BY MICHAEL BEVERLEY
“Xcom 2” from “Firaxis” released back in February, but with the first bit of Downloadable Content coming out on March 17 we decided to critique.
For those of you that have never heard of “Xcom,” the games are turn based strategy role-playing game in which the player moves their squad of up to six characters around the map, finishing objectives while fighting alien enemies. When not fighting the player returns to their home base to complete research projects that grant new equipment, and advance the story, or to customize their soldiers equipment and appearance.
“Xcom Enemy Unknown” was a reboot of the series released back in 2012. Being a very well received game, it introduced a lot of people to the series. Players loved the game’s difficulty, mixed with interesting well thought out tactical gameplay and awesome squad customization.
A lot of that returns for the sequel. It is much harder than its predecessor, there are a couple of new mechanics that mix up the formula and the squad customization has had so much added to it that the player can make a super serious squad in camo, or a really fun squad with pink guns. It is completely up to the player.
On your first play through the player may be a little over whelmed as “Xcom 2” starts off difficult and progressively gets harder as in game time passes.
The game also eventually introduces a doomsday timer that, if filled, leads to a game over. The timer adds a sense of urgency, but it is introduced a little too early.
Certain research projects make the game much easier, and help you keep up with the difficulty curve, but the game does not hold your hand and tell you which projects you should do first. Hint though, upgrade armor and COMM systems ASAP.
But in terms of gameplay, one of the reasons these games are so loved is how little they help the player. In “Xcom 2” you play as resistance fighters battling a much larger alien force. Your base is mobile and you are constantly on the run. Not knowing exactly what to do makes the game have a much more desperate feel and that is one of “Xcom 2’s” greatest strengths. Not many games can make you feel such a sense of accomplishment like “Xcom” does.
The game also has a new “Character Pool” this allows you to pre-make characters for “Xcom 2” and the game will automatically put them in your game. This really helps with multiple play throughs, and you can even share characters with other players.
Once you select a mission and send out your squad you will notice one of the newest most prominent features of this game, stealth. You begin most missions concealed; the enemy does not know that you are there. This allows you to set up more tactical strikes and think out your conflicts before they begin.
“Xcom 2” also has four new classes for your soldiers, our personal favorite being the ranger who has a machete. A machete.
But it is important not to get too attached to a particular character. One of the core mechanics of this series is perma-death meaning that if a character dies, they are gone for good. It makes every decision you make in “Xcom 2” feel extremely important.
According to “Firaxis” they wanted to make the best game they possibly could, so “Xcom 2” is PC only to increase that focus. They also wanted to support mods on day one that you can directly download from Steam.
The startup menu of the game lets you select and deselect which mods you want in your game. Some of these have a huge impact on gameplay, such as new enemies or classes, or some less so like corgi guns.
“Xcom 2” had a day one season pass called “The Reinforcement Pack” for twenty dollars this pass gives you access to the three planned upcoming DLC packs.
The first titled “Anarchy’s Children” has a bunch of new customization options for your characters. The other two packs are set to release this summer.
“Xcom Enemy Unknown” had very low system requirements and it could run on almost any computer, even iPads, but “Xcom 2” has a higher barrier of entry. You will need a higher specked PC to play this, but this leads to the biggest problem with “Xcom 2.”
The game is horribly optimized.
Optimization is when a developer tries to get the game to run at its best on different hardware by adjusting the game’s code. Since its launch people have been complaining that extremely high end graphics cards have a hard time running “Xcom 2” but some lower end cards do not. The game also suffers from memory issues. At times the game will turn into a slide show, but resetting the game gets rid of this problem.
These issues are borderline unacceptable, especially a month after launch. Thankfully Steam’s refund policy allows you to get a refund if you do have issues, but this is something to keep in mind.
If “Xcom 2” did not have the performance issues it would be an amazing game. The game is hard, but rewarding, has extremely fun customization options and the mod support allows you to add a ton of new stuff to the game. But points have to be taken away due to poor optimization and bugs.
The Flyer gives “Xcom 2” a 7/10.