Wot I Think – XCOM 2: War Of The Chosen

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I can’t help but think of a sausage. A huge, fat, glistening sausage, bulging with meat (or the nearest vegetarian equivalent) to the point that the innards have burst through the skin, forming deliciously fatty globules on the surface. There is surely no room for more, but nonetheless even more has been stuffed inside it. It clearly shouldn’t work. It’s almost obscene. It looks like it will fall apart or even explode if even the slightest pressure is applied. It is sausage-based madness. The sausage is XCOM 2: War of the Chosen [official site], and it is as delectable and satisfying as it absolutely bloody insane.

My first few hours with War Of The Chosen, an enormous add-on for which the meagre-sounding term ‘DLC’ is desperately inappropriate, I spent convinced that certain aspects of it were severely misjudged. Its strategy map side – i.e. all the time spent outside of its turn-based missions – was a cacophony of interruptions, confusingly overlapping concepts and dubious internal logic.

That map, and the drawn-out base building associated with it, was always the weakest element of XCOM 2 pre-expansion – this cludgey attempt to view XCOM/X-COM’s longstanding global crisis management through a new lens that entailed far too much schlepping about and being dragged this way and that. The long grind to expand both base and territory while trying to keep the Avatar doomclock in check, all the while peppered with must-do missions, is why I haven’t returned to the XCOM 2 well anything like as frequently as I did with XCOM the first. I dug the intricacy of chaining together skills to survive missions, and I even enjoyed the divisive tension of turn timers, but the strategy map was a drag.

Initially, War Of The Chosen doubled down on this stuff, and I felt the bile rising. Its headline additions (but there are many, many more, both obvious and subtle) involve three recurring boss aliens that haunt you and threaten a game over scenario across the early and middle stages of a new campaign, and three new friendly factions who will provide you with extra units and resources if you meet their objectives. What this means is a half dozen new voices clamouring for your attention, which in XCOM 2 parlance means being constantly nagged to go here, do that, listen to this, work through this mission and this mission and this mission and worry about three new doomclocks.

A single in-game day can often be interrupted by events as many as three times, most of which involve hauling your flying base off to the opposite end of the Earth. So, for example, the simple act of collecting a box of supplies from Chile might take two real-time hours and involve your base inefficiently crossing back and forth across continents a couple of times, while you suffer dire warnings that one of your new enemies is on the cusp of destroying you and, the quintessential XCOM risk, see your soldiers’ ranks severely diminish by the time that box finally gets hauled onboard.

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At first, this was exhausting – the noise of all these interruptions while I was trying to get something, anything built or researched. I still have the original X-COM in my blood, which means I’m accustomed to long, lonely minutes of waiting for something, anything to happen, and this is the absolute inversion of that. However, as the game wore on, it became apparent that rather than exacerbating XCOM 2’s problems, WOTC was solving them.

What seems like a mad cacophony is in actual fact the expert spinning of innumerable plates. Yes, there is a lot of noise, and I still miss the peace of waiting, but the additions don’t just bring interruptions – they bring rewards that provide new ways of solving the strategy map’s two key objectives, those being delaying the Avatar countdown and expanding your network of Resistance contacts so you can gain funding and invade key alien bases.

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Where once you pretty much had to plough through this stuff in one direction and have your base-building plans defined by the need for communication arrays, or face doom, now completing Covert Actions (auto-resolved, unseen missions that play out over a few in-game days – your guys can’t die in these, but they can be wounded or captured, the latter prompting a full, turn-based rescue mission later) might snag you additional Resistance contacts without having to add any new rooms or engineers to your base, an ability to make new contacts instantly if you can afford them, or knock the Avatar counter back a couple of places.

Meanwhile, sufficiently pleasing one of the new factions might grant you a card that reduces costs, brings bonus soldiers on missions or boosts Intel, and optional scanning objectives that pop up on the strategy map can, for instance, grant extra power to your Avenger, while flying to a faction base can speed up construction or casualty recuperation times.

I did not find myself repeating the same old grind to expand the resistance network and instead kept the Avatar bobbins in check with a cats’ cradle of various actions from various sources with unpredictable outcomes and bonuses. Next time I play, it will not happen the same way, nor will the time after that.

I still think that there’s a conceptual misfire in the idea of hauling your whole base across the skies to grab a few boxes when we already know it’s supposed to have dropships, and this is only exacerbated by these new Covert Actions which frequently have just a few of your team go elsewhere to grab something useful without your base having to move an inch. But, even though it still doesn’t make sense, the new option to approach the strategy layer’s key challenges from a number of different angles definitely makes it work. War of the Chosen gives it options and variety.

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This is the expansion pack’s philosophy throughout, a clear and very successful attempt to save XCOM 2 from being a straight stomp from A to B in which metagame and squad structure alike always take on broadly the same form.

Where once XCOM’s arms race had specific weapon/armour tech requirements needed to reach or survive certain elements, now it’s a freeform dash in multiple directions, to the point that each and every soldier on your roster is materially different in ability to all the others. A Ranger is not a ranger is not a ranger, no two snipers are quite the same and, again, there are all these skills and items I’ve not even had the chance to research or use. I didn’t unlock plasma rifles until 26 hours into the campaign, because I was already able to tackle high-level foes with a combination of new and complementary soldier skills and special weapons unlocked by defeating the Chosen bosses and new research upgrades.

In my next campaign, I’ll probably fold in a few psychics and SPARK mechs or equip everyone with weird and wonderful stuff built in the Proving Grounds. Where once my XCOM 2 squads always ended up taking roughly the same shape, next time they’ll be dramatically different to the guys I’m fielding now.

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I’ve got guys who drag enemies towards them with grappling hooks, I’ve got snipers who live in perpetual stealth, I’ve got a new class of warrior/psychic hybrids who dance around the map with psionic blades and can swap places with friends or foes, I’ve got swordsmen who cannot miss, I’ve got medics with rifles that never seem to run out of ammo, I’ve got people who can make cars explode remotely, I’ve got weapons with more upgrade slots than I could possibly fill, I’ve got, basically, the Power Rangers. (No robo-animal vehicles yet, admittedly, but it feels like just a matter of time at this point).

Coupled with additions from the previous DLC and the now further-expanded tech offerings from the Proving Ground room in the base, the range of loadout options is vast, and that means we’re long past the point where a soldier was just a class. Certain fundamentals remain – a sniper has a sniper rifle, a grenadier is the only type who can use a cannon and so forth – but everyone’s their own specialist now. Not just in terms of equipped gear (which you can in any case move between soldiers), but abilities too, with a new type of experience point introduced that enables you to buy bonus skills for your dudes in addition to the standard rank-up options, and some of which can come from other classes. These points are gained not from straight kills, but tricksier stuff such as ambushes, fatalities that result from flanking, taking out boss-ish foes and so forth.

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There are these three new classes introduced too, tied into the concept of three new rebel factions you can convince to join you in the war against advent. Each is to some extent a hybrid of other classes – the hooded, stealthy Reapers fuse sharpshooters’ sniping with Grenadiers’ explosive-fu, Skirmishers remix Rangers’ melee prowess with Specialists’ mid-range firepower and Templars create psychic weaponry as opposed to using mind-manipulation. They mix things up very well, although the apple has fallen far from XCOM 2’s guerilla warfare tree – we’re way off in superhero territory now.

