XCOM 2: Base Mode & The Return Of The Avenger

I suspect our Adam will be filing a fulsome hands-on XCOM 2 report from the Gamescom frontline before too long, but as my frail vegetarian body couldn’t possibly cope with another week of watching people eat sausages, all I have to go on in these here 19 screenshots and a video. They’re particularly exciting screenshots for me, however, because they focus on soldier customisation, what goes on back at base and how the aliens are now essentially playing XCOM themselves. I want it I want it I want it, and I’ve written some thoughts about what’s been revealed below.

Here’s a video, in which an IGNfella interviews Firaxis producer Garth DeAngelis about the new base – set inside a scavenged alien mothership which has been renamed The Avenger (a name to warm olden X-COMheads’ hearts), the massively increased degree of unit customisation, how goals and missions are far more unpredictable, and whatever happen to the old gang of advisers from XCOM 1.

I’ve taken a few notes if you can’t or won’t sit through that. Also you can click on the many screenshots in this post for bigger versions.

Dr Valen is lost, we don’t know where she is (I imagine that will become a story point?). There’s a new chief scientist now.

The strategy layer is more open-ended. Things are going to be more unpredictable, no straight strategy – I hope that means no more satellite rush, which is to my mind XCOM’s weakest point.

Lots of new and optional rooms in the base. E.g. you can respec soldiers by putting them in an Incubator.

You can assign names and backstories to engineering and research staff, and put them on special projects.

Alarm bells ringing here: “we really want people to be invested in the story… we were really taken aback by how much people invested in the characters.” In XCOM and X-COM alike, the former’s anti-climactic ending excepted, the storytelling power came from there being almost no storytelling. You told the tale yourself based on your own triumphs and losses. The concept of being told to care for certain characters concerns me deeply.

Ever-anxious Engineering boss Dr Shen has passed away at some point between XCOM and XCOM 2. His daughter has inherited his mantle.

Another optional new facility is The Proving Ground, to work on experimental stuff. You don’t quite know what you’re going to get – ammo, armour, etc.

“We want you to play through many times and not see everything” is very much something I can get behind.

Gun fans will be pleased to hear you can change weapon decos, name them, legacy weapons to pass on to other soldiers, modify attributes eg. shotgun auto-loader.

Weapon upgrades drop off alien bodies, you can loot them in-map.

The mysterious, Optimus Prime-voiced, chrome-domed council spokesman is still alive. He’s an informant for the resistance, but is as shrouded as ever.

We’re getting a more dynamic geoscape. Active scanning for next mission. Want things to be more unpredictable, no safe strategy. You’re trying to expand the resistance little by little, not just taking on missions as they’re offered. Taking on one thing forgoes other things, e.g. responding to rumours, visiting black market.

“Dark Events” – aliens have both long term (i.e. the main plot) and short term goals which you’ll uncover as you play. These ‘Dark Events’ change every time you play; e.g. they’re trying to create armour or special ammo for their troopers to make them tougher. They’re playing XCOM themselves. You can’t stop all of them but you can mitigate them.

They claim it’s visually “outstanding”. Dynamic weather, destruction etc.

November is only three months away. I can’t wait. If you expect me to be in any way objective about this particular game, you’re as deluded as those dudes who think their alien overlords are nice guys are.

84 Comments

  1. Herzog says:

    Looking great. And I still did not start my EW classic Ironman game. I don’t even attempt long war… Too many games!

    • Everblue says:

      I am currently in December on my latest Long War playthrough. I just met my 101st UFO of the game. I hope to be finished by November.

  2. noiseferatu says:

    A worrying lack of beard customization options. If I can’t turn my squad into muscle bears it’s no sale.

  3. wraithgr says:

    I really hope they don’t do the fake “choice” of which mission to take and which to auto-fail… Although the current premise makes it more believable, it’s still a poor game mechanic…

    • VAgentZero says:

      It looks like time is the resource now. If I interpreted the video correctly, you *can* counter all the dark events, but there’s an opportunity cost in not being able to collect resources, expand resistance, gather intel, etc.

