Wot I Think: XCOM 2

In 2012, Firaxis took on the seemingly impossible task of reviving one of the most beloved PC games ever made. The original X-COM is widely considered to be one of the masterpieces of the nineties golden age, and since its release there have been sequels, spin-offs and unofficial revivals, but Firaxis’ XCOM was a complete, licensed reinterpretation. It was also rather good. Now, with XCOM 2 [official site] ready for release, Firaxis aim to improve on the formula that made Enemy Unknown such a triumph. Here’s wot I think.

There are going to be a lot of videos showing you a lot of things that happen in XCOM 2. Not all of the things, because on some levels the game is what you make of it, but you’ll be able to see enough before you have a chance to play to spoil some of the surprises. There are no spoilers here, concerning the specifics of the creatures and constructs you’ll face, or the missions you’ll need to undertake.

While this is a game to be chewed over and replayed time and time again (I’ve finished the campaign once and started it more than a dozen times), the first playthrough is a wonderful thing. In this post-invasion, and indeed post-occupation, storyline, you might think that the term “Enemy Unknown” no longer applies, but whether you’re facing adaptations of old foes or encountering fresh horrors, XCOM 2 has the ability to surprise and shock at almost every turn of its hefty plot.

Part of the weight of that plot comes from the characters – the pre-built characters, who some might see as an unnecessary distraction from their own, hand-crafted soldiers. There’s much more dialogue between the folks back at base than in Enemy Unknown. Whether it’s your new head of engineering expressing discomfort at the apparent lack of ethical concern in the dark of the laboratories or the melacholy reflections of your constant companion, Central Officer Bradford.

He’s my favourite, Bradford. He’s mostly referred to simply as Central, which led to an odd situation when I came to write this review and Googled him to find out exactly what his rank is. Without thinking, I typed in “Bradford Central” rather than “Bradford Central XCOM” and discovered both a Premier Inn and a Travelodge. Appropriate. Like the manager of an inner city chain hotel, XCOM’s Bradford appeals to me because he shows all of the scars, stresses and gray hairs of invasion and the intervening years of occupation.

He has come close to losing all hope and the cracks in his armour are visible whenever losses mount during a mission – hearing him panic and even come close to admonishing your command shows the value of these talking heads as tools to heighten the intensity of combat. They may not be strictly necessary but, like the environmental details that tell the history of Advent’s rise and humanity’s fall, the cast are one cog in the machine that communicates XCOM 2’s themes.

And this is a game thick with thematic pleasures. As an organisation, XCOM are far removed from their origins as an elite international military force. The scrappy ragtag collection of soldiers that you send out into the field from the mobile Avenger base are, if their customisable bios are to be believed, equal parts heroes and villains. Not quite the Suicide Squad, perhaps, but they’re people who are good at surviving and killing, for one reason or another, and the recruitment policy tends toward “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it comes to any criminal background.

Given that everything is customisable – from names to bios, appearance, demeanour and clothing – your XCOM might still be made up of the brightest and best that humanity has to offer. My two favourite soldiers, in my victorious campaign, were cut from very different cloth – a sharpshooter who looked like a professional future-warrior, tricked out in the most immaculate gear imaginable, and a one-eyed grenadier who looked like a salty sailor on prolonged shore leave. Class acts, both of them, and they’ll crop up in future campaigns thanks to the ability to save created characters into a pool from which new recruits are drawn.

All of that, you might think, is fluff. The icing on the cake. Thankfully, this is one of the most delicious and nutritious cakes you’ll ever eat. As a tactical combat game, XCOM 2 has few peers. It’s such an astonishingly intelligent sequel that, in hindsight, the first game seems like a test run. Every element has been rethought and retooled, and while it was the strategic layer that required the most attention, it’s in the tactical layer that the genius of the design shines through most brightly.

As I moved through the campaign, there were ample moments when the rules, theme and emergent stories combined to create scenes that illustrated the best of the game. Like last year’s best turn-based game, Invisible, Inc., XCOM 2 appears to generate tension and opportunities for desperate heroism effortlessly, and that’s because so much effort has been spent on the overall structure of both the tactical and strategic layers.

The most effective and most complex changes are all structural, mainly to be found in the flow of the campaign, and the tight control of skills and equipment. As mentioned at the top, I’m not going to spoil the specifics of the abilities for each of the five classes but the elegance of the design is in the way that every choice and every upgrade forces you away from the simple ‘move, cover shoot’ flow that defines the early stages of the campaign.

There are, on both the XCOM and Advent sides, many abilities that disrupt the normal flow of the battlefield. The most basic of these, as you might expect, are grenades and other explosive area of effect weapons. They force you to split and scatter, and to find new cover when current defences are destroyed.

But you’ll want to separate your troops anyway because that way they can flank the enemy, sidestepping any attempts to cower behind cover of their own. That process of protecting yourself and flanking the enemy is the core of XCOM. Until it isn’t.

Even the game’s earliest stages upset any routines you might fall into. Every enemy you’ll meet, the most basic Advent soldier aside, can do far more than fire a gun. Sectoids push and pull your troops around the map, using a combination of direct mind control and other psionic attacks with semi-random outcomes. Other enemies make a habit of destroying cover or directing danger toward your previously secure units, or forcing a retreat. Thankfully, you can fight back in similar ways.

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142 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    Excellent. I held off prepurchasing, but that’s a sale then.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cross says:

      I’m right with you on that one!

    • Premium User Badge

      Lakshmi says:

      I’d preordered (I don’t usually but I had a massive discount voucher about to run out) so I’m so bloody glad it was a good preorder!

