I’ve not talked about it much, but there is another massive drain on my free time. on that has been the boogyman to my Fallout gameplay, my hobby time and my sleep for a long while now. Its also going to be one of the few games I ever break my rules with.
Because its XCOM, and there is little like it in the world of video games.
*there are possible Story and Mechanic spoilers. You are warned. I will not mention it again this article*
XCOM holds a special place, something I’ve harped on before. I could play the game for hours upon hours, and have, without really getting tired of the game play. The remake gave me hope that we could, at some point, have a series of XCOM games to relive my childhood through. With XCOM 2 coming this Friday, The dream has started.
I can’t really write enough about the game prior to release, as I’d only read a single article on it, and have followed the games design only fleetingly through twitter and the other internet sources I have.
This game. Is Awesome.
Its 20 years after the first game, and the world has been united under alien rule. The leaders grant boons to their followers, granting them gene therapy and splicing, enabling powers beyond the normal ken of humankind.
Oh, whats that? You thought that you saved humanity at the end of the first one? Well. The game takes place after your first run though. On Impossible. It assumes that you were smeared with barely a blip in the aliens plans and that XCOM was unable to hold back the tide. Now, 20 years later, its remnants still hold on, trying desperately to free earth from the psionic hold of the Alien Overlords.
I’ve managed to play for about 5 hours, give or take a couple minutes, and Its been a rough ride so far. I’ve been able to meander my way into victory here and there, but I’ve also lost some troops. I feel less bad about that this game: We’re rebels and terrorists, fighting to free the world from some cosmic doomsday, its iron fist hurtling towards us.
There are 4 classes. I’ve got one of each right now. Well, technically no ranger. I just got back from a mission where he was killed. Going to have to train up another one.
This class is easily my favorite. Stealth-based with a penchant for xenomorphic vertical bisection, the ranger is the evolution of the Assault class from XCOM. Armed with either a shotgun or an assault rifle as well as a machete, they are able to advance under cover of stealth into the heart of the enemy and begin the operation
I’ve had a pair of Rangers, and I enjoyed using them. Their ability to get into flanking positions and make quick, devastating melee attacks has been a boon, finishing off enemies or taking down weak ones on the flanks. I keep getting them killed, though, as often their melee attacks leave them extremely exposed. The shotgun is perfect here, as it almost never was in XCOM, as they are itching to get close to an enemy and take them out with melee, but will suffer your gunplay if needed. Stealth being a core part of their class also helps make sure they can keep out of the eyes of the enemy.
This class is an upgrade to the old sniper class. Armed with a traditional sniper rifle, they also carry a heavy duty pistol that they are clearly not afraid to use. Equally proficient in both weapons, I don’t fear bringing one on a mission, as was the case with the Sniper, due to lack of combat capabilities in the early levels. Instead, the pistol offers a deadly and effective option when long range combat just isn’t going to cut it.
I’ve one sharpshooter, and now that I’ve written it down, she’s going to die in the next mission. She’s been a coin flip, and its hard for me to really get a bead on the classes abilities. Squadsight being the first core feature of the class is of great use, but I’ve had problems lining up good shots. Its very likely that at such a low level, her aim just isn’t particularly accurate. However, on more than one occasion, I’ve had her saunter up to the enemy and drop them with that giant hand cannon she’s tot’n.
The natural equivalent to the support class in XCOM, this class embodies the XCOM2 ethos much more than its old template. Its outfitted for war as well as for assistance, and the Gremlin Drone it commands is a natural extension of the abilities of the class, allowing the specialist to chip in damage (sometimes guaranteed), Heal, and Hack. A master of Alien warfare.
Thankfully, my Specialist experiences have been good. I’ve been able to hack a number of objects and gain significant benefits from it. On the other hand, almost every excellent play she’s made has been by killing an enemy either at point blank or close range, as she has a good ballistic skill and decent movement. I will see, going forward, whether or not her significance increases or decreases. I hope its the former but fear the latter.
I’m not fond of the name, but the classes effectiveness cannot be denied. Lacking the rocket launcher of old, he instead comes prepared with a grenade launcher. While not as reliable or long ranged at his original counterpart, he does make up for it with versatility and quantity, starting the game off with two grenades, and the ability to throw clouds out there if you dedicate him to a more support role. He also comes armed with a cannon, and can contribute round to round against aliens that require a slightly gentler caress.
Grenades, man. You can never have enough of them, especially in the early game. One of the key methods, outside of flanking an enemy, is to remove their cover. The grenadier is superbly equipped to do this. With two long range grenades that devastate cover as well as an ability called devastate early on that also destroys cover, the grenadier trades the upfront stopping power for a bit of enabling. making sure you snipers and rangers can hit is extremely critical.
I’ve only managed to run into two alien species so far in the game. I am a bit disappointed that they are so different from the initial vectors they veered from, but I can understand wanting to make it feel like a different time and timeline all together.
Sectoids have been augmented and improved since the last game, and are now feral mind warriors of boundless power. I’ve had them resurrect dead troopers, mind control my allies, and incite panic in my entire troop. I exterminate these enemies with extreme prejudice. The last thing I want is my men turning on me.
Speaking of which. The faceless are shapeshifters who, so far, have taken the guise of humans to better pass among them. I’ve encountered only one, pretending to be an innocent civilian until I got close enough, it turned into a giant walking fleshbag, and beat my poor ranger to death. not to be messed with, I erased him from the planet as soon as I could possibly do so.
They clearly learned from the Long War mod for XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within. The Class trees are more competitive, and the skills more relevant. Once a certain facility is built, they allow random additions to soldiers skill trees from other classes, creating unique combinations you may never see again. Melee is built right into the game, and is extremely intuitive. The story, too, grabs you in a way that I’d not expected, putting characters from the original game in alongside new, compelling characters. You’ve got a bit of a shift in POV, as well, that changes how the game plays. Making you a set of terrorists, amplified up by your need to stay concealed until the perfect time in game to ambush and assassinate portions of the government gives you a significantly altered feel. No longer are you humanities last hope, the Avenger in the Darkness. Now, you stand alone on the brink of disaster, holding humanity by the hair as they try to plummet into the abyss, and you are bound and determined to save them, even if they don’t see it in front of them.
I’ll be getting more of my thoughts on to paper as the weeks go by, and I’ll be streaming live games on twitch from time to time:
Look me up on Twitter and Facebook for times, as they can be random, though I am going to try and start up Friday nights at least until I beat the game.