The Right To Upgrade Arms – XCOM Enemy Within Thoughts

By Alec Meer on October 23rd, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

I’ve been playing unfinished code for major XCOM expansion Enemy Within.Here are some early impressions for you.

XCOM has a confession to make. All this time it’s been carrying on like it’s a militaristic strategy game (albeit with aliens and robots and psychics), but really, really it’s been a superhero game all along. With major expansion Enemy Within, it proudly rips open its shirt, throws its spectacles to the wind and brazenly displays the lurid spandex beneath. My current squad, for instance, is led by a Mexican in a bright pink mech suit, wearing a matching tribly. He can spray flames from his hands. He can leap over small buildings. He can seep healing gas from whatever’s replaced his pores. He is, in short, about as far away as soldiers get from the mopey-looking, meandering dudes in overalls who characterised X-COM.

With Enemy Within, XCOM and X-COM almost entirely part company. While that’s a statement that would have seen 2011 me immediately take my seat in the Angry Tank, here’s why 2013 me is absolutely convinced this accentuated divergence is only a good thing.

Despite what I just said about Enemy Within taking XCOM on a magical mystery tour into over-the-top superheroics starring Mexicans with metal legs, what it also does it transform XCOM into something that’s rather more clearly a Firaxis game. It’s become really rather statty. Making an efficient soldier, one who can confidently thin the ranks of what’s seemed on a few of the ‘new’ missions I’ve experienced so far to be a raised enemy headcount, means choosing and tracking many numbers. Even more so, if you decide to augment a given soldier’s genes rather than slice their limbs off and stick them inside a Transformer: Deus Ex-style implants confer an array of bonuses to Aim, Crit and whatnot.

Add to that the new Medals system, in which you can choose to bestow a limited pool of awards with their own Aim, Crit and whatnot bonuses to your best, brightest and bloodiest. And new types of ammo. And energy fields from Mech units which confer… oh, you know. Point is, there’s a lot to juggle and it’s really ramped up the emphasis on right and wrong builds. It’s not so much about keeping tabs on what individual stat numbers are, and more about ensuring you’ve stacked matching things on relevant units in order to then turn them into the superhumans poor, besieged old Earth so desperately needs to protect it.

Essentially, this comprises a bunch of smaller or even under the hood additions, but put together in a pot with the more overt new stuff – the soldier augmentation – what we’ve got is an add-on which, so far, has absolutely made what’s my fifth playthrough of XCOM feel fresh and different, gently forcing me to shed old habits and develop new strategies. If you’d asked me a couple a months ago what I most wanted from an XCOM add-on, I’m sure I would have banged on about a new campaign and loads of new enemies. Now, I realise that a remix was a much better idea.

Not that my experiences have all been good news. The game does feel a little cluttered now, in terms of the amount of things that need researching and building slow things down enormously – which wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t for the matter of keeping the XCOM project’s funding nations happy. With all my cash and efforts going into Mechs and gene-splicing, it’s much more tricky to raise the capital and staff needed to build more satellites and Interceptor kit. I had four nations back out in my second in-game month, which wasn’t because I’d fouled up any missions but because I couldn’t erect enough satellite dishes – which as you may remember also entails building enough relays and power generators and lifts and excavations – in time to offest their rising panic from the terror missions I wasn’t able to do. Still, it is feasible enough to get by, but my point is that all the new stuff – colourful and varied and silly and strategic – both steals focus from and really shows up weaknesses in the base-management aspect of XCOM.

Back to the new stuff, though. It makes its presence know almost immediately, which feels a little odd in that you can be fielding an eight-foot-tall cyborg long before you’ve worked out how to build laser pistols or armour made of something stronger than tissue paper. Still, I’d rather that than have to play through the earliest stages of vanilla XCOM yet again, and it means my focus is on building a new type of team than the usual rookie training and grisly trickle of alien autopsies.

The Mechs essentially constitute a brand new class, with their own skill unlocks and choices, and their own weapon’n'armour tech tree (primarily unlocked via The Foundry and researching heavy weapon types). Whichever class a soldier was before having their limbs chopped off and replaced with Mecanno confers a different bonus power to their resultant semi-bot state, so with a bit of care you can wind up with a team of Mechs who all play a little differently despite a common appearance.

The main thing to know about Mech units, however, is that they’re bullet-sponges – they don’t and can’t use cover, which means they’re a little more vulnerable. This stops them, and their high damage output, from being overpowered, especially in the early game, but it also means you’ll approach missions in a slightly different way. Without having to forever think about whether a unit is safe in its turn-ending position, there’s much scope to focus on flanking enemies or attaining maximum line of sight – or, for the melee-focused Mechs, getting them right up in an alien’s fearsome maw in order to introduce it to the knuckliest end of a powerfist (12 damage before any upgrades! Hummuna hummuna).