    • colossalstrikepackage says:

      Ditto. And I have a goddarn exam on 10 Feb – so will be itching like crazy until then. Ah well – I might use my downtime to add to the character pool…

  2. Ufofighter says:

    I hope the comment on the difficulty is accurate, in the previous game I had to try the impossible level in order to actually lose a campaign.

    Without any doubt the most anticipated game in years for me.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cross says:

      You’re kidding. Seriously? I couldn’t get very far into a Classic campaign before i had Thin Men pasting my top guys in full cover and rage quit.

      • Premium User Badge

        Vandelay says:

        Difficulty was one of the things that irritated me a lot in the previous game and ultimately prevented me from ever actually getting much beyond half way. Normal offered zero challenge, whilst Classic would regularly throw up moments of extreme probability bullshit.

        It could of course just be that I am really shit at the game (and, judging by many other people’s comments regarding difficulty of the game, it could possibly just be that,) but it could really have done with an extra difficulty that sat in between normal and classic.

        • Premium User Badge

          Cross says:

          I second this entirely. Classic just felt like being cheated against. It really, really wasn’t a satisfying challenge.

          • Banyan says:

            Only if you tried to play classic the way that you played normal. In normal you can trade shots with aliens from halfcover and actually win a battle. That is total suicide in Classic, which is all about luring aliens into running forward into your overwatched troops in full cover. A lot of players never realized that you needed to change playstyles at higher difficulties.Xcom 2 seems to loosen the rigid optimal play style, so I’m excited.

      • Coming Second says:

        For me, Non-Ironman Classic EW cut a good balance (at least until the end game, where everything became a total stroll in the park again). There were moments of total bullshit, but that has to be expected in any game that involves RNG, and you could reload if felt really hard-done-by. The game felt tense but fair with those settings.

        One of the issues I had with the game however was that if a mission was a complete wash, the campaign was rarely recoverable; the lack of pay-out, personnel losses plus the panic increase was like your team getting a red card and a penalty awarded against them. I’d be interested to know if, with an increase in random elements, failure has become slightly more forgiving in this one.

        • LexW1 says:

          That was one of the two things I really hated about XCOM on harder settings – if a mission went badly south, the campaign was basically over. The other was, as alluded to in a number of reviews, you had a pretty specific build order (and a very vanilla one at that), and deviating from that was, likewise, game over (even if you didn’t find out for a mission or three – which was even worse in a way). EU obvs. only made the latter worse because most EU choices were essentially traps unless you were already ahead of where you should be research/build-wise (and even then…).

          Sounds like 2 definitely addresses the latter. It sounds like they might have addressed the former, too, though we shall see.

          • Kitsunin says:

            It certainly seems like the move away from linear progression could address that first issue. EW being so linear means that a failure puts you behind the curve the game is designed around.

            With things being a bit more open I imagine being able to crawl back up via easier missions after a nasty failure (with the caveat that Doomsday creeps closer). Also hearing about things like (minor gameplay spoiler) rescuing captured units indicates there might be some clever comeback mechanics in the case of failure.

      • Danarchist says:

        Power creep was a serious issue in the last one. Early game was like starting a fight in a bar with a MMA fighter. About halfway through your doing the same but with a sawed off shotgun in both hands.
        I tried classic mode and hated how the enemy seemed to never miss while my guys were randomly shooting into the sky at point blank range.

    • Cfoofoo says:

      For me classic was plenty hard until I really got into Impossible. Once you get accustomed to the strategies you need to survive Impossible even classic feels like baby-mode.

      • Ufofighter says:

        Basically this plus what Banyan said, the AI didn’t get better in terms of positioning, only more pods with more accuracy and hp’s per alien. You can avoid the accuracy problem by not letting them shoot you and the aditional pods playing carefully, using invisible scouts, scanners…

        Also knowing when to pick some council missions helps a lot. Many of the early ones are meatgrinders and it’s better to loose a country than your better squad.

  3. Auru says:

    The modding situation should be mentioned as well, it’s clear that Firaxis heard loud and clear how much people enjoyed the modding scene for Enemy Unknown, this time around a huge toolset will be available to everyone + some day one mods made by the Long War team.

    Not many games come along these days with that kind of open ended modding potential, I can’t wait for this game :)

    • Ufofighter says:

      Not only the tools but also the assets, I suspect that’s the reason behing the 45gb requirements.

      • Ufofighter says:

        It dropped to 24gb, still a lot more than Xcom EW (around 8gb)

  4. BobbyDylan says:

    Ooo… I’m so excited for this game. I’m not sure if I should read this review, for fear of ruining that “new game” experience.

  5. Crafter says:

    I am not a fan of the ‘everybody is an empowered badass” design direction.

    IMO, Xenonauts had a more fitting direction where everybody looks tired and/or afraid. It is more in line with how XCOM plays.

    • anHorse says:

      Yeah because a group of elite soldiers gathered from all corners of the globe should be a bunch of trembling wimps who can’t fire a gun straight

      • Crafter says:

        There is some margin between a wimp and a super soldier :)

        • c-Row says:

          A super wimp?

        • Zenicetus says:

          True, but Darwinian selection does tend to shrink that margin.

          Anyone who actually behaved like Hudson in the Aliens movie (“We’re all gonna die man!”) would either screw up and be killed by the aliens, or get “accidentally” fragged by a fellow team member to eliminate a risk.

          Hudson was a great character in that movie, and it worked as a narrative. But real combat teams don’t function that way. Not if they ever survive combat.