All three classes seem initially overpowered compared to a standard squaddie, and while it’s true that WOTC ensures you can’t realistically have more than a couple of each new’un on your staff, it’s not long before the various new gear and skill options have the heaviest-hitters of your standard inventory catching up and even overtaking. I’ve got a Ranger – one Graham ‘Bandit’ Smith, no less – on staff right now who can very realistically tackle missions on his own, equipped as he is with the snake suit from the Alien Hunters DLC, an enormously powerful one-off alien rifle and pair of katanas gained from taking down a Chosen and most of the skills from both the sword and stealth branches of the Ranger skill tree. A couple of other soldiers – heavily-armoured Specialist Alice ‘Breaker’ O’Connor and exotic explosive-spamming Grenadier Alec ‘Sad Sack’ Meer – should soon attain similar superhuman status too. Again: all this long before I researched Plasma rifles. Those are almost incidental now.

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Getting my team to this point was not straightforward, I should stress. Many died, many more had long spells in hospital, I’ve been getting close to triple figures of missions and been interrupted by assorted crises more times than I could begin to count. WOTC is clearly conscious that you ultimately get to make your own Avengers, and it’s not shy about throwing everything at you as you strive to do so, both on the strategy map and in missions.

In the latter, you’ve got the constant risk of one of the three immortal Chosen – each with unique and devastating powers – showing up to hound you in addition to standard enemies. If you’ve got the Alien Hunters DLC then they have their own three randomly-appearing bosses too, and now there’s a whole new enemy faction, a zombie swarm known as The Lost, and who will spawn constantly in huge numbers on any map they appear in. These guys will attack XCOM and Advent alike, which means they can sometimes be turned to your advantage, but in the main what they introduce is a need for frantic crowd control in addition to the usual tactical challenges of the alien soldiers. (I’ll mention also that The Lost pick up a forgotten thread from XCOM 1’s very first mission, wherein the aliens drop a chemical weapon into a city, transforming all its residents into creepy ash-statues, something that was never hitherto referenced again).

Whatever the fiction, The Lost are zombies, and yeah boring zombies yawn etc, but it does a really good job with them. Their movement is eerily floppy, their cracked, ashen texture is sinister, and their lack of any self-preservation instinct makes them distinctly different to other XCOM foes. I wouldn’t want a whole game about fighting these guys but, whether in their own missions or as an extra complication in Advent ones, they’re fantastic at mixing things up and sparing an XCOM 2 campaign from being a grind through too many similar battles.

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As part of WOTC’s general commitment to being more Marvel movie than gritty alien resistance saga, facing The Lost grants a new squad-wide ability whereby killing one shambler with a single shot allows your soldier to immediately take another shot rather than end the turn, and this can continue indefinitely until you miss/run out of ammo/target a different sort of baddie. With the right weapons and add-ons (the free reloads gun upgrade is killer here), the headcount within a single turn can become astronomical.

While one might argue this approach is not true-blue XCOM, the sheer number of these respawning blighters prevents it from being an outright power fantasy, and instead it’s these intense Alamo moments. Gunfire and especially explosions will summon even more Lost, so trying to balance subtlety with the need to murder everything is delightfully tricky.

Adding to that sense of new variety is a wider rethink of missions, and the addition of a fair few new environment types into the mix, some of which (such as Lost-blighted conurbations, playgrounds and gas stations) are extremely effective at restoring the menace lost when XCOM moved from contemporary-ish alien invasion to gleaming white future-society. The much-maligned mission timers have been dialled down significantly too – I always found that they did a good job of forcing me to engage rather than being excessively cautious, but they proved too stressful to less obsessive XCOM players and now only make occasional appearances – thus, like The Lost, adding variety rather than being the norm.

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In their place, WOTC does more in terms of making the situation tougher as it wears on or making missions partially rather than necessarily completely failable, as well as throwing a few new mission types into the mix. Oh, and some civilian rescue missions now feature Resistance fighters as an AI-controlled AI faction, which enables bigger and more spectacular fights than before.

The net result is that missions are far less predictable and far more varied than before – and I’m not sure I’d even finger XCOM 2 as feeling particularly predictable or samey in that regard anyway, so WOTC makes for an extremely generous strategy game.

Also battling rinse and repeat is a new raft of psychological conditions your soldiers can suffer from, from simple tiredness to fully-fledged phobias of certain enemies. The former means you can still take ’em on missions but they’ll be sub-par, the latter is an evolution of the panic system (i.e. a soldier might cower or randomly move or shoot) but which can trigger at any point, rather than only because a team-mate bought the farm, and more importantly they last across missions.

To cure ’em, you’ll need to stick ’em in a special slot in the Infirmary, which – like injuries and tiredness and a new training system whereby two soldiers can buddy up and gain bonus abilities – takes ’em out of action for a few days. In other words, the days of depending on one team of six hot shit war vets are gone, and you absolutely require a large, revolving pool of heroes.

With soldiers more distinct from each other than ever before, losing a big wig also hurts more than ever (plus some of the better toys are lost forever if they’re carrying them when they die), but the good news is that, because everyone ends up with some kind of X factor before too long, replacing the fallen is no longer a matter of slowly grinding your way back up the class skill tree.

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War of the Chosen is the biggest and most varied XCOM has ever been, in other words. I hesitate a little about saying it’s the best XCOM has ever been, because I think there’s a certain purity and clarity to Firaxis’ first bite of this peach that’s been increasingly lost since, and WOTC really is going to be totally impenetrable to anyone who doesn’t know the series very well. It’s not great at explaining all its mechanics, the incessant nagging of the strategy map and range of options and objectives is initially overwhelming even for veterans and, if you’ve got the previous, smaller DLC installed, the concept of being dogged by reappearing boss monsters with one-off gear rewards and a climactic fortress incursion is confusingly similar to what Alien Hunters does.

WOTC’s tone and aesthetic are all over the place too, with the original XCOM 2 concept of a resistance cell trying to bring down alien overlords in Appletropolis struggling to breathe underneath a superhero vs supervillain layer, a zombie horror layer and even an addition like creating ‘propaganda’ posters featuring your troops pulling action hero poses after a successful mission. Lots and lots of fun thematic ideas for sure, but any overarching coherence to its worldbuilding (already flimsy in XCOM 2) has all but vanished.

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It feels as if a few things died on the vine during development too. For instance, two of the new resistance factions feature characters voiced charmingly by Star Trek: The Next Generation alumni (Worf as businesslike human/alien hybrid Skirmisher Nox is perfect, and we get Riker, Troi and Yar too), and fancy introduction missions and sequences, while the third (the zenlike Templars), pretty much arrives silently from off-camera. Would I be wrong to speculate that there might be a Brent Spiner or Gates McFadden-shaped hole there?

Similarly, after all the hullabaloo the game makes about them, including assorted cinematics and in-mission patter, there’s no real pay-off to taking out all three Chosen, and it’s oddly jarring to just find yourself back in trad. XCOM 2 plot afterwards. For the time that they are around, two of the Chosen are a bit too Saturday morning cartoon in their performances to leave much impression, but the third has a nice line in both world-weariness and running commentary on your actions that makes me realise that character baddies who give you someone to strive against in the long term are an extremely effective addition to a game series in which the monsters rarely speak.