My team has tended to be three mechs out in the field causing havoc, two snipers hanging back to pick off stragglers and one Support equipped with medkit and Arc Thrower. That’s right, two items, thanks to a new option in the officer training school, and another small thing that makes a huge difference. Now every non-Mech soldier has an emergency grenade in addition to their usual best-kit (scopes for snipers, arc throwers or chitin for assault and so forth), and to reflect that there are a host of new grenade types – Flashbang, Thin Man-derived poison, Chryssalid-derived Needle, invisibility… And that all ties into the fact that researching alien corpses now yields multiple benefits, as opposed to just the faintly boring air combat buffs of XCOM-unexpanded. In other words, behind the headline making giant robo-guys, some of the nuts and bolts of the game have been made more rewarding and added many new branches to what was formerly a slightly skeletal tech tree.

Like I say, there’s a lot going on all of a sudden – a lot of choice, a lot of new toys, a lot of subtly or significantly different ways to play the game. Mostly, I enjoyed that, because frankly I have played XCOM to death. But if I hadn’t, I’d be more concerned about the effect on the game’s coherence. Everything seems well-balanced, but as I say it’s gone into full-on superheroics now, and the sense of being an all-too-human military force struggling to adapt to an enemy wielding impossible science is diminished.

It’s not been made easier for it, however – my fair share of hapless rookies still went through the grinder, and even a couple of Mechs met messy ends, all the more painful than losing standard soldiers. The enemy are quick to field Mechtoids, which is exactly what it sounds like in appearance and almost as deadly as a Sectopod in practice, as well as a new, invisible, flying tentacle thing that can pop out of nowhere to strangle soldiers. While they’re a deviation from the standard X-COM/XCOM roster, they do fit the game and they do require new strategies.

I’ll probably talk more about the gene mods, which add new abilities and skill buffs to ‘standard’ soldiers, when I’m Wot I Thinking Enemy Within; being primarily statistical they’re less interesting to both talk about and play with than the Mechs, but they do perform a useful function in terms of making soldiers more specialist and dealing with the issue of redundant or outdated kit – for instance, a suitably augmented sniper can now leap on to rooftops or turn invisible without having to wear Skeleton or Ghost armour. Options are good thing, but the trouble there is that there’s now little reason to ever research Skeleton Suits or Ghost armour. For the most part, Enemy Within has been fitted to Enemy Unknown in a way where the gaps don’t show, but that’s one of those instances where it’s a little more obvious that a whole load of new stuff has been crammed in wherever it will fit.

Then there’s EXALT, the new human enemy faction, who look like a bunch of 50s Feds (a callback to poor old The Bureau, perhaps?) and wield essentially the same weapons as you, plus some amped-up gene mods. They bring with them a new mission type, wherein you send in a lone operative who carries only a pistol and a jacket that looks like it came from Top Man to suspicious-looking areas from base mode, which a few in-game days later is followed up by an extraction mission in which you send your main squad in. You then play one of a several variations of XCOM’s escort mission, wherein you need to safely shuttle the operative around various enemy transmitters or prevent EXALT from holding your own transmitters for more than a couple of terms.

It’s not a massive remix of the standard game, but between the tweaked challenge and facing your own weapons – particularly sniper rifles – it does good work in terms of stopping missions from becoming repetitive. It also means an additional narrative arc of sorts, as successful missions slowly pin down the location of the EXALT base, which leads to outcomes I’m not to chat about yet. There is also – at last – an event involving your own base which I’ll keep shtum on for now, but will have much to say about come the WIT.

In fact, I’m at risking of splurging all I’ll have to say about Enemy Within now, so I’ll wind things up at this point. There’s a hard stop in the preview code, with the promise of further new stuff and campaign alteration to come, and I’m absolutely gagging to get to that. From which you might, accurately, extrapolate that Enemy Within is very much doing the trick for me – it’s making me obsessed with XCOM all over again, it’s making me approach familiar situations with new solutions and it’s making me further accept Firaxis’ title as its own game rather than worry about how it does or doesn’t honour the past. I’m happy.

Just a few smaller observations I want to add, actually:

- the belated inclusion of multiple spoken languages for soldiers makes a huge difference. Having chatter in French, Spanish, Italian, Polish and Russian makes the XCOM project seem international at last, as opposed to the cheesy ‘merican action hero noise of before.
- a new button to unequip all items from all inactive soldiers is a time-saving Godsend.
- there are so many hats now. What is this, Team Fortress? I do love fielding an all-Trilby squad, though.
- This playthrough was the first time I tried the entirety of the earlier Slingshot DLC. Its trio of more scripted skirmishes makes a bit more sense now that the game as a whole has more setpiece missions, but the focus on a special character who even gets a couple of his own monologues is bizarre and inappropriate.
- There’s an excellent new mission involving a whale.
- Classic Iron Man or GTFO

Enemy Within will be released in about three weeks. You need to own XCOM to play it.

