Hands On: XCOM 2’s Brutal Difficulty And Superb Tactical Overhaul

Nobody gets left behind. That was my XCOM: Enemy Unknown rule and it was a rule that I adhered to in almost every one of the hundreds of missions I oversaw. If a squad fell in combat, they fell side by side.

XCOM 2 [official site] has made me break my one rule. Repeatedly. Deviously. Tragically. It’s hard as nails, and superbly distorts the tactics and strategies that were successful in its predecessor. I’m smitten.

I received a preview build of XCOM 2 just before Christmas and I’ve spent almost as much time with over the last two weeks as I have with all of the family and friends added together. Making a mockery of the idea of a winter break from the game criticism beat, it’s been my near-constant companion. That in itself should tell you something about how much I’ve been enjoying it, as should my previous words on the subject.

There’s so much more to tell though. I don’t want to spill the details about all of the new and exciting things though because you deserve to discover them for yourself. With its varied mission types, new foes and winding strategic structure, XCOM 2 puts the Unknown back in the series and that’s the way it should be.

In the three campaigns that I’ve started (and finished; the version I’m playing does have a cut-off point but I’ve failed rather than reaching it), I’ve faced more objectives than in every complete playthrough of Enemy Unknown and Within put together, and I’ve developed an entirely new tactical mindset.

That’s what I’m going to focus on here – the tension and terror of the tactical side of XCOM 2. When I first played the game, in a brief session at a preview event, I was surprised by the apparent depth of the strategic map. A closer look suggests that depth might not be quite the right word: unpredictability is closer.

Gone is the steady and structured escalation of the invasion, and gone are the boring bastard satellites that were to the campaign’s shape what weights and other hindrances were to Harrison Bergeron. Freed from the single-route linear progression, XCOM 2 presents an alien menace that reacts and builds power, through visible facilities in the world, and through a Doomsday counter that can be interrupted and set back by the player. There’s more, in the form of side missions and alien activity directed toward objectives other than an apocalyptic end-goal.

I’ll analyse all of that more carefully when I have the full game in my mitts. There’s loads to say about the actual missions as well, you see. They’re even more surprising than the changes to the Geoscape and the entire alien occupation storyline.

Above all else, XCOM 2 is a game of surprises, which is (ironically?) precisely what I didn’t expect it to be. It builds on the foundation laid by Enemy Unknown but distorts and challenges your expectations and understanding of that game at almost every turn.

The most obvious example of that tendency that I’ve seen occurs during an encounter with something new. That ‘something new’ disrupts the battlefield, forcing a rethink regarding the importance and utility of the usual movement from cover to cover. It makes a mockery of the good practice you’ve drilled into your soldiers and that will likely cause you to lose a squad or two as you readjust.

What’s truly brilliant about the execution of these twists in the tale is the way that they’re introduced. Although times have changed and XCOM are now a guerrilla resistance operation striking against an occupying force rather than a sanctioned defense force attempting to repel an invasion, many of the plot beats in XCOM 2 have direct analogues in Enemy Unknown. There’s a familiarity to the research path that initially makes the game seem like it’s going to mirror the original, in the way that Terror From The Deep found its own brand of terror missions and alien containment facilities.

Those analogues do exist but Firaxis make every effort to subvert the structure at every turn. That’s true in the day-to-day operations of XCOM, who are now called on to abduct high-ranking officials rather than to prevent abductions, and it’s true in the turn-by-turn catastrophes on the randomised tactical maps.

They look spectacular, those maps. Almost every object and building works not only as a block of potential cover on the battlefield but as a signpost to the events between the two games. There are optional backstory voiceovers, which trigger when you see certain environmental features for the first time, causing one of your chums to break radio silence so that they can fill in the details of the world for you. While there’s a lot more of that this time around – your crew have as much to say for themselves as party members in an RPG – the environment contains all the clues and evidence you need to piece things together. It’s a masterclass of environmental storytelling, and the images of your custom-designed operatives as wanted terrorists that flash up on in-world billboards and checkpoints are the icing on a delicious cake.

The randomisation of the maps works as well as I’d hoped as well. The repetitive maps of Enemy Unknown were one of the few black marks against it. Here, not only does the slotting together of structures and outdoor tiles make for exciting variety and unpredictability (that word again), it never seems to throw out an incoherent jumble. There’s a much better flow to the missions, which have aliens patrolling credible routes and gaggles of civilians watching from the sidelines as all hell breaks loose.

And that brings me to the objectives of those missions. I’ll be astonished if the full game somehow fails to live up to these early hours but whatever its achievements, the seemingly simple act of redesigning mission objectives might be the most important change of them all. When your squad land in a combat zone, they’re often concealed and I already suspected that mechanic would work extremely well – what I didn’t suspect was the brutality and necessary compromises that this new mode of warfare would bring about.

Everything is rooted in the difficulty level. Playing on the normal setting, I’ve found the game far more difficult than XCOM: Enemy Within on veteran. In that game, I’d fallen into the habit of considering a mission a failure if I didn’t return with a full complement of operatives. In XCOM 2, I’ve whooped with delight when a single soldier manages to limp back to the extraction zone (and they really do limp, stagger and slump on the mission debrief screens, as well as suffering from the long-term psychological effects of the war).

At first, I thought the game might be too difficult, with spikes that seemed to require grinding for resources to overcome, but I’m becoming convinced that I was thinking about my approach all wrong. If an objective calls for the destruction of a specific object or facility on the map, it’s sometimes necessary to use two squad members as a decoy, drawing aliens away from the target, while others get the job done. Those decoys are expendable.

Dying for the cause is often the only way to advance the cause and, hideously, I find myself totting up the resource costs to replace sacrificed soldiers against the benefits of a successful mission that requires their sacrifice. The future of humanity is at stake, after all.

I’ve found myself ordering soldiers to flee across city blocks in an attempt to get back to the evac zone while a sniper stays in place on a rooftop trying to take down pursuing enemies, knowing that she’s cut off from escape. The existence of objectives that encourage extreme risk-taking and that require the maintenance of a safe route back to the evac zone creates unfamiliar situations and outcomes.

With my new ruthless tactics, I’m enjoying more success but even my victories often look like failures as I throw more rookies into the meatgrinder. I’ve navigated the difficulty spikes by ditching familiar tactics and standard measurements of success, and learning to think like a desperate resistance leader rather than the commander of an organised military unit.

Aside from the possibility that the mid- and end-game really might be too punishing, with no sense of the tables turning in XCOM’s favour and backs permanently against walls, I have few quibbles. Loading times for missions are a little long and you’ll become familiar with the twitchy animations of your operatives as they sit in the Skyranger preparing for action, and though the cameras are improved, there are times when a dramatic moment is somewhat spoiled by a wall obstructing the view. Those things might be improved before release but even if they’re not, they’ll be cause for minor complaints given the quality of the game as a whole.

