next room. Line everyone up, reload guns, step the ranger into the next room. Reveal enemies. Kill everything. Rince and repeat. The last room was admitted a bit of a challenge, though I’d saved all my healing specials, and explosives for this one, knowing it’d be tough. Making it 3 Psionics to kill rather than one single extended the fight a little, and I did spend a few rounds with some mind controlled troops. But the end game mission didn’t panic me anywhere near as much as some of the retaliation missions did. The end reveal though… It confirmed my thoughts on some of the new mobs, that I’d seen them in TFTD, and that we’d maybe be seeing underwater missions in our future.

So I’ve ‘completed’ it now. Which is just slang for ‘now I’m going back to play it again’. Did I enjoy it? hell yes. would I recommend it? hell yes. Are there things that could have been better? a few. Do I want to see what people come up with using the mod tools? Yes, yes I do. Only, lets avoid the people making dick monsters.

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