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101 Comments »

  1. Phoibos Delphi says:

    And I thought this was going to be the Deepsea Expansion… Enemy with Fins

    • BryanTrysers says:

      Brill, we’ve got people carping on about it already.

      • Michelle says:

        my friend makes $83/hour on the laptop. She has been fired for nine months but last month her income was $21331 just working on the laptop for a few hours check it quickly>>>>>> http://goo.gl/XjXcH1

    • S Jay says:

      Terror From the Deep is at the bottom of Firaxis’ Davy Jones’ Locker.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      They cod do batter.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      That’s what they’re calling it for the EU release. Stateside they’re going with Anemone Within.

    • distantlurker says:

      Seriously? No squidding?

    • The Random One says:

      This pun thread has nothing to do with the game. Water disappointment.

    • m_a_t says:

      Definitely bound to be a sub-seaquent addition.

    • HidingCat says:

      To be honest, I’m wouldn’t want to sea Terror from the Deep: It was a very hard game that gave me waves of ange and disappointment more often than knot. The inclusion of foreign voices is sound, and I’m now actually looking forward to have a whale of a time with the new expansion!

      • StarkeRealm says:

        I could have been fed a load of brine shrimp, but the story I read, years ago, was that the original release of X-Com was bugged, so it was always on easy, regardless the difficulty you set the game to. The developers didn’t know about this, and apparently didn’t experience it. Because, when the feedback for the original game came in, people were complaining that it was too easy on impossible. So they ramped Terror from the Deep up to absurd levels.

        That said, I could certainly get behind a TftD expansion, assuming it wasn’t murderously difficult on classic.

    • Fumarole says:

      These pun threads are really piscine me off.

    • SillyWizard says:

      It seems quite precipitate to introduce this flood of changes. I fear that the brilliance of the core gameplay will be washed away in a tide of new features.

      That said, I am looking forward to trying it out in Classic Ironman, even if swimming against the current means I end up floating face-down.

  2. DonJefe says:

    I feel spoiled with news from both Crusader Kings, XCOM, Wasteland 2 and Total War Rome 2 coming in quick succession. Of course this means that I am getting absolutely no work done.

  3. Robslap says:

    Can. Not. Wait. Any news on any bug fixes?

    STILL working on completing a classic ironman playthrough. Must be on my 600th restart by now!

    • bills6693 says:

      Apparently there’s also significant bug fixes – things like teleporting bug and other major things which they had to go deeeeep into the code for apparently (the reason it wasn’t fixed before).

      I believe that the bug fixes will also be for the base game even if you don’t buy EW, can’t remember where I read it but they did give a reason for holding it off till then.

    • mouton says:

      Rofl, it’s not that hard. Don’t restart if most of your team dies, you can easily rebuild when rookies got better armor and weapons.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        I think the problem was down to glitches/crashes, not down to difficulty. Though as I keep moaning about, certain aspects of the game throw the favor in the aliens court, and not for their actions, but for the foibles of the system.

    • Colnakdc says:

      i will NEVER be able to complete a classic ironman game.
      not because it’s difficult, but simply because i get too attached to my squad members : If one of them dies i simply quit the game before the game auto-saves.
      I really, really can’t let them die. this also happends on any other offline game with permadeath

  4. johnkillzyou says:

    Holy crap. This is every single think I wanted and more, but didnt know I wanted it. This is astonishing.

  5. Gap Gen says:

    The giant pink mecha man in the screenshot is incredible.

    • AlwaysRight says:

      +1

      I would totally buy a spin-off game/movie/album/book of that guy.

      • DrScuttles says:

        I get the sense that in another life, he could have been one of the most powerful artists of his generation. Touching heart and mind alike, his installations smashing all cultural divides and uniting the world to let us stand together in acknowledgement of our oneness and bringing about world peace virtually overnight.
        Sadly, this was not meant to be. When the aliens invaded his skills were forced to develop upon another path. One of war and sadness. One where he will be celebrated for being Chip, the Pink Mech Guy.

    • SomeDuder says:

      Actually, I was more distracted by the M. Bison cosplay on the left. Not sure what’s going on though.

  6. bills6693 says:

    Was surprised that nothing about the MELD and mission changes was mentioned.

    Also I thought that Firaxis said they didn’t want to new mechs & gene mods to sinificantly remove resources from your other priorities like sattelites etc, and this was why MELD was in there. Kind of worrying to hear that this may not be the case…

    • Zenicetus says:

      That worries me a bit too, and I hope it’s covered in the upcoming Wot I Think feature. Trying to get enough satellites up in the early campaign turns isn’t the most fun part of the game for me. It’s kind of a PITA to manage, while still upgrading your soldiers’ gear so they stay alive. If all this new stuff is available right away, and the finances haven’t been greatly adjusted to compensate, then that part of the game could be even less fun.

