Publisher: 2K Games
Rating: T for Teen
The first series of XCOM games were originally released in PC starting in 1994 with X-COM: UFO Defense. The (then) X-COM franchise was known for its difficulty and turn-based tactical combat and released titles until 2001. X-COM then laid dormant after a couple canceled sequels leading up to the divisive X-COM: Defender, the last game in the first franchise run. 2K Games then acquired the license to the franchise in 2007, leading to the new rebooted series starting with XCOM: Enemy Unknown in 2012. Firaxis Games, the developer behind the hit “Sid Meier’s” series, had another hit franchise on their hands, and released the stand-alone expansion XCOM: Enemy Within the following year. Three years later, Firaxis is back with another installment in the rebooted franchise, and this time, humanity is on the ropes.
Twenty years have passed since the events in Enemy Unknown. The invasion was a success, and humanity has lost. It is time to take back Earth and show that the aliens have not been so forward with their intentions. Step back into the shoes of the Commander and lead XCOM to victory over our alien overlords.
Violence: XCOM 2 is a turn-based strategy game from a bird’s-eye perspective. Aliens and humans alike are shot, leading to yellow and red blood coming from the respective species’ bodies. Characters in your squad are in danger of bleeding out instead of outright dying, however blood does not pool around the body. When the ability Overwatch is activated, slow motion is triggered and the camera zooms in on the shooter’s perspective.
Drug/Alcohol Use: Character customization allows you to put lit cigarettes/cigars into character’s mouths. There are what appears to be beers on the table in the living quarters. There is a bar/memorial in the base to remember fallen comrades. No alcohol is consumed by the characters in actual gameplay; you only see it consumed in the base. This does not affect soldiers in combat.
Twenty years have passed since the alien invasion of Enemy Unknown, aliens now keep humans in check with the ADVENT administration. ADVENT has caused the XCOM team become nothing more than a name to avoid persecution from the aliens and their human supporters. You play as the Commander who has been kept in stasis by the aliens for analytical purposes, and are saved by “Central” Officer Bradford to help XCOM defeat the aliens once and for all.
These battles with the aliens take place in turn-based encounters. New to this game is that most missions begin with you starting off concealed, so you can set up ambushes on the aliens before attacking. This does not mean you can complete a mission without conflict however (believe me I have tried). Each encounter can go smoothly or terribly wrong in an instant, and they keep you on your toes constantly. If you do not keep your wits about you and keep track of everything, you will lose soldiers that can not be brought back to life after the mission…unless you are unable to live without them—you can just reload a recent save. Death is a consequence of bad decisions.
Choices are everywhere in XCOM 2. You have to manage your time and resources in your base. If you choose to build the wrong station or spend too much time not completing missions, the aliens will complete their goal and it spells game over for you. Like on the field of battle if you are not thinking things through or forward enough, failure will be inevitable. This does not mean you are always having your back against a corner however. You can assault alien black sites to slow down what is referred to as the Avatar Project. Depending on which facility you attack and when, you can affect how much progress is slowed. You can attack one facility and slow them down by one block on their progress meter. If you wait and attack a black site on the map after it gets bigger, it will remove five blocks and make a significant impact. If you make bad choices at the start, there is a high chance that you will need to start over.
There are consequences to your actions, though. After a few in game days, the aliens will start retaliation strikes. These missions will consist of either rescuing civilians from an ADVENT death squad or preventing supplies from being destroyed. If you fail these missions, the council will be very unhappy and give you fewer supplies with which to upgrade your gear and base. While you upgrade your squad, the aliens do the same. In the beginning of the game you will face regular troops and small squads, but as you become a bigger thorn in their sides, the enemies get stronger. Troops now wear armor and can make shields for each other; turrets start to guard supplies with more armor and harder hitting ammo—and that is just two examples. Most enemies are quite capable of taking you down quickly unless you make the first move, making for some intense missions.
Sadly, all of the great things about the game are dragged down by slow loading times, random game freezes, and fighting the camera. Load times between missions can take from 30 seconds to a whole minute. This happens with every mission loading in,d and then loading up the base to prep for the next mission—loading things within the Avenger is quite and smooth though. All of the missions are procedurally generated so this could be why. I have also occasionally experienced times in my games where after giving my soldiers’ orders, the game would not proceed with the alien’s turn, sometimes causing me to completely restart the game. This can be particularly frustrating when you are nearly done with a difficult mission. Freezes happen as well, but these things do not happen so often that they make the game unplayable. I have encountered this particular problem around three or four times in the five months I have played the game.
XCOM 2 is brilliant game that knows how to make you think, lest you will be punished. If you do think hard about what you are doing, the rewards will be grand and the smell of victory will be ever so sweet. While long load times are quite annoying, and freezes happen once in a blue moon, these issues have not deterred me from playing. XCOM 2 deserves a spot in your library, Commander.
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