I’d love to rave about the new enemies and how they fit so effectively with all of the tactical and strategic changes mentioned above, and there are moments, scripted and otherwise, that I’m bursting to discuss. In fact, I haven’t felt like this about a game since 2012 when I wrote: “No coy introduction here; XCOM is marvellous and now that I’m not playing it, all I want to do is talk about it, write about it, and jump up and down hollering about it.”

Well, no coy conclusion here. XCOM 2 is marvellous and I’m sorely tempted to jump up and down hollering about it. Back in 2012 that was as much due to a sense of relief that Firaxis hadn’t made a mistake in attempting to revive the license at all – this time it’s because they’ve built on a strong foundation intelligently, and with an unexpected degree of cunning. The occupation storyline is more than a new flavour, it’s the base on which the game’s themes, tactics and strategies are built, and this war doesn’t feel like a rehash – it feels like a voyage into the unknown.

XCOM 2 is out February 5th.

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  1. Humppakummitus says:

    Do the enemies move around this time, or are they still activated by invisible spawners?

    • ForthRight says:

      “Do the enemies move around this time, or are they still activated by invisible spawners?”

      This is the most important question for me – and it’s also what ruined the XCOM reboot first time around. After a while you knew exactly where and when the enemies would spawn, how many of them there would be and often which alien type would appear. This was ridiculous and pretty much took away all the tension that was present in the original UFO: Enemy Unknown.

      If they haven’t changed this for XCOM 2 then all the other improvements they’re making won’t mean anything to me.

      • Premium User Badge

        Dorga says:

        They don’t, you can see it in various videos.

        • ForthRight says:

          Sorry, do you mean they don’t spawn at set points anymore or they don’t move around? I’m one of those people who tries to avoid all videos if there’s a chance I’ll be buying a game.

          Thanks for the reply.

          • Evil Pancakes says:

            Judging from what I’ve seen in several videos, it’s both, sort of.
            At the start of a mission, the map is randomly generated out of a set number of individual building blocks slotted together, how exactly I don’t know. On this map a random number of enemy groups and types are placed and given patrol routes. So long as you stay concealed, they won’t deviate from these routes. Once you exit concealment the enemy is alerted to your presence, and I’m not entirely certain how the AI acts then, whether they will stay patrolling or will start hunting you. Regardless, once you have left concealment, there is a random chance reinforcements will drop at a random (I think) location on the map. So it’s both random spawns and move around, sort of.

      • Smaug says:

        Random maps with random spawns and enemies move around in patrol routes.

    • Bull0 says:

      They moved in XCOM, they just moved as one entity rather than individuals and spawned in as a unit of individuals once you were close enough to activate them or their unit moved into your LOS. This “spawned once you hit a trigger” thing is not correct.

      • jezcentral says:

        IIRC, it depended on the difficulty. Playing Normal saw you moving into spawn-points. Playing Veteran meant they patrolled, and you could get caught by new aliens blundering into an existing fire-fight. Nasty.

        Only my recollection, though. Please take with appropriate sodium.

        • unimural says:

          Bull0 is correct, there was no spawning in 2012 XCOM. However, if the game had difficulties in pathing the enemy pods, the whole pod could be teleported to somewhere the game was able to place all the pod members. This could result in an undetected enemy pod simply appearing inside your sight radius. Understandably, some people interpreted this as ‘spawning enemies’.

    • SuicideKing says:

      No, they move around all the time, though reinforcements may be spawned.

    • Booker says:

      I’m not one of the devs, but AFAIK they always moved around, don’t know what you are talking about. You can even check that out, because you can enhance soldiers with the mimetic skin upgrade and if you sneak ahead stealthed, the aliens are always at another position. Some hold their positions, but especially floaters/heavy floaters almost always patrol the area.

      • ooshp says:

        Thirded, fourthed and fifthed. The enemies do patrol, you can see it with a few abilities (sniper’s scouting thingo, either form of invisibility).

        The only spawns are the scripted thin man drops at the end of some mission types.

        It wasn’t by any means ideal, but I don’t get people calling it a “free move” when they scatter. They don’t get to fire, and if you’re leaving your squad on overwatch you can splash half the enemy group as they run for cover. THEN take your turn and clean up. Pretty massive disadvantage to the AI if you ask me, though I 100% agree that free movement would have been better.

        I suspect they were having issues with map size, pathing and difficulty or some such, though I never did read anything from the devs about the gimped AI patrols.

        I did once get rushed by 19 of the 21 guys on a fleet supply cruiser, luckily with 6 Colonels – my point guy hadn’t even reached the back of the ship when the first group were uncovered, and no one moved forward from that point on until it was only the 2 commanders in the bridge left to kill. I believe it was on Impossible, not 100% sure though – I can absolutely assure you those crafty buggers can move.

  2. Evil Pancakes says:

    “I received a preview build of XCOM 2 just before Christmas and I’ve spent almost as much time with over the last two weeks as I have with all of the family and friends added together.”

    Wow, you must really like your family and friends then.

    • Booker says:

      Obviously, only a total dick would spend time with his family and friends when all he’s doing is telling them how he’d rather would be playing XCOM. :P

  3. hotla says:

    I hope it’s moddable enough that someone makes a real combat mod.
    Imagine turn-based urban combat in the ruins of Stalingrad or Grozny – total wargasm!

    • Unclepauly says:

      Someone always asks this question. If you’ve paid any attention at all to this game you would know it’s made to be highly moddable. It’s one of their main selling points with the game, they want people to be able to make their own games with it.

    • Goldeneye says:

      I think the game is gonna be rather moddable from the lone example we currently have: youtube streamer Beaglerush modded his Preview Build yesterday to give enemies more health and extend the build time of his structures.

      • Smaug says:

        He actually shortened the time the structures built and also increased the number of enemies per pod (patrol?)

    • April March says:

      I gotta be honest, I don’t care one jot about XCOM. I just hope it’s so moddeable that someone makes a SCP: MTF game.

  4. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I loved the old x-coms and almost everything firaxis do and xcom so i am pretty excited for this.
    But it doesn’t really sound like my cup of tea :S
    Hope i’m wrong.

    • Llewyn says:

      I’m in the same boat. I’d been edging towards buying it on release but this preview has actually made me take a step or two back – it sounds like it might end up being a little too radically different for me to enjoy it as much.