      I’m also surprised that you get all this right away. I was assuming it would be a mid-game addition and there would just be more missions added to extend the campaign length. Is it the same number of missions until the end?

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      I feel Alec may have exaggerated the amount of money that ends up being sunk into genemods and mec-gear frankly. A good few months into my campaign I dropped 3 countries and that was mostly through my own stupidity with my initial base design. Money was never really a problem, especially since you can beat Slingshot fairly early on and get a giant sack of resources. If you get lucky, Exalt can be a decent cash generator as well since each Exalt mission gives you a flat fee and a bunch of weapons you can sell, it really depends on whether or not they able to do a cash hack on you rather than a research hack or panic increase, which is random afaik. Most of the resources required for genemodding and mec is in meld, not money. Some examples of costs.

      MEC-1s are $25 each and 40 meld.
      Converting a soldier into a MEC is $10 and 10 meld.
      Genemods vary. The basic eye stuff is $5 and 15 meld, stuff like the Memetic skin which is a really powerful cover-based cloak is like $75, but you won’t really want to be doing that to everyone.

      Frankly, as long as you have a decent workshop setup at the start with the link bonuses, you’re going to get such massive refunds on everything you do, cash should not be a problem. As usual, your priority should be going straight for a sat uplink in a place that lets you produce future ones for the link bonuses and going for the Sat nexus research as soon as you can. No need to prioritise capturing an alien, lasers and mecs are absolutely all you need, particularly since genemods and medals will improve your aim enough to compensate for the lack of plasma.

      So yeah, honestly the biggest effect is that your research is slower than in the original, plus you can get research hacked which doesn’t help. Cash reserves shouldn’t actually be a problem if you don’t mess up and are happy with selling off lots of alien corpses and EXALT weapons.

      • bills6693 says:

        Ah, nice to know! Gonna watch the WTF Is tonight, saw the first few minutes and looked like I’d get a lot more info from that!

        Glad to hear it doesn’t affect the game badly that way then. Cheers

      • hotmaildidntwork says:

        What if we never picked up slingshot? Just, you know, hypothetically. >_>

        • bills6693 says:

          It’ll probably go on 75% off sale. As much hate as it got, I personally liked it (for a cheap price). Its three story-based missions, but the main attraction is that they are scripted missions, with two of those being quite unique from anything else you play on, all on new maps.

      • MattM says:

        On ironman classic, I found the slingshot train mission to be really, really tough. After many attempts (in different games) I just decided to ignore that mission until I had plasma weapons and high level armor.

  7. Viroso says:

    This time I promise I won’t use a lone sniper to kill every alien in the game.

    • mouton says:

      Squad Sight was supposed to get a slight nerf, I believe.

      If all else fails, the Long War mod seems quite interesting.

      • FriendlyPsicopath says:

        Long war mod is freaking awesome, allows you to deploy 8 soldiers, to RETAKE countries that you lose to the aliens, and many great additions(like 2 items per soldier) also lots of UFOs to intercept and no bullshit 3 abduction missions that you have to choose one from, no you get them one at time, but many more a month and your soldiers get a “cool down” period after a mission, cause stress. I have not finished a game yet using it, cause it gets really hard, but is really awesome.

  8. lowprices says:

    EDIT: Rather than sing sappy love songs to XCOM like I always do, I have a question: Is it possible to turn the Enemy Within stuff off if in the future I just want to go back to ordinary, outmatched humans vs aliens? The new stuff sounds great, but it sounds like it will downplay some of the atmosphere of the original.

    • deadfolk says:

      Yeah – this is what I want to know, too. I’d hate to have to not be able to play it the old way any more.

    • Hyomoto says:

      This is the studio that brought us Civ V, and it is possible to roll back right from in game. It may not be available from the start, but it very well may be patched in.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Firaxis has already stated you can still play vanilla XCOM. It’s an option when starting a new campaign.

      (I do hope some of the quality of life and bug fixes carry into vanilla though.)

      • mouton says:

        They should, the fixes modify the core files. The new campaign choice is probably only about new features.

  9. PlaneShift says:

    This expansion is looking awesome, but I am so frustrated with the base game bugs that I am not sure if I am going to purchase it. Stopping my first Classic/Ironman campaign where I was doing well just because the game decided to cut all my funding from satellites for no reason was infuriating.

    On your Wot I Think, could you keep an eye on the glitches?

    • Lagwolf says:

      It will be interesting to see if they really have squashed all the bugs. :Like you I found the original game to be a buggy mess & got fed up with it enough to stop playing. I have always had a low tolerance for borked/buggy games than some.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      There’s supposed to be a big bug fix patch for the game near EW’s release (like Firaxis did with Civ V’s expansions) so look out for that.

      I’d say see how the patch goes and decide if you want the expansion based on that. By the time you want Enemy Within it might even be on a proper sale.