A fair few niggles and quibbles there, but I’ll close with this tale:

I was called away mid-mission to meet a friend. I walked approximately 200 metres down the road to the pub we were due to rendezvous in, and the sensation that there was a taut piece of elastic stretching that distance between my brain and the computer in my house was almost physical. On that computer: an XCOM 2: War of The Chosen mission, which would remain agonisingly unresolved for the next two hours. In my brain: a cat’s cradle of thoughts and worries about what I would do on the next turn, how I could ensure my team of soldiers survived the six Advent soldiers currently targeting them, about how quickly I could wrap the mission up so I could return to trying to locate the final Chosen fortress, and most of all a sense that the earthly demands of conversation and sustenance seemed so inconsequential in the face of all this.

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This is XCOM writ so damn large, so wide and wild and all-consuming, that it gets the same intractable hooks into me that XCOM games always have while also taking me to new places, occupying even more parts of my obsessive brain. It’s true that it’s this ridiculous carnival of ideas and not necessarily complementary themes, and that it would have been better to have a root and branch rethink of the strategy map rather than make it a frenzy of nagging, but despite – maybe even because – of all that, this is the first time than an XCOM or X-COM game can be truly described as an epic.

Where XCOM 2’s campaign could feel like the drawn-out prelude to the foregone conclusion of the climactic fight, this feels like, if you’ll excuse the term, a long war. It’s a hard-fought bringing together of a rag-tag army of vengeance, with landmark battles and true heroes emerging from the miasma of skirmishes. Sometimes, I shake my head at its absurdity and its noise, but I really cannot get enough of it.

There’s a raft of smaller, more under-the-hood changes I’ve not even mentioned, but all of which further serve to ensure your campaign does not stomp down the same path every time. It’s even cranked the graphicsosity dial up a little too, with improved lighting making everything pop that much more.

I said right back at the start that ‘DLC’ desperately undersells War Of The Chosen, this fat and bursting sausage of turn-based splendour. I think I might have found ‘XCOM 3’ a mite more appropriate.

XCOM 2: War Of The Chosen is due for release on August 29 for Windows PC, via Steam, for £34.99/$39.99/€39,99.

112 Comments

  1. Divolinon says:

    >an enormous add-on for which the meagre-sounding term ‘DLC’ is desperately inappropriate,

    How about an “expansion” like back in the day?

  2. b2p0 says:

    I never made it through when xcom2 first released, but am thinking of giving this a try.

    Can aliens still sometimes shoot through walls and ceilings?

    Has the stuttering improved?

    • Booker says:

      Yes the clipping is as it always was.

      No, the performance hasn’t changed either.

      • Silvermarch says:

        This isn’t true. There are supposed to be a massive amount of performance improvements coming with WotC.

        • Alec Meer says:

          I had zero tech issues, but I’m running a different GPU (1080 Ti) from the one I played XCOM 2 vanilla on (Radeon R9 Nano) so it’s difficult to know whether it’s down to the game or the card. Certainly there were no wild framerate spikes any more, and the improved lighting makes it noticeably prettier too.

          • Booker says:

            Well, I’m sure it’s comforting to know for people that everyone who has at least a 1080 Ti won’t have any major performance problems. :)

          • b2p0 says:

            Are they going to patch any of the performance stuff in to the base game? I’d prefer to test it out before spending even more money on this.

          • Mokinokaro says:

            If it’s like their previous expansions they’ll patch the engine improvements in for all versions.

          • Shadow says:

            When a game has real performance issues aside from optimization fine-tuning, they’re noticeable no matter the hardware. For instance, I’m playing Deserts of Kharak on an i7 4790 and a GeForce GTX 1080 and combat still presents uncomfortable frame drops when the game normally runs at 80-120fps. Another example is Cities Skylines, which drags framerate down to the 30s on any moderately busy city due to poor CPU and GPU utilization.

          • Herring says:

            “Well, I’m sure it’s comforting to know for people that everyone who has at least a 1080 Ti won’t have any major performance problems. :)”

            Actually that is pretty good to know. I’ve got a 1080Ti and there were some occasional slow-downs / hitches during my recent game. Now to be fair that was Long War 2 with some mods, not “vanilla” but it’s nice to know his experience marries up to what the devs have said.

        • klops says:

          It still does not seem to be that much better performace-wise. I have an old computer but if I can play Dishonored 2, I do think that turn-based XCOM 2 should be playable as well.
          It isn’t. :(

  3. Booker says:

    “an enormous add-on for which the meagre-sounding term ‘DLC’ is desperately inappropriate”

    But it costs as much money as a completely new game, so that’s what I would expect here.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    This DLC nonsense… I don’t know. It sounds too cluttered. I get that XCOM2 vanilla was hardly perfect, but like Alec mentions, it sounds like they’re sort of failing to keep a consistent tone here.

    It comes across more X-Piratez than much of anything else. Full of wacky nonsense and everything is so over the top zany that none of it matters and everyone might as well be comic book characters.

    Most of the components, on their own, sound interesting. But all together? It just sounds like a pile of mess.

    (Edit: For what it’s worth, I like X-Piratez. It’s just batshit crazy, like this seems to be.)

    • Banks says:

      I agree, the art style has gotten horrendous and wildly inconsistent. I don’t know what they were thinking as vanilla X2 was quite nice to look at.

      Personally I’m not too keen on this expansion, as I expected radical changes to the way the game plays and richer strategies. This just adds a bunch of overcomplicated mechanics with no real depth that I don’t really care about and a dozen of cool toys (some of them very cool).

      I’m sure this is a wonderful expansion if you really liked the vanilla game, but I just couldn’t overcome my problems with it and I hoped this expansion could’ve solved them.

      • Goldeneye says:

        From watching preview streams on Youtube and Twitch, War of the Chosen is actually quite game-changing in more ways than one, especially when it comes to soldier management. The addition of fatigue, plus the Covert Action system means that you can no longer rely on the time-tested XCOM strategy of having a core 4-6 man team of super badasses going on all the missions (aka the “A-Team Syndrome”). You’ll actually need an active soldier roster about 3-4 times larger than what you’re likely to maintain in any previous XCOM game.

        These systems also allow the game to curb the power-leveling tactics that the A-Team Syndrome does, thus resulting in players reaching the top tiers later, and consequently making early missions even more difficult – missions where you could once have sent a Lieutenant to now have to be tackled by a Sergeant, which is quite significant when it comes to tactical options.

        And this is before the shake up that the various Orders, SITREP modifiers and new Dark Events introduce. You can have missions where you can only bring 3 soldiers to a mission, or missions where you can’t bring anything of higher rank than a Sergeant.

        War of the Chosen just adds a ton of new ways to approach missions that would otherwise be considered novel, gimmicky or suboptimal in the current XCOM 2 meta – for example, the Grenadier meta that so many people advocate in XCOM suddenly becomes a liability when fighting the Lost. If that’s not game changing, I don’t know what is.

        • carewolf says:

          That was already solved, and solved better, by the long war 2 mod, that also forced you to choose between mission you could realistically handle.