    • Shadow says:

      How was it fake? Aside from the value of rewards sometimes, the choice was usually guided by the local country’s danger level, and it usually wasn’t an all that clear decision. They were highly contextual.

      • Psykhe says:

        It annoyed me a bit that you always got the “3 events happening at the same time” thing. That felt highly artificial.

        Sure, stuff can and will happen at the same time, but not *always*.

      • carewolf says:

        I had the capacity and teams to deal with all of events simultanious, but it was not allowed. Also it could be days without any event and then 3 at the same time?? Lazy… and stupid,

      • rmsgrey says:

        It was very gamey – each month, you will twice(?) be faced with a choice of three possible missions but those missions will always and only ever come in threes, with no comparable missions other than as one of a set of three. Furthermore, it will never occur to you to take the obvious logical step of building a second skyranger to be able to send two teams out to tackle two of the three missions at the same time (or approximately the same time since the flight time to the various missions from your base will vary).

        It’s one of a number of places where Firaxis have taken something that happened naturally as a result of the simulation in the original games, and was a memorable and tense moment in that context, and decreed that that shall be the norm rather than the exception – and drained most of the life out of it as a result…

        Part of the power of those moments in the original game came from knowing that there were things you could have done to avoid or mitigate the situation – if you have more crash-sites to visit than transports to send, then it’s your fault for putting the resources you could have spent on an extra Skyranger into recruiting scientists instead. In the Firaxis version, it’s not a result of you making a choice that left you open to the situation; it’s purely because it’s decreed from upon high that thou shalt face a mission trilemma twice in every month. Okay, satellite coverage eventually resolves it, but there’s still no connection between the missions spawning and anything else that’s happening on the world map.

  4. daimonahte says:

    Oh, awesome, they kept the slow-scrolling text boxes for new research/projects. They definitely weren’t frustrating as all hell.

    I will grant you that absolutely everything else looks brilliant, though. I just cling to the hope that one of your early research projects is in the baffling alien technology of ‘scrollbars’.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      That’s a really interesting idea- like, a game where levelling up improves the interface and controls rather than the player character’s stats or abilities. Hmm.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        Interesting as in that putative Chinese curse.

      • NukeWithG says:

        Check out the game Upgrade Complete, it has a similar premise. You upgrade everything, including your graphics.

    • MattM says:

      I feel the same pain.

    • XhomeB says:

      It’s quite obvious they want the PC version to require as few changes as possible when they start working on console ports. Which is bloody sad compromises are already being made.

  5. Maxheadroom says:

    So do we get to fight ‘IN’ the base this time? a-la the original Enemy Unknown?

    Nice to see you can loot weapons off the battlefield now though

    • lordcooper says:

      This was a feature in Enemy Within.

      • Dominare says:

        No it wasn’t. There is a “base attack” mission in Enemy Within, but the map is predefined and has nothing whatsoever to do with your actual base or how you chose to construct it. This is a large step back from UFO/TFTD, in which you had to think about the defensibility of your base layout as you were building it or risk getting annihilated later.

        • Asurmen says:

          Which sounds great on paper, but the fact that those base assaults are such murder that it leads to only 2-3 Base layouts being viable from what I remember.

          • rmsgrey says:

            The real killer for base defense in the original was the 80-item limit, meaning that if you weren’t aggressive enough about selling obsolete gear, you ended up facing late-game enemies with a stack of pistols and rifles while your plasma weapons languished beyond the arbitrary cutoff. If you managed to get the good gear, you could defend most base layouts, not just the ones designed with a choke-point.

            Some base layouts were more defensible than others, but all of them were viable.

  6. dangermouse76 says:

    Must resist …………………………….ah hype mod engaged !

  7. Fredward says:

    And with this my hype for XCom has officially surpassed my hype for FO4.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      Tough call certainly. I think on my hype-o-meter Stellaris is leading.

      • Fredward says:

        Oh, wow. Somehow I missed that. Paradox is being unbearably sexy again. Is there a release date yet?

