XCOM 2 launched last week, and I’ve spent most of this week playing it, loving it, and being frustrated by it.
XCOM 2’s predecessor was the first Turn Based Strategy game that I really enjoyed. It is a more visceral experience than other TBS games purely because you know the names of your soldiers – They have personality, and I love the kind of game where the characters have, well, character! With other TBS’s it’s arguably easier to send a battalion to certain death in a gambit; they’re usually a group of identical and nameless soldiers, but when you’ve crafted a character, gave them a name, a history, trained them, and guided them through several hair raising missions to build up their skills, to see them get killed is painful.
XCOM 2 builds on that element in its predecessor by offering more character creation options, and a staggering amount of customisation options. There are more personalities for your soldiers, and your creations are also featured on the game’s main menu page to personalise it for you. Check out my chain smoking sniper, “Flatline” with her gun, “Codecaller” (Yes, you can personalise and name weapons, too) below
Any characters you’ve created, or had created for you and like, can be saved to your character pool and used in other playthroughs. There is no post-campaign option, which makes your character pool very important in terms of ensuring you have your favourite team every time you play.
The story of the game ignores the events of the first game, and takes you to a world where the aliens won, and you, the Commander, were captured. The tutorial mission shows how you are recovered. The story then continues with you as the commander of a rag-tag band of guerilla soldiers. In XCOM Enemy Unknown, for a well funded operation, the limits on squad size seemed odd and not fitting with how any other military organisation works. In this game, the small squad and guerilla tactics fits well, as do the limited resources, making those soldiers you created even more valuable, and makes the loss of one a bigger event. The addition of turn limits for missions has met with some controversy, but I’m going to go against the flow of complaints and say that it’s a good thing. It adds more to the guerilla style feel of the gameplay, and also makes the game a bit more unforgiving to overly cautious players.
The biggest thing with this game, however, is the unprecedented mod support. The mod creation tools’ download is nearly twice the size of the game itself, partly because of the tools, but also because it includes 32 and 64 bit versions of the game itself so that your mods can be tested. There is nothing held back. Modders can change everything, and create anything. This is a lot more than even Bethesda provided for the most modded game on Nexusmods: Skyrim. This means that budding game developers can use it to learn how to develop a game, and that it will soon be possible to find a great number of mods to tailor the game to your tastes.
On the downside, the game is horribly optimised and crash prone. These are things that can be fixed, however, but they’re frustrating on launch day. No AAA game should ever be released in this state. When it can take over a minute to load a level, there is something very wrong. The only other real flaw with the game is that some actions become overly repetitive after a while. Not the missions, because many are generated on the fly, but many of the base actions can become tedious.
I give the game an 8 out of 10, but once the patches come through for the bugs, that will go up to a 9 out of ten. There’s not a lot wrong with the game at all, and while I feel a little sorry for the console gamers out there who can’t play this game (yet), I’m not bothered enough by that limitation to mark the game down further.