GamingHands on With XCOM 2

Hands on With XCOM 2

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Recently I had the privilege of getting to play Xcom 2 with the nice folks from 2K. It’s fair to say I’m a huge Xcom fan so my expectations couldn’t really be higher. I’d be the kind of person who would ask for change only to complain that it isn’t the exact same game when it releases. It’s going to be difficult to get the follow up to Xcom right, especially given the devout community it has. If you haven’t seen it yet check out the teaser bellow. It’s old but still awesome so be sure to give it a watch! Oh yeah, the snake guy is actually a Thin Man not in disguise. Somehow they don’t look as irritating any more, but I’m sure they will be.

Things have changed for Xcom 2 in significant ways. The most striking change being that the Earth is lost. Forget about sending a soldier to sacrifice themselves and save everyone, that didn’t happen. Earth is totally inhabited by the aliens and they’ve settled in nicely. Instead of defending the Earth Xcom is now a collection of rebels fighting a guerrilla war to free the enslaved planet. If you thought you were fighting a losing battle in Enemy Unknown now you’re fighting a battle that is already lost.

A lot of the fundamental gameplay has changed to reflect this new overall objective. It’s going to be difficult to really see how things work until I get knee deep in some extended gameplay but first impressions are very promising. There are, of course, no nations to pull out of the Xcom project and provide your loss condition so instead the Aliens have objectives to complete as they try to achieve their final goal and it’s your job to stop them.

From what I’ve seen it looks like there will be plenty of desperate decisions and loss/loss scenarios, which is very Xcom. The Hologlobe has had significant work done and no longer acts only as a way to simply skip time to the next objective. That’s largely because objectives are more varied and the choices between which to tackle first are much deeper.

For instance you might want to sabotage an alien supply depot and stop them using certain equipment for a time. But in doing this the enemy may move a step closer to their goals even though it might make your battles easier down the line is it worth it now? It really looks like the decisions are going to be much more significant and not just dependant on which reward you want more.

2KGMKT_XCOM2_Screenshot_Ranger-Target-HUD

Moving into combat sees the same balance of alterations that remain true to what we all know and love from Xcom and well designed new features. Those familiar with Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within will feel right at home with the UI. It’s better looking and a few changes have made  it easier to control your squad but thankfully 2K haven’t just completely changed everything unnecessarily. Equipment is different, abilities are different and weapon modifications make a huge difference but I was able to find my way around the HUD with relative ease.

When I say weapon modifications I mean it too, not just adding a scope as an inventory item. For example the ‘Hair Trigger’ upgrade gives you a 5% chance that firing costs no action! Even more amazing it actually triggered as I was playing. There are loads of really cool mods to add to your weapons and the weapons themselves are more satisfying than before. There seems to be a bigger focus away from the almighty Plasma and Alloy weapons but it’s difficult to say until I play the game in full. Abilities have had a major overhaul too and represent something similar to those available in the EW mod ‘The Long War’. Classes are quite different from before and each is now more diverse with more powerful abilities. The sniper’s pistol is now an absolute beast and they get the ability to fire it for free every few turns as well as getting squad sight as their first perk. No more max level before the sniper is worth it!

2KGMKT_XCOM2_Screenshot_ADVENT-Trooper

Another big change is the shift from staff being numbers and stats to being fully designed characters. You always had the option to customize your squad, and crushingly name them after people you love, but engineers and laboratory technicians have always just been numbers. Now if you go to your workshop not only can you see the people with names working away but you assign them manually to their tasks too. There’s a much more personal feel than before which really reflects the new Xcom and its struggles.

To reflect Xcom’s wonderfully punishing difficulty you’re now fighting a lost battle against an even stronger force than ever before. It’s stayed the same in all the right ways and made changes that matter. It’s not ‘just’ more of Enemy Within it’s a whole new game with some literally Earth destroying changes. A lot is different in Xcom 2 and so far it is looking absolutely perfect.

phillvine
Phill has been the director of a small IT repair business since 2011 which he runs alongside studying for his degree in Information and Communication Technologies at the Open University. Video games are his real passion and they take up more of his time than he'd like to admit.

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