  5. dylan says:

    X-Com has always appealed to me as a sort of military horror game; Rainbow Six outgunned by unknowable monsters from beyond the stars, scraping to keep up as the alien threat grows more bold and more global.

    XCOM 2’s promise of a gritty resistance cell doing hit-and-run attacks against the alien oppressors held a lot of promise that was unfortunately betrayed in favour of cool ships, cool tech suits, cool guns, cool haircuts, cool cool cool. And then the DLC took it from “cool” to “haha so random!!” and the whole thing fell apart as far as I’m concerned.

    I love XCOM’s gameplay, but I don’t just play games for their mechanics; I want to enjoy a piece of fiction along the way. The tone of this series has shifted so far from anything I find interesting that I’m going to have to pass from now on. I don’t think Firaxis could recreate the haunting atmosphere of original X-Com or Terror From the Deep even if they wanted to, and it’s very clear by now that they don’t want to. Oh, well.

    • LexW1 says:

      Wait, are you complaining about overly-cool haircuts and comic-book-style outfits and the like whilst praising the original, which is known for it’s fairly extreme Guile-style haircuts (cool in the ’90s!) and literal comic-book-style outfits? If you really hate anything cool or slick and love Rainbow 6-style military fetishism, surely Xenonauts is your cup of tea? Or Xenonauts 2 when it comes out later this year.

      I agree that Firaxis don’t want to replicate the tone from the original, but how was that not obvious from their first bite of the apple? Or their second? Again Xenonauts seems to be hewing much close to the original.

      Personally I’m not a huge fan of Firaxis take on the series either, and preferred the tone and style of the original X-Com, but honestly this sounds like a big improvement on XCOM2, at least. Sure, it’s not taking it in the original X-Com direction, but I wouldn’t trust Firaxis to do that. Firaxis are generally at their best in “Everything but the kitchen sink”-type scenarios – witness everything from SMAC’s expansion to late Civ IV or Civ V, all of which were wildly superior to the early iterations, if rather silly and OTT (well, SMAC wasn’t, but it as a masterpiece of maintaining tone whilst being very diverse, and I think exceptional in that).

      • bills6693 says:

        You said exactly what I was about to say too: Xenonauts.

        I have to agree that the XCOM 2 has lost a lot of the ‘military against overwhelming, horrific odds’ or guerrilla warfare feeling that I would love it to be. Long War 2 was great in my eyes and made it more of a gruelling struggle but also… its so long that it was too gruelling for me to finish (got a lot of hours enjoyment though so still worthwhile).

        Xenonauts though, that really does seem to pit the best of humanity’s soldiers against horrors that make them seem like complete rookies who get cut down by unknown energy weapons and you don’t even know where you’re being shot from. I am very much looking forward to Xenonauts 2 and I think the original poster should be too!

        • dylan says:

          I’d say it’s high time I try Xenonauts then! Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll keep an eye out for the sequel, too.

          • Tuco says:

            You are most likely going to be underwhelmed.

            Xenonauts, despise being constantly praised way beyond its actual merits for the effort to stay moderately faithful to the original, turned out to be an astonishing dull game, not to mention freaking ugly aesthetically.

          • dylan says:

            Yeah, from what I’ve seen so far it’s almost aggressively bland in its visuals and music.

          • Herring says:

            I played Xenonauts to completion and enjoyed it.

            But there’s a reason I have almost 500 hours on Xcom 2…

            (I’ve only got 3 or 4 completed games mind :D)

        • bills6693 says:

          Hmm, well sorry if its not for you after all. I personally played and loved Xenonauts and am very much looking forward to Xenonauts 2, but I think I loved it more for theme, gameplay and the atmosphere (which was probably derived more from the gameplay than the art), rather than for graphics or audio. Sorry if I missed the mark, hope you still at least get some enjoyment out of it!

      • dylan says:

        Fetishism is the opposite of what I’m interested in. As I said, X-Com works best for me as military horror concept, meaning the heroes are outmatched, in over their heads, not gleaming action stars. Military fetishism, on the other hand, is actually one of the tones Firaxis’ XCOM seems to be courting.

        The original games had an eerie, otherworldliness to them. At any moment the barn door might pop open and something hidden from view will evaporate half your squad, causing the other half to panic. That’s not badass. But Firaxis wants your troops to be badasses, even superheroes. That decision destroys any sense of dread, and turns “the unknown” into just another playground for cool weapons and abilities.
        X-Com, to me, is best when humanity is tangling with a superior foe. Throw in some creepy music, shadowy government agents, and lots of suspense, and I’m happy.

        And yes, Firaxis was pretty clear about their direction from the first game, but the guerilla war theme of the sequel hinted at a return to something like the spirit of the originals.

        Maybe I’ll give Xeno a shot if it’s like you say.

        • hostilecrab says:

          Chipping in first to say that Xenonauts seems to be absolutely what you’re after. Everything has a slightly grim sense of impending doom and verisimilitude that lends the game world a sense of reality which ratchets up the tension. There isn’t even a human psionics tree. The aliens are mysterious and bizarre while the humans are, resolutely, human.

          However, what I really wanted to talk about was something your comment sparked in my brain which made me think about XCOM and X-COM in a new light. The differences between the two games remind me strongly of the differences between the movies Alien and Aliens. The first is a tense, dark, terrifying psychological horror pitting woefully under-prepared victims up against an unknown, malignant entity that seems to be lurking around every corner. The second, a fast-paced action movie throwing a cast of gung-ho professionals at an enemy that just keeps coming, wearing the heroes down over time with overwhelming numbers.
          Both are very good movies, but for very different reasons. James Cameron took the concept introduced by Ridley Scott and, rather than try to copy the themes of the original, decided to take them in a completely different but interesting direction. Firaxis has done the same thing with XCOM, creating something similar but very different. Um.

          I’ve sort of lost the point of my post. I guess Ridley Scott made X-COM(and now Xenonauts) and James Cameron made XCOM? Yes, that must be it.

          • dylan says:

            I think that’s a bang-on analogy, and I had to laugh when I read it because I’ve never cared for Aliens either! I recognize that it’s a technically superb movie with a lot of great action and one-liners (especially from the late great Bill Paxton), but to me the film never seemed tense or engaging the way the original was. So, I guess my tastes are consistent–for whatever that’s worth!

      • modzero says:

        Ugh, I don’t have anything against guile hair, but I fear like there’s something happening that happens often together, but is really a separate issue: Diabloification (patent pending) of the game lore.

        IF ONLY YOU KNEW THE TRUTH. The truth that would make the entire thing make sense and the lore would suddenly seem good. You’ll never learn the truth, there’s always going to be a promise of the new layer that will actually tie up the entire thing and justify the bajillion of increasingly powerful enemies (who usually are the servants of the previous ultimate evil or whatever) and their inane quips.

        If only you knew the truth. Well, here’s my email, feel free to fill me in when you have a bit of time on Thursday evening. Also maybe get some fashion advice, I’m no expert but that garb looks dreadful. And not in a hardcore-intimidating way.

        The game is still fine. I played Diablo a lot too, and it’s happening all over the culture nowadays. But I wish this idea of permanent escalation and unfulfilled promises of “the truth” would eventually give way to something that keeps a bit of a scope, either tell the truth or render it clearly unknowable (and not just something the enemies are hiding seemingly out of pure spite, and against their own interests), and maybe a finite amount of ultimate evils.