          • notenome says:

            You are describing a common sense, but wholly inaccurate view of combat. Any type of combat is just about the most stressful experience a human can undergo, and any kind of outfit will experience psychological problems before, during and after combat.

            An excerpt from an interview with Fritz Langanke, tank commander in the 2nd SS Das Reich division who fought in Russia and Normandy:

            “Time and again they buzzed this group and fired into the dead bodies. They flew just above the treetops, so they must have seen all the details. Slowly the limbs were torn off, the intestines were spilled. It’s one of the most terrible impressions I remember from the war. The gunner had a view out of the tank with his sighting telescope and its narrow field of vision. That, unfortunately, was pointed at this group of dead soldiers. In this tremendous stress we all had to suffer, the horrible sight tipped the scale, and he cracked up. Hollering and swearing, he wanted to get out. He was for a short while out of his mind. I drew my pistol and stuck the barrel in his neck, hollered back at him and told him to stop playing the crazy idiot. He immediately got back to normal. This man was one of the finest comrades we had, absolutely reliable, sturdy and imperturbable. But I am sure every man exposed long enough to really extreme pressure will have a weak moment.”

            “I assumed they were discussing what action to take to cross the Hambye-Roncey Road and continue their retreat. I told my crew I would run over and find out how we could join this group. Still close to my tank, I got caught in a burst of artillery fire. All around me shells fell. I felt forlorn, hit the ground and started crawling around in an absolutely senseless way. It was my breakdown. When I had myself under control again, I first ascertained that my crew hadn’t seen me. Most probably there is no closer and unrestricted comradeship than in a tank crew that has to live and fight together through real hard times. If they had watched me crawling, those nice guys would have asked me — in a mighty compassionate way, of course — what kind of beetles I was trying to catch or was it moles or other nonsense like that.”

            link to historynet.com

            Bear in my these were veterans that had been fighting for four years, and please be more respectful of how people react to stress in horrible situations.

          • Zenicetus says:

            I’m not arguing that it doesn’t happen in real life.

            However, you operate on the commander level in these games, not as the actual grunt. From that perspective, you couldn’t afford to have people on the team who are prone to panic. Unless you were just out of raw recruits, you’d never put someone on the team who panicked in the last mission. Not if you cared about the success of the mission, and the safety of the rest of the team.

          • Coming Second says:

            Perhaps in this game you don’t get to be picky about who you send on missions, because your choice is limited to those crazy and/or criminal enough to fight our alien overlords in the open? Just a thought.

    • Keios says:

      But not everyone does have to look like an empowered badass. From watching videos about the customisation, it looks like you could totally have a team of down at heel, worn out guys if you really wanted to. It’s just a matter of taking a few minutes to customise them that way, then saving them so that they pop up in the roster on later games if you see fit.

    • Ufofighter says:

      I imagine the xcom recruits as the 100 most crazy, vengeful, psychotic beings humanity has to offer. Specially now that they are some kind of rebel organization.

    • Unsheep says:

      Yeah I’m holding out for Xenonauts 2. I hope it will be released later this year, but that’s probably too soon. It seems Goldhawk Interactive are really tapping into the ‘classic XCom’ vein, hopefully they will add elements from Apocalypse and Terror From the Deep in their next game. However I wouldn’t complain either if it turns out to be ‘more of the same’.

    • airknots says:

      XCOM mixed with Darkest Dungeon’s affliction system? That could work as a mod.

      • Crafter says:

        Although I don’t think that XCOM needs to copy these mechanics, that would be a nice MOD :D .

        XCOM 1 (I guess 2 too, but I have not played it yet) already has panicking soldiers going berserk. And it makes perfect sense.

        You are part of a small commando sent to fight ‘enemy unknown’ and you see your comrades in arm falling left and right after being shot by a psychic alien armed with a fricking laser pistol, of course you have good chances to lose it, piss yourself and empty your charger on the first moving shadow.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Actually, XCOM 2 has a slight element of this in the game already.
        Soldiers who are critically or gravely wounded (so have a very near brush with death), they suffer a will (morale) penalty, so they’re more likely to panic or have their minds messed with etc.
        Unless, they go out on a mission and they do well and nothing goes horribly wrong then they’ll then turn that penalty around to a bonus.

        • Josh W says:

          Oh my goodness, that’s brilliant. “I’ve got this veteran, he’s had a hard time, he’s unreliable, but I need him on this mission. I need to show him we can to this.”

          Cue the striding towards the camera thing..

      • Premium User Badge

        aleander says:

        Damn, I miss Jagged Alliance.

        • Raoul Duke says:

          You can play it right now with the awesome community patch. It’s still amazing.

          Interesting how JA still has better shooting/cover mechanics, inventory management and a better strategy layer than this game by the looks of things…

          • Hayward1066 says:

            You know, that’s my major bug bear against the new Xcom games (well that and the limited base aspect) i despise the limited inventory system.

            I know some people defend it as a “tactical choice” and i know if it changed they would have to redesign the way the game works but for me its just moronic. Why in the Etherials name cant my men carry more Flash bangs and have it limited with a strength stat so your speedy scouts can only carry a limited amount of equipment (hello SMG’s) while your burly combat engineers have tons of ordinance but move like molasses.

            I had hoped with the move to PC only that we might see an more JA like inventory system (although obviously not like the fun insanity of JA 1.13’s new inventory system).

            Still, aside from that im still totally going to get the game and play the living hell out of it.

          • Punning Pundit says:

            That sort of inventory Tetris always sounds interesting in theory, but (in my experience) always plays out poorly in practice.

