XCOM 2 Review
Remember that time in the XCOM reboot where you saved the world from the alien invasion? Whatever good you did eventually got undone. By the time XCOM 2 begins, the world has been enslaved by the aliens for many years. At this point, the XCOM group is nothing more than an underground movement fighting with scraps. With the odds worse than ever, can you muster up the will to fend off the alien forces one more time?
As with its predecessor, XCOM 2 is a turn-based strategy game where your squad of soldiers take on a group of enemies in a number of different skirmishes. Between missions, you’ll be responsible for managing the many tasks that make this movement happen, from running a research facility to help create new weapons to collecting intel that will be used to keep in contact with the local uprisings around the world.
The series has a reputation for boasting a high difficulty level, which is no exception here. One bad move can cause all of your best troops to die in a flash. Worse yet, a series of bad managerial decisions can put you in a situation where you have no chance of actually beating the game. Franchise veterans wouldn’t have it any other way, though newcomers better be prepared to get punched in the face until they learn the right way to play.
While the game’s difficulty curve is steep, it’s hard to put it down. There are so many different ways to approach a challenge that you’ll want to keep building your knowledge base and your army until you’ve got it down pat. Even as someone who has beaten the original game many times over, this one had me hooked and pushed the limits of my abilities. If you’re willing to take the time to learn its nuances, you’re in for one of the finest turn-based strategy experiences on the market.
If this were simply just the original game with more levels, I would be fine with that. Thankfully, a number of smart changes have been made. For one, drones have been added to the mix to the new Specialist class, which has a huge effect on how the game plays. Drones allow you to heal allies from a distance or attack enemies for guaranteed damage, making them extremely useful on the battlefield. A new set of armor, the spider suit, lets you quickly grapple to high places without using an action, giving you the high ground in a snap.
Combat has also been tuned so that you can’t rely too heavily on the overwatch ability this time around. In the first game, you would rely on inching forward and activating overwatch for every soldier, as it gave you a relatively safe, albeit boring, way of moving forward. This time, many missions have turn limits, forcing you to move quickly.
As far as your enemies go, they’re bigger and badder than ever. Well, in most respects. One welcome nerf they’ve received is that the usage of mind control attacks has been greatly reduced. They were maddening in the original game, as you were often forced to kill your mind-controlled soldier in order to stop them. This time, they just don’t appear that often. Phew!
Outside of the missions, the experience of managing your base has gotten better as well. This time, your base is on a traveling ship, allowing you to move from place-to-place. What this means is that instead of passing the time by simply staring at a globe, you’re actually moving your ship around, establishing connections with other regions and collecting supplies. It makes that aspect of the game more engaging.
If you’re playing this game on PC, then there’s no reason to hesitate in picking this one up. Console players on the other hand, may want to buy the PC version instead. Unfortunately, the console versions suffer from a myriad of technical issues, from missing textures, to slowdown, to cutscenes stuttering or playing repeatedly. Playing on PS4, the game crashed on me a number of times as well. It’s really disappointing that this amazing game is also hampered by these technical failings.
Save for its tech problems on console, XCOM 2 improves on the original in every meaningful way. As much as I loved the original game, this was a much smoother experience to play and one that I’ll enjoy over the course of many playthroughs. Hopefully we can get some patches on the console ports to bring them up to snuff with the PC version, as they certainly need it. If console is the only way you can play, you’ll probably still enjoy it, in spite of its flaws.