  10. Baltech says:

    Sounds like the next best thing to a Freedom Force remake or sequel.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Aaargh, I was going to compare it to Freedom Force but forgot due to being stupid. One more thing for the WIT – as is discussion of the MELD system, for whoever asked about that.

  11. applecup says:

    For someone who has not played the base game yet (tried it on the free weekend finally, and liked what I saw), would it be worth playing with this the first time, or playing vanilla first?

    • Phoibos Delphi says:

      I´d recommend vanilla first, from the article it seems that EW is much more micromanagement and tech-heavy, so vanilla could be seen as a campaign-length tutorial. After you´ve learned the basicsof killing aliens you can go on to homicide, genesplicing and painting your mecha pink. I also recommend it because the vanilla game is lots of fun.

    • lowprices says:

      Play Enemy Unknown first. The two sound like noticeably different experiences, and playing the original will teach you the base mechanics before Enemy Within complicates things. Might be a little much to take it all in at once. For me anyway. You may not be as stupid as me.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Apart from the things said by the above posters, it has enough replay value as to make it worth a shot. You could play on classic on your first run, and then go ironman classic for Enemy Within!

  12. Spoon Of Doom says:

    Classic Iron Man or GTFO

    I’ll GTFO then. I love XCOM, but my tiny, non-augmented human brain is apparently far too weak – both in strategic thinking as well as in willpower to accept the death of my soldiers without reloading.

    • Llewyn says:

      I can maintain the willpower not to reload and to sadly accept the loss of my squad. It’s just that on classic there are so very many of them lost…

      • lowprices says:

        Just wait til you try Impossible. On Classic Ironman I can get through the campaign only losing a few soldiers. On Impossible I’m lucky to last to the end of the third in-game month.

  13. Wulfram says:

    I felt that one of the better things about the game was the lack of fiddly optimization , so I’m rather sceptical.

  14. Radiant says:

    [You understand, of course, that Harsher Measures will follow continued irritation.]

    • Radiant says:

      oh dude :(
      If your so attached to the phrase why don’t you…
      sorry :)

  15. DrScuttles says:

    This all sounds rather tasty. A fightydeathbattle sort of tasty. Sure, I’m going to buy it at some point anyway, but I’m vaguely interested in whether or not you can toggle the expansion when starting a new game (though I doubt I’d ever play with it off because MORE OF STUFF). And I’d really like to know what the map variety is like.

  16. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    So here’s the thing. I loved XCOM EU. But I don’t think I could play it again (having played it twice already). The broad strokes of the campaign are exactly the same each time you play it, with you seemingly able control the progression of the enemy simply by ignoring the game’s nagging and delay the completion of key objectives.

    Managing the base/ufo sightings IMO becomes a real chore once you’ve completed the game once. All of these additions sound really great but I don’t think I could just drag myself through the campaign again.

    • almostDead says:

      I agree. Gonna buy this and will love it, but the bit where Alec says that enhanced content was the right choice over new content is a stretch.

      It sounds like loads of new shiny, which will be a wonderful intense buzz, that wears off quickly, perhaps before a new playthrough is over, to be left with a mess of a strategic layer, which probably has had no thought in it to accommodate all the new focus on the tactical shiny.

      And his statement about even more ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ builds sounds depressing. I get that if you gene enhance a sniper with springy legs, you probably want to give him extra height bonuses as well, but a guy on the Escapist is already talking about redundant abilities on normal difficulty.

  17. mxu says:

    No automatic ‘Overwatch’ still?

    • karthink says:

      There’s two ways of doing this in the interface: Everyone with an action to spare goes into overwatch when you hit the end turn button, or there’s an end-turn-with-auto-overwatch button next to the regular end turn. I’m all for the latter (with a new keyboard shortcut), but from playing a lot of XCOM, I think the former is a bad idea.

    • Ravenholme says:

      That’s why Overwatch has a keyboard shortcut associated with it – Move everyone you want to move, then hit said key 6-ish times, boom. Everyone on overwatch in about 3 seconds flat.

      • jalf says:

        This is the key that differs between soldiers, depending on which/how many abilities they have? So doing this, one of your soldiers inevitably ends up grenading whatever random spot you had the mouse over.

        I really do adore this game in a lot of way, but wtf were they thinking with the keyboard bindings?

        • FhnuZoag says:

          Nope. Try pressing ‘Y’.

          You’re welcome.

          • Juke says:

            You beat me! Absolutely right. Most of the main commands have singular hotkeys, i.e. “R” always reloads. Why is the PC Overwatch hotkey “Y”? …Because that’s what button you press on the 360 controller to go into Overwatch. Try and wrap your head around that one.

          • Mokinokaro says:

            It’s far more likely due to the hotkeys being grouped together than the 360 controller.

          • Juke says:

            You’re probably right, Moki, but I’m amused at the thought of Firaxis trolling PC players via hotkeys.

