XCOM 2 (PC) Review

By Eric Ace 13.02.2016

Review for XCOM 2 on PC

XCOM 2 is the continuation of the reboot of the X-COM franchise by published Firaxis. For those that have played the first, there is a warranted concern of this sequel simply being a re-skin, which is not the case here, even if things are kept to a level that is almost too simple to encourage the fanaticism the series was originally known for. The gameplay alternates between a strategic base and resource management, and then tactical battles of soldiers attempting to take down all aliens on a battlefield in turn-based fashion. Welcome, new recruit, to Cubed3's review of XCOM 2

XCOM 2 takes on a pretty big task by using the old name of the classic 'X-COM.' Note the hyphen there - it makes reference to one of the best games ever made, featured on many top titles lists. Furthermore, a continuation of the game from years ago may leave gamers wondering how much has changed here, especially when factoring in the original X-COM 2: Terror from the Deep was pretty much just a re-skin, with only minor changes. For the most part, what needs to be delineated is that XCOM, as a game unrelated to anything, is solid, whereas as a successor to the old Julian Gollop X-COM, it changes and removes many things that made that the spectacle it was, and is still thought of today.

The action takes place in two distinct phases: there is the strategic mode, where the base is managed, and the world map has to be manipulated to maximise resources; while the second is an isometric tactical battle of controlling soldiers against aliens. The strategy has users researching technology, building weapons, equipping soldiers, and moving around the map to get more resources or respond to attacks. In battle, the equipment and soldiers prepare to battle aliens and recover more technology to research, and this is the way that the two modes interact.

Screenshot for XCOM 2 on PC

The game presupposes that the first alien war was lost and all that is left is disorganised resistance and an alien ship that is the main base. It is a case of then moving around the map, deciding what resistance elements to support, which gives more supplies to continue helping other areas. For the guerrilla war aspect, it fits the atmosphere nicely, however, a key X-COM element is removed in that there are no UFOs or interceptions that take place anymore. Jaunting around collecting stuff and occasionally responding to alien attacks is more the order of the day, this time. In the first XCOM, UFO interception was extremely simplified already, and here it is done away with completely. It goes along with a general theme of simplifying the whole experience in order to make it more approachable to mainstream audiences, sadly at the sacrifice of depth.

Base management is somewhat better than before, yet is still a somewhat simple affair of having a small grid that the player throws buildings down onto at the cost of supplies and slowly gain the benefit of it. Most buildings only need to be built once and there are no strategies that were once present, such as having radar/interception outposts, the solider bases, the research/engineering bases, and so on - it is all marginalised and levelled at newcomers. It works, no doubt about it, but leaves more serious gamers hungry for more, as there are no ways to 'do it different next time.'

Screenshot for XCOM 2 on PC

The way soldiers are managed is improved in that there are more options now, such as placing 'add-ons' to weapons, which can be things like +10% accuracy or a small chance of getting a free turn. This type of thing was much needed compared to the simple system in the first release. Lastly, there are the solider skills that affect battle but are assigned here. Each solider becomes a certain 'class,' such as sniper or ranger, and as they level-up, they get skills. This is a heavy RPG element but it actually works pretty well, overall, where a player on level-up has to decide whether their ranger, for example, gets either extra sword damage or that they can hide better.

In battle things have not changed significantly, as it takes place in an isometric view, controlling a small squadron of soldiers through random maps. Each and every solider has two actions, in general, the first being 'one move, one shot' and the other, 'two moves,' although some skills use an action point. As they advance, they will reveal aliens that then react by running and hiding before the battle commences. A major element is 'cover' - hiding behind walls adds either a 20 or 40% reduction in accuracy, so battle often revolves around taking reduced shots or flanking enemies to reduce the chance.

It all plays very much like an RPG, mixed with Gears of War, which is notably different from its roots. In XCOM 2, for instance, when taking a shot at an alien, when everything is factored in - say there is a 20% chance to hit - exactly one of two things happen: either the alien, and that alien alone, is hit, or the shot misses (sometimes hitting its cover based on the weapon), and, further, the player can only target sighted enemies of that single soldier, not fire at others sighted or even into the darkness.

Screenshot for XCOM 2 on PC

This change is from an element that was fundamental to the series infamous for shots that randomly head-shotted high value targets in the back corner of a battle, to crazy shots of mowing down every alien except the one targeted. It makes the entire battle feel more like a bunch of one-on-one battles rather than a full-on war. Lastly, aliens are always revealed in packs of three, which then proceed to run to cover, which has been an issue with many players and it still exists from the past. This removes the entire premise of turn-based gaming, as they get the jump despite it being the turn of the human-controlled troop. All this really does is make it so that instead of fun encounters of turning a corner to find a surprise alien, it forces a slow crawl forwards, ready to mow the three aliens down after they move, then slowly crawling forwards again, with no chance of back attacks, surprises, or anything epic or memorable.

XCOM 2 is an enjoyable trek but it is not the type of game that benefits repeated playthroughs because there is not the replayability the originals had. Each battle, despite new aliens, plays exactly in the same way: plough the pack and creep forward again. The RPG elements are very cool and help with the attachment to soldiers, but the inescapable fact is that battles are simply too narrowly defined in how they occur, making them a bit more of a grind then they ever should have been. Overall, the atmosphere of guerrilla war is fairly well done, but again too many things are just 'simple' without much depth to let the game become the classic the originals were to become. All of this goes into the overall feel that it is enjoyable from a play through, but there is not enough depth to encourage replays, as a single run gives almost everything there is to see.

Screenshot for XCOM 2 on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

XCOM 2 improves many aspects over the original, as well as adding some much needed atmosphere through its uphill battle narrative. In many ways, this has much more balance between classes, and weapon customisation is a notable difference, and players really come to know their soldiers they are potentially sending to death. However, a decrease in many already sparse elements, such as no UFO interception and bare minimum base management, makes the romp through approachable to many, but leaves the hardcore types unlikely to want to work beyond the finish line once, and will likely not leave a legacy like the originals did.

Developer

Firaxis

Publisher

2K

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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