XCOM 2 Review
I quite liked XCOM: Enemy Unknown – and the expansion pack Enemy Within – so it goes without saying that I was looking forward to XCOM 2. While in many ways XCOM 2 manages to recapture a lot of the same fun and the sequel is certainly more balanced, some of the features from Enemy Unknown are missing and there are some technical hiccups as well.
The first thing I noticed is that the early game is much, much harder than Enemy Unknown’s. Most enemies have more health than Enemy Unknown’s and the game drops mind controlling enemies on you starting with the first main mission. Keep in mind that I was playing on the “Veteran”difficulty which is considered to be the normal game experience. Anyone looking for an accessible game geared towards casual gamers should look elsewhere as XCOM 2 is a very hardcore experience designed for players looking for a challenge.
At the same time, I can commend Firaxis for rebalancing the game enough that the endgame is no longer a cakewalk. Scientists, soldiers and engineers are harder to come by than they were in Enemy Unknown while resources are far more scarce and ignoring the timer will get you a game over rather than simply losing some of your income. And your soldiers are often nerfed as well. Not only are snipers less accurate but Psi Operatives are now their own class so they don’t also have access to another class’ entire skill tree which in turn keeps them from being as completely overpowered as they used to be. This is actually a good thing as even towards the end of the game, I was unable to take on some missions because I had too many injured soldiers, nor was I able to complete other objectives because I didn’t have enough engineers to build the facilities that I needed. XCOM 2 does a lot right in terms of never making the player feel too powerful.
Yet there are also some jarring omissions. Gene mods are gone so it’s now impossible to completely customize a soldier by throwing cash at him/her. The MEC Trooper is also removed from the game and merely replaced with powered armor which doesn’t feel as unique or as fun. Some of the enemy types like Thin Men, Cyberdiscs, Seekers and Floaters are also removed. Finally, the Archangel armor has been taken out of the game which is rather odd when there’s a flying enemy in the game and the potential for aerial combat is now missing. As somebody who likes sequels to feel bigger, XCOM 2 in some ways feels a lot smaller and more limited. While I can appreciate the Andromedon, Shieldbearer, Gatekeeper and Viper, it feels strange to have roughly the same number of enemy types. I’d love to see a full expansion come about where I can fight against some old favorite alien species in addition to the new ones.
As for how the game runs, I’ll just state that it helps to have an absolute beast of a rig. I had more than the recommended requirements and I had to turn certain settings down and even then there were performance problems and other technical issues. Load screens are incredibly long and load times in between turns as debris falls are also not only conspicuous but long enough to be notably unpleasant. Frame rates often started out for me at a consistent 60 FPS but then dropped down to single digits as soon as some of the level geometry got damaged. While XCOM 2 may be a turn-based game, the poor performance is absolutely unforgivable on a title which is a PC exclusive.
There are crashes and missing animations which never should have made it past QA. While I’d be able to overlook those problems on an indie title, there is no excuse for a AAA studio to be releasing a game with this many bugs in it.
I’d still recommend XCOM 2 since I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have a blast playing it. It doesn’t run as smoothly at launch as its predecessor did and may be missing some of the enemy types, classes and customization features that I loved from the reboot but I still took the time to earn as many achievements as I possibly could and logged over 40 hours. While it may not be as polished as it could be, it’s still one of the better turn-based tactics games on the market.
– High level of difficulty
– Much more balanced than Enemy Unknown
– Never lets you get complacent since one wrong move will get your soldiers killed.
– Poor optimization
– Missing enemy types and customization options