Hands On: XCOM – Enemy Within

By Adam Smith on October 9th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

XCOM: Enemy Within escalates the alien invasion, introducing body modification, sky-squids and Mechtoids. After seeing the initial reveal at Gamescom, I was eager to try the expansion before release, but when I had the chance last week, I hadn’t expected to see humanity turning on itself. XCOM have encountered a new threat and this one originates much closer to home.

The first time one of my agents shot a human, bright red blood spraying from the wound, I was slightly taken aback. Despite the build-up to the mission – which told of a paramilitary group disrupting XCOM operations – I still half-expected to find something reptilian lurking just beneath the surface of the skin.

It was not to be. The Enemy Within does not just allow for genetic and cybernetic tinkering with XCOM agents, it also introduces an entirely new threat in the form of Exalt, an elusive army of transhumanist terrorists who are determined to use the confusion of the alien invasion to pursue their own agenda. From the player’s perspective, this adds another layer of activity to the Geoscape, new enemy types and a wider variety of missions.

Exalt don’t attack XCOM head-on. In fact, it’s possible to leave them to their own devices and concentrate on the more pressing matter of repelling the aliens. The problem with that approach is that Exalt are using their devices to hack into XCOM’s systems, stealing money and stalling research, and when they set up a cell in a region, they disseminate propaganda, raising terror levels and turning public opinion against XCOM.

“XCOM are rubbish”, I imagine they bark through their megaphones and type into their spam emails, “remember that time aliens attacked London and a Skyranger arrived with three rookies on board who started crying as soon as they saw a Chrysalid? Or the day your children were abducted by sectoids while a man wearing bits of alien as armour fired a rocket into a nearby dustbin and killed himself?” Even the most loyal of XCOM supporters may well remember such incidents with a frown. Let’s face it, in our efforts to save the world, we’ve all made mistakes.

Over time, Exalt create cells across the world. The more they have, the more damage they are capable of inflicting. To discover them, reconnaissance points must be spent, allowing XCOM to scan the globe in order to intercept transmissions. When a cell is discovered, it remains in view for a few in-game weeks, exposed and ineffective until Exalt manage to relocate it elsewhere. While the cell is in this vulnerable state, it can be taken out of action entirely and that’s when the new mission types come into play.

XCOM don’t bombard Exalt from a distance or attack them with an assault squad. The ultimate goal is to find the base of operations, rather than chipping away at the outposts, so a covert operative is selected to infiltrate and to gather information. This can be any soldier except a heavy or a mech, and some will be more suited to the task than others. No armour can be equipped during infiltration and no weapon larger than a pistol can be carried while undercover, which makes the agent extremely vulnerable during extraction.

Extraction is the tactical part of the mission. After a few days have passed, the infiltrator calls for an extraction team and they are selected, equipped and sent in as they would be to any other mission. On the ground, they’ll be on the opposite side of the map, separated from their undercover colleague, and will be responsible for clearing a path back to the Skyranger. To complicate matters, the lone agent must hack into designated terminals, marked on the map, before leaving. Without the data they contain, the entire mission is futile. And if that agent dies, everything is lost – all the extraction squad can do is hope to escape in one piece.

Exalt are tough opponents. They have access to the same equipment as XCOM, and grenades and rocket launchers can be seen strapped to their belts and backpacks. I replayed the same map twice, attempting to improve after losing four agents on the first pass. Exalt are smart, using cover intelligently and waiting for XCOM to cluster together before launching area effect attacks. They adapted well to my altered approach on the second run-through. Instead of attacking through the congested centre of the map, I split my forces and sent them creeping around the periphery.

Instead of hunting for my troops, Exalt vanished into the shadows. I thought they were stationary, the game allowing me breathing room that I hadn’t necessarily earned. As I blundered onward, moving from cover to cover and attempting to set up a killzone, I realised my mistake. Exalt had used my apparent hesitancy to concentrate their attentions on my covert operative. As he approached the first terminal, four enemies came into view, converging on his position. With only a pistol to defend himself, he was forced to retreat, increasing the gap between my various units and eventually leading to complete and abject failure.

Whether it’s the setup of the map, with the squad split and objectives scattered, or the improvements to AI, the brief hands-on with the Exalt missions marked them out as highlights. They should become more interesting as the campaign progresses as well. Exalt believe that the aliens’ technology and biology can be harnessed to fulfil their transhumanist dreams. They will begin to use alien weaponry, just as XCOM do, and they will follow XCOM in altering the bodies of their operatives. However, they will tread where XCOM fear to go, pushing their modifications to extremes.

The new enemy can be destroyed, although the aliens continue to be the game’s focus and are the heart of the war. Exalt have a base and by capturing intelligence during covert operations, XCOM gather clues as to where it is located. Through a process of elimination, the player can ‘accuse’ a region of harbouring the base, but if the accusation is false, the results are grave. Should the headquarters be discovered, XCOM have a base invasion to deal with, but as the aggressors rather than the defenders.