      • hamilcarp says:

        Yall are crazy. The XCOM reboot was well done, yet surprisingly mediocre, everything these previews are saying indicate that the new improvements will bring it closer to X-COM’s old glory. To each their own I suppose, there is never any accounting for taste.

        • LexW1 says:

          Yeah, I’m with you hamilcarp. The new XCom was so-so – nice to have a decently designed tactical game on the PC, but nothing mind-blowing and not a patch on the original (just updating the former with a modern graphics, AI, UI and controls would have resulted in a better, if more break-able game).

          But it sounds like they might have something great here.

          They’d better, frankly. Everything recently from Firaxis as been “okay” at best.

    • Unsheep says:

      Have you tried Xenonauts ? it plays more like the old XCom than the reboots, plus its not $60.

  5. elanaibaKHG says:

    Allright, allright, I’m sold. Not that there was any doubt about buying the game, but I kept postponing the actual pre-order.

    If there’s a drop in my productivity starting with February the 5th, you’ll be to blame.

    Dan @ KillHouse Games

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      phuzz says:

      Don’t pre-order, you’ll only encourage them. It’s not like Steam are going to run out of copies to sell.

      • Premium User Badge

        liquidsoap89 says:

        I’m typically in the “don’t preorder” camp, but I’m also in the “don’t pay $80 for a new game” camp… If I know I’m going to be buying a game (I’ll be buying XCOM 2), I’d much rather preorder it for 20-25% off at GMG than pay $80 after Adam tells me it’s absolutely worth buying on Feb. 5th.

        • Aerothorn says:

          Is this Australian dollars we’re talking about?

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            liquidsoap89 says:

            This is Canadian Dollars actually. Us Canadians are starting to feel like Australia Junior sometimes…

        • MisterFurious says:

          You should join the ‘Wait a year or two and buy the game and all the updates and expansions for $5 or $10’ Camp. It’s nice. In fact, I got to play the first XCOM completely free on Steam one weekend because I was patient. I got the first two Batman games and a bunch of others in a bundle for a few bucks. Patience is rewarded.

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            liquidsoap89 says:

            I do that a lot now, typically I’ll add a game to my wishlist and buy it during a summer or winter sale. There is the occasional game that I don’t want to wait for though, this being one of them. Sometimes it’s just more enjoyable to play a game when the rest of the masses are playing it, being a part of “the conversation” can quite often have an impact on your impressions of something.

            XCOM 2 probably won’t be big in THAT way, but it releases on my birthday, and I absolutely loved Enemy Unknown; so I know I’ll be getting this one right away!

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      Hydrogene says:

      If one of the fathers of Door Kickers is excited by XCOM 2 too, I guess I should be too! :)

      Also, great preview Graham, I appreciate you’re trying not to spoil the game for us!

  6. vahnn says:

    I played a ton of XCOM,and I enjoyed the shit out of it. But it really felt the same to me: losing a soldier was considered a failure to me. It was just too simple, I dare say, and EW didn’t seem to bring enough to the table to warrant a purchase.

    Because of all that, I’ve not been very interested in XCOM 2, but this article has piqued my interest in the game. This is exactly what I was hoping for in a sequel, and now I’m excited for it.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Dorga says:

    So many good games this year!!!!

  8. popej says:


    Sounds superb, this and Dark Souls 3 will keep me going until (all being well) my first child is born in June.

    I’m almost as excited about the prospect of watching Beaglerush play through it, as I am of playing it myself.

    • Replikant says:

      Enjoy your free time till June and your family afterwards. Not that you will have a choice…

    • Dunbine says:

      My first is due in two weeks.

      I cried a little on the inside when XCOM 2 was delayed from November to early February.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Had our first three weeks ago… Trust me, get a PS4 or build a decent steam box if you hope to keep gaming…

      • popej says:

        Lots of new parents about on RPS then.

        I have a PS4, bought almost solely for Bloodborne and The Last Of Us. It does fill a certain niche in my life that my PC can’t.

    • MercurialJack says:

      I hadn’t even thought about a Beaglerush play through! That’s just added icing on the XCOM2 cake. I’m really looking forward to this – it might just be one game I buy on or shortly after release rather than waiting a while for a price drop.

  9. horsemedic says:

    “I’ll be astonished if the full game somehow fails to live up to these early hours … ”

    But that’s exactly what went wrong with XCOM:EU and XCOM:EW. The difficulty curve was broken so that after the early game, regardless of the difficulty level, you were so overpowered that the bulk of the game became a tedious formality.

    So I’m glad that the new early game seems even better than in previous version, but I’ll be twice-bitten cautious until the entire game has been vetted.

    • Zelos says:

      It may have been “what went wrong” with the remake, but despite that it was still a phenomenal game. And all signs point to the sequel being even better.

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      cpt_freakout says:

      That’s one of the main issues that Long War definitely did away with, and supposedly Firaxis paid very close attention to what made LW tick with so many people over vanilla XCOM in order to make XCOM 2 better. That’s not to say they can’t make the same mistake twice, but that at least they went through a mod that arguably fixed lots of them.

      • Banyan says:

        The design philosophy is different. The project lead had an interview a few months back where he described how, given how much pressure there was not to screw up the Xcom franchise, he insisted that the game have a precisely defined progression curve to match his idea of what the game should be. As crazy as it seems now, Firaxis didn’t expect players to play the campaign over and over, where the predictability was a major drawback. Xcom 2 is apparently designed to be unpredictable from playthrough to playthrough, and easily moddable for those who are never happy.

    • Bull0 says:

      I don’t disagree with the observation that the late game is easier because of all the options you unlock, but at the same time I kind of think that was the point – the idea that the research and engineering teams contribute to XCOM’s success as much as the boots on the ground is sort of central to the whole thing.

    • GepardenK says:

      This is a problem with the majority of games that have the player grow in power over time. Especially noticalbe in ‘hard’ RPGs (Divinity: original sin, Pillars of Eternity) but also other games like Homeworld who uses presistent units throughout the SP campaign.

      The problem stems from the fact that the Devs have great control over the players power level early in the game but looses this control over time as different players can develop at different paces. Ususally in fear of getting slower developing players stuck they undershoot the average player’s power level in the late game and thus make it way too easy and underwhelming.

      I can name countless games with this issue but I struggle to find a game that have players power grow according to their own pace and dealt with it adequately. Dynamic diffeculty (Homeworld 2, Elder Scrolls) seems like a particulary bad solution.

      In XCOMs case I think the best solution would be to make the game more effective at killing off players who can’t keep up. But I don’t think Firaxis has the balls to do that (most devs dont)

      • horsemedic says:

        This makes sense, though I’d argue D:OS, The Witcher 3 and many other games lose control over the curve far too early to excuse it as an impossible design problem.