            Ideally, a game is giving me _just_ enough “stuff” that I can complete my missions, and leave me feeling like I need “just a little bit more”. I will _always_ want 1 more grenade than I can carry. This game has simply streamlined the decision making process from “how many grenades” to “Grenade: Y/N?”

            The streamlining of the decision processes helps me get into the actual game much faster, and surfaces the decision into one that is obvious and clear. I rather like it.

        • unacom says:

          I don´t miss it, at all.
          Still replay it once or twice a year (Just recently heard about this mod/patch 1.13. This will keep me going for years).
          Am happy like a worm in an apple.
          I wouldn´t mind a good successor though.
          I´d even mind less if games chose to learn from JA2.
          It has so much to give.

          • Hayward1066 says:

            1.13 is balls out amazing, i would advise you to download/print the Keyboard commands as there’s a ton of new stuff in game. I would also recommend Alruco revisited, which keeps the base campaign but adds more cities and small farms to the game. It gives a more guerrilla warfare feel as well (the airport is in the middle of the island so no charging to Drassen). trust me if your a JA fan you will love it.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Yep, it goes along with the unfortunate obsession with classes.

      Much prefer the idea of a squad of reasonably generic soldiers who are gradually and organically moulded into your fighting force. This feels more like they are supposed to be a sort of superhero fighting team with pre-defined super powers that you unlock.

      And what is it about my ‘heavy’ that makes his hands unable to grasp the assault rifle of my fallen ‘assault’, exactly?

  6. Premium User Badge

    DrollRemark says:

    I cracked on this a couple of weeks ago and pre-ordered it. I’m so completely ready for it to hit now. It sounds amazing.

  7. notenome says:

    Adam, baby, don’t do this to me. I have work to do, man.

    • Booker says:

      I wouldn’t necessarily call playing XCOM work, but to each his own. :P

  8. yogibbear says:

    OMG I thought this was one of the myriad of games delayed till April/May. Yes! Cannot wait. My most anticipated game of 2016!

  9. Unsheep says:

    As far as reboots go its safe to say these new XCom games are well deserved successes. I even enjoyed Declassified a great deal.

    They seem to have a found an ideal balance of challenge and accessibility. A balance that even attracts mainstream gamers, who otherwise wouldn’t touch a turn-based game.

    However the strategist and tactician inside me still prefers the older games, especially Defense, Terror From the Deep and Apocalypse. Games that are still very much playable today.
    As much as I enjoyed the first XCom reboot, I’m holding out for a potential Xenonauts 2, as it plays more like the old XCom games.

    In any case its great to see a Western-style turn-based game do as well as this reborn franchise.

    • Booker says:

      I installed Apocalypse a while ago and I had no idea what to do. Honestly, no idea what was happening. :D
      There is obviously a huge difference between someone who knows it from when it was originally released and someone who sees it today for the very first time.

      • Unsheep says:

        I absolutely agree, they are very challenging to get into.

        When I first played them I absorbed every gaming advice I could find at the time, yet even then it was largely a matter of trial and error. As with any other game the more you play the better you get, which is especially important for strategic and tactical games in my experience.

        You can always use strategy guides if you want, I know Gamefaq has a few of them posted on their site.

        You can also learn a lot by watching a walkthrough first. One of my favourite youtubers, MetalCanyon (link to youtube.com), has done walkthroughs of most of these classics. Another walkthrough I liked was by Meridian (link to youtube.com).

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Apocalypse was released at about the tail end of when games still expected you to read the manual.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        I’m obsessed with the original game, and I have never managed to get into Apocalypse. While the idea sounds fantastic, it’s incredibly confusing, has a bad UI, and has the most uninspired monster design imaginable.

        • Asurmen says:

          To be fair, those are all criticisms labelled at all 3 of the originals.

          • Raoul Duke says:

            Don’t think I’ve ever seen someone criticise the design of the aliens in the original.

    • Hayward1066 says:

      Ahh Apocalypse, nothing says “love” like a room full of incendiary grenades. At the end of most of my teams “investigations” into a potential Alien infestation the site would look like Verdun. This was mainly due to my terror of Poppers and those head crab things. Also the “nuclear option” utterly obliterating the building on the strategy map with missiles and plasma fire was amazing.

      Actually there was supposed be a complete and deep diplomacy system with all the corporations in it that never got finished, such a shame.

  10. PancakeWizard says:

    I’m struggling to think of something that could fill me with more dread than “Bradford Central Travel lodge”. I’ll need a sit down.

    • Premium User Badge

      JamesTheNumberless says:

      Once you’ve faced the Britannia Hotel at Coventry Pool Meadow bus station, you can face anything.

      • polecat says:

        Nooooo! I haven’t thought about that place in 10 years. Easily the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in. There is a definite psychological wearing-down-ness on top of the many many individual failings.

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      Lakshmi says:

      Kings Cross Travelodge. Just don’t do it. Ever.

  11. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    Another weak-minded individual here that went ahead and pre-ordered (the deluxe version, no less, for maximum sheep-mentality). Now I’m (even more) glad I did!

  12. LexW1 says:

    I actually broke and bought this this morning before seeing reviews, but I am definitely going to pretend that I only made the decision now. That’s the ticket! :)

    Great to hear it’s great!

  13. Hodge says:

    Dang. I (sort of) bounced off the first one but all the coverage I’ve seen of this makes it look like the game I wanted in the first place.

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      I tried to like XCOM, and failed a couple of times. However, I recently pushed through and finished it this weekend, and I enjoyed the second half of the game much more than the first. I’m even planning on playing through the Enemy Within expansion, at least for a while, to see what that offers.