        • Tssha says:

          Check the comment thread of Stellaris for that. There’s a tentative, leaked one, but again, take it with grains of salt.

  8. BreadBitten says:

    Any word on gamepad support? Enemy Unknown plays excellently with an Xbone controller.

    • popej says:

      Screeeeeee!

      That is all.

      • popej says:

        Erm, sorry that was supposed to be a general thread reply, not specifically to you.

        Not sure about gamepads.

        :)

    • GAmbrose says:

      The developer indicated controller support was a no, which annoys me greatly as I’ve clocked up 200 hours on XCOM with a controller.

      I really don’t see why they can’t support it.

      • XhomeB says:

        To be honest, XCOM played like crap when using M&K (Firaxis should learn from Silent Storm, that was one 3D turn based game done right), and judging from the footage of XCOM2 they’ve shown thus far, pretty much NOTHING has changed (icon placement etc. are almost exactly the same, if floor switching and camera rotation are just as bad as before, I’m going to rage)… so yes, no idea why there’s no controller support.

        • Premium User Badge

          teije says:

          Nice to see the call out for Silent Storm. I loved that game. Replayed it last year but just wasn’t the same – nostalgia of youth and all that I guess.

      • thetruegentleman says:

        Given how clunky Enemy Unknowns PC interface was (hello, fucked up grenade toss that misses all the aliens I’m trying to kill, making me reload the game. How you doing today?), I’m really not sure they know how to make the interface work with both clickers *and* gamepads.

      • Shadow says:

        The way they implemented controller support (and most of the UI) is why M+KB was so clunky in XCOM:EU. Without controllers in the picture, they’re free to come up with a proper PC scheme with no compromises. Let controller support be an afterthought for once.

        • WiggumEsquilax says:

          All of this. I want to be able to aim [i]exactly[/i] where I want in a three dimensional battlespace. That means mice, not gamepads.

          • WiggumEsquilax says:

            Pretty sure I did BBCode right. Cursed lack of edit function strikes again!

          • pepperfez says:

            Angle brackets, not square.

          • Asurmen says:

            Gamepads don’t stop you from doing that though.

          • GAmbrose says:

            I’ve completed the game on classic Ironman and Impossible difficulties all with a gamepad.

            At no point did it feel hampered, though there is the occasional grenade/rocket aim which takes a few extra seconds to line up properly

        • Shadow says:

          The differences are subtle, but you can already see the more PC-oriented UI on the screenshots. Smaller, more sensible menus, not designed huge with TVs in mind, for instance.

          There’s hope.

  9. jonahcutter says:

    XCOM 2 is looking mighty indeed. Easily my most anticipated game at this point.

    And in the interest of ridiculous customizations, this has been created for XCOM (and works with Long War):

    link to youtube.com
    link to youtube.com

    Scale bodies. Scale heads. Change colors. Change voice pitch. Including mecs and shivs. It is good.

  10. jonahcutter says:

    Oops put the vid link twice. Here’s the mod link:

    link to nexusmods.com?

    • MrPyro says:

      Wot, like Bill Odie and Tim Brooke-Taylor?

      • MrPyro says:

        That was supposed to be a reply to the comment below about the aliens being the Goodies. I have not just gone mad.

  11. Sam says:

    Still hoping it turns out the alien overlords are The Goodies.

    Sure they’re not democratically elected, but it turns out they’re really good at running a planet. Everyone except the silly XCOM rebels are living in peace with their basic needs provided by the state, freeing them to pursue great works of art, science, and philosophy. With the help of alien technology we can reach out to the myriad of planets also under their kindly leadership and share in the extraordinary wealth of interstellar culture.

    The end boss is a conversation with a Sectoid where the player tries to argue why Earth should be returned to human rule despite it being clear that they’ll do a worse job.

  12. Laurentius says:

    Right, Beyaond Earth was also hailed as a great game, meh Firaxis lost it for me.