        I thought Dark Souls had a decent bandaid solution in effigies, which were items that the player could use voluntarily to make a certain area incrementally harder.

        If I were king, designers would abandon the ancient easy/medium/hard format and instead offer a choice of curves. The game would get harder towards the end for players who want a grueling saga, and easier for those who want a bit of challenge followed by a power fantasy. But how you’d design those curves given all the variable in a game like XCOM, I have no idea.

        • GepardenK says:

          “This makes sense, though I’d argue D:OS, The Witcher 3 and many other games lose control over the curve far too early to excuse it as an impossible design problem.”

          I agree, it’s not an excuse. I fully believe that if the design is smart enough then there is an solution out there for every game that has this problem. But I will also admit that it is a particularly hard design problem to overcome in some cases

      • Raoul Duke says:

        Not sure I agree that this is a “problem”. It’s very enjoyable after struggling through the first part of a game to be able to dominate the end of it.

        • Cronstintein says:

          I would absolutely say it’s a problem that is very prevalent in modern game design. Rather than have a game increase in difficulty as the player improves in actual skill, the difficulty ~decreases~ resulting in a lack of challenge that many, including myself, would categorize as boring. Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 were tragic examples this year that started strong and got horribly, boringly easy after a dozen hours wer put in.

        • GepardenK says:

          Sure. Whether or not you enjoy this reversed difficulty is in the eye of the beholder. Depending on game I would either agree with you or think the late game challenge was underwhelming.

          I call it a ‘problem’ though because in most cases it is pretty clear that this reversed difficulty is not an intended part of the games core design. It simply a result of the developers lack of control and therefore a failure of design. The fact that some devs make a game fully knowing that they don’t have a smart way to deal with this does not change that fact. In the cases where reversed difficulty is intended and implemented as a part of the core design then of course it is not a problem.

      • wengart says:

        Really they just need some way of calculating player power relative to the AI.

        If you stomp the AI 4-5 times a row the game could (keeping with the insurgent theme) give you a very juicy target that appears relatively undefended. If you take the bait and attack the target you find that it was actually a planned ambush by the aliens on your team.

        • Booker says:

          This might sound great in theory, but I think ultimately this is one of these player ideas that should never be implemented. Sometimes people don’t seem to know what they are asking.

          I generally don’t like it if difficulty is achieved by having the AI cheat. Star Wars Empire at War Forces of Corruption is a good example. In this strategic game player and AI can build forces with money (of course) but it takes also time. So even if you had enough money to buy/build more ships, you’d still have to wait for their construction to finish and everything could happen in the meantime. But even if you destroy your AI-enemy’s fleet entirely, he just gets a new one without having to wait the necessary time the player has to wait for his ships to be built. And the AI doesn’t have to spend money either, everything is free for the AI. And the player knows all this too, because it’s impossible to overlook.

          You can’t make everyone happy anyway, because players have different likes.

      • Vacuity729 says:

        Arcen achieved this very well with the AI Progress mechanic in AI War. As a general rule, the AI’s power curve provides a good match for the player’s power over most of the game. However AI War is essentially a niche title due to its focus on gameplay over graphics. It’s not just possible, I’d say it’s already been done very well.

  10. Solidstate89 says:

    XCOM 2: Pyrrhic Victory.

  11. Donkeyfumbler says:

    Broke my no pre-order vow for the first time since Age of Wonders III a couple of days ago when the price dropped below £20 – glad to read that I almost certainly won’t be regretting it.

    • Scelous says:

      Were you happy with AoW III?

      • Donkeyfumbler says:

        I played it more than Xcom, so I guess I liked it a lot :) Enough to buy all the Dlc for it too. I like TBS in general, but particularly those that combine good turn-based battles with a deep strategic layer and both games tick that box – AOW better than Xcom for the strategy though.

      • Smaug says:

        For me AoW3 has been like a new Heroes3, it’s really good if you like that sort of thing.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Philopoemen says:

    But how does it compare to Long War?

    • lagiacrux says:

      thats what i want to know as well :/

      but all the videos/comments i see/read never really mention that. i just hope its not a downgrade to LW.

      • Adam Smith says:

        I’ll definitely discuss that in the review – comparison is more useful when it comes to the complete picture.

  13. Bull0 says:

    Couldn’t be more excited, roll on feb 5th.

  14. Stevostin says:

    Anybody reading: I bought the previous game based upon enthusiastic review here. Turns out it was a badly designed turn based strategy game (oversimple, unavoidable boring phases) with low production value for the price (practically every aspect of the game was “below average”). I finished it after 30h boring hours thinking “that’s not possible, it will become cool at a point, maybe I am just too early in the game and progression tree at that stage is still dull” but no, it was just badly designed all the way. Basically there is always an obviously better course of action with little variance in the details save for the random part that outweight slighlty good vs bad decision AFAICR.

    • Ringwraith says:

      It a different style from the original’s massive array of options, (which you can probably see Xenonauts for instead), although I do personally prefer having fewer, but more significant decisions in this case.
      Time units I’m not sure are my thing, and are more fungible, but having your decision be move & shoot? That creates some very difficult decisions. Too many options can be bad, and vice versa.

      Can also often mean you can feel more directly responsible for messing up, there’s not many ways to miscalculate when you’ve only got a couple of mutually-exclusive choices.

      • anHorse says:

        Is xenonauts any good?

        I got it free from GoG and only got as far as the airgame which was pretty rubbish

        • Ringwraith says:

          Not played it myself, although it’s like a more direct translation of X-COM’s old mechanical tinkering from what I know from people.

        • Pkloop says:

          Xeno is a fantastic game..give it a chance. If you like TBS/xcom at all you will get into it..

    • Donkeyfumbler says:

      I’m reading: Shame you didn’t like it but your opinion is definitely in a fairly small minority judging by both critical reception and user reviews. It’s a bit hyperbolic as well to say that it had ‘low production values’ and was ‘badly designed all the way’ – sounds like you aren’t a turn-based strategy fan in general.

  15. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    I enjoyed my full playthrough of EU, but felt little desire to play it through again. So I feel I definitely got my money’s worth with 54 hours, especially since I got it on sale.

    Bounced off the Long War mod hard, felt like too much of a slog for me.

    So I’m watching XCOM2 with interest, but will definitely wait for your impressions, among others.

  16. Geebs says:

    The problem I had with XCOM:EU was that the main enemy was my boredom threshold – I only really lost soldiers when I got tired of crawling to overwatch all of the time. This sounds more promising.

    • Asurmen says:

      Don’t think I ever really bothered with overwatch except for when it made sense, like a blind corer armed with a shotgun or when I know I’m about to activate a bunch of aliens.