As an addition to the game’s strategic layer, there’s a possibility that Enemy Within and Exalt will distract from the campaign rather than adding any real complexity to it. The new mission and enemy types add pleasing variety to the tactical combat that is XCOM’s core, but only a full playthrough will determine how the balance of demands on the Geoscape will alter the flow of a campaign, for better or worse. With the new unit modifications already detailed, I hadn’t expected anything as significant as a new faction in this second reveal and I’m convinced that, if nothing else, Enemy Within will have enough content to make another run through the campaign a worthwhile proposition.

I spoke to lead designer Anand Gupta about Exalt’s motives, the second covert mission type, X-COM: Apocalypse’s factions and simulated city, and how to maintain balance while introducing new systems. That’s coming soon.

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109 Comments »

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  1. Bull0 says:

    Yeah, that’s a big surprise. Very very exciting. I enjoy that the new faction look like the protagonists from The Bureau, and hope that that’s a deliberate dig :P

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      Tom De Roeck says:

      Well actually, it could be a splinter faction from XCOM from the 60s. Just play the game and it could make sense.

      • Bull0 says:

        …Did you hear that muffled wet bang? That was my mind being blown

  2. draigdrwg says:

    The three moves ahead ep on this is worth a listen too:

    https://www.idlethumbs.net/3ma/episodes/enemies-within-and-twilight-struggles

  3. klmx says:

    Very stoked for this

  4. DatonKallandor says:

    Do enemies still get a free move when you see them? Because that is the single dumbest piece of turn based game design in decades.

    • finalfanatik says:

      This.
      I can forgive it, because the rest is so good, but GRAGHBLEAHH it’s annoying.
      It’d be nice for the element of surprise to go in my favour the same way it tends to with the aliens.

      • Grygus says:

        If it doesn’t trigger “I’m a cheater” self-hate, there is a mod package called Toolboks that has a range of options from removing the opening cinematics to adjusting the percentage of soldiers that are female to moving the free alien move to the end of XCOM’s turn, so you get your surprise round as long as you have some movement left to exploit it. Combined with the Absolutely Critical option from Second Wave, you will mow down aliens in unprecedented fashion. On the downside, any survivors get two consecutive moves before their first attack, which is occasionally disastrous, since Absolutely Critical turns traitor in that situation.

    • vedder says:

      Scan. rocket. done.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      On some maps I get chryssalids being “discovered” from outside the map, getting a trigger move AND a free move. In all I think they should be eligible for air miles, the distance they cover. It’s most rage inducing when the same issue allows a beserker to get right next to your squad though.

    • atticus says:

      Totally agree. I loved much of the game, but this, in addition to the “choose one of three missions”, ruined part of the experience for me.

      I also never became a big fan of the way the aliens were (re)designed. They just didn’t seem very intelligent when they were shown in the missions, growling and running around like animals. I wish they had been more sinister and less cartoony… especially the thin man, who looks like he’s been taken straight from some evil headquarters in a Disney cartoon.

    • Werthead says:

      I noticed after the patches and the DLC that this happens with less frequency. Sometimes one of my troops will light up a bunch of aliens and they’ll just stand there. It’s only when I shoot them that they scatter for cover and I get the ‘aliens discovered’ movement thing.

      Whether this is a feature of the patches or just the game bugging is unclear though :)

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      Zephro says:

      They just dive for cover… seems reasonable to me.

      • Bull0 says:

        Yeah, it seemed reasonable enough to me too. The gameplay is around managing your people during a firefight, not surprising the enemy and gunning them down before they can react. I’m not sure how the latter would be more fun, really.

      • Ravenholme says:

        I’m with you two guys on this. And if you really want, there are ways to catch them out without that free move. Using Battlescanners to find them before they see you, for example. I imagine that option will still be open and even more useful now that they purport to have fixed the teleporting bug.

        • Bull0 says:

          Sure hope they have, I was caught out by that once or twice – by berserker mutons, etc. Really ruins a classic ironman playthrough

        • WrenBoy says:

          Wow, when did they say that was fixed?

      • DatonKallandor says:

        If they get to dive for cover then why the fuck don’t my guys get to dive for cover as well?
        It’s a bad mechanic. It’s bad game design. I’ve seen veteran TBS players play the new XCOM and I’ve seen rookie TBS players play XCOM, and the first thing they all realize is that the free alien move is bullshit.

        • mouton says:

          Your guys are safe until you activate the aliens. Don’t scout unless everyone is in a safe position and/or has moves left.

          • Svant says:

            Which is the even dumber. The whole aliens do not exist until discovered is what really the tactical gameplay. You can have a big firefight in a room and the 4 guys in the next room will not notice at all. However if you want to do some awesome flanking with a shotgun dude you risk accidentally discovering them and they will suddenly activate. Its pure bullshit and horrible game design.