    • XhomeB says:

      Let’s face it: Beyond Eearth and Starships were shockingly mediocre, definitely not something Firaxis should be proud of. Their track record has only gone downhill since 2012’s XCOM, if you ask me – yes, I’m in the “XCOM was an OK game at best” camp.

      • Laurentius says:

        Maybe I wouldn’t call it “ok” if ther wasn’t UFO. It’s a bit sad that they can’t even match their classic.

      • Shadow says:

        Julian Gollop deemed XCOM:EU a great remake with sensible design choices. But what does he know.

        • Raoul Duke says:

          No, he was polite about it but quote clearly said that he didn’t agree with everything they did with it.

        • Shadow says:

          I never said he agreed with everything they did with it.

  13. XhomeB says:

    I don’t know, looks like there’ll be less linearity and a bit more randomness when it comes to the strategic layer, which is good, but it all still feels rather barebones compared to the original X-Com. Knowing Firaxis, they’ll once again favour “story” over proper gameplay mechanics, hampering replayability in the process, like in the 2012 reboot. Also, it’s still the old limiting “ant farm” and still only one base you’re entitled to.
    And the bloody INTERFACE LOOKS EXACTLY THE SAME, those gigantic consolized fonts and icons are sickening, I thought they were making it all more keybord&mouse friendly. Console port is already in the making, that’s for sure.
    Overall, I expected more bold changes.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I liked Vahlen, Shen and Mission Control Dude. I don’t need a huge plot centered on them (or their descendants) but I do care about them a bit.

    • bigblack says:

      It will be a major, unforgivable fuck-up if they try to shoe-horn a bunch of nonsense story/character-shit into a game as blissfully free of these boat-anchors as XCOM. No one cares about emotional beats or manufactured drama in this game-world, and it’s one of those rare examples where poor, unwelcome ‘narrative’ (barf!) isn’t a glaring weakness in the design.

      • Rizlar says:

        Yeah, I was concerned when they started talking about ‘everyone really loved the characters’, since the DLC with named soldiers and specific plot (that psychic french lady and the chinese dude) were definitely the low point of XCOM:EU/EW.

        Fortunately it just seems that they meant ‘everybody loved Cheng’, hopefully that is all they meant and there won’t be any more scripted mission guff or overpowered yet incredibly boring preordained characters. Guess we will see. Can’t stop the hype train, choo choo!

  15. Zenicetus says:

    That sword hanging on dude’s back in the first shot is still bothering me. Seems like the absolute last way I’d want to take on any of the aliens in these games, unless it also comes with an invulnerable force field for whoever is wielding it.

    • FFabian says:

      Meh I like the idea of my Xcom operatives hacking away at the aliens ninja-style but I too have difficulties rationalizing sword-fights in a sci-fi setting with all this advanced body armor / robot-stuff.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Right, the only aliens that would appear soft enough to be worth smacking with a sword would be Sectoids, Thin Men, and Etherials. Maybe the snake thing in the new one. Actually, scratch Thin Men, because they do that poison gas thing when they’re killed.

        Thinking about it some more… maybe it’s related to the new “Weapon upgrades drop off alien bodies” mechanic? Maybe the sword is for chance encounters where you can get a final kill without as much damage as a gun would cause, so you get more or better upgrades off the body. Sort of this game’s equivalent of the Arc Thrower; risky and hard to use, but it’s for a specific purpose.

        • srulz says:

          One of the confirmed skills of the Sword-using class (Ranger) is you’ll be able to get in the face of the aliens, slash, and then get back into cover.

          Source:

          “DeAngelis detailed two skills that could make the Ranger even deadlier than Enemy Unknown’s famous Double-Tap Sniper. Towards the top of the Ranger’s skill tree you’ll get access to the ultra-powerful Reaper; with it, scoring a melee kill allows you to combo into another attack – and you can chain that as many times as you want, as long as you keep scoring kills. So if you have two enemies standing side by side, you could run up, kill both, and then take a shot at a distant third with your rifle.