      • Banyan says:

        Even Jake Solomon, lead designer, recognizes that the optimal playstyle at higher difficulties is to move the first unit forward into fog, then bring the rest forward into supporting overwatch, and he also recognizes that this was the most boring way to play. A fair amount of effort seems to have been made towards making aggressive play more viable

        • Pkloop says:

          Yup playing I/I is all about Hunker down/overwatch camping

        • Pkloop says:

          oh..and also abusing game mechanics “overwatch locking” aliens etc..

        • Asurmen says:

          *Shrug* never bothered with higher difficulties so it wasn’t a go to tactic.

        • AyeBraine says:

          I must say that I don’t find this tactic “inevitable”. I have to sources to draw this conclusion: my own experience (about 800 hours vanilla + LW) and watching Beaglerush play live. In both cases, the player definitely considers this super-slow tactic, and quickly abandons it. Of course, the scouting is always mindful of sight ranges (so you always have a point man); of course, it’s rare to use both moves if you don’t have solid intel on enemy.

          But ultimately what allowed me to play and win on Impossible (and also have fun) was a very dynamic and even sometimes aggressive style where no turn was wasted. Sure, the moment when contact is made can make or break the mission. But the squad is constantly in motion, taking position after position in a meaningful manner, with almost every turn seeing the squad in some more or less viable configuration for potential contact. The only exception to this are breaches, where you spend 2-3 turns preparing the entry.

          Thing is, it’s not even completely rational or intellectual – it’s more of a feeling. It’s that golden mean between recklessness (that XCOM immediately punishes) and boring cautiosness. Moreover, when you play ultra-conservatively, it often bites you in the ass, because the more sluggish your assault is, the more possibilities for situation changing for the worse, for flanks, being surrounded, wounded etc. The more time you take, the more opportunities you open for the enemy.

          As corny as it sounds, “operational tempo” and “momentum” that American tacticians like to talk about really exist in XCOM. And initiative is crucial for successful operations.

  17. Freud says:

    With my desktop dying and X-Com being one of the games my laptop could handle while waiting for the new computer parts, I played X-Com: Enemy Within this past week. It’s such a brilliant mix of elements that work well together.

    It’s no wonder Firaxis picked it up, since you can just tinker a bit with it and release a sequel that’s a great game. Very much like Football Manager, Total War and Civilization have so strong basic elements you can hardly fail with them.

  18. amateurviking says:

    Right. Good. 4 weeks then.


  19. Kamestos says:

    I’m a bit worried about the difficulty. Is there an easy setting to have something resembling the ‘normal’ vanilla XCOM 1 ? Is save-scumming still possible ?

    • Shadow says:

      Yes and yes, most likely. There were several difficulty levels in XCOM:EU, and Ironman was never mandatory.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      Glad to see that I’m not the only one worried rather than excited about the difficulty comments. I’ve enjoyed many hours of both Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within (324 by Steams count), but I don’t have any need for it to be more difficult. (Have not tried the Impossible difficulty, but I play on Classic.) I haven’t tried The Long War or the original X-COM, because the idea of a really hard game doesn’t appeal to me. (And that seems to be the main selling point for those among fans.)

      So I hope that they haven’t focused too hard on the hardcore fans, so that it’s still a fun game for a more “casual” player like me.

      • AyeBraine says:

        Long War is definitely hard, but thankfully difficulty was not its only offer to players. My feeling is that it always compensates the difficulty by giving you a ton of new options and tools to mitigate it and emerge victorious. So fighting hard always means thinking hard, not beating against the wall (although LW certainly allows for the latter with higher difficulties). So, say, it drops a ridiculous bunch of aliens on top of you, but simultaneously provides you with tools to pull off a dazzling array of incredible tactical feats to defeat them soundly. C’mon, 8 classes (16 with MECs), dozens of new items and skill trees twice as dense. Synergies become godly.

        (Although my impressions of LW are from Beta 12 or 13, as I reckon it changed a lot since then, adding even more complex mechanics. Not sure if I’m prepared to dive into this again. But I think you can install older versions at will.)

  20. Kolyarut says:

    The difficulty talk is a little offputting here. I know XCOM is up there with Dark Souls for having a masochistic fanbase, but I’m not totally buying into the notion of using these soldiers disposeably. The threat of death needs to be there, sure, but not every mission needs to be a total massacre. If I wanted to make decisions in good faith and be relentlessly pounded into the dirt for them, I’d go play Telltale’s Game of Thrones series again (that level of complicity in the horrible outcomes was what prevented what works in the books/TV show from working in the game, for me) – and for the most part, XCOM 1 wasn’t *that* bad in that department.

    So long as the option of save scumming it exists, I guess it’ll still be survivable though.

    • Horg says:

      Every Firaxis game since Civ 2 has had some extremely easy difficulty settings, I doubt that XCOM 2 will be any different.

      • Kolyarut says:

        Maybe. I’m not after “extremely easy”, though, I just don’t want to march the troops I’m customising and levelling into a slaughterhouse. It’s the line “Playing on the normal setting, I’ve found the game far more difficult than XCOM: Enemy Within on veteran” that stands out in particular as an alarm bell here. In EU there was only the one difficulty below Normal – I don’t know if the same is true here.

        • Horg says:

          I’d be wary of putting too much emphasis on a single early impression of the game. I very rarely find that journalists estimation of difficulty lines up with my experience of the final product.

          • Coming Second says:

            This. Having watched some of the Beagle previews, the impression I got is that it’s more difficult in a similar sort of way LW is to vanilla EW; there are more enemies and missions develop in a way which constantly force you out of your safe zone, but you are handed many more ways to cope with these things.

        • Aerothorn says:

          But he’s also comparing a game he knows like the back of his hand to one he is just learning; this doesn’t emphasize that the game is Inherently Harder, just that you can’t coast on previous XCOM experience.

        • Kolyarut says:

          Both fair points – I guess we’ll see when Feb comes!

          • Adam Smith says:

            Agree with everyone here. In 5 learning as I go. What has impressed me so much is that I have to learn. Tactics from the previous game don’t always work and I’m finding ways around that.

            Eventually, I may find ways to succeed without losses. I may find that doing so is the best way or a tricky compromise. But I doubt I’ll ever find the sacrificial tactic entirely unnecessary. There’s variety in solutions and a new learning curve. That’s exciting to me!

    • Themadcow says:

      One of the great losses in the 2012 game compared to the original was the way in which soldiers stopped being disposable. In original X-com you never wanted your soldiers to die, but if you had to pick someone to take the first steps into the unknown then Jonny Redshirt was your man, a walking target for a random Laser or blaster bomb. It was because you didn’t expect anything of Jonny that his unlikely survival and subsequent heroics go down in Legend. In the 2012 game you simply didn’t have enough squad space for a Jonny or two, and the rest became to precious to lose after a few missions that save scumming becomes a habit.