        Ugh, I might have accidentally ranted.

        • Premium User Badge

          fegbarr says:

          It’s a legit rant, I love new XCOM but the paper-thin “if only you knew” annoys me too.

          I’m pseudo-kind of hoping they’ll use the other cliche of the series (“it was all a dream”) again in XCOM3 and actually the aliens have been running the place for generations because of their successful simulating of the resistance’s plans. “If only you knew” can be the signifier that actually you’re not in the real world and the aliens have run out of storyline. You know, if they’re going to use these cliches they should get as many as possible and keep mashing them together.

          • modzero says:

            Well, I feel like they’re referring to a “bigger threat”, so I kinda expect what will happen is a reapers-analogue, that the Ethereals or whatever were trying to fight back, and then it’s all going to be reapers/purifiers/whatever all the way down, and I’m going to dehydrate and die while complaining about it here.

        • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

          I’m with you on XCOM2’s story veering from ‘vague, in an understated sort of way’ and into ‘just plain being cryptic to be annoying'(please, ethereals, do spend the entire mission praising your greatest creation for returning to you and dropping cryptic assertion that rendering all the humans into gene goo is somehow for the greater good, I’d love to hear more…)

          That said; it’s somewhat hard to think of a plausible cover story for what makes XCOM(or made the original Xcom) games fun as games:

          When done well, the story still isn’t terribly plausible; but it is very atmospheric(why is earth’s only line of defense, even in the early months when the aliens go down with a few rifle bursts a clandestine organization bankrolled by the love child of the Illuminati and the UN? Couldn’t tell you. Is it awesome? Hell yeah; and that’s why all your performance reviews are delivered by an authentic table of shadowy figures in expensive suits; and your budget screen(in the original) insinuates that your funding gets delivered in briefcases full of cash).

          There are no end of questions that you can’t really answer without spoiling the chance for a shoestring operation to field a combination of badass tech and small strike forces; rather than being pushed aside by prosaic regular troops(in greater numbers, with armor and artillery, who don’t have to be airlifted halfway across the planet all the time)or facing a completely unwinnable fight(alien genetic engineering is apparently super advanced; guess who doesn’t just try biological warfare or hostile terraforming? Alien alloys are apparently magic unobtanium in aerospace applications; but only modestly better than kevlar and trauma plates on the ground; not that the aliens even bother to wear armor or field robots until you’ve had a chance to reverse-engineer weapons that wouldn’t just plink off an alloy shell. Everyone knows that chrysalids on terror missions are The Worst; why not just drop a few into every midsize city(they would fit in one of the small scout UFOs) on the same night and then leave as quietly as possible; rather than theatrically attacking, so the place will have a few hundred thousand chrysalids crawling around before anyone mounts an organized response? Space travel and advanced explosives; but zero risk of orbital bombardment? etc.)

          If you actually try to fill in the missing details; XCOM simply isn’t justifiable. The difference is between leaving gaps that add to the atmosphere; and gaps that just reek of “I’m the knowing-er-than-thou; and I’m not going to tell you; but I’m going to tell you about how I’m not going to tell you, at great length”.

          • modzero says:

            But I’m not even asking for realism, or for great consistency; I’m asking for the story to stand on its own, instead of vague promises that it will justify itself in next dlc/sequel/season/whatever.

            So I skip over obvious “needs of the plot” mechanics. I don’t — or rather can’t — ignore it when the story is shallow, and yet rambling (yes, I know, my comments have the same property — that’s why I’m a programmer and not a writer :<), and so self-awarely that it remembers to occasionally throw an empty promise to the player.

            And on a personal level, I feel like this compromises much of the atmosphere. Aliens used to be, well, alien. Over-the-top and everything, but they certainly didn't deliver supervillain exposition (a very distracted supervillain at that). So now they look less like aliens, and more like a cabinet of ministers.

      • Shadow says:

        …Yeah, no. I mean, yes, the original X-COM had a comicbook-like aesthetic, but that doesn’t mean it was in any way like XCOM 2’s Marvelized superheroes. The tone was quite serious and human despite the comicbook colourfulness. The music also helped a great deal to establish the right mood.

        And I often see people recommending Xenonauts for the “real” X-COM feel, and I shake my head whenever that happens. I found Xenonauts too clinical and soulless, a by-the-numbers attempt to ape UFO Defense/Enemy Unknown adding more #content (more tech tiers, more grind). It’s nothing like the game it tries to impersonate, with its glacial pace, generic tech and generic aliens. Generic everything.

      • fdel says:

        Fireaxis engine sucks ad thats why i won t give any penny until Xcom 3 (which have a kind of hint for Xcom Terror from the deep) with ennemy fire trought walls problem solved.
        This DLC/expansion ? is just milking the cow and applying what Long filosophy. Zombies ? Why not dragons? we already have swords (axes with mods), crossbows and armors…

        As for xenonauts i played it, and its more faithfull to the original but unfortunaltly it is dull. i would recomend waiting for Xeno2.

        I just wished they would make the premises of the game smarter than reapeating the old aged formulae. Like a world acting like a world. Comunicating and alive. With true diplomacy and weapons of the time.

    • Crafter says:

      Playing the firaxis XCOM games always make me feel a big dissonance between the gameplay and character design / tone.

      I did not enjoy Xenonauts a lot (although this has more to do with its gameplay that did not click for me) but it did nail this part :
      Everybody looks gloomy and already defeated .. that’s how I expect soldiers and scientists to look like when they have to defeat the alien invasions depicted in these games.

    • Captain Narol says:

      Rejoice, PHOENIX POINT by Julian Gollop, the creator of the original X-COM, is coming soon and should make all your dreams true !

      More info : link to phoenixpoint.info

      Disclaimer : I am a proud KS backer !

  6. rustybroomhandle says:

    I still don’t understand why they feel the need to weave content like this in-between the main campaign.

    • Booker says:

      Because it’s easier/cheaper than making a new one.

    • Tuco says:

      Because these are games built on systems and mechanics.

      The point is to replay it over and over experiencing all the variable.

      The alternative you are implying, a separate campaign that would essentially be a series of narrative-driven missions, is absolutely dreadful.

    • Shadow says:

      From my point of view I can’t see how adding a chunk after the end (or off to the side) would be more beneficial than thickening the gameplay across the board.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      No, the alternative is not a bunch of narrative-driven missions. If anything I want less of that in the main campaign.

      The alternative is, as was dismissively described above as “a chunk at the end”. But find an excuse to still have Advent troops faffing about. Keep it as meaty as the original campaign. What I’m saying is give me an XCOM2 expansion that requires none of the main XCOM2 campaign story stuff.

      • GHudston says:

        I think what you’re after is more of a sequel than an expansion.

  7. Danarchist says:

    Xcom2 struck me as being very similar to my real life with all the interruptions.
    (Try to mow the yard, retired neighbor see’s me in the yard, end up forced into a discussion of local politics for 45 minutes, yard still not mowed…)
    The fact that their are MORE interruptions now and not less is a big red flag for me. However it does have xcom in the title. And I will again have the opportunity to send confused non-gamer friends and family screen grabs of their horrible deaths at alien hands. I will be buying this like the whale that I am.

