XCOM 2 reviewed: hit the ground running and never stop

XCOM. I’d wager that sequence of letters rings quite a few bells for a good portion of our audience. For fans of the series, it’s about hundreds of hours sitting on the edge of their seats, measuring movement options on tiles, then having their soldiers turn that corner only to run into a Chrysalid. Or maybe it’s about taking alien corpses and weighing which autopsy project to undertake. Or perhaps they might even be considering the finer points of fast squad members versus big hitters.

The XCOM series hails from a pedigree that started back in 1994, when MicroProse meant “awesome game” in every language known to man. X-COM: UFO Defense pretty much defined its genre: a near-perfect blend of a management simulation and turn-based tactical combat missions. The game had little in the way of actual story beyond “aliens are invading—defend the Earth.” You, the faceless Commander, had to manage an anti-xenomorph organization’s resources, research, and engineering to deal with the aliens in tense, one-wrong-move-and-you’re-dead combat missions.

The series died off in the late 1990s, but kept a cult following (of which I’m a member). That fan base yearned for a modern remake or reimagining of the series. A few third-party  developers tried to bring the concept back, though in my opinion only UFO: Afterlight and 2014’s Xenonauts succeeded. (Xenonauts in particular is an excellent recreation of the original game.) Firaxis eventually bought the rights to the franchise and rebooted the series. XCOM: Enemy Unknown was well-received, and I think it’s one of the few remakes actually worthy of that name (I’m looking at you, Syndicate).

Now XCOM 2 is here, and it faces the specter of second album syndrome. The 2012 remake had the previous games to draw ideas from, but how can Firaxis improve and evolve the series without losing sight of what made it great in the first place? Its answer: turn up the radio, slam the throttle, and set nitro output to 11.

Lights out. Guerrila radio. Turn that **** up!

In XCOM 2, the usual “aliens are slowly but surely invading Earth” theme gets turned on its ear. In this game, the curtain opens 20 years past a successful extraterrestrial invasion. The aliens have taken over, and people live in a dystopic, alien-controlled Orwellian society. You’re a part of a ragtag team of rebels that’s pretty sure the aliens aren’t benevolent overlords.

You, the Commander, are rescued from the aliens’ facilities, and must lead the resistance and overthrow the xenomorph leaders. No pressure there or anything. Just the future of mankind at stake.

XCOM 2‘s biggest departure from the original “feel” of the series is one of pacing. The previous games in the series are all slow burners. Get your bearings, do a mission on a small crashed alien ship, start gathering resources and working out your strategic plan, that sort of thing. In XCOM 2, though, you hit the ground running, and you have to sprint from the get-go.

You’ll soon learn to hate this guy. He’s constantly in your ear saying “GO FASTER!”

The base management has been simplified (again) from the earlier game. You’re now in charge of a flying ship and a group of wanted criminals, so the strategy portion of the game now involves travelling from mission to mission, drumming up support for la Résistance, and collecting resources.

In previous XCOM titles, the monthly resource pack that supporting nations sent you was your main source of income. Now, that income needs to be supplemented by successful resource scans (accomplished by keeping the mothership in a certain spot while gathering resources). You’ll also need to run missions to gather supplies or perhaps recruit a new staff member.

XCOM 2 doesn’t give players a whole lot to do in the way of actual strategic management, though. Base layout has been simplified to the point that players can just build newly researched rooms without much thought to their placement. Staff management doesn’t involve ordering a dozen more engineers or researchers and considering their wages in your monthly balance sheet. In practice, all you have to do is buy or rescue as many engineers and scientists as you can, especially because they will be few and far between.

The most management you’ll be doing involves your squad of chickens elite soldiers. Since missions happen frequently in XCOM 2 and your soldiers often take a long time to heal from injuries, you’ll need to maintain two to three squads’ worth of capable soldiers at any time. New recruits arrive without any specialization, and after their first missions or specialist training, they become one of four classes—Ranger, Grenadier, Specialist, and Sharpshooter. A Psi Operative class is available later in the game, too.