      So I’m cautiously optimistic about XCOM2, but I’m still not sure if I’ll buy it at launch.

      If you’re looking for something a lot like the classic X-COM experience, then Xenonauts might be right up your alley, which I played last year.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        Xenonauts always strikes me as X-Com without the charm… the visual and sound design of the game was very important and really elevated the experience of playing it. Xenonauts seems to believe that what we want are the bare mechanics (which we do) with utterly generic graphics over the top (which we don’t, on the whole).

        • Premium User Badge

          aleander says:

          That’s unfair. I also happen to prefer XCOMs visuals, and I think they’re closer to the old games, but Xenonauts look is a pretty obvious result of a deliberate style choice, and pulls it pretty well in my opinion. It’s bleak, sure, but bleak doesn’t equal generic. In fact I’m pretty sure it’s far bleaker than what a generic look would be.

          • unacom says:

            Agreed.
            It does however suffer from its´ spaciousness. The camera being closer to the individuals (both in Enemy Unknown and XCOM) adds enormously to the suspension.
            Xenonauts feels more like the devs tried to emulate a command-post feeling, with the officer being either seated above the battlefield in a command chopper or safely in a CP and relegating orders to his NCOs in the field. In doing so it loses a bit in richness without being able tofill the gap with something else.
            All this said. I pretty much like Xenonauts and prefer it to XCOM (vanilla. Long War is a tad better).

        • Hayward1066 says:

          I think the thing about the original Xcom and Xenonauts that everyone forgets is that they are totally different games. There both planetary defense simulators.

          Your more like a Zhukov, moving large formations around. Hell my combat squads would often be nearly the size of a small platoon with total earth wide troop numbers approaching a company by the end of the game. Then there’s the air war, which really is a war in Xenonauts, involving multiple radar installations and interceptor base’s. If modern Xcom is tactical chess then Xenonauts and old Xcom are RISK.

          I love both so its win win ;)

  14. gbrading says:

    Awesome, really looking forward to playing this. 2016 so far has been a pretty rip-roaring year for video games. Nice to hear Bradford is in the game too; seeing how he’s changed since Enemy Unknown will be interesting.

  15. Banks says:

    Cant wait for the snaked mod.

  16. Calculon says:

    I enjoyed the review – and really I think its pushed me from fence sitter to buyer – HOWEVER – Im surprised there is no mention of cost (that I saw).

    The game is selling in my region for $79.99 – and there is already a $21. DLC available for it. While I appreciate the work and artistry that has gone into this came – we’re talking $101 for the game and the DLC – which to me is completely ridiculous.

    I know, I know – ‘Then wait for a steam sale – they happen all of the time’ – and one would be right to say that (Im hoping someone now does just for the amusing effect) – but damnit – $80 on release? WTF?

    • anHorse says:

      Don’t buy direct from steam

    • Vacuity729 says:

      Just wait for a Steam sale; they happen all the time, you know!

      Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    • Premium User Badge

      cpt_freakout says:

      I agree, the price on this game is quite steep. When I preordered I managed to get it to a much more reasonable number thanks to GreenManGaming’s multitude of coupons; otherwise it wouldn’t have happened as soon as I would’ve liked.

      Still, it is prohibitively expensive. I don’t know what their play is, but I think it’s just going to provoke piracy in a lot of regions where this kind of pricing borders on the absurd.

    • Scelous says:

      Top quality costs money. I feel like that is a concept lost on most gamers.

      Gaming as a hobby is still pretty cheap compared to plenty of other hobbies, especially since game prices have barely changed for decades despite inflation.

      I am more than fine with paying $80 for a good game, because this is a medium I care about and want to support.

      • JFS says:

        Oooohh, XCOM 2 has troll aliens!

      • Ufofighter says:

        You are the perfect conform… I mean the intelligent consumer every company is proud to serve, keep up that attitude and please expand it to other ambits.

      • unacom says:

        Agreed. Quality does necessarily cost money.
        However how much money a game is allowed to cost is debatable. Especially if we´re talking a weekend to ram through it.
        I´ll allow a good game to set me back 30€ (Call of Duty).
        I´ll pay up to 50€ for an excellent game (Company of Heroes, Tornado, Hearts of Iron II).
        A true classic might persuade me to be worth more (I´m talking Operation Flashpoint, Jagged Alliance2 and Homeworld here).
        But is XCOM2 going to be that good? I´m in doubt.
        I´m looking forward to playing it, though.

    • Wulfram says:

      Must vary by region. In the UK its £34.99 on Steam which is fairly cheap by current standards.

    • Shadow says:

      Sounds like Australian pricing. It’s not really the fault of games companies that the country taxes videogames so harshly. I would find those figures prohibitively expensive as well.

      But I second the advice to purchase the game outside of Steam. There’s a number of fairly reputable key sellers which might have more sensible prices.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        The ‘Australia tax’ is all about companies trying to rip a bit more out of Australians. There’s no special high tax on games.

    • Xzi says:

      I got a Steam copy from a key site for $30. One region or another always seems to get screwed with new game releases. Yours is the unlucky one this time, I guess.

    • Wisq says:

      I’m assuming you’re talking about Canadian prices, since those numbers match up exactly with what I’m seeing. Begging your pardon if I’ve got this wrong, but if not, then you should realise that you’re actually getting a deal on the currency exchange — the Canadian dollar is exceptionally weak right now.

      The now-typical $60 USD price point is almost $85 CAD right now, yet they’re asking only $80. There’s an even bigger discrepancy on the digital deluxe version, which is only $95 CAD when it properly converts to $105 CAD.