  8. BaronKreight says:

    One thing I’ve never liked much about latest xcoms is the cheery art style a la civilization cartoon. Its apocalipsys, aliens are fking the world. Everyone smile!

    Looking forward to trying Phoenix Point.

  9. Cederic says:

    The much maligned mission timers stopped me buying XCOM 2 in the first place. Just not my thing.

    So making them more of a rarity does make this a more attractive proposition but not at the game+expansion price.

    • His Dudeness says:

      There is mods to disable timers. I hate them too, but mods save my day.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        Or extend them. I have a mod that adds 4 or 6 ticks to every timer, giving you just a little bit more tactical choice, other than either “run straight to the objective and probably half the team dies” or “damnit I wish I had brought my A-team of majors and colonels with me.” It also makes the missions feel like they get finished in a timely manner rather than always trying to go for the absolutely perfect ambush setup on the most minor of missions.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Same here, although I used a mod that just extended the timer a small amount, which for me was a good balance between too much stress and making some missions too easy. I never thought the timers were a good idea in the first place, so using a mod let me enjoy the game and quit ranting at the design.

        As for this new expansion, I dunno. There are a few additions that sound like fun in the article, but being pulled in even more simultaneous directions on the strategy map doesn’t sound like much fun. And as some other posts mentioned, I don’t really want a superhero game. XCOM was always the most fun when I felt my squaddies were vulnerable, even late into the game.

        • Goldeneye says:

          “XCOM was always the most fun when I felt my squaddies were vulnerable, even late into the game.”

          It’s not like War of the Chosen makes your soldiers any less vulnerable to attack than normal – I just watched a stream where both player’s Faction heroes got killed in a mission, and I remember another where the player got their first Templar killed on its first mission.

          Besides, XCOM has always been somewhat superhero-ish since 2012.. I mean take the Enemy Within expansion, which allows you to gene-mod your soldiers to give them invisibility, psychic immunity, the ability to leap tall building in a single bound, etc. If that’s not superheroic in the vein of Captain America or the X-Men, I don’t know what is. And even in the base game, an Archangel Sniper was pretty much a God of War capable of taking out entire pods by itself, all your other soldiers have to do is spot for them and your flying sniper will take them all out.

    • Premium User Badge

      jssebastian says:

      You’re entitled to your opinion of course, but I think you should give it a try.

      The mission timers actually work very well, they’re one of a combination of things that makes XCOM 2 much more varied, fun and unpredicatable than XCOM 1. And the design is a lot smarter than just “add a timer to each mission”

      – sometimes timers start when you break concealment, leaving you some freedom to cautiously explore before a quick attack

      – a lot of missions don’t have “hard” timers that cause you to fail mission, and instead have advent reinforcements arriving at a certain time. In some missions, endless, increasingly strong reinforcements will arrive so the sooner you get out the better, in others there’s just one or two fixed waves so it’s better to clear up the rest before they arrive

      – i’m not playing on a super hard difficulty, but I’ve never failed a mission because of one of these timers: they are reasonably generous but they prevent you from wasting a turn to just e.g. reload everyone’s weapon or micromanage everyone’s positioning

      And, they help solve a design problem of all the old versions of this game: that the optimal strategy is otherwise to inch forward at a snail’s pace to always be optimally ready to face any enemy pods that are revealed, and that this strategy is not any fun to play. When I tried xcom 1 on a harder mode I quickly got bored because all I had to do to beat the extra difficulty was spend a lot of extra turns creeping forward.

      • Cederic says:

        “they prevent you from wasting a turn to just e.g. reload everyone’s weapon or micromanage everyone’s positioning”

        So they stop you overcoming limitations of the game engine?

        You get shot at, you return fire, you reload. What, you’re going to run forward with an empty weapon? You can’t reload on while running? You aren’t reloading while assessing the situation and determining your next course of action? It takes you as long to reload as it takes someone to run 25 yards?

        Let alone needing to take a turn to micromanage position because the car that took a hit from a bullet is about to explode. Of course.

        No, these are perfectly reasonable constraints in the game, why would you want to have a way to mitigate them without losing the mission due to a timer.

        Clearly the developers and I have a different perspective on things. Which is fine, it’s their game – and my money.

        • Premium User Badge

          jssebastian says:

          > So they stop you overcoming limitations of the game engine?

          It’s not a limitation of the game engine, it’s a rule of the game. That’s like not playing scrabble because a limitation of the rules prevents you from making up words.

          It’s a turn based game, where your toons and space aliens take turns shooting each other in the face based on some fairly abstract rules that control how much they can do each turn. It’s never going to be realistic, all the limitations you mention (from limited ammo clips to the car next to you that’s about to explode) are there so you can’t have all you want, so you have to take interesting decisions.

        • bonuswavepilot says:

          I get where you’re coming from, but I think it is fairer to regard them as design choices rather than ‘limitations of the game engine’.

          Having to take a turn to reload is fundamental to the pace of the game – breaking up your (and your opponents’) rate of fire. Sure it isn’t ‘realistic’, but neither is anything about the system: Trained soldiers will miss shots from a few feet away; people will stand where they are and wait to be shot; they will scale a building and then leap off it again rather than run around the corner of it; hell, the characters politely take it in turns to shoot at each other rather than all fire at once.

          I’m with you 100% on the fineness of different perspectives, but your comment reads like you are comparing the game to a more perfect version they intended to make, rather than just what you would have preferred.

          • Cederic says:

            Clearly it was a design choice, and someone elsewhere in the comments highlighted some of the reasons behind it.

            I just get stressed too easily, so want games that help me relax instead.

    • Goldeneye says:

      War of the Chosen actually includes a ton of options to mitigate timers in the game: there’s an “Advanced Option” (essentially its version of Second Wave) that *doubles* the mission timers, so your 8 – 12 turn timers become 16 – 24. That’s more turns than most players will spend in a mission unless they really love to turtle.

      And that’s before getting into stuff they introduce ingame to mitigate and manage timers, for example Resistance Orders like “Infiltrate” that make timers go off only when concealment is broken, or “Private Channel” that extends turn timers by two turns.

      They even included another Advanced Option to double the Avatar Timer itself, thus allowing you to remove the squeeze on the strategic layer as well.

      While I myself never found the timers difficult, I’m still for the inclusion of these features, since it means more people can finally play.

    • Tuco says:

      At this point I wish I could slap anyone who keep crying over the mission timers.

      Learn to play the game and quit bitching. The timers are even abundantly forgiving for anyone who isn’t completely incapable of a half competent battle plan.

      • Palindrome says:

        How DARE people enjoy playing the game in a different way!

        Personally I would love to slap anyone with the audacity to tell people to “learn to play”.

  10. stringerdell says:

    good grief this sounds amazing. I was always going to buy it but now I can’t wait

    • jsbenjamin says:

      I have to agree with this. I loved vanilla XCOM 2; I loved most of the additions of previous DLC (though I never did get much out of the SPARKs). So it was basically guaranteed I’d be picking this up. I’m so glad to hear it’s so great, and that there’s more than enough here to justify its basically-a-full-game price!