The Commander gets a large selection of weapons and add-ons to outfit these soldiers with, though players are no longer required to manage manufacturing of individual weapons or armor sets (apart from exotic models). Once a gun or armor is unlocked, it’s available for every soldier, a move that feels more like oversimplifying than streamlining to me.

That yellow spot is where I’d put my Psi Lab… if I had one!

You do have to make some hard choices about missions, though, especially in the early stages. It’ll be impossible to catch ’em all at first, and your resources will be spread thin as Mylar. Ship travelling time, area scanning duration, and the proposed mission’s difficulty must all be measured against your organization’s capabilities. Being a band of ragtags on the run in a flying fortress is glamorous, but it presents real challenges when your group has to put out several fires at once. Supply constraints and time considerations require the player to be a lot more proactive than in previous games.

For about the first half of the game, you’ll be racing hard against the clock. The aliens have a sort of doomsday-device thing called the Avatar Project going, and every new tech base that they build adds a mark to a counter that tracks the aliens’ progress. Should all of squares be marked, it’s game over, man.

Dealing with this pressure is a big problem early on in the game. You only get a handful of soldiers, barely any engineers or scientists, and little in the way of supplies and intel (the game’s two currencies). Despite those slim pickings, you need to run missions to gather supplies, intel and staff, deal with alien reprisal attacks, and do your darned best to wipe out new Avatar bases being built.

Those constraints mean that for about the first third of the game, you won’t have a lot of freedom to pursue missions. Instead, your squad will be doing only what it can, as you’ll constantly be cash- and staff-strapped. Only when you start to collect a variety of alien corpses and technology for research can you start actually thinking of a direction to take with your game style. As a result, the early game feels very much play-by-numbers.

 

Bad tactics will destroy even the best strategy.
XCOM 2‘s tactical combat is mechanically similar to Enemy Unknown, but it has very different pacing. This time around, Firaxis has added a new “Concealment” mechanic, which is absolutely great. In the missions where you’re going in under the radar, your squad starts fully hidden from the enemy as long as you don’t get too close. You can then move your soldiers into the best possible positions before letting loose on an unsuspecting enemy squad. Talk about going in with a bang. Aside from that new mechanic, the feel of combat in this game comes with two more major changes.

The first one is that XCOM 2‘s combat system sets up “mobs” of two to four enemies, in the style of an MMORPG (save for the occasional fixed turret emplacement). For starters, this severely limits tactical choices. For example, splitting your squad in two and scouting out different parts of the map tends to be a bad idea, because you’ll just aggro an entire group in each spot. Adding insult to injury, the enemy mobs get a free movement action whenever they’re found.

Oh, you cleared the area of enemies? It’d be a shame if more just dropped in from the sky.

These mobs often make for frustrating situations. Say you’re moving your squad along the terrain, and you’re moving your last soldier. With that last step, you move into a tile with a mob, and suddenly, a whole enemy squad is ready to take you on. You’ve already burned all your moves, and that leaves you vulnerable to the still-mobile mob unless you already left half your squad on overwatch. Another example of how movement can be punitive in this game are the times when you tell one of your soldiers to hide behind that wall over there, only to reveal some new tiles—and a new enemy squad bearing down on him. Oops.

After the Street Fighting tournaments ended, Guile needed something to make ends meet

The second change is that the vast majority of the missions have turn limits, especially early on. The previous title occasionally had timed missions, but they were few and far enough between that they didn’t feel like a chore. In XCOM 2, you’re on the clock for almost everything. More often than not, the timers limit your ability to scout, and funnel the action into specific spots. Carefully inching forward is basically impossible when the clock is running.

Overall, whether the changes are for better or worse will be up to invidual tastes. Personally, I think that a good part of the original XCOM‘s “hunt and be hunted” feel is lost. XCOM 2‘s reliance on timers and enemy dropships often makes it feel like I just have a role in Michael Bay’s XCOM – The Movie. Having said all that, I’d bet that a good number of people will like the intense pacing, too. To each their own.