      To me, the previews so far have been encouraging but this game needs soul. Randomness and a bit of chaos in the battlefield will definitely help.

      • Laurentius says:

        Because with big teams of orginal, tactics is your goal, you don’t want to loose soldiers but as long as your tactical plan is unfolding you can take your loses, in XCOM losing soldier meant your tactic is out of the window, some people like to deal with being constantly cripled by unknown, i am not sure about that.

    • Xzi says:

      Easy would be the new normal, would it not? Very easy being the new easy.

      If there’s no risk of losing anyone, then it’s not a really a game, is it? More just like happy pat myself on the back time. At the very least the risk is having to reload a save and start the mission over.

  21. bambusek says:

    I have a budget for one game and I must decide if it will be XCom 2 or Homeworld: Desserts of Kharak. I saw some articles that it is going to be heavily multiplayer centered, but I don;t know if they are talking about current state of the game or about what Shipbreakers was supposed to be.

    • GepardenK says:

      Shipbreakers and later Homeworld: Shipbreakers was the pure multiplayer product. It was renamed Deserts of Kharak presicely because of it’s renewed focus on singleplayer.

      We don’t know that much yet but Devs confirmed a campaign with 13 large mission and a storytelling style that aims to fall in line with what we have seen from Homeworld previously.

      Not that much has been released about DOK yet, but we should have much more info in the coming week. Maybe wait for that before you decide?

      • bambusek says:

        The radio silence about DoK is what feels weird. Game is approximately 2 weeks away and there is nothing really, only some vague description on Steam and one trailer. Pretty much no marketing, especially comparing with XCom 2 that gets a lot of press coverage.

        And yeah, I will wait. No choice really as the game is currently on Steam only and I hope it will be at least slightly cheaper in my country (Poland) after release in stores.

        • GepardenK says:

          Lack of press might mean the game is bad, but not nessescarily

          In the case of Deserts of Kharak I was expecting very little marketing. GBX basically got to publish this game for free by giving BBI the Homeworld license (when the game was almost done) so it wouldn’t make sense for then to add unnecessary risk (for them) to the project by investing in marketing. BBI is probably not very happy by this situation either, but it makes sense for GBX as the publisher

    • Enkidum says:

      If “multiplayer-centric” is a good thing for you, it’s worth noting that XCOM’s multiplayer was surprisingly good, if generally ignored.

      • bambusek says:

        Not really, I don’t play nice with others. So a good campaign and skirmish mode (or simply multiplayer that allows for AI controlled opponents only) is what I am looking for :)

        • Enkidum says:

          I’m the same (well, it’s not that I don’t play nice with others, just that I tend to focus on single-player). XCOM had (with some faults) a really excellent single-player experience, and it sounds like most of the changes will be positive. The randomized levels and sudden changes in strategy will be really, really cool, if they work (and apparently they do).

          I tried the multiplayer a couple of times and got my ass kicked, but I was really happy with the experience – it was a very different game in some ways, but definitely worth a try. However the single player was the main attraction for me, and will be with the sequel.

  22. ashjxx says:

    Adam, you’re my favorite. Your writing (and enthusiasm) is 100% why I tried XCOM, and probably like 15% why I love XCOM.

    • Adam Smith says:

      Glad you enjoy reading and thanks for saying so! When people enjoy good games I’m a happy critic.

      • Cronstintein says:

        I relieved you came away feeling positive. This (and Solaris) are the really the only games I actually let myself get hyped for. Everything I’ve seen about Xcom has looked good so far, hopefully they can continue the trend! Letting journos get their hands on it this far out is a good sign in my mind.

      • Llewyn says:

        I’ll second this actually; XCOM:EU/EW (215 hours according to Steam) along with CK2 (340 hours plus maybe another 750 pre-Steam) and EU4 (716 hours) are, I think, the only AAA-price games I’ve bought without waiting for a sale in the last few years, and all based on your writings here.

  23. mattevansc3 says:

    How important are your level up’d troops? Especially now that we are expected to lose and sacrifice soldiers.

    The levelling up system from the last game was atrocious and it’s focus on small squads of uber soldiers ruined the game for me. In the original you could feel the loss of a veteran KIA but a green shirt with the same equipment was still a capable soldier.

    In the reboot the green shirts were god awful. Running around like headless chicken, their inability to hit anything other than thin air and having the longevity of a chocolate fireguard made them the butt of the Stormtroopers jokes.

    Losing a veteran and adding one of them to your squad made Iron Man on higher difficulties nigh on impossible.

    • Adam Smith says:

      I don’t agree that EU’S system was atrocious but I’ve found more use for rookies, even if it as potential cannon fodder.

    • mukuste says:

      Huh? I remember rookies being utterly unable to hit the broad side of a barn in the original UFO/TFTD.

      • Nova says:

        Their aiming wasn’t great but because of the time units you could give off a lot more shots. Using Auto Shot two times gives you six shots. And, crucially, it often was enough hitting with one or two of those shots because the original X-Com was a lot more deadly (for your soldiers, too).

    • AyeBraine says:

      Hey, tell it to the Blue Shirts who often saved my Colonels’ asses in EW’s Base Assault. Yes, they’re fragile flowers, scare easily and don’t know many tricks, but in XCOM, a pair of legs, a shitty rifle and a couple of grenades can turn the tide of even the most difficult battle.

      Besides, where do Uber soldiers come from? Or do you train only one squad throughout the game? On higher difficulties (even without Long War) the addition of B, or even B and C squads becomes mandatory.

      • Josh W says:

        I think the fact that there’s more of them really changes their value; you can attach two or three of them to taking down a specific enemy, and have a reasonable confidence that they will. Dense levels with a lot of good cover help too, as you don’t have the problem of everyone huddling into the same heavy cover in order to be able to support each other.

        I quite liked the base assault. In normal missions I found that the rookies were only really worth bringing along once I got squad size enhancements, until that point I was desperately trying to juggle about 10 more experienced guys and stop any of them getting killed.

  24. Nice Save says:

    You mention environmental storytelling and also commentary from the team that you can switch off.

    Do you have a recommendation for which option to pick for the first playthrough?

    • Adam Smith says:

      Commentary on, first time. Adds flavour and didn’t distract. Suspect on future playrhroughs it’ll be like the optional introductory voucher stuff – twenty distracting seconds describing what is already known. Not a hardship but glad to see the option to switch it off exists.