      • nervath says:

        y – tab – y – tab – y – tab – y

        If you just press `y`, then you still have to wait a couple seconds after each soldier for the “activating overwatch” sound and the camera to pan to the next soldier. If you hit `tab` right after you hit `y`, then it will cancel the animation and immediately give you control of the next soldier. So, if you mash y – tab , then you can overwatch everyone in a fraction of a second.

        Except, of course, for that sniper you moved. That one you have to switch to pistol first, but usually don’t do that, because I always forget to switch back to sniper rifle, and then I end up inadvertently shooting an alien for 1 point of pistol damage instead of 5 points of rifle damage…

    • airmikee99 says:

      That just sounds like, “I need the video game to play the video game for me.”

  18. almostDead says:

    **** SPOILER *******

    A guy at the Escapist videod his first 30 mins of the base assault

  19. Themadcow says:

    “With Enemy Within, XCOM and X-COM almost entirely part company.”

    Pretty sure they already did – right around the time when Firaxis ditched big squads, AP, random maps and multiple base building. The Firaxis game is to the Gollop game, what Dragon Age 2 is to Dragon Age.

    • Lemming says:

      I’d say it’s what Dragon Age 2 is to Baldur’s Gate.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      One base is actually a GOOD thing, imo. Multiple bases let you cheese the game something fierce.

      I do somewhat miss the meatgrinder aspect due to the smaller squads though (ten would’ve been a nice round number.)

      AP – good thing it was ditched. It was conviluted and unnecessary.

      Random maps – 3D engine makes that much harder to pull off

      I’ll trade everything new XCOM lacks from the old one for the decently designed UI.

      It’s also not a “Dragon Age 2.” All I’m hearing from you is “change is bad.”

      (Maybe it’s to old XCOM as Dragon Age: Origins was to Baldurs Gate. A good game in its own right, but just lacking something from its predecessors.)

      • Ravenholme says:

        I’m with you there. I don’t even think it’s lacking anything, really, or the things it lacks rather were not provided even it’s forebear.

        If you want to play X-COM, play X-COM – OpenXCOM is very nearly finished, for example. This game is not a remake of the original, it’s a homage/reboot, and it excels at being a great game in it’s own right.

        In my opinion, I prefer it to X-COM, a game that I loved as well, for being more polished and generally less broken, and more enjoyable, frankly.

  20. Brackynews says:

    A trilby is a hat. A tribly may or may not be something your girlfriend does with her friends.

  21. Lemming says:

    With Enemy Within, XCOM and X-COM almost entirely part company. While that’s a statement that would have seen 2011 me immediately take my seat in the Angry Tank, here’s why 2013 me is absolutely convinced this accentuated divergence is only a good thing.

    Hook, line and sinker.

  22. CaptainHero says:

    So X-Com is getting load and loads of new toys to play with and to balance it out the aliens are getting … two new units… The game became a cake walk towards the end (even on classic), so I’m struggling to see how the difficulty is going to get harder.

    Ultimately, it sounds like they haven’t fixed the almost non-existent strategic layer – and that was my main gripe with the game. The X-Com base invasion sounding like a one off event makes it appear like they are papering over the cracks . Still, I have pre-ordered, will enjoy it I’m sure, but I won’t be able to escape the nagging feeling it could have been much, much more.

    • Juke says:

      Not that it will soothe your nagging feelings entirely, but Firaxis has commented that late-game units have had some rebalancing (e.g. if the Mechtoids are as tough as the Sectopods you’re used to… expect tougher Sectopods.) EXALT’s agenda does apparently impact the flow of the strategic layer, but I suppose each player will decide if the “feel” is different enough for them. With details thus far revealed, I think they reviewed every piece of XCOM: EU that engendered complaints, but you’ll never please ‘em all…

      • Mokinokaro says:

        Exactly Juke. This XCOM is a different beast from the old games. Removing a lot of complexity from the strategic layer (that was also horrendously cumbersome and not implemented that well in the old games, nostalgia be damned) in favour of a game that makes it much more obvious where you’ve made mistakes.

        Fans who want something closer to the original have Xenonauts and OpenXCOM.

        • Juke says:

          Can’t argue that X-COM has XCOM beat hands-down in the “stuff to do” category, but having played both, I’d say the original had its share of optimized, best-way-to-win strategies. There’s a reason X-COM vets know exactly what you mean when you say “radar bases.”

          When it comes down to it, I just like the choices Firaxis made when they were picking what to emphasize for their remake. The huge squads of the original game had their own charm, but the new characters feel like individuals. No naming-squaddies-after-their-best-attribute-and-weapon (“Mr. Aim-HE-Autocannon, get that Cyberdisk!”) Failures mean you might lose the war (Quickly). I’m OK with that possibility. I don’t miss the aliens slamming battleship-after-battleship into my main base’s defenses while I’m trying to train a few psychics for Cydonia. Or Blaster-Launchering-everything-always because why not? We’ve got Launcher shells spilling out of everyone’s pockets!