All I did was flank an enemy like a good girl, and I pulled another squad. Now I’m toast.

A bigger issue, I feel, is that XCOM 2 does a subpar job of bringing players up to speed. Although the game does offer a fairly comprehensive tutorial, it doesn’t provide enough detail about some of the finer points of gameplay. For example, even though I had researched the prerequisite techs for psionics, I actually had to use Google to figure out how to train my Psi-Operatives. Similarly, I was confused when I couldn’t figure out how to have Random Gal take a medikit because it’s a “utility” item. Meanwhile, grenades can go in both grenade slots and utility slots. Simple, right?

You’re fighting a war you’ve already lost.

Anyone who’s played a bit of XCOM over the years has had his or her run-ins with the probability-based hits and misses in the game’s missions. That’s led to the rise of the colloquial term “that’s X-COM, baby!” around the internet. I’m not going to rant about missing shots with 51% probability, though.

My beef, instead, is with the ridiculously slanted difficulty of the tutorial missions and the game’s first few hours. I have easily thousands of hours of XCOM games under my belt, both official and inspired-by. When it was time to choose XCOM 2‘s difficulty, I went with Commander (level three out of four), because hey, I’ve been around the block a few times, right? If you’re chuckling by now, go on ahead, make it a big laugh.

The tutorial missions at this difficulty are absolutely brutal. You start the game with a four-soldier squad of incompetent rookies who run away screaming at the first sign of trouble. They have no armor, very few health points (less than mot enemies), and their guns aren’t much better than BB shooters. Yet the tutorial’s first actual mission has you racing against a short timer and going up against multiple enemy squads that are several times the size of yours in total.

If that wasn’t enough, you’ll immediately run into Sectoids, which aren’t the tiny, cuddly things from the first game. In XCOM 2, they can mind-control your soldiers, induce panic, and raise dead bodies to fight for their side. You can’t explore the map because you’ll aggro more enemies. You can’t inch forward carefully, because the clock is ticking. And when you do manage to reach the objective, yet more aliens will come charging in from a dropship. If you’re tempted to run because you completed the objective, you can’t, because you’ve been ordered to eliminate all remaining forces. Just bloody great.

This bastard can teleport, clone itself, and create enegy spheres that unload guns and then explode. OP much?

If you’re thinking “just play smarter,” that’s not enough in the game’s first hours. You really need a decent amount of luck. Since rookies panic so easily, a perfectly-tuned ambush can (and will) go like this: you trigger it, but eventually an alien will fire back and kill soldier #1. Soldier #2 will panic and become useless. A Sectoid will then mind control soldier #3, who will eventually shoot the already-outnumbered soldier #4.

Here’s a note to developers worldwide: difficult and cheap are not the same thing. Difficult games should make you play better, while cheap ones just make you lose on purpose. My issue with the game’s Random Number Generator isn’t the fact that exists or that it’s somehow doing the wrong math. It’s that during the game’s initial stages, you’re dependent on it to an unhealthy degree for your successes and failures.

Yoohoo, Mr. Alieeeen!

The game does get a lot better (like, a million times) after the brutal start. Once you’ve managed to run a few missions, promote your soldiers, increase the squad size, and manufacture some decent equipment, you actually have a fighting chance against the greys. At that point, the game comes into its own, and it starts to feel like “true” XCOM again.

And boy, is it loads of fun. The new soldier utilities and special powers offer great counters to the aliens’ surprises, and there are few things more satisfying than wiping out an enemy squad by combining complementary special abilities. Well, that, and saying “how do you like them apples?” as you hack into an enemy robot and make it turn its xenomorph buddy into a sieve.

You’re prettier than most humans. I can’t let that pass.