            I mean a tactical game where scouting, flanking and trying to maneuver is the best way to get you killed, fuck yeah.

          • mouton says:

            @Svant

            In one sentence you complain that they don’t notice you and then you are angry they notice you. Am Confused.

            Would you prefer if those unactivated aliens waited with overwatch for your flanker instead?

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            xao says:

            The situation you describe doesn’t match your complaint. In that instance you’re flanking without scouting, and it’s the LACK of scouting that got you killed. There’s a reason Find comes first in Find, Fix, Flank, Finish…

          • WrenBoy says:

            I’ve nothing against aliens dodging for cover in theory but the fact is that your guys being much safer when no aliens are in sight punishes flanking.

            Anyone who says otherwise will earn my worthless respect by showing me some footage of flanking consistently working on impossible difficulty.

          • mouton says:

            @Wren

            I don’t think we should discuss features basing on an intentionally broken difficulty. Flanking is not the only thing that stops working there – another thing would be high cover.

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            xao says:

            WrenBoy, that seems like a disingenuous argument to me. Your troops are much safer when you just sit in the drop zone for a while, then withdraw. I don’t know that makes for a compelling argument that the game punishes engagement. Flanking is an inherently dangerous proposition. There’s a reason that “Fix” comes before “Flank” in the four Fs. On impossible, I definitely still flank enemies, albeit more cautiously. I ensure I’m not moving into unscouted territory, and either move into a cover or plan to finish the enemy that turn. It’s certainly not running and gunning, but I find that flanking still has a place in X-COM.

          • WrenBoy says:

            @mouton
            I don’t think the combat on impossible is broken. An ideal difficulty for me would be impossible combat and the classic strategy layer. As it stands the strategic section on impossible is so punishing that you can’t afford any failure in the missions. This goes against the spirit of the game to me.

            @xao
            Tactics which work in reality don’t necessarily work in video games although it’s certainly fun to try. You can’t really scout without triggering enemies. You can retreat but that is more effectively used to generate overwatch opportunities than flanking ones in my experience.

            I generally see if I can destroy cover and then attack and if not I retreat putting guys in high cover on overwatch and the rest hunkering down.

          • jalf says:

            I’ve nothing against aliens dodging for cover in theory but the fact is that your guys being much safer when no aliens are in sight punishes flanking.

            Eh? Yes, your agents are safest when they’re not on a mission. But you win the game by killing aliens, and killing aliens is difficult without flanking.

            Are you complaining that flanking (on higher difficulties) is risky? Or simply that it confers no benefit?

            If the former, then, well, duh, of course it is. But it is less risky than *not* flanking and simply trying to take aliens on when they’re in cover.

            If the latter, then you’ll have to elaborate. Major increases to your accuracy and critical chance seem like pretty significant benefits to me, *especially* on higher difficulty settings.

            Anyone who says otherwise will earn my worthless respect by showing me some footage of flanking consistently working on impossible difficulty.

            Huh? Who said it had to work consistently? The question is whether it is more consistently beneficial than *not* flanking.

            Was there a “consistent” way to fight aliens with no risk in the original X-Com? I must have missed that. I thought the whole point of the game was having to risk your soldiers.

          • WrenBoy says:

            @jalf
            Consistently the best strategy is certainly what I meant. If you flank only on the very rare occasions when you are certain not to trigger enemy attacks you will hardly ever flank. This is a far more efficient strategy then risking extra enemy attacks by flanking often.

            You do need the bonuses that flanking gives but as per my last comment you can obtain them without flanking by using explosives on enemy cover.

          • jalf says:

            Perhaps we simply have different preferences. I would hate playing a game where a single strategy was “consistently the best”. I think flanking would be broken if it wasn’t situational.

            Oh, and you do know that you can flank while being in cover yourself, right? You don’t have to expose yourself to enemy fire just to flank.

            As for explosives, sure, but you have a limited amount of them, and not all cover is destructible. I find both approaches invaluable in my games. I would be screwed without explosives, but I would also be screwed without the ability to flank.

          • WrenBoy says:

            @jalf

            I would hate playing a game where a single strategy was “consistently the best”.

            You may not like it but xcom eu is currently that game. The devs have explicitly stated that they are hoping the new mechanics will change this, ie punish slow cautious play and reward faster more risky tactics.

        • Low Life says:

          If the game went with the mirrored ruleset you seem to be asking for, they could remove the free move but every alien would instead be constantly sitting behind cover in overwatch. So they wouldn’t get the free move but they’d get a free shot at you when discovered. I guess that would be much better?

          • DatonKallandor says:

            Them being on Overwatch instead of getting a free move WOULD be much better. Because hey guess what – some of the most underpowered abilities in the game specifically remove enemy overwatch. Maybe if they actually had a purpose, such as aliens starting off overwatched when you discover them on your turn (but obviously not when they are patrolling into XCOM on the alien turn) they wouldn’t be the most underpowered abilities. And actually useful.