      I realise that gaming seems more expensive than ever, but really, that’s just inflation. If you look around, you’ll find plenty of documented evidence that the price of games is going down on average — the price increases fall just short of the long term inflation rate.

      And of course, that’s before you consider that waiting a few months can save you over 30% on Steam, while waiting a few years can get you it for next to nothing on Steam or Humble Bundle.

      That said, check out the Enhanced Steam browser plugin, which offers current and historical sale info for all Steam titles when you browse their store. Or if you don’t want the plugin, just go straight to isthereanydeal.com. You can see where it’s the cheapest, and I can tell you right now that several sites are offering 20% off Steam keys — although your actual savings will be slightly less, due to currency conversion and the fact that Steam was already giving Canadian users a deal. (Again, pardon me if I’ve pegged you for the wrong region.)

      • Wisq says:

        Also, keep in mind that the $21 DLC isn’t actually day-one DLC, it’s just a renamed season pass.

      • Premium User Badge

        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        If we are talking CDN prices then greenmangaming.com will save you ~$13 with (cheaper price) – (coupon code discount) + (exchange rate).

    • Technotica says:

      Green Man Gaming has a 25% discount on the game, I jsut preordered it there:

      link to greenmangaming.com

      • Technotica says:

        p.s. the code for the discount is:
        Greenm-ANGAME-25PJAN

      • freedomispopular says:

        Yeah, I really don’t understand when people complain about the price of games, when GMG almost always has at least a 20% off code, even for prepurchases, and sometimes it’s as high as 35 or 40%.

  17. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    My brother and I bought this for each other’s birthdays last week. Excited to play!

  18. miateila says:

    XCOM Enemy Within and Enemy Unknown were capable games. They don’t have a lot in common with the older XCOMs in terms of depth, strategy, AI, or general replayability. It’s unlikely that I’ll be coming back to them after XCOM2, for example.

    None of the NPCs had character in the first game, and Bradford’s insensitive, jackass comments and casual handling of lost units was — inappropriate at best. If the comments are insightful now, if there’s some emotion there or w/e, that’s a huge change from the previous two Firaxis versions, and would be welcome.

    When talking about the enhancements, there was no comparison made to the Enemy Within enhancements. And so in Enemy Within, you can have a sniper that can move to the top of buildings as part of basic movement cost, and can then let loose a hit from a plasma sniper the same turn, with a +40 or +45 total aim modifier at 97%.

    When talking about “jumping to the top of a building and raining death without losing a turn,” that’s immediately where I go — wanting to compare that mechanic to Enemy Within’s use of Meld.

    • Scelous says:

      I laughed at your mention of Bradford saying insensitive, jackass comments. What comments did he say that made him a jackass? I don’t recall any, myself.

      • Coming Second says:

        My memory of Bradford – or Sweater Guy, as he was eternally known to me – was a man so bland he actually came right around the other side and was vaguely adorable. Certainly I never found him offensive.

  19. JonWood says:

    Its heresy to say this here I know, but I’m holding out for the tablet version. Enemy Within makes my train journeys bearable (and occasionally extends them as I sit on the platform at the other end finishing the battle I’m currently in).

    • Premium User Badge

      SpiceTheCat says:

      You’re not alone. I’ve played XCOM:EU & EW far more on iPad than on laptop, and for much the same reason. Oh dear, a long journey on public transport, tsk, however will I fill the time.

      Given that XCOM 2 is only coming out for PC, and (I vaguely seem to remember reading) that the 2K studio responsible for the iOS port of XCOM:EU/W has closed, I’m not sure we’ll be seeing it on mobile any time soon.

      Fortunately my new work laptop entirely coincidentally meets the recommended specs for XCOM 2, so I’ll just have to cope with playing it on that for the time being.

    • Premium User Badge

      DrollRemark says:

      I’m desperately gutted there doesn’t appear to be a mobile version of the game planned this time. It worked flawlessly on my OnePlus One (a bloody phone! Heavens above, modern life, you really are something), and I’d love to be able to have it as a travel game again, even if that meant losing mod support.

      • Punning Pundit says:

        XCOM’s interface being playable with a 360 pad- and the game being able to run on a 360- also made it easier to port to a mobile device. I’m _very_ curious what changes they will be making that will make it harder to play with a gamepad, and/or bigger than will fit on a mobile device.

        I do tend to think that this game isn’t really fit for a console- the mindset of TV gaming is just different from how I play XCOM. But this kind of turn based strategy game is kind of perfect for a mobile device. It might just be too “big” (disk space, RAM, processor, etc) to fit on most Nexus or iOS devices. Or there might be interface issues. Or it might be something they do port over eventually. :)

    • JonWood says:

      I didn’t know the studio that did their port had been shut down, that’s really sad. My next hope is that they’re going to do a Linux port so that I can at least play on my laptop without having to install Windows on it.

      • Premium User Badge

        SpiceTheCat says:

        You’re in luck – per the article, it’ll be out for PC, Mac & Linux. I might have been confusing by saying it’s PC-only, by which I meant “not on console or mobile”- sorry about that.

    • Sinjun says:

      Doubt that’ll ever happen, considering the graphics are actually good this time.

    • Themadcow says:

      Yeah,I didn’t really get on with the PC version of XCOM as it just felt like a poor mans version of the original game, but it just works brilliantly as a mobile/tablet game – possibly the best mobile port of all time. The studio that did the port performed a minor miracle.

  20. Fropp says:

    Can’t believe i’m reading a review of a game that is still 4 days away.

    Oh well, sounds good anyway!