      • Nice Save says:

        Thanks! That’s about what I thought, but I wanted to be sure. I was worried having everything pointed out in the first playthrough would leave nothing to discover later.

        • Premium User Badge

          Angstsmurf says:

          I never understood why the audio commentary was not only unskippable but also paused the gameplay in EU/EW. The worst is that long exposition about transponders on the train in the Slingshot DLC.

  25. FeloniousMonk says:

    I’m just really excited that the mission was named Operation Dragon Stank.

  26. Raoul Duke says:

    Do I detect a reluctance to address the thorny questions that get asked in every comment thread?

    For example, have they ditched the lame mechanic where new aliens spawn halfway through missions?

    Do aliens still get to cheat by moving outside their turn?

    Are the enemies actually consistently modelled within a level or do they magically appear when you get near them?

    Can you free aim?

    Are you forced to pick one mission at the cost of being able to do others?

    • Raxal says:

      How are any of those thorny questions? The enemy being able to get reinforcements isn’t a lame mechanic.

      Would you rather just have them waiting around for no damn reason, already being in Overwatch? And they only do that in certain difficulties as well. You’re also able to get the jump on them if you have units in Stealth.

      They were always there in the level, they never magically appeared, this was actually a bad thing about the game, it became very predictable as to where they would show up.

      You have a bit of a point with the Free Aim, but you’re still able to do effectively the same thing with any explosives, and a large variety of the weapons (Specifically the higher-end ones) will still blow through or destroy cover. And they explicitly mentioned they removed it for balancing reasons.

      Being forced to only pick one mission made the choices and the outcomes matter more ffs.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        You have strange views about what UFO/XCOM is all about, IMHO.

        Yes, I absolutely would like the enemy units to be in the map ‘for no damn reason’ doing whatever they would otherwise be doing before the player’s units show up. The game should, within the constraints of its fictional world and game mechanics, aim to accurately recreate the way these encounters would actually happen. One of the fun things in the original (and best) XCOM games was that for all that you might think you know where the little bastards are, one of them might have wandered off to a far flung barn or decide to stay inside the UFO in a random place. These new games would be much more fun with enemies required to act consistently with the rules that the player must obey and consistently with the world portrayed.

        They were not “always in the level” in the last game, I suggest you read up on that more.

        Re free aim, if the issue was balance, then that is a reflection of poor enemy AI and other fundamental issues. It’s not a good solution to break the player’s control in order to prevent them being ‘too good’.

        Re having to pick one mission, this was a lame way of streamlining the game and again artificially placing pressure on the player. One of the (many) awesome things about the original was that you could choose to try to take on every alien encounter, or you could be more selective, with different (organic) consequences.

        This whole “here’s three missions, pick one and insta fail the other two!” thing is up there with “classes” of soldiers when it comes to feeble ways to simplify games. So what, if a guy isn’t officially an “assault” soldier then he can’t pick up an assault rifle because his hands magically stop working? It’s the type of thing that plagues so many games these days, and it prevents the type of delightful emergent gameplay that games like the original UFO/XCOM generated. In that game, you could have situations where all but one of your squad got wiped out, and that last soldier could find someone’s body and recover (say) a rocket launcher and use it to level the barn where the aliens are shooting from… now that is not allowed because your last soldier will be the ‘wrong’ class to touch that rocket launcher. Which incidentally can only fire one rocket because reasons. Etc.

        I would have fewer complaints if Firaxis had come up with their own IP. But they chose to take a cherished and mighty game’s name, and so I and many others will continue to criticise their design choices when they fall short of a game released in 1994.

        • elanaibaKHG says:

          Sorry, but what do you mean by “free aim” in this context?

        • elanaibaKHG says:

          But you can still play the original or the 6 or so “other UFO titles” that are available on Steam: link to store.steampowered.com

          I like Xenonauts but don’t have time for it. There are many things that work better for me in XCOM and allow me to have fun with it and complete a couple of games in 60 hours, which is more than I can normally put in. Xenonauts? I don’t think so.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        Sorry, missed one:

        “The enemy being able to get reinforcements isn’t a lame mechanic.”

        If you think the enemy being able to teleport units directly behind your carefully positioned squad and start shooting them in the back isn’t lame then I suspect we have so little in common in our tastes that there’s no point in you replying to my other comment. Again, to me, this is just a symptom of having very poor AI – so let’s fix it by stuffing up any tactics the player has used by putting a giant robotic killing machine or maybe 5 deadly accurate snipers right behind them when they have no ability to anticipate or counter it…

    • Bull0 says:

      Really stretching the definition of “thorny questions” there. Implying these are serious issues with the design, when in fact they’re simply pet peeves.

      • Bull0 says:

        (Not to mention you’re flat wrong about the enemy spawning/movement thing but it seems a lot of people have that misconception today)

        • Raoul Duke says:

          I’m not wrong about the enemy movement. The original did not actually place the alien units in the map and then make decisions about where to move them. It modelled groups of them (usually three) according to set patterns and only placed them in the map and started making them obey similar rules to the player’s units once the player triggered them by getting within a certain range.

          • Bull0 says:

            So the fact that they’re not visible until they’re in LOS means they “magically appear”, does it? No, it was hyperbole. It’s an effective solution for the problem of having hidden groups of enemies that reveal when discovered.

            Equally you can get them to appear by using battle scanners or the stealth suits anyway. There were tactics for all of these mechanics but people do love to bitch.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        I disagree. They are issues that come up time and time again in many discussions about the Firaxis versions of XCOM, and they are major (and poor) design changes from the original.

        Ultimately these types of things are the difference between the game and each mission being a simulated sandbox-type experience and the game being a scripted narrative-type experience. Which is another way of saying ‘streamlining’. Which is another way of saying ‘dumbing down’, IMHO.

        • Themadcow says:

          Absolutely agree with your points. I do think that the fact it has been exported virtually 100% to Android OS where it seems to work very well as a mobile game lends a slightly cynical view of the game design choices.

          • elanaibaKHG says:

            It’s not priced as a typical mobile game but much more expensive, so the people that buy it are regular strategy players that just want to have fun on their iPad too.

          • Josh W says:

            Also, mobiles have enough processing power to run the original x-com, and the average phone has almost double the base resolution it assumes. The only problem running x-com on a phone (aside from the fact that you’d have to emulate it on android) is that your fingers could not handle the UI.

            In other words, change the original x-com’s UI, and add automatic save on quit, and it’s a mobile game, without any change to the gameplay.

            In the same way, the more modern xcom could have actually had it’s gameplay made more complex when ported to mobile.