          There are tradeoffs in XCOM: EU, but I don’t agree with anyone calling it an inferior game. On the contrary, it is a well-crafted game. It might be hard. It might have a few “game-y” behaviors. But it is a well-produced game all the same. It just has different priorities. I happen to prioritize the same things, so I love it. Others don’t have to, but I wish they’d just acknowledge that a game can be well-done but still not click for them.

  23. Lemming says:

    This game will be good if they ever open it up properly to the modding community a la Civ. I see little point in playing it more than the once I did, until then.

  24. Nim says:

    They haven’t fixed interceptions, they haven’t fixed the satellite rushes. They’ve added mechs, augmentations and hats. I never asked for this!

    • Ravenholme says:

      Satellite Rushes have kinda been fixed – for one, all the new options will deduct from your ability to spend on a Satellite rush, and secondly, EXALT offers a way to lower panic in panicked nations without pushing satellites all the time.

      Interception was never broken, so I’m ignoring that one.

      And yeah, I never asked or expected a lot of the features they’ve added in this expansion, but I’m damn happy with them because they make it an expansion.

  25. Sunjammer says:

    I still hate playing on classic and up.. I don’t know what it is that I don’t “get” about the game at classic. On normal it can be way too easy, and on classic I just feel like the game is being spiteful; In the 2nd tutorial mission on classic, the heavy I was instructed to put on that roof got smoked the very next round. In the third mission, the extraction, The very first encounter with 2 sectoids left my entire squad, all in hard cover, with 2 points of remaining health. I know the idea is that on classic, enemies are far more dangerous, but I’m weaned on actual X-Com and I don’t remember being so regularly irritated by how super awesome the enemy was and how super useless my guys were.

    So, wizards of XCOM; What am I doing wildly wrong in classic, when I danced through the game on normal, and I’m paying super close attention to hard cover and hunkering down?

    • Ravenholme says:

      I bounced off classic the first time I tried it, but am now on the verge of finishing my first Classic campaign.

      The first thing is that in Classic, the early game is brutal. Sectoids will one hit your soldiers with their lowly unpromoted stats (Though the hard cover should ensure that crits that kill outright are few, they will still happen). I estimate that 80% of my considerable Classic casualties happened in the first 6 missions. Basically, the game will be about attrition (Have an attitude along the lines of: “I must save everyone”? Ditch it. Now. It will only frustrate you) until you start getting Sergeants and squad size upgrades, and start pushing out laser and carapace.

      Secondly: SHIVs. Learn to love them. I never used them once in Normal and now I can’t live without them. They’re a relatively expendable way out of every mistake I make. And I make a lot. Better to spend something that takes a few days to build than waste the lives of one of my precious soldiers.

      Thirdly, and this only applies pre-Enemy Within: Control the battlefield. With the exception of Terror missions, you want to advance to contact with one group of enemies and then not move until you have eliminated that group. Trigger more enemy encounters, and you risk being overwhelmed. Especially when you are new to classic, this is essential. As you get a bit more used to it, and tech up, you can risk expanding the amount of enemies you fight. Terror Missions – Well, the name says it all. They’re hell, but not unwinnable, even if you’re still in ballistic weapons and body armour mode, but you’ll be lucky to get through without casualties and to save people.

      It’s a far more challenging and, yes, often stressful experience, but is a hell of a lot more rewarding for it.

    • Naug says:

      I completed the game on classic ironman(after 46 tries :x) maybe I can help.

      The early game is the hardest part of this game mode. These were the winning tactics for me in combat.
      – Use Grenades all the time. Unlike rockets, grenades never miss.
      – Treat half cover as no cover.
      – Use the shottie on your assault soldiers. Up close (<4 tiles) it ignores most of the enemy cover. No flanking necessary.
      – Unless it would kill you to stay, do NOT explore new tiles while in combat. Aggroing a new set of enemies is unmanageable most of the time.
      – Always consider where to the enemy units could move next turn when you move your troops. Avoid being flanked.
      – Be patient. Classis is f-ing hard :)

    • tur1n says:

      Also, squad-sight snipers. Once you have one, you can beat anything but a bomb defusal. Just set him up in a good position, and advance slow and patiently.
      Some maps don’t allow for that. That’s where a heavy can come in handy to make some room early on. Just blow the first group of enemies to bits with a rocket. Never mind the fragments. Their importance is tiny compared to living, breathing soldiers.

      On the first 2-3 missions: Grenades are a lifesaver on classic. They can kill unbuffed sectoids outright. Or destroy their cover, which is almost as deadly. Use them on groups, use them on the mind-melding ones. If you can get 2+ kills from a grenade, go for it.

      • Ravenholme says:

        Ah, yeah, I should have said. Explosives. Forget getting weapon fragments or intact corpses, if the only way to ensure safety of your troopers is to grenade or rocket a group of enemies. Do it, and do not hesitate.

