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'XCOM 2' Review: Bittersweet Blasting

'XCOM 2' Review: Bittersweet Blasting

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Many of you among may remember XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the top down turn based strategy game where a team of agent organized by the world government are out to fight off the alien invasion. You may also remember that as commander the game can be excruciatingly frustrating as some of your most elite soldiers are having a bad day and cannot shoot to save their lives. In a game where watching your troops being pulverized to dust regularly (with no way of bringing them back after they die) occurs, the stakes are high. I can attest, the game is brutal- but rewarding when you make the right plays to stop the invasion. This article affirms that only 27% of owners have beaten the game on any difficulty. 

You may ask: “what is happening in the sequel to a game only 27% of player completed?”. Well, glad you asked.

The Story

It’s 20 years after the first game, and the alien invasion has moved to an occupation. A centralized government ran by our antennae’d overlords. Leading a rag-tag strike force against world government lends itself to the gameplay as you jet around from continent from continent rallying the remnants of the resistance.

What I liked:

Turn based

Okay, so there haven’t been a ton of turn based games in the past decade. As a D&D/RPG nerd, I love turn based games and it’s the reason I got into XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Character customization through skills trees and gear upgrades

Again, driving the point home, as a RPG lover, building my own characters (even though we aren’t building from the ground up) through skill trees is nice. It allows me the find out how the pieces of the puzzle fit, which is often a result of horribly screwing up the first bit- but that’s okay.


Like it’s predecessor, the game is no slouch. I do enjoy a good challenge and I am not playing on Iron Man (calm down everyone) but Iron Man doesn’t allow me to reload saved games. Brutal, too brutal for me, though. Even without Iron Man, your combat wits will be tested sufficiently as your enemies are smarter and sneakier.

Major AI adjustments

This is a bit new this time around. I as well as others have noticed that the enemy AI is more cunning this time. No more are the enemies’ slabs of meat thrown at you, but they will hang back and wait for you to make mistakes or utilize their abilities to disable your troops to their full affect.

Managing a global operation

So in XCOM: Enemy Unknown you were more or less beholden to a shadowy council, which in turn answered to world leaders. Well now you are cut loose from that. But remember, everyone has their own boss: you are a slave to the timing of critical events and the scarcity of resources. XCOM 2 can have you looking at a purchase you made and wonder: “Am I going to regret this?”

What isn’t so hot

Steep learning curve in the beginning

The game really doesn’t hold your hand in the beginning. Thankfully it lightens up, but it does smack you around those first few missions. I played the last game and kept wondering what I was doing wrong. But it wasn’t just me as I’ve read online. Additionally, as you unlock upgrades and more squad members, you’ll be dying less (I said less).

Rookies are comically inept

“So you just got out of the military academy? Well, what did you learn? Oh that, yeah it’s a gun. You point it at the invaders”

The rookies (which starting off is everyone) are really bad. I mean like if Ernest P. Worrell were your squad mate. This is so prevalent that modders for the PC created a mod just to make them not terrible. I didn’t apply said mod, but let’s just say I don’t get attached to them early on.

Call the exterminator, we've got BUGS! 

Ok so every great game will have it’s bumps in the road. And this game is no exception. But it’s particularly harping when a game is hampered by the regular bugs.

Bugs I have noticed:

  • Aliens shooting through walls
  • Unable to move through map dues to silly obstructions
  • Ridiculously long load times in between missions (which is oddly fixed by repeatedly mashing the CAPS lock)
  • Frame rates vary so much, following a patch week of 2.14.16

But I’m not alone, a quick google search reveals plenty of other bug and fixes aren’t what players are looking for. With any luck, further updates will help it along.

I am a fan of the XCOM series and of this current title. I am having trouble answering the question: “Phil, should I buy this game?”

Provided we see more bug support for the game and you are an avid RPG fan or a masochist looking to test your mettle- Go for it! Otherwise, I’d wait for it to go on sale and the bug fixes to roll out.

Final Say: Skip It

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