        • Bull0 says:

          If you left your guys out in the open and then they dived for cover when the enemy moved in on their turn, you’d only complain that they’d dived for the wrong piece of cover. You’re asking for agency to be taken away from you, which is weird.

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          Arathain says:

          Aren’t your chaps already in cover? Why would you need an extra move? Think of it as a special ability the aliens have called ‘Alert for Trouble’. It abstracts the fact that they are performing some alien task in potentially hostile territory. If you approach normally they spot you coming in time to take positions for the upcoming firefight. It means you have to go to extra effort to ambush them- battle scanners or stealth. A squadsight sniper on overwatch can do wonders too.

          Mechanically, it’s a nice way of setting up a fight in a challenging, interesting and atmospheric way. It allows the AI to rely on on-the-spot calculations as to where best to move in response to your deployment, rather than having to set up at the start of the map and guessing which cover to be in. It gives one the sense that the aliens have a purpose, rather than just being arbitrarily hidden round the map. There are lots of good reasons for it.

          Anyway, with all the special abilities (and special brainpower) humans get, the aliens need all the help they can get.

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          xao says:

          I’d be interested in hearing why you think it’s a bad mechanic and bad game design.

          Personally, I think it works quite well in terms of design. It rewards more tactical gameplay and punishes recklessness, both of which are longstanding hallmarks of the XCOM series. It would be more realistic to have the aliens waiting in overwatch for you, but that would slow the game to a crawl and make Lightning Reflexes Squad Sight-levels of imbalanced.

          • Laurentius says:

            Which only brings forth how stupid 360 overwatch is, you know ? I don’t know what cause what, it just bad design pile up on bad design, and a lack of free aim, the net result is strangely crippled tactical game.

          • Phendron says:

            Laurentius, it sounds like you’re asking why they didn’t just make the original XCOM again.

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            xao says:

            I’d be interested in hearing what you think makes 360 degree oversight bad design. What would be a well designed field of overwatch? Why is that a better design than 360 degrees?

          • Nick says:

            fucks sake, the original X-com had a hyphen.

          • Phendron says:

            Pardon me, I was talking about that other game.

    • Lagwolf says:

      Hopefully this will be a Civ 5: BNW types of add-on/update/clean up the problems of the original. I found Xcom frustrating & poorly designed. There are too many flaws in the game to make it fun rather than a chore.

      Lets hope this update addresses some of those failures.

      • Hyomoto says:

        After this article and based on what we already know, I’m going to have to say no. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super psyched for the expansion but this clearly falls into a G&K-style expansion. Enemy Within doesn’t appear to address any strategic layer issues, a gripe of G&K. It added to the Civ V experience but until BNW it didn’t really tie all that content together..

        If that same trend is to be followed here, we’re one expansion off of the ‘one true experience’ for this series.

      • NotToBeLiked says:

        I don’t think we need to encourage Firaxis any more with the tactic of removing features in a sequel, only to add them later in DLC….
        Definitely not if they never bothered to fix the bugs in the game (plenty of those still there!) and the promised mod support still is nowhere to be seen….

        • Bull0 says:

          “Removing features in a sequel only to add them as DLC” is what Maxis do with The Sims, it’s not what happened here. If you’re really saying Firaxis should’ve started their XCOM reboot with a complete 1:1 rebuild of Microprose’s original, that’s awfully prescriptive and, I would argue, backward. I know I wouldn’t have bothered buying it. I’ve still got the original whenever I want to play it, it’s freely available on Steam.

          Plus, they did that anyway, and hated it, scrapped it, and went for the boardgame type thing we have now instead.

        • mouton says:

          I like how you ignore how much was added to the sequel and focus on what is missing.

        • scatterbrainless says:

          In effect that seems to be saying that you don’t want to encourage post-release support. Sure, ideally a game is perfect on release, but practically I don’t think that’s possible and responding to community feedback seems like worthy behavior for a company without hamstringing experimentation or streamlining during the development process. I know “streamlining” and “dumbing-down” are often two perspectives upon the same phenomenon, but I still think the former is often a legitimate design ambition without being necessarily linked to the latter.

    • mouton says:

      I prefer it immensely to how they behaved in the old game – i.e. utterly randomly.

    • ChiefOfBeef says:

      The ‘run for cover’ mechanic provides a tactical option in return, it’s not an imbalance. If you are opting for the element of surprise, you never use both your points to move or dash- you move, then you overwatch every time. You don’t go through windows, but stack up on the doors and when everyone is ready you have an assault or support pre-placed next to door in the previous turn(guarding everyone’s approach) open it.

      Aliens are spotted, they run for cover but without the benefit of cover the reaction shots they trigger are way more likely to hit. If the whole room isn’t cleared then you decide if you can finish the last of them off with the door-opener. If not, reposition them to cover flanks and overwatch or pop smoke if needed.