  21. C0llic says:

    I’m not reading this review yet, because I’ve spoiled myself enough (it’s already pre-ordered), but I’m impressed at the fastest fingers first release time. Bang on 1pm ! Haha

    Friday can’t get here soon enough.

  22. Katar says:

    As someone who is gaming on a PC with a CPU from 2008 and still using DDR2 it would be nice to know the rough specs of the PC the reviewer used.

    I pass the Minimum requirements and want to get the game but I’m not sure how well it will play. I am going to upgrade to new PC this year at some point because I’m missing too many new games but I’d like to put it off as long as possible.

    • Fishpig says:

      Seconded. Maybe the writers could have a spec’s page link for their PC(s), save typing it out every time they do a review, and other stuff like scotch egg consumption, algae accidentally consumed, etc. instead of a direct link to their email.
      I’m wary of the “how dare you try to play game on that…abacus?!?!” comments, but if something like load time enters the discussion, and might affect someone’s decision to buy, it would perhaps be useful.

  23. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    Sounds very promising and that they’ve focused on the “right stuff” for this sequel. Will still wait for sale since my backlog is ridiculous and the price is hefty on this. So all you others enjoy!

  24. Mrice says:

    I adore xcom and really want to play this, but im disappointed at the existence of day 1 DLC and kinda sad that nobody seems to care about it any more.

    I realise that its somewhat become the norm. But there really is no justification for it.

    • bamjo says:

      Agree completely, but that isn’t even the worst of it. It isn’t even day 1 DLC, but a day 1 pre-order of upcoming DLC. I just checked the steam page and it claims all DLC is coming in spring/summer 2016.

      I too love all things XCOM, but this is bullshit. I’ve managed to avoid this AAA dlc/pre-order culture that has sprung up. But now that it is encroaching on games I actually play and care about, it is especially infuriating.

    • bamjo says:

      In thinking more about it, this is a “season pass” in all but name, the ultimate of bullshit AAA moves.

      • Premium User Badge

        Flavour Beans says:

        It is a season pass. All that is is preordering upcoming DLC, just like you can preorder the game as well. There’s nothing stopping you from waiting for the season pass to go on sale, or waiting for all the DLC to come out and be reviewed so you can make an informed decision; it’s just a matter of buying them a la carte to only get ones you want, or buying the season pass and getting all of it, but at a discount. I don’t understand the knee-jerk hatred for all DLC; just like with games as a whole, sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s rubbish.

        • Mrice says:

          I was a little confused by the steam page. The pages release date for the DLC was set to Feb 5th but the information explains the DLC is actually slated for “spring” which is i guess not for a while.

          I was also confused by the flavour of the DLC which is quite typical for day one DLC, mostly little aesthetic and stat boosty things, nothing major.

          Generally speaking i dont mind post release DLC, its entirely optional and its absence doesn’t detract from the game, in fact some of my favourite parts of games have been in expansions. (Shivering Isles? Shivering isles.) But day 1 DLC really rubs me up the wrong way, particularly in a time when literally every game you buy for console or pc is going to be calling home for updates anyway.

          There are a lot of quite common excuses that are used to justify it but i never felt any of them really stood up to scrutiny. The most common one is that they were developed in the downtime between a games going gold and its hitting the store shelves, but firstly i dont entirely trust that, its a black box after all, and secondly i feel that DLC announced months prior to a games release doesn’t really justify itself as “unplanned production” and should really be included with the game. Its not like distribution costs are a factor like with the main game, its download only.

          TLDR: I dont have enough faith in companies to not abuse it. So i’d rather not encourage it if i can at all help it.

    • colossalstrikepackage says:

      Agreed. I refuse to buy anything that’s unreviewed. Hence me breaking today.

    • freedomispopular says:

      There’s really no justification for complaining about DLC when you could easily just not buy it or think about it.

  25. b2p0 says:

    How’s the control scheme? Is using a controller still the easiest, it did they fix the keyboard controls?

    • b2p0 says:

      *or

    • anHorse says:

      No controller support, better keyboard controls

      Although grenades do still act finicky from what I’ve seen on streams

  26. Laurentius says:

    Meh, I don’t see any imporvements over XCOM, which was pale shadow of UFO. Even less tactics and more gimmicks. Also, more hamfisted story forced through boring talking heads. It diminishes your role from someone important to someone that is constatnly talked down. Simply Firaxis is not able to build interesting strategic level so it would be better if thay just went on with linear missing structure of Starcrafts.
    Maybe that’s for a better, I will save money on this and instead try Mordheim and Thea:The Awekning.

    • Premium User Badge

      Flavour Beans says:

      Spoken like someone who reeeeeeally didn’t want to read the article.

      • Laurentius says:

        Look, people obviously want different things from TBS. RPS since 2012 constantly diss every TBS game that came around for not being like XCOM. I like tactics in tbs games not gimmicks. Abilities like “expose enmey that is behind cover” is not tactics for me, it’s gimmick. Move/shoot per turn is gimmick. Choose one mission out of two or three is not strategy but limitation. I didn’t look for more of these things in XCOM2 but actually I was hoping it will have less of them. So being even more gimmicky then XCOM is not imporvement for me but I am sure it was for Adam and will be for many people. Good thing is though, that there is no shortage of tbs games now so I hope will find something more suitbale for my taste.

        • Premium User Badge

          teije says:

          One person’s “gimmicks” (which I guess you mean as a pejorative) are another’s tactics or strategy. To each their own of course, but if you’re hoping Thea The Awakening will be better, I would save your money. It’s interesting, but IMO the parts don’t hold together very well and is exceptionally terribly written.