At this point, you can actually strategize instead of putting out the fire of the hour. Once you make contact with at least a couple world regions and start expanding your base’s facilities, you can give some thought to the next course of action. The whole “Avatar clock ticking” becomes another constraint to manage instead of an annoyance. Do you run a few resource-collecting missions over the next few weeks and let the aliens advance Avatar, or do you strike at that base and stop their progress for a while? Will you bet on researching stronger weapons or better armor, considering the types of enemies you’re seeing? A range of possibilities open up. Thanks to those challenges, there’s great replay value in the game, since players can choose a different path altogether during each playthrough.

 

Is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bug hunt?

When we talk about XCOM 2’s bugs, I’m not talking about the aliens, I’m afraid. XCOM 2 shipped in a sorry state, and there are no two ways about it. The issues started with the game’s graphics performance. My PC (with an overclocked Intel Core i5-2500K and a GeForce GTX 970) handled The Witcher 3 just fine at high settings and a resolution of 2560×1440, but XCOM 2 is slow as molasses climbing up a hill using similar graphics settings. That issue is especially evident when managing your base. I found that strange, because there’s little in the way of demading  graphics in the headquarters view. Some searching around the web indicates this problem is widespread but not universal. Even so, that’s little comfort for those affected.

Graphics settings can be tweaked to make the game good enough to play, but the same can’t be said about the multiple gameplay bugs, some of which can break entire missions, or even saved games if you’re playing in Ironman mode. I’ve seen enemy units disappear and reappear, pending explosions vanishing (leading me to think I was safe, then: boom!).  Don’t even get me started on the countless in-game camera bugs. The developers went for a “cinematic action camera”, but they clearly bought the wrong model.

Double-whammy: I can’t pick up the item on the ground, and the action icon is broken.

The issues don’t stop there, though. There are often long pauses for no reason after movement or action animations (there’s even a mod for that). Sometimes you build equipment that doesn’t ever become available for soldiers’ loadouts. The most fun of the bugs I encountered was a black-screen crash at the start of the game’s final mission. Yay. Oh, and missions take forever to load, even with the game installed on an SSD. I mean, you get a nice view of the squad in a ship heading to the objective, but there’s hardly any need to make that journey in real time.

Judging by what happened with Civilization V, which is a now-excellent game that initially shipped in a rough state, Firaxis does tend to support their titles with plenty of post-launch patches. I have hope that the devs will fix the outstanding bugs soon. The game’s lead designer, Jake Solomon, already laid out plans for XCOM 2 bugfixes and improvements in an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, and those fixes should help alleviate my biggest complaints.

It’s not all bad, though. The game’s user experience is quite solid (something that can’t be said for many AAA titles). It starts up at the native resolution with adequate graphical defaults, there aren’t endless “Powered By” videos to sift through, everything that’s important is configurable, and the mouse and keyboard controls all make sense.

Conclusions

Few games have left me as conflicted as XCOM 2 when it’s come time to issue a verdict, so I’ll drop two instead.

On the one hand, XCOM 2 is a fun, addictive, fast-paced game that remains mostly within the bounds of the previous installments in the series. The game’s graphics and sound design are excellent, too, which helps the overall ambience. The idea of leading a floating rebel base that travels from spot to spot in guerrila missions is an interesting twist for the series, too. Individual tastes aside, XCOM 2 does advance the series, and players who like their games fast and furious will feel right at home.

On the other hand, I think the game can be punishingly difficult, even in its easiest modes. In my experience with the Commander difficulty level, the first third or so of XCOM 2 consisted of little more than frustration and begging for mercy from the game’s random number generator. Even after switching to the Rookie mode so that I could finish this review, it remained clear that XCOM 2 wasn’t always going to be a cakewalk.

Other gameplay elements can get old really quick, too, like the proliferation of timed missions and “surprise! you’re suddenly in trouble!” events. As a more personal opinion, much like my feelings about Civilization V and its sequel Beyond Earth, I also think that XCOM 2 could easily have been an expansion pack for XCOM: Enemy Unknown instead. Asking full price for this game’s content ($60 on Steam right now) leaves me with this face.