      I always use this method when things are quiet. It takes patience because the mission goes much slower but it is less risky and fights are often over in just one turn.

      • airmikee99 says:

        Suggesting using tactics in a tactical game?

        How rude.

        • DatonKallandor says:

          Yes “tactics”. Always only using 50% of your 2 actions every turn and constantly letting it tick over to exploit broken design. Edit: Okay, here’s WHY it’s broken: It removes any tactics in favor of there being only a single true tactic. It’s broken design because it completely removes all depth – all tactics.
          Suggesting design that doesn’t encourage exploiting predictable AI in a video game? How rude.

          • airmikee99 says:

            Oh, I get the problem now.

            You think someone here made the game. You’re not suggesting changes to the game, you’re whining about it on a third party site. Go to Firaxis and tell them your idea, that will make it a suggestion instead of a useless complaint to people that can’t do anything about said complaint, therefore making it a useless complaint.

          • mouton says:

            I like how people nowadays love to call things they don’t like “broken”.

  5. finalfanatik says:

    Super excited for this.
    Currently playing through Enemy Unknown for my blog (shameless plug http://wp.me/p3nptI-mY) on Classic Ironman, and I can’t get enough of this game.

    Looking forward to more, the Infiltration Extractions especially. I like the idea, sounds like a mash-up between the bomb threat and the extract VIP missions.

    • Ravenholme says:

      With direct control over the VIP, which is quite tasty in and of itself

  6. Turkey says:

    I didn’t know ska bands were that into trans-humanism.

    • diamondmx says:

      Ska bands are looking forward to genetically engineering their shoulders to fit in those massive suits.

  7. Drake Sigar says:

    How do they stop people saving, accusing countries one by one, and then loading if it’s a bad guess?

    Apparently soldiers speak in their native language too, something X-Com fans have wanted for a while. Between these little tweaks, the new maps, the new soldier types, and this new faction, it seems much more justified as an expansion instead of DLC.

    • Ravenholme says:

      Ironman. Otherwise you can’t stop people save-scumming, and given the game is singleplayer, it doesn’t matter.

      People want to save scum they can.

      • Drake Sigar says:

        Yeah I guess. I’m a bit of a save scummer and quite enjoyed trying to get around their Groundhog Day method of preventing that. Trying to break the cycle was like a cool game in itself.

        No wait, it was more like Doctor Who. You’ve used that timeline and it’s set, so now you have to try to change it within it’s own parameters.

    • Werthead says:

      Ironman will obviously solve that problem. If not, maybe you can do that if you want to, just as you can simply reload the original every time you lose a soldier if you’re not on Ironman?

      Ultimately, it’s a game, not an endurance test or an amusement for masochists. If you want to play the game in an ultra-hardcore kind of way with real consequences for mistakes, you can. If you’re a more casual player who just wants to have a good time and not get massacred every five seconds, you should be able to as well. That’s why they have different difficulty levels in the first place.

    • xsikal says:

      I would suspect there has to be some work done first before you can make an accusation (i.e. you’ve uncovered n number of clues, and those clues point to a possible base in one of 3-4 different locations), rather than being able to just accuse countries right off the bat.

      Yeah, that means people can still reload if their accusation is incorrect, but it also means they still have to have put enough work in first to at least get to that point.

  8. Trespasser in the Stereo Field says:

    I cried too the first time I saw a Chrysalid. Considering they can move about 56 spaces per turn and jump multi-story buildings and then move another 42 spaces, and then hit a soldier with a last mystery turn, they should scare anyone.

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      Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, my first experience of them was a nightmare. Only way to deal with them is to move your squad in close-ish formation with plenty of overwatch and no overstretch. And even then…

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    Zephro says:

    Cult of Sirius!!!!! YES!!!!

    That is all.

  10. Boosterh says:

    A new faction, one that at least gives the appearance of playing the game back, in both the strategic and tactical scales? A new set of troop upgrades? And an incentive to play the game at something faster than a constant overwatch crawl? Colour me stoked.

  11. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    Since my enormous problem with XCOM was that the campaign was far too linear and essentially the same game-to-game, I’m optimistic that the Exalt content will shake things up and improve replayability.

  12. sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

    I bought Enemy Unknown last week in the sale, and I’m a few hours into my first game.
    From what I understand above, this expansion is adding content into the base game.

    Therefore: should I stop playing now, wait for the expansion and start again? Or carry on regardless without it and maybe pickup the expanision some point far in the future?

    • jalf says:

      Well, that’s up to you, but yeah, it does expand on the existing campaign, rather than adding a new one.

      Personally, I finished the game on Classic Ironman, have been dabbling in Impossible, and will definitely play through it again with Enemy Within.

      IMO the story part of the campaign really isn’t a big deal, and the ending is frankly lame. But the gameplay is fun, and stays fun even after you’ve finished the game. So I have no problem playing through it again once Enemy Within comes out.

