Unlike the rest of the PC gaming world, I wasn’t all that excited about XCOM 2’s launch. In fact, my initial feeling was quite ‘meh’. I can’t quite put my finger on why that was the case. Maybe it was an over exposure to games at the time (yes, it’s a real thing)… maybe cause I’m more of a fantasy guy and not so much into aliens or sci-fi… or maybe I was just plain tired. In all likelihood, it was all of the above.
Once I started playing though, it had me in its grip. I was put in a pod and transported to a future where Earth was now under the control of alien overlords. Humanity lost and its only hope is XCOM, a paramilitary organization, that is left to pick up the pieces and strike back from the shadows. I was hooked.
XCOM 2 is set 20 years after humanity surrendered to the aliens. While the aliens broadcast propaganda, a small group of humans (XCOM) aren’t satisfied with sitting on their butts and launch guerrilla attacks. Flying around in the ‘Avenger’, a ship powered by alien tech you reach out to other resistance groups scattered across the globe.
The turn based missions require some tactical thought and running headlong into battle will almost certainly get your squad obliterated. The game mechanics make use of elements such as ‘cover’ as variables to determine your chances to hit, or get hit.
Every shot feels like it counts – and every death as well. You can’t help but feel an attachment to your squad. With each battle your squad gains experience and attain new skills as they earn promotions (level up). They earn a ‘codename’ as they get promoted to Sergeant which only adds to the experience and makes each character unique.
Don’t get too attached though, if you lose a character in combat, if they get killed or captured, they’re gone and the only thing you can do is head back to the Avenger, toast to their memory and hang their picture on the ‘Memorial Wall’. Then it’s time to train someone new to replace the fallen and keep the fight alive.
Recruits will initially fall into one of 4 main character classes – Sharpshooter (sniper), Specialist (support), Grenadier (demolitions) and Ranger (commando). There are skill trees that mold each character into the cog that gets your squad moving. String combos and build not just teams, but a small army.
While character models are very nicely detailed and I like the way upgrades are rendered, it’s not all rosy. Even running on a high-end monster of a rig, the game is hardly optimized prone to lag spikes and memory sinks every once in a while. And then there are the loading times between missions that you have to deal with as well. The transition screens look really good, but it just takes too long at times.
XCOM 2 will provide hours of tactical warfare where you (at times) not only have to contend with the enemy but a countdown clock as well really does make you plan your moves. Even with its bugs, it is a solid sequel that looks like it will only get better with expansions.