          Another high-level skill, called Phantom, allows the Ranger to move again after a kill. On its own, that ability allows you to dash out of cover, strike down an enemy, and dash back – effectively turning the Ranger’s sword into a ranged weapon (although exposing him to Overwatch cover fire).”

      • RegisteredUser says:

        I’ve always liked the idea of tech scaling both ways. Vibroblades or lightsabers or chainswords or what have you should be utterly deadly and lethal up close, but have the tradeoff of here in this case being forced to expose yourself to overwatch fire for an almost certain kill if you do manage to get there.

        I would quite love a bit more embracing of a “Berserker rush” gamestyle, as formerly that was mainly restricted to the alien hulk enemy types.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      It gets worse if you blow up the screenies and read them. “The Ranger serves as our primary reconnaissance unit, capable of moving independently in concealment while engaging enemies at close range using extensive training in swordsmanship.”

      I was hoping their writing would have improved since Enemy Unknown. “Swordsmanship,” FFS. He’s not a bloody Olympic fencer. Sneaking up on someone and whacking them with a machete is not “swordsmanship.” The game is fantastical enough that I can accept the character concept, but at least call it “hand-to-hand” or “close quarters combat” or something.

      For a while I had a vague fancy of doing an EU mod that just rewrote the flavor text into something that a moderately well-read mil-nerd could read without rolling their eyes. I doubt I’ll ever get around to it, but it would be cool.

  16. andregurov says:

    So … how long til we get to play as the aliens and take on the humans? I keep waiting to name my alien warriors Zorak and Brak. Allow me this simple pleasure 2K. Please.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      I have been sick and tired of this whole “No evil side gameplay” approach in games for several decades.
      You can count the games that let you do that on one hand..

      • Premium User Badge

        Phasma Felis says:

        The Command & Conquer series alone has at least, what, eight? games with a full-length single-player campaign for the “cartoonishly evil” faction.

        It would take a lot of effort to make that work with XCOM. The whole point is that the aliens are in a massively superior position and the humans have their work cut out for them. Curb-stomps don’t stay fun for very long. I guess you could completely invert the balance and cast the aliens as plucky underdogs vs. a prepared and fortified Earth, but that wouldn’t really make a lot of sense. (Not that making sense has ever stopped publishers from cranking out sequels and add-ons if they think people will pay for them, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you get your odd wish anyway.)

  17. Raoul Duke says:

    They need a new focus testing group… No one actually cares about the characters. At least not the pre written ones.

  18. RegisteredUser says:

    ““We want you to play through many times and not see everything” is very much something I can get behind.”

    And to me it is quite literally the exact opposite of what I want from a game. I want to be _able to_ do and get everything _I_ want from the game, solely dependent on how _I_ choose to play the game. Optionality instead of lack of choice or agency is what I want from a game, not this “Oh we know better than you what you like, so you’ll just have to work through 80% things you are bored of again to get those 20% you wanted the last 5 playthroughs already”. No.
    Screw that.

    • drinniol says:

      Ladies and gentleman, the entitled gamer!

      … Not saying I disagree, mind :P

    • Kala says:

      …or you could see it as, essentially, enabling re-playability rather than dictating play style.

  19. Kala says:

    “the massively increased degree of unit customisation”

    yesss… I’d be sold on that alone, tbh.

    “Weapon upgrades drop off alien bodies, you can loot them in-map.”

    Woot! That’s something I missed from the original. (Presumably being able to sell them on the black market, and not being able to use them on the map until you’ve researched them)

    “Active scanning for next mission. Want things to be more unpredictable, no safe strategy.”

    All sounds very positive :)

  20. Gimmick says:

    Xcom Fixing delicate robots with a large wrench since 2012.

    “Buy out floatbots! They are better because they have big nuts!”

  21. S Jay says:

    My god, this looks amazing!

  22. Crimson says:

    Did they fix any of the MASSIVE number of bugs? Do the aliens actually have an AI this time or do they still just sit/patrol around waiting to be shot? Who knows but apparently its more important that I know about Shen’s daughter and where the annoying lab lady went…