    • Werthead says:

      I’d keep playing, just to get a good feel for the existing game systems before ENEMY WITHIN complicates them. Jumping straight in with the ENEMY WITHIN options might cause overload, especially when the base game is pretty unforgiving to newcomers in the first place.

      I’m actually just finishing off a replay (and my sixth game overall) because I just wanted to try the SLINGSHOT DLC without the ENEMY WITHIN stuff going on at the same time.

  13. bleeters says:

    Ah, so the ‘enemy within’ refers to Exalt, I take it. Splendid. I suppose I can go back to shoving dangerous and untested genetic modification involving largely unknown alien substances into the vital organs of my soldiers without cause for concern, then.

    Not touching that MEC trooper facility with a barge pole, though. I don’t care how amazing they are,

  14. fredc says:

    OK, they’ve sold it to me. If it can make the strategic game less of an on-rails experience, it’s worth at least one more playthrough.

  15. jonahcutter says:

    This all sounds excellent.

    The one problem is, I kind of agree with Exalt. I’m all for pushing into transhumanism. It’d be uber-fun to play as them.

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      cpt_freakout says:

      Next expansion?

      Playing an Exalt campaign would be great, and it wouldn’t imply a whole different game like playing with the aliens would. They could entirely reverse XCOM’s structures: you answer to no council, there are several outposts or bases out of your control because they’re commanded by other cells, your research is way more experimental and therefore risky as hell, you need to wage a symbolic war with XCOM on par with the physical one against both them and the aliens (which could translate into other kinds of research, missions (attract aliens to XCOM in an area to drive their effectivity down somewhere else! Attempt communication with the aliens!))… there are many cool possibilities and scenarios for this.

      • Ravenholme says:

        However, I would play the hell out of an Exalt campaign because…

        “Shiny, let’s be bad guys.”

    • Ravenholme says:

      Yes, because it’s worth pushing in a situation where pushing it is liable to get humans annihilated and/or subsumed into an Alien collective.

      I’m all for transhumanism, but cautiously. Exalt is anything but – they’re radical extremists and not in any good sense of the terms.

      Heck, XCOM is ALREADY transhumanist, and even it’s not very cautious about it, but at least the talking heads seem to ponder the moral, social and ethical consequences of their actions, even whilst acknowledging they are necessary for our survival.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        “Heck, XCOM is ALREADY transhumanist, and even it’s not very cautious about it, but at least the talking heads seem to ponder the moral, social and ethical consequences of their actions, even whilst acknowledging they are necessary for our survival.”
        Nope. They re-recorded the scientist and engineer lines to get rid of the “what will we become” spiel. Valen and the other guy are both all into new-tech, new-bio-tech and new-cyber-tech.

        • Ravenholme says:

          I heard, but Shen isn’t all into it, he’s just not outright “Nope, this is a dark road for humanity”, he’s now “I can see how this is a good thing but we must be careful.”

          Exactly what I’ve been saying XCOM is in comparison to Exalt.

        • mouton says:

          Which is good, I found their conservatism a bit annoying.

          • belgand says:

            Yeah, I find this move to introduce transhumanist terrorists to be a bit disturbing. Already the game had a bit of an anti-transhuman bent (perhaps this came out stronger in the interview RPS did a few weeks back about this expansion) with this idea that cybernetics and genetic modification are bad and concerning, but this just crosses the line. I get that they want to make this a theme of the game, but in doing so they’re taking sides.

            When you turn a group into terrorists, especially in the current political climate, you’re not really presenting a fair or reasonable point of view. The best option you have is that X-COM is no different from them, but that’s still demonizing transhumanism.

          • Ravenholme says:

            I think they’re demonising the concept of doing it too fast, not transhumanism itself. They’re saying that transhumanism should be, well, human, not bootstrapping ourselves to apotheosis using things that were never meant for us. (And yes, that was a reference to the achievements of enemy within there).

            Which I support. Transhumanism is not something we should approach lightly, it’s something that really needs a great deal of thought and effort, as it’s potential consequences, socially and ethically, are profound.

          • belgand says:

            I guess that’s just an area where we disagree. It’s your body and as long as you’re not hurting anyone else directly you should feel free to hack it however you want. I don’t see any social or ethical considerations nor do I feel like they’re relevant areas of discussion. It’s what you’re doing to yourself and nobody has a right to interfere with that.

          • jalf says:

            I guess that’s just an area where we disagree. It’s your body and as long as you’re not hurting anyone else directly you should feel free to hack it however you want.

            Perhaps you missed the part where they *are* hurting others? From what we’ve seen so far, that seems to be a fairly big part of their activities.

            I’m pretty sure the idea isn’t that XCOM is the “body police” telling you what you can and can’t do with your body — but simply that this group is preventing them from fighting off the alien invasion. Which, transhumanism or not, is a bad thing. Their transhumanism ideas just makes them harder to get rid of, it’s not the reason XCOM objects to them, as I understand it.