        • Bull0 says:

          It’s completely debatable whether they are good or bad design choices, and if you’re a fan of the game like Adam clearly is then you’re probably in the group of people that think they were generally good design choices. Hence, stretching the definition of “thorny question”. They are just criticisms that come up time and time again, but they get rebuffed with the same counterarguments time and time again too, so they’re hardly big controversies like say, the addition of microtransactions in AAA games or other such topics. That’s what I meant.

          (That good/bad and “dumbing down” debate is totally played out at this point, by the way, some 4 years from the release of the original).

    • Poison_Berrie says:

      I doubt it’s reluctance, probably more about differing in opinion about that being big issues.

      Enemies do get reinforcements dropped in, through dropships. This wasn’t the case in the 2012 XCOM, though, so I don’t know where you get this. But that might be because of the odd way enemies could move around the map (as a single pod).

      Once you break concealment enemies do get a free move to cover when you get Line Of Sight for the first time. Though the reason for that always seemed obvious to me. It’s a balancing thing, to make it less easy on the player.

      Enemies appear to be more consistent on the map, I think they no longer teleport on their patrol routes when in fog of war. Though I don’t remember them actually magically appearing in EU so much as peeling back the fog of war and uncovering them.

      Free aim is not in with regular weapons (explosives do), though you can target specific objects in the environment (there was a video with them targeting a gaspump).

      You are again forced to choose between certain objectives, as this is a part of the gameplay and likely important to the balance.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        “Enemies do get reinforcements dropped in, through dropships. This wasn’t the case in the 2012 XCOM, though, so I don’t know where you get this.”
        Er – have you actually played the 2012 game? I find it hard to think you have if you haven’t experienced the magical appearance of a bunch of thin men behind your squad or (with Enemy Within) numerous other scenarios where enemies appear behind you in areas which you have definitively cleared.

        • Coming Second says:

          They would airdrop in in certain missions, aye. It seems a weird thing to pick out as being “bad design”, though. It made those missions more dynamic and fraught, and because you got warned about it the turn before, you always had that time to prepare for it. For me, a lot of the time those Thin Mints dropped right into four Overwatches.

          And as for realism – putting aside how ludicrous bringing that into XCom is – why on Earth *couldn’t* the aliens’ main infiltration unit drop in behind you, once they got wind of your activities? Appearing seemingly out of nowhere seems exactly what those guys would do.

    • Marblecake says:

      All your issues are addressed and fixed, at least this video seems to indicate as much (I love the new concealment mechanic): link to youtu.be

      I don’t know about free aim, though, because I don’t know what you mean by that.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        By free aim, I mean the ability to shoot wherever you want – e.g. if you know they bad guys are behind a wall, the ability to shoot at the wall despite not being able to see them.

  27. Bweahns says:

    When I started replaying the original I wanted to play iron man mode but I hated the idea of losing a squad member because I misclicked. I ended up playing through on regular settings but forcing myself to only load the game if I did actually misclick. It’s quite hard to resist save scumming.

    • Josh W says:

      Yeah, misclicking is a serious issue, one of the minor things that really excited me in the latest version is the ability to set waypoints; I suspect being able to adjust someone’s route will get me much closer to the xenonauts style viewpoint of working out their movement in stages, and have me less likely to go “ok you go there, tab to you, you go there, oh crap, I’ve sent the first guy to huddle on the wrong side of heavy cover”.

      Time units put a totally different spin on misclicks, because usually what it means is that you’re going to have to spend a few of them repositioning, and use a slightly less accurate shot type, and pausing while moving followed by a panicked self-smoke-grenade is very different thing to accidentally charging someone through overwatch, but within the framework of single move actions, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get some of the same kind of deliberation.

  28. Booker says:

    Honestly, what I’ve read in the article about difficulty, sounds to me (entirely) as if they simply haven’t done the balancing yet (in the tested build). I can’t imagine that “normal” is going to be that hard in the final version. Normal is usually just supposed to offer some challenge while still forgiving some errors. If it was this hard, higher difficulties should pretty much result in automatic game over…

  29. Pkloop says:

    It will be interesting to see what the difficulty turns out to be here. As a long time player (OG in 94′ when it was new to latest version) I found Classic Ironman to really be a sweet spot. Impossible Ironman while totally doable is just phucking tedious in that a few bad randoms would bust the playthrough and cause a restart..after logging hundreds of game hours it can get boring. Once you’re Plasma/armored up the end game can be roflstomped just as easy as it can on lower difficulties however..

    At any rate I too will violate my “no preorder rule” for this one as this series is by far easily my most favorite games of all and this one looks like its gonna be another great game..I’m an xcom junkie, and still regularly replay the originals..love ’em. And while not perfect Jake’s take on the series has been solid and well done.

    Shout out for Xenonauts too! I had an absolute blast with that one as well..logged some serious playtime with it and cant wait for the sequel. Goldhawk said they’re doing a part 2 not sure when its coming out but another day one buy for me..

  30. Unsheep says:

    Xenonauts still offers a better XCom experience for me, its more tactical and strategic, and reminds me more of the classic XCom games than these reboots. Plus its available DRM-free.

    I’m still gonna watch a playthrough of XCom 2, hopefully they’ll have more maps this time around, and not re-use the same few maps 5 times over.

    When it comes to buying anything though, I’d rather wait for Xenonauts 2.

    • Goldeneye says:

      “I’m still gonna watch a playthrough of XCom 2, hopefully they’ll have more maps this time around, and not re-use the same few maps 5 times over. ”

      XCOM 2’s maps are procedurally generated using a ‘parcel’ system to randomly generate maps, with variable factors like building positioning, unit placement, starting locations, and even weather and environment.

  31. derreavatar says:

    Frankly i don’t find this game so incredibly hard.
    I have just lost my first campaign due to poor strategic choiches, but i’ve found moderate tactical difficulty . I’ve started over and now i’m proceding well.

    The trick is simple: just have 2 rangers with the Phantom perk. They can lead on, remaining concealed and revealing enemy positions ; then you can prepare overwatch ambushes like those using concealment DNA modification in the first game. If you avoid double activations ( easy with rangers leading on) you can easily leave no enemy alive ( 1 overwatch + 1 full turn shooting) , and repeat.

    snipers can overwatch with squadsight without revealing your squad in your turn.

    Grenadiers should open up Blasting as much cover as possible and then you are golden. Sometimes they can fire grenades indirectly .

    Reveal your rangers only if some remains alive .

    Playing this way on Veteran and reloading ONLY in the strategic map ( my little Ironman) , i rarely if ever lose soldiers.

    If you play without Phantom off course you are in serious trouble.

    For this reason i whould suggest to have at least 2 phantom angers in your team- when you have no more concealed units, the battle becomes really difficult. Until then you can play it in your terms and win .