It is done. The first Timeline of the XCOM universe also ends in disaster. Though they fought a valiant campaign, the war was not to be won. Following two successive completely failed mission, resulting in the loss of 8 of the 10 combined soldiers, the Avenger was shot down. All the soldiers remaining aboard rushed to defend the entrance of the ship. Sadly, that last line of defense consisted of Warrior, Hunter and a Rookie. Three against an army.
The Inevitable Triumph of Man
The battle was brief. little could be done, and the three were overrun in a mater of minutes. The remaining members of XCOM, the engineers, Tygen, Bradford, Shen and the Scientists are all assumed to be dead.
But, in another timeline, with another crew of warriors, maybe they will prevail against the forces bearing down on them. Then again, Maybe they wont. Perhaps one universe in 10 gets the chance to survive the invasion. Maybe less.
I had hoped, going in, that this game would be hard. XCOM: EU was difficult in a very expected way, and delivered a specific experience for me that I reveled in. An Experience that was challenging, yet rewarded you for simply persevering and playing the game over and over again until you understood its inner workings and could finally make the whole system hum. I want a similar challenge for XCOM2.
I’m not sure I’m going to get it.
This first pass at the game felt very easy. I can feel what I did wrong, I think, and make course corrections to my gameplay to make sure that the game leans in my direction for the next run through, and am even willing to play through on Ironman the next run – Because I think that’s the real challenge in this game version: having no outs. If you fail, your game ends and you have to make corrections next time or you will flat out lose in the same manner again.
The Balancing Act
My initial feeling is that the difficulty in these games comes not from the actual combat, but balancing the multiple vectors of advancement that are simultaneously determining your squads output. Research, Rebel Network, Proving Grounds, Guerrilla Tactics, Staff, the Avenger, Supplies and Intel. This first game I went heavy into buying whatever looked useful, figuring that my squad would benefit more from my beneficence than it would my penny pinching ways. Turns out, that may not be the best thing for the squad.
Research: I’ve yet to determine whether or not some of the advancements are worth going after. It generally takes me 2-3 runs before I figure out, on my own, whether or not the damage output or the survival factor of my troops matters most. Here, I researched almost everything I could get my hands on as soon as I got my hands on it. As the game progressed, I came to realize that the autopsies now mean a great deal, unlocking greater and more powerful research trees. It may not be, like it has been in every other game, beneficial to hold off. Overall, I don’t think much has changed here. Find the most beneficial tree and follow it. I’m still working out what tree that is, though.
Rebel Network: This, I believe, it what cost me the game. I wasn’t prepared to stretch myself to thin protecting the globe. I figured that it would be more like building a rebellion than managing an uprising. It became apparent far to late that I had spent way, way to much time focusing on the initial continent without considering expanding the network. Tied to this is the pokemon concept of the area scans. Instead of choosing the best lead to take and securing it, I went after every lead that the Rebel Network provided. This ended up costing me an extraordinary amount of time to find some small amount of supplies or be gifted a pair or two of rookies. This mistake will not be repeated.
Proving Grounds: Similar to the old Foundry, this is an extremely important facility to have on hand as soon as possible. In XCOM: EU, it was the first research path that I took so that I could move forward with my assault as swiftly as possible. Now, I need to do the same. I need to discover the research tree that will allow me to get the Proving Ground up and running and get the best gear for my squad so that the aliens are kept guessing.
Guerrilla Tactics: This is my big weakness, and one that I really need to think harder about. Its extremely important that your soldiers are trained well, kept alive and are good at what they do. In XCOM:EU, Wounded soldiers took a while to recuperate, but the game was pretty plodding in terms of the timeline. Often, youhad the liberty to wait for that crack soldier to return to the battlefield before being sent out once again. Now, recuperation takes an extremely long time, and anything and everything that assists in returning them to the field of operation will take a priority. Its not a simple patch job anymore. Its crushing to get your characters blasted.
Staff: This is one balancing act that has changed immensely from the first game, and likely for the better. Instead of employing a legion of Scientists and Engineers you have people. Characters with names and bonuses and abilities that allow them to make a significant difference in the amount of work you Proving Ground and Science Labs can produce. It is imperative, more now than in any other XCOM game I’ve played, to make sure that your staffed properly in order to achieve the objectives you’re really gunning for.
The Avenger: The Avenger, the base itself, is a strong factor in how your game is going to play out, and I’ve found that clearing this giant beast out is extremely taxing on a small group of engineers. More are needed than you can possibly have available, it seems. I try and come up with my own building priorities based on how I play the game, and the first thing I am going to build in this next Avenger is a Rebel Communications Array. Without it, I cannot find, work with, or retaliate for the Rebel Cells across the world. this is a dire necessity, and needs to be dressed. I’ve got a pretty basic Idea of what my first three priorities are. Sadly, I cannot build everything at once. I think I have but a single open slot to start the game.
- Radio Communications
- Power supply
- Proving Ground
Supplies and Intel: Above all alse, this proved to be the hardest to balance. I need to figure out what I can sell on the black market, and what has actual value to the XCOM project. Mostly, I need to sell corpses and other bits to ensure that I have enough supplies to keep pace. While the Rebel Alliance Network failures cost me the game, My inability to keep pace with the aliens and buy new troops and crew contributed significantly to that failure. This second time around, I am going to look at keeping the tallies higher in the supplies and intel column, hoping for a much better ourcome.
Next week – Squad Tactics!