          • Premium User Badge

            cpt_freakout says:

            I’d also add Mordheim is “gimmicky” as hell, if what you’re looking for is some kind of hardcore tactics game. It’s great in many ways as a tactics game (particularly when it comes to its focus on positioning), but you’ll be frustrated to know you can get all sorts of gimmicky rule-breaking abilities.

        • dethtoll says:

          You must be fun at parties.

    • geisler says:

      Do what i do. Ignore all this new pseudo-TBS garbage and play JA2 1.13.

  27. Bobtree says:

    Well, “the first game seems like a test run” was true when I paid full price for EU at release. I definitely did not get my money’s worth and was not a happy customer. That game still has LOS bugs and broken multiplayer and worse. Firaxis’ recent history of half-baked releases puts them firmly on my “wait and see” list.

  28. Sinjun says:

    I realize this isn’t why people play these games, but I’m hoping the plot this time is better than the unbearably bland one in EU. There was almost no effort put into that games writing at all, just Hollywood invasion movie cliche’s and less than paper thin characters.

    • geisler says:

      I’m afraid the time when Firaxis made games with character and interesting writing are behind us. Then again, TBS / 4X games have never been expected to deliver anything special on the story part.

    • Punning Pundit says:

      I….

      I want more Hollywood space alien invasion cliches in XCOM2. I want all of them. I want them to have so many Hollywood cliches that they run out of cliches and have to invent new ones.

      I’m not even kidding.

  29. nottorp says:

    What about the countdowns? Other reviews say that every mission has a turn limit which is a total NO in my book, yet here they’re not mentioned at all. Do things like that just feel normal for some people?

    • Keios says:

      Not every mission does. Things like terror missions don’t and some of them have countdown timers that can be bypassed or don’t activate until certain criteria are met.

  30. ashjxx says:

    *Excitedly vibrates into non-existence*

  31. Henas says:

    Can the load times be somewhat alleviated by installing on SSD? What system did you run it on Adam?

    Super excited regardless. Perhaps the game is like Mordheim, wherein the load arse load times are due to the RNG assembling the level from the tiles?

  32. Raoul Duke says:

    Sigh… so another review of an XCOM game, another failure to deal with or comment on the common criticisms.

    Nothing in this review about:

    – squad size – is it still stupidly tiny?

    – magical free moves for the aliens – are they as bad as in the first game?

    – magical aliens dropping out of the sky behind your guys – does this still happen?

    – free aim – can you shoot where you actually want, or only at pre-defined targets?

    – loadouts – do we still have a silly action-game style limitation with ‘one main gun, one sidearm, two other items’, or is there actual proper inventory management for soldiers?

    – this limit on the number of turns in a mission – so are we forced to rush through missions as per the horrible ‘meld’ missions in Enemy Within?

    I also wish the review addressed how well the recon style of play actually works. Can you actually find and kill aliens without them getting the chance to run away or see you? Once you shoot one of them, do the rest magically know where you are?

    Personally, I also think the emphasis on finding ways to break the ‘move-action’ limitation and the apparent emphasis on forcing you to constantly change your ply style sounds pretty unpleasant. I don’t want a game that is really just a series of special rules and special circumstances and the TBS equivalent of jump scares – you need a solid base game with clear rules, and it should be legitimate to have a certain play style which is within the player’s control, not forced upon the player by the game.

    And I’m really sorry to hear that they’ve retained the whole ‘you must choose one of two missions’ rubbish.

    Basically, it sounds less and less like the glorious sandbox-y simulated style of the original game (i.e., the proper 1994 one), and more and more like a sort of guided action/rpg game where there are ‘right’ ways to play and ‘wrong’ ways to play.

    • Replikant says:

      Pretty much what you said. A case could be made for smaller squad sizes in the guerilla setting of XCOM 2.
      But.
      The thin man rain pretty much destroyed a mission in XCOM for me. And the rest of the gamey nonsense (character classes, loadout restrictions, 2 actions per turn, choosing missions, etc.) is really annoying. Those are good boardgame simplification but completely unnecessary for a computer game.

    • Asurmen says:

      Probably because A) they’re not that important issues and B) if they weren’t mentioned it’s probably because they’re same as before.

  33. OmNomNom says:

    A pleasure to read. Thanks for getting me even more unbearably excited.

  34. Biggus_Dikkus says:

    In previous XCOM some missions jarred with the setting of the map
    like priceless Bomb Defusal in the cemetery in the middle of night, with dramatic dr. Shen on infolink

  35. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Do they still hide basic features behind DLC wall, like being able to change the colour of your mens from yellow to something else?
    Yes, someone is still butthurt over having to pay to be able to distinguish between unit types quickly.

  36. MadMinstrel says:

    Upping the difficulty level for the hardcore gamers is all well and good, but when it comes to tactical games, while I enjoy them, I’m pretty wimpy, and I don’t like reading spoilers, tips and guides. Hope there’s an appropriate easy mode included.

  37. VFRHawk says:

    Hey Adam,

    Can you confirm whether the game has native 21:9 support, and if it has, does it have the issue EU/EW had where the mouse gets progressively further out of line with the cursor the further away from the centre of the screen it gets?

  38. lagiacrux says:

    few questions …

    – are there second wave options to customize your campaign and add/remove difficulty?
    – how does the game hold up to long war? in every review i read, it feels like a “lesser” version of the long war mod for EU/EW.

  39. dethtoll says:

    Preparing for XCOM 2 involves taking off all my clothes. Just another 24 hours…