Genre: Turn-based Tactics, Tactical Role-Playing Game
Original Release: February 5, 2016
Developers: Firaxis Games, Feral Interactive
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Played on: Windows
Would you believe me if I told you that I’m absolutely terrible at strategy?
It’s the truth. Any time I play a game like XCOM 2, I end up kicking myself for dumb decisions. I see an enemy nearby and beeline for it, only to discover that I left myself wide open for the AI to take me down a peg. And for that reason, I played on Rookie difficulty.
I’ve never played a game in the XCOM series before this one. A lot of my friends, even those a few years younger than me, have had a lot of high praise for the series. At least UFO Defense and Terror from the Deep anyway. No one talks about Enemy Unknown. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but maybe one day I’ll give it a whirl.
Anyway, as my introduction to the series, XCOM 2 stressed me out to no end. My very first mission outside of the tutorial left me paralyzed for a few minutes because I knew that I was going to lose one of my squad members, no matter the choice I made. I was streaming at the time and all of my friends felt incredibly stressed out by proxy.
Fast forward to the fifteenth campaign (the game keeps track), and I finally did it. I beat XCOM 2.
So what do I like about XCOM 2? I could take or leave the story, honestly. I know nothing about the events of Enemy Unknown, so I don’t have as much investment in the world at large. But I absolutely love the design of ADVENT’s forces. The Archon in the picture above is just…so cool. Like if I ever lived in a mansion, I would have two marble statues of them flanking my front door. It’s not just the Archon, either, all of the aliens you fight look awesome in one way or another. I realize now that I didn’t take a lot of screenshots of the others, but that’s okay. Leaves something for the imagination.
In addition, the tactical approach is really neat. I don’t have the largest pool to draw from, but unlike Final Fantasy Tactics (this is the first and only other tactics RPG I’ve played that comes to mind), your movement is laid out in two radii: blue and yellow. Each character has two action points to be spent on any of their abilities every turn. In the case of movement, anything within the blue radius costs one point, and anything within the yellow radius costs two. Think of it like double-moving in Dungeons & Dragons. In addition to movement, you can fire your weapon (immediately ending that character’s turn), reload, or go to Overwatch, which ends the character’s turn, but also allows that character to fire on the first enemy to move in their line of sight. It doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s beautiful. Especially if you can open a fight with an Overwatch ambush.
Along with all of that, you can also make all of your friends into soldiers! I did for the people I knew, though I changed last names so that I didn’t potentially give away personal information. There’re a lot of customization options to play around with, and you can even download voice packs via the Steam Workshop to mess around a little bit more! The sniper in the above picture used a GLaDOS voice pack, and the grenadier in the first photo was voiced by Solaire of Astora. I just used Tommy Wiseau’s voice for my character. It added some levity to otherwise stressful situations and I loved it whenever I heard “And remember, do you know the expression ‘you need two to mingle?'”
So is there anything in particular that I don’t like? Oh yeah, you bet. Any time you’re on the world map trying to scan something, you’re going to be inundated with info popups. Whether it’s research being completed, a guerilla operation, or a supply cache somewhere, you’re going to be hard-pressed to scan anything uninterrupted, even if it’s the monthly supply drop that only takes three days to scan.
Along with that, some missions require you to finish by extracting your soldiers via an evac point. You have to do this individually for each of them. Even if everyone’s within the grid, they still have to be extracted individually. It takes a lot more time than I cared for, and I just wish there was some sort of mass evac option. More than one person within the nine-tile space? Hit the button and it’ll prompt you to check if you’re sure you want to evacuate everyone there. I don’t imagine it would take a whole lot to add that in, but I also know that I’m garbage at coding myself.
The game’s also incredibly buggy, even now. I literally just beat the game about half an hour ago, but that wasn’t without its issues. In fact, going into the final mission, guess what happened?
My game crashed.
The game does autosave, fortunately. So I didn’t have to do too much, just rewatch the (inexplicably) unskippable cutscene that plays when you go into the last mission. It worked the second time, so I’m glad that I was able to finish the game at all, but there are a lot of moments where the game just kind of hangs for no reason, especially after an action is performed. Shoot an alien? Everything is going to sit there for a bit before you can do much else. That might just be on my system though, I can’t speak for anyone else.
Despite all of this being pretty aggravating, I’m going to honestly recommend XCOM 2. I have yet to play War of the Chosen or try out the Long War 2 mod my buddy Dan suggested, but the base game alone was fun, if a little crazy at times. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for other tactics games that might pique my interest (UFO Defense and Terror from the Deep are already in my library), and if nothing else, play it for the alien designs.