XCOM 2: satisfaction in complexity

Taylor Mitchell, A&E Editor

I have had some unique experiences with this one, I have to admit. XCOM 2 came out in 2016 and I, being a huge fan of XCOM: Enemy Unknown before it, absolutely jumped on it. It had promised more difficulty and interesting mechanics that I was super hyped for, and I would like to say it fully delivered on that promise. Sadly this promise is what lead to this review being 2 years after the games release. I had started writing for The Chanticleer by the time the game came out, but could never finish the dang thing. I actually lost two or three higher difficulty campaigns right after release. While i liked the game, I admittedly got frustrated and gave up on it for a while, only playing a little here and there. That is until about a week ago, when I decided I was finally going to slay this beast, and I did. With that, let’s get on with it.

The story of XCOM 2 is actually rather interesting as it deals with a scenario players likely dealt with in Enemy Unknown: defeat. XCOM 2 takes place in a world where the player failed and so did XCOM. Due to this, it is the aliens’ world now and XCOM is forced into the shadows. Players have to decide how best to propagate this guerilla war.

Players do this by managing two layers of gameplay similar to Enemy Unknown. The game is separated into the tactical and strategic layers. The tactical layer is the meat and potatoes portion of the game, with the player taking control of specific squads of soldiers. This layer features the incredibly diverse and creative enemies. From snake people that grab you with their tongues to giant killer death robots, you’re likely to find them here. The difficulty in this layer comes from preparedness and risk management which players have to balance. The second layer is about collecting resources and building up your base while also dealing with the aliens game ending plan. Players must spend time dealing with this plan, called the Avatar Project, as ignoring it will cause a game over. In fact, this is what caused mine. It adds an interesting challenge to the game as sometimes players may not be on their best legs but must still have to react to a breakthrough.

All of the moving parts in each layer and the interplay between the two are where most of the difficulty really comes in. There is so much interplay in it that it gives the game this very rewarding complexity. When you find a balance it just feels good because you are making all the pieces fit in a workable way. That’s where most of the fun comes from in this one, finding a groove and bringing a plan to fruition just feels great. The game is just super rewarding when you start to do great and punishing when you’re not doing as good.

Also of note is just the wonderful customization options you have for your squaddies. This is a game where you can literally make your friends and send them to fight aliens, and that’s just plain awesome. Granted, watching them die horribly is less awesome, but still cool. During my final play through, I literally texted my friends how their characters were doing on any given mission. This added much more fun for me and much more confusion for my friends which is always great.

All in all, I kinda love this game. It has caused me no end of frustration, but most of that was based on my own skill level, not the game. So I say pick it up if you’re wanting a challenge, but be prepared. Failure is totally an option.

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