  11. Chirez says:

    … but will it now run on the correct screen?
    That’s why I refunded it the first time. :)

  12. kwyjibo says:

    Alec, you’ve accidentally pasted the Stephen’s Sausage Roll review into the article.

    • sagredo1632 says:

      I think it’s actually from a review for one of Robert Yang’s games…

  13. Azhrarn says:

    While I agree completely that the Templar faction could have used an introductory mission like the Reapers and Skirmishers get, the Star Trek shaped hole you perceive is already filled though. John DeLancie of Q fame voices the Templar leader, Geist. Though a fully voiced Templar soldier would have been very cool too.

  14. Booker says:

    Oh I almost forgot to ask: How many bugs does this thing have? Is it as buggy as initial X2 or more polished?

  15. Rizlar says:

    Hot damn. Was prepared to write this off after not getting much out of previous XCOM2 DLC. But everything in the article re: previous games/DLC seems absolutely in line with my own experiences and War of the Chosen sounds stupendous.

    The question now is whether I can avoid going to the pub for several months in order to play this monstrosity.

    (Also Worf and Tasha Yar: !!!)

    (Also also: Does anyone know how WotC works with previous DLC missions? Never did finish the alien hunters stuff, so it would be good to experience it all in one go if that’s at all sensible.)

    • Azhrarn says:

      Don’t forget John “Q” DeLancie (Geist), Marina Sirtis (Elena) and Jonathan Frakes (Volk)!

    • Herring says:

      It integrates with them. They’ve made some changes to Alien Hunters to fit with the Chosen and to tone down their power.

  16. Complex_Milk says:

    I recently got XCOM 2 but haven’t started it yet. Would I be better off starting with the vanilla game before playing with the expansion?

    I’ve played through XCOM: EW already so it’s not like I’ve never played XCOM before but I’m afraid I’ll be bombarded with too much too quickly.

    • Rituro says:

      Yes. Vanilla –> Long War full mod –> WOTC.

      • jonfitt says:

        Wouldn’t that leave you a bit burnt out on the story missions? I don’t think I could do that last long mission more than a couple of times.

        • Herring says:

          I agree. LW2 is, well, long. I loved it but by the end the last thing I wanted was another play-through of anything XCOM related for a while.

          I’d go for an easy vanilla run to get to grips with it, then a more difficult run in WOTC. Maybe Ironman if you’re up for it, it really hammers home the “it’s all on the line for humanity” vibe.

    • Premium User Badge

      jssebastian says:

      I’d suggest playing vanilla first, there’s plenty of surprises and plenty of challenge for a first time player.

  17. Laurentius says:

    I dislike being forced to certain plystyle by forced time limit, not a fan of that at all.

    • jonfitt says:

      I wasn’t a fan of the timers either. But I can see what they were trying to solve. In XCOM1 you inched people into position and then had someone trigger a pod, whereupon you wrecked it. Then you reloaded guns and inched forward again. It made missions slow puzzles and removed any sense of dynamic action. I quite liked the methodical nature though.

      I just don’t like the proposed solution of making you take fewer turns.

      I would have preferred instead if they got rid of the pod mechanic entirely, and had the enemies constantly live on the map with sound and vision spotting mechanics. So the urgency would come from you trying to get to the objective before too many enemy units stumble onto you or are alerted by the sound, and converge on your location.

      • Herring says:

        That’s how Long War 2 does it, with a concept of ‘noise’ and alert levels for the pods (that wander with certain orders). They still kept the turn limits though. In a later update they increased the number of pods while decreasing their size, so you were far more likely to get wandering incursions but they were less cataclysmic.

    • Azhrarn says:

      One of the default modifiers for starting a new game is that you can double any and all mission timers in your play-through. This carries no penalties, it’s just for convenience.

    • Tuco says:

      I mean, I think it’s an incredibly stupid complaint, born from a complete misunderstanding of the game mechanics…

      but since it’s an option, if that actually bothers you that much why don’t you just stretch/remove timers?
      There are tons of mods that can do that, and with WotC it’s even an option in game.

      • Laurentius says:

        No, I understand game mechanics but just simply think the solution Firaxis presented is increadibly weak. I played UFO:TFTD twenty years ago and it has this done way better. Playing super defensivly and creeping forward by inches was viable strategy but risky. There wasn’t artificial “turns limit timer” to force your hands, it was just aliens were pushing on you, random shot from the dark, panic, granades flying your way. So better strategy was to get your ass in offensive gear and raid aliens with bravery. Now you were pushing on them, they get hesitant, their morale stumbles, you statrted getting upper hand. Firaxis system doesn’t allow that level of sophistication, well that happens but I dislike band-aids of artificial “play our way” solutions.

        • Goldeneye says:

          Gameplay derived from luck and attrition are not exactly “sophisticated” in my book. Yes, XCOM 2 has the same, but at the very least it forces actual tactical thinking to counter the timers, instead of simply throwing as many soldiers as you can into the mix. Also, “random shots from the dark” was one of the things Firaxis sought to remove from the reboot, as it’s one of those things that’s incredibly unfair to the player, a factor you have no actual control over. A shot from the dark you didn’t see coming can randomly kill your guy and result in a snowball effect leading to your demise…. timers don’t.

          • Laurentius says:

            You could combat random shots with offensive action in TFTD, when aliens morale tumble, they get hesitant, waste their turn,stop shooting at you, you have them in crossfire now. Timers are artificial mechanic to force you to act certain way.

        • Tuco says:

          I’ll just call bollocks on this, Laurentius.

          Especially since, as it was already pointed to you, you have the options.

          • Laurentius says:

            Dude, I don’t like that type of mechanic in XCOM2 or any other game that is doing that. Many devs fall for it when discovers that players don’t play their game “properly”. It’s a bad fit imo.

          • Sandepande says:

            Well, look at it this way: most military operations have all sorts of time limits. It’s an acceptable level of realism; just as XCOM has guns that can kill aliens, just as much they have to take on missions that fail if the troops spend their time camping on overwatch.

  18. Fropp says:

    Very nice review, not sure about the game though – sounds far too complicated for my little brain.

    • Captain Narol says:

      At the contrary, it’s a very good reason to play it : that game will help you build a bigger brain !

      Brain is like muscles, you need to exercize it to improve its performances…

  19. Viral Frog says:

    This actually makes XCOM 2 (aka the shitshow of a sequel to a fantastic game) sound like it would be worth playing. Too bad the price is a bit ridiculous. I’ll maybe pick it up on sale. In two or three years.

    • Premium User Badge

      jssebastian says:

      > completing Covert Actions (auto-resolved, unseen missions that play out over a few in-game days – your guys can’t die in these, but they can be wounded or captured, the latter prompting a full, turn-based rescue mission later)

      ugh, this part does not sound great: that gives a whole new meaning to losing a toon to the RNG gods, when it’s literally decided by nothing but a dice roll.

      Though rescuing captured squaddies is fun, happened to me in vanilla XCOM2 with a specialist I’d had to leave behind in a base defense mission because she panicked just as I was moving everyone into evac zone under heavy fire…

      • Goldeneye says:

        It’s not really as bad as you think: many of the Covert Actions you can undertake grants ways to mitigate the negative effects you might have, for example you can pay 25 supplies on one Covert Action to prevent soldiers getting wounded, while in another you add another soldier or even non-combatants (scientists and engineers) to get the same. And of course, not every Covert Action carries the same risk, there are some that are completely risk-free.