    • Batlhazar says:

      I’ve recently completed Enemy-Unknown on Impossible, so I’ll share a few things I learned.

      The first few missions you do on classic and above difficulty are going to be hands down the hardest missions you do in the entire game. If you lose more than half your squad on one of these missions, it’s almost worth just quitting and starting over, depending on how masochistic you are ;)

      Ignore Doc Vahlen, and be extremely liberal with explosives; it’s more important in most circumstances (and especially in Impossible when a grenade can’t even one shot a sectoid since they have 4 HP) to use explosives to destroy cover aliens are hiding behind. Without cover, you will crit bonuses against exposed targets and they’re easier to hit, which is a godsend on early missions when your squaddies can’t hit the broad side of a barn.

      Consider equipping your Assault with a Rifle. More often than not running in with an Assault class will expose more packs of aliens and get you overrun. Pick all the defensive options for your Assault, except for Rapid Fire.

      Have at least 2 heavys in every squad line up, one with Holo-targetting, and one with HEAT-ammo, and make sure one has a shredder rocket. Usually I’ll fire against a target with my heavy with Holo-targetting first, that way any subsequent soldiers have a +10 aim, especially useful for leveling lower ranked recruits.

      Be patient. This is a major. Often Ill have my assault on the front, trying to flush out aliens and abusing Lightning reflexs, while I’ve set up my Squadsight sniper (or usually two) in the back, on elevated ground, doing almost all my damage. Once you’ve sighted aliens they will usually come to you, so you can wither them down with Overwatch fire, while your sniper(s) finish them off.

      Choose Africa or Asia as your starting locations. Africa especially has a bonus that is good through the entirety of the playthrough. I started my Impossible campaign in Africa, and focussed on keeping it and Asia from dropping out.

      Don’t launch your satellites till the day before the Council Report. Sometimes you will have a country with 5 red bars, on the verge of pulling out, mere moments before the Council report. Then miraculously a Terror mission will appear, and successfully completing it will drop panic by 1 or 2 bars in that country. Meaning you can use the satellite on other countries instead.

      On the first few sectoid missions, always try to Gib the guys who are mind-melding with the other guys. If you kill the source, it will kill the one connected, meaning a 2 for one kill.

      Carapace Armor and then Laser Rifles are research priorities. Don’t worry about advancing the storyline with the Arc-zapper (capturing live aliens) until your squad is decently equipped. Increasing your squadsize and Wet work from the Officers Lounge are priorities too. The Foundry is something I don’t focus too much on till late game, although Ammo conservation is extremely good.

      That’s all I can think of off the top of my head, Good Luck!

      • airmikee99 says:

        That’s some great advice and wonderful tips.

        A million thanks. :)

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  27. kouru225 says:

    All I want Firaxis is Base Defence, non-scripted and random base attack missions, and more strategic options. That the author of this here article said the missions were “more scripted” makes me scared. Please console me. Hug me. Tell me everything’s gonna be okay.

    • Ravenholme says:

      Nah, I’m okay with it being a scripted event. In fact, when you approach it logically, it becomes obvious that is the only way it could be.

      You only have one base, so losing it is an automatic failstate, so having to repeatedly defend it would be a horrifically grueling experience. So I’m fine with it being a one-time scripted event

      • kouru225 says:

        What I meant by non-scripted base attacks was the alien base mission, however, I would be severely disappointed if the base defense was scripted. It would just ruin the whole point of it. The reason to have a base defense is to punish the player for bad strategy layer gameplay. If it was scripted to happen once in a campaign then it would just be a gimmick…

  28. sophof says:

    Sadly it sounds like it will pretty much add one interesting playthrough only though, which is a shame :(. I’ve said it before here, but I feel it is most significantly lacking in the base-building part of the game. There’s never any real choices and the panic system is (imo) horrible. The battle versus time doesn’t ‘feel’ right, I’d probably enjoy it more if it was just UFO’s. I keep losing interest on new playthroughs, but interestingly, I keep starting them every so often. I guess I enjoy the turn-based missions.

    I heard they have a lot of new maps, especially for the UFO crashes, that DOES sound promising, I was getting sick of the wood maps. Still think they should make a map editor though :P

    • tur1n says:

      I thinks the game let’s you off the hook too early. It’s a real nailbiter until you have full satellite coverage. You’re short on everything, all the time, and I find it exhilerating. Afterwards, it’s fairly routine. And that’s still half the game.

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  30. kopema says:

    What about Psionics?

    Are they still in the game? If so, can everyone get them, or are Mechs or Splicers excluded?

    • Mokinokaro says:

      MECs cannot as they’re a unique class (though they get a small perk from their previous class, which might mean a small psychic perk of some sort.)

      There are gene mods that would complement psi abilities quite nicely and, yes, those are compatible. Gene mods can be used on any non-MEC soldier.

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