          • Bull0 says:

            I mean, if you’re a fan of a particular thing and a game you like casts other fans of that particular thing as terrorists, I can understand getting a bit uppity about that. *HOWEVER* if you’re really telling us you don’t see any ethical issues with transhumanism as a concept, you must be pretty new to it. There are loads of really simple scenarios that throw up moral quandaries. Competition is a good place to start – you’ve got an augmented brain, so you get ahead in the career world, but I either don’t want to augment mine or can’t afford to so I’m left out. I’m hurt by what you’ve chosen to do. Moral quandary!

  16. Moraven says:

    Hoping for a strategic map less reliant on satellites and pick and choose missions…wishful thinking!

    Original XCom had an Alien invastion ramp up, so you had a few months before you really started losing influence in countries which required you to keep expanding bases and radars. EU you are at a constant loss and practically have to be lucky to have few enough orange threats when you get your 2-4 satellites built on day 20.

    • dftaylor says:

      I originally played this on 360, but got the PC version free when I pre-ordered Bioshock Infinite – in some ways I think i got better value out of that as a free game than the one I actually bought. I digress…

      Your issue is the one thing that frustrated me. I had three functioning teams that I rotated and I can’t run joint operations? Seems a bit pointless having all those bodies and not getting them out.

      Although, in the space of two battles my main squad got near massacred, and were all gravely wounded by one of those mechs and the first psychic dude in a robe that I met. It was messy – I even lost my first recruit in the battle – I miss his blonde Nordic face sometimes.

      My two best snipers and my support staff were all on medical leave and I get one of those “save the humans” missions. The sniper I had left was ace but I hadn’t given him the ability to move and shoot – which was stupid and I won’t ever do that again. The other perk has never been of any use to me. I had a four-man team (including Mr I don’t like to run and then take a shot), who were all utterly useless.

      Somehow I managed to take out those floaters and ANOTHER mech without loss of life – it still took another three days to get my army of untrained grunts together and start building their skills.

      That’s what I love about X-Com. Every failure helps you to refine your tactics and every victory against the odds feels like a great achievement.

    • Goldeneye says:

      “Hoping for a strategic map less reliant on satellites and pick and choose missions…wishful thinking!”

      That’s exactly what they’re doing with EXALT. EXALT missions rely on you actively rooting out EXALT Cells and hunting down their headquarters, unlike the Aliens where you just respond to alien attacks and research to get to the Alien Base. EXALT also exacerbates the effect of panic on the strategic layer, and are said to even do so in places with satellites on top.

  17. Edgar the Peaceful says:

    I’d pay a £5 for a full set of regional / national accents, although it should really have been part of the original game.

    No hint of these in the expansion? If not, they should untighten the mod-strings.

    • Ravenholme says:

      Localisation costs a hell of a lot of money, you realise? As it is, we’re getting access to all the voice sets that were localised – Mostly European languages. Asian language versions were never made due to cost and an inability to find voice actors.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Although a lot of languages were already built into the game, just people didn’t use their supposedly native voices if they were different from the language you were running the game in. You could only have one set of voices at a time.

  18. Stevostin says:

    “The new mission and enemy types add pleasing variety to the tactical combat that is XCOM’s core”

    If X-Com is tactical then getting the trashes out is fitness.

    • jalf says:

      Why exactly do you think it was *not* tactical?

      It is certainly fair to say that it was not the same tactics you’d employ in the original game, and sure, you can say that you didn’t *like* the game, but saying it was not tactical? I know I employed tactics, to quite good effect. Perhaps you didn’t, but I’m not sure how that makes the *game* less tactical.

      • Ravenholme says:

        Bitter fanboys who can’t let the new game stand on it’s own as a damn good remake and update to a classic. Nothing to see here, you might as well move along.

        • mouton says:

          I understand people can like or dislike whatever they want, but this game sure attracts a lot of emotional bile.

          • Ravenholme says:

            Aye, and my problem with it is that it is mostly an emotional reaction because it’s not a straight up copy of the original.

            However, if I wanted to play the original, I’d… replay the original.

          • Bull0 says:

            However, if I wanted to play the original, I’d… replay the original.

            I don’t know how people don’t get this

          • Dominic White says:

            There’s also Xenonauts, which is basically X-Com Classic HD. Throwing tantrums over one game not being exactly what you want when there’s another game that’s *is*… well, it’s a special kind of daft.

          • Nick says:

            And I’d like to play a modern version of the original with improvements. They are great games but not without flaws and an update to them could easily iprove whilst building upon the original. This stripped away most of the original and replaced it with flashy, streamlined, watered down mush, which tasted ok but lacked any real reason to return to, lest the flaws become glaring. One of the greatest succeses of the original games are their replayability which, by nature of the story and the general design, this game almost completely lacks. It’ll be one more play through with the expansion stuff and done most likely.

            tl:dr, fun game but wasted a lot of potential of the series, which is sad as its had its fair share of wasted potential already.