  20. jonfitt says:

    I played with the Alien Hunters DLC for my first playthrough and while I liked the unique weapons and armour you can get, and the special missions were good: I didn’t like the “Surprise! Now this mission is 10x harder and you didn’t bring the right equipment for a mega Beserker” aspect. I had to restarts one or two missions many times and cheese some off screen stealth shots to succeed.

    It sounds like this expansion doubles down on that, but perhaps with all the new powers it’s more manageable?

    Would you get the full experience by playing with this Expansion ON, and Alien Hunters OFF, or would I be missing out on the unique equipment which was cool?

    • Azhrarn says:

      The new campaign integrates Alien Hunters differently from the original XCOM 2, it allows you to research the new unique weapons (right from the start if you like), and the Alien Rulers can show up after a time (you’ll be warned about the first appearance I believe), the original intro mission is gone I think.

      Shen’s Last Gift also integrates into the campaign more through the story than it originally did.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        Do you happen to know if you can use a savegame pre-WOTC with WOTC without everything going awry?
        I really, really, really do not want to refight the Shen mission for example.

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      I hated that at first, but really came to like it later on. A perfectly vanilla mission where I could expect not even to take a hit was now an exercise in damage control. The reaction mechanic forced me to completely change tactics to deal with rulers too. The only time it really screwed me was when one of the showed up during the defense mission. Ugh. You’d think they would have turned that off. A reasonable trade would have been to make them immune to repeaters.

  21. Cederic says:

    The thing that this review doesn’t mention (and I only just found out) is that.. XCOM 2 is free to play for the weekend on Steam (in the UK, at least).

    So I guess I’d best hunt down those mission timer mods..

  22. Goldeneye says:

    War of the Chosen is one of those things that sounds awfully complicated on paper, but in practice it actually meshes well, at least from what I’ve seen from watching streamers on Twitch and Youtube play the preview build the past couple of weeks. The busier strategic layer is something I actually welcome, since while it’s a lot better than the strategy layer in XCOM:EU, X2’s geoscape did feel a bit plain. Having a busier strategic layer that grants more reward for all the busywork makes it a lot more alive and engaging, and it fulfills the promises of XCOM 2’s strategy layer at providing difficult choices.

    To me, you can never have too much content in a strategy game, so long as it’s integrated well, and War of the Chosen looks to be in that league.

  23. monstermagnet says:

    Good ol’ Alec ‘Sad Sack’ Meer. Busted a gut on that one. Thanks mate:)

  24. BewareTheJabberwock says:

    In vanilla X2 the strategy layer was something to be tolerated, and for me, often just barely. I really, really despised the constant bothersome “You have to go there and do this bit NOW NOW NOW!” bullying. Adding more busy-ness to that part is a complete dealbreaker. That and making it Earth Superheros v Advent — now with zombies! Ugh. Long War 2 mitigated the strategy layer annoyances nicely, so I’ll stick with that when I go back to this game eventually.

    FWIW, I bounced right of Xenonaughts, but didn’t give it much of a chance, really.

    • Goldeneye says:

      >That and making it Earth Superheros v Advent

      It’s always been Earth Superheroes vs Aliens since XCOM: Enemy Unknown though. I mean, you actually had a Achievement in Enemy Unknown that made you kill every alien in a UFO mission using only a single person i.e. you only send one soldier into the fight, and the fact that it was something you can accomplish speaks to how *powerful* a single soldier can become. And this is before we get to stuff like Archangel Snipers and high-tier MEC Troopers and Gene-Modded Soldiers with superpowers like invisible skin, high-jumping, super durability etc.

      This, combined with the typical XCOM playstyle of most people to field “A-Teams” (i.e. a core of the 4-6 most powerful high-ranking soldiers for every mission), and XCOM has always played into the philosophy of using soldiers with incredible abilities to take on enemies 2-3 times more numerous than they are.

      I very much prefer this approach though to X-COM’s disposable soldiers approach, since it means you get to care a lot more for your soldiers, and you get to employ more tactics than simply throwing as much manpower as you can against the enemy.

  25. RegisteredUser says:

    I suspect I speak for not just me by saying that rather than a lot of this “game by pieces”, it would have been much preferable to have one holistic concept where this all slotted into each other from the get-go, and where there is no “Oh, so you started your playthrough and got to 60% of the game already? Too bad, here’s a content changing DLC! What’s that, you did it again? AHAHAHA SUCKER! Here’s another one! Mwahahaa!”

    Because, well. Its incredibly annoying when you are the type of person that does NOT religious replay games “to see how I could play it differently this time”. I also do not enjoy rewatching movies, series or re-reading books. I know, I am a horrible person. But I really enjoy novelty, new experiences and new concepts, and introducing just shards of it onto something that I’ve already gone through more than half, is, for my kind of personality, just exhausting, not enriching.

    And yes, I get the whole “Games are huge multi-million, multi-year efforts now” thing, and the attached financing dilemma etc as well. But still, its aggrevating, and its even more so to basically have games be “released”, when in truth you can’t start playing them until 3 years later when you can be sure that due to it being the UE / GOTY, you can finally play the actual whole, complete thing now. At least when you’re weird like me and want the whole thing, and once, and not basically a “Let’s not call it that, but have it be that” Early Access version.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      Yep. That’s a big reason I often wait to play games until a year, two or even three after release. I’ll dip my toe for a few hours on release, see if I like it, and if yes – and it seems like the developer is the kind of add lots of content later – put it aside, wait for the GOTY or whatever, and play something else.

      Of course I miss the shared discussion when everyone else is playing the game, but then I get the full experience when I do play it.

    • Skandranon says:

      I get what you’re saying, but there’s a fundamental flaw in comparing it to books/movies or such – they’re not designing it like that. They’re designing it like…well, a game.

      I mean, do you play chess once and then say “welp, I’m done with chess, seen all I need to see here”? Or basketball, or poker? It’s supposed to be like that.

      Now, if it doesn’t appeal to you in that way, thats fine, but thats the goal. Its was intended from the beginning to not be a one-and-done experience.

  26. Palindrome says:

    Have Firaxis even attempted to justify charging £35 for a DLC/expansion pack?

    It looks far too ‘superhero’ to me so I have no real interest in it anyway but even if it did there is absolutely no way that I would pay that much.

    • mavrik says:

      What exactly would they have to justify to you? Beyond “that’s what we say it costs”?

  27. Kyuss says:

    Hi all, could anyone tell me what is the green thin line under the health blocks? THX (it has a lightning icon)

    • Darloth says:

      It’s the Will meter, which is simultaneously the fatigue stat and the psi-defense stat.

      People become Tired when it’s below about 2/3rds, and suffer increasing skill penalties and probably increasing chance to suffer mental breaks in combat, from what I’ve seen.

      • Kyuss says:

        Thank you:) Where have you read that? I have been looking for any mention but I didn’t find anything.

  28. hannasmith says:

    Dramatic scenario, amazing character, tactical based battles, A few minor complaints, but overall the new maps seem more interesting with goals and actual strategy. There are occasional bugs but still a great game overall.Take a look at this for similar articles