          • Bull0 says:

            Yeah, I couldn’t disagree with you more strongly. They stripped away senseless busywork – like checking each of your guys was carrying enough ammo clips? Reloading their guns between missions? Please. Replayability? The very notion of scarcity in the new game – which was utterly missing from the original, you could literally make self-sustaining factory bases and you were never short of seats in the skyranger, just bring everybody – encourages replayability because you don’t have enough resources to try everything the first time round. You have to make choices. Plus, 5 difficulty levels that actually work (in UFO, you were always defaulted to beginner after the first mission because of a bug, as I recall) and the second wave options. No, sorry, it’s replayable as hell, the fact that doing so doesn’t appeal to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

          • Premium User Badge

            Wisq says:

            I think you missed the part where Nick said “they are great games but not without flaws and an update to them could easily improve whilst building upon the original”.

            “Manage every single bullet” and “unlimited ammunition” are two opposites on either end of a spectrum. Same with “finicky action points that make it hard to tell if you’ll have time to do what you want” and “one move, one action”. The former were extreme micromanagement because the technology of the time didn’t allow for a fancy UI and mechanics that would make these things more intuitive and automated. The latter is extreme oversimplification because Firaxis (perhaps rightfully) thinks that we don’t want a verbatim copy of the finicky original, but has either misjudged the reason we don’t want that, or thinks it was all just too complicated for our simple monkey brains, or just can’t be arsed to think up a better solution.

            What if XCOM had kept the limited ammunition system, but had persistent inventory, where you decided how much a particular soldier should carry and it would automatically reload and restock them every time they returned to base? What if it had action points, but had a staging system whereby you could “try out” a move (without revealing any new information, since you haven’t moved yet) to see if you have enough points to reach a destination and perform the given actions?

            Also, keep in mind that we don’t lobby for these mechanics out of a sense of nostalgia, or a desire for realism (although that helps immersion), or as a sort of strategy nerd-wank. We want them because they were good gameplay. Limited ammunition and item loadout freedom made you choose between arming a soldier to the teeth (and heavily encubering them) or giving them just the essentials (and lots of mobility). Action points fed directly into the reaction fire system, whereby the more action points you left a soldier, the earlier and more frequently they would fire on any enemy that came within range. These were reasonably simple systems that added a lot of tactical depth, and their removal is to the strong detriment of the game.

            There are ways to make the interface intuitive and usable without gutting the game mechanics. What bothers me about XCOM is not that it’s a different game with the same name, it’s that they had a great example of an excellent game that just needed some modern UI improvements, and instead, they chose to gut it, reduce your strategic options to “pick one of three missions”, reduce your loadout options to “primary, secondary, item”, and reduce your tactical options to “move, shoot, and reload now and then”. They picked the lazy option every step of the way, and that’s disappointing.

          • mouton says:

            If you want an upgraded original, you got the excellent XCOM:Apocalypse and modern Xenonauts. Go play them and leave us to our dumbed-down flashy no-strategy gutted lazy option, kk

  19. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Should the headquarters be discovered, XCOM have a base invasion to deal with, but as the aggressors rather than the defenders.

    So we get base invasions (where XCOM have to defend) now then? Cool!

    • Ravenholme says:

      That statement talks about Exalt Headquarters being invaded by XCOM.

      However, the Security Breach trailer clearly shows XCOM headquarters being invaded.

      • Sir Motorsheep the Marbled says:

        I do hope that the scene you mentioned does reflect actual gameplay and is not just there for drama. (forgive me for not watching the trailer you just linked to – I am on a slow internet connection as of this moment)

        XCOM base defense missions would be entirely capable of motivating me to get this and play through the game again. That is not to say I did not enjoy the base game. On the contrary – I loved it dearly. I am just not the person to beat a game twice.

        • XDeus says:

          The Steam Achievements have listed “Get 4 kills with Base Security Personnel” for months now (All Hands on Deck, bottom of the list for me), so I would assume a base assault is in, even if it is a scripted thing. Not targeted at you, but I’m astonished that I’ve seen *nobody* mention this and it’s been around for months. They also indicated a human enemy by using Humans that definitely aren’t XCOM personnel on other achievements relating to kills.

  20. buzzmong says:

    Sounds good, hopefully they’ve pretty much ditched the satellite mechanic though, not only because it’s rubbish, but because on harder difficulties, it forces you to focus on it above all else less you lose the game.

  21. tigershuffle says:

    Hi,
    picked X-Com from amazon.com just the other day.
    The collection is on offer for $9.99 ….just do the usual US shenanigans
    http://www.hotukdeals.com/deals/xcom-collection-steam-download-6-19-amazon-com-1671368

    love the game……absolute bargain