Anybody tempted to jump on XCOM 2 should wait until a couple patches are out, too. Trust me, as it is right now, the game poses a significant risk of high-velocity contact between mouse and display device. It’s possible that Firaxis could adjust the difficulty curve and other gameplay pain points I had through patches, too. A little polish tends to go long way, and with some tweaking, XCOM 2 could get what it needs to really shine.

Comments closed
    • FubbHead
    • 4 years ago

    About those loading times…

    [url<]http://www.pcgamesn.com/xcom-2/xcom-2s-long-post-mission-load-times-can-be-skipped-with-the-caps-lock-key[/url<]

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 years ago

      Don’t do it.

      My one crash to desktop happened because I was spamming caps lock. According to the devs, this forces the game to load everything in the queue without checking dependencies. While it’s unlikely to cause a fatal error, it can happen.

      In other news, the new patch dropped yesterday. I’m playing it and it has improved performance (I was getting ~50-55 fps w 361.75 drivers before, now I’m getting a solid 60 fps (vysnc) in combat w the 362.00 drivers). Also a couple bugfixes, UI improvements and some rebalancing (mimc beacons made slightly weaker and more expensive).

    • BorgOvermind
    • 4 years ago

    Well I usually like difficult. Not as in stupidly-like, but close to impossible is fine for me.
    Game going against map scouting …that I don’t like.
    I always like to explore everything in a new game.
    Anyway, I’ll probably give this game a play-through pretty soon.

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 years ago

      Ironman Impossible… beat!

      Man, what a beyotch of a final mission; I thought it was tough on Commander, but on Legend (Impossible), it was a whole other ballgame…. @_@

      @ BorgOvermind: Actually, if anything, it’s easier to scout the map in XCOM2, because:
      a. You start many missions in concealment, which means you can run your guys further with less risk of running into and activating alien pods
      b. Rangers with Phantom and/or Conceal can re-cloak themselves and serve as an advance scout.
      c. There are battlefield scanners (1 had them too, but they are more useful in 2)
      d. You can hack enemy bots and mind control enemy aliens and use them as scouts (they will alert pods that are in sight, however).

      Also, with procedurally generated maps (unlike XCOM1), the maps are more interesting and challenging, because you are never fully sure what to expect. (The tutorial and final mission maps are hard-coded, though fwiw)

    • Voldenuit
    • 4 years ago

    Just started an Ironman Impossible game; gonna see how far I get, currently ~5 missions in.

    Turn limits have still been doable so far, but soldiers take forever to heal on I.I. Attrition might be my biggest enemy.

    Flashbangs might be my new best friend, because it locks out those pesky stun lancers from meleeing you.

    • Pumapaw
    • 4 years ago

    Games is entertaining. But I feel it is a very scripted game that does not allow much variance as previous titles have. On my third play through it’s starting to become repetitive. You have little variance on your base building. You always get stuck on some mission if you go for your supplies.

    I did find out one big help. AMD have released suggested graphic settings for the game in the new Radeon Settings App. I would suggest you use it it helps with the graphics bugs.

    • Voldenuit
    • 4 years ago

    I haven’t seen this mentioned, but I love the ant-farm view of the base in XCOM2, it’s a lot more detailed and dynamic than I remembered from 1.

    At any given time, you can see engineers and scientists working, your soldiers playing card games in the living areas, hanging out over drinks in the bar, or working out in the armory. When they get injured, they show up in the hospital beds in the AWC, and, get this, [i<]your other soldiers will visit them in hospital[/i<]. I've constructed elaborate backstories about their personal lives and interactions, and I don't think I'm the only XCOM2 player to do this. I'm convinced that one of my psi ops is dating one of my specialists, I always see them hang out together. I don't think any previous game in the series has ever made me so invested in the lives and well-being of my individual soldiers.

    • Crackhead Johny
    • 4 years ago

    “I’d bet that a good number of people will like the intense pacing, too.”
    I think the number of players who will like turn limited missions, is about the same as the number who love escort missions or “you are poisoned” missions.
    Is there a point where I can lose all my gear and find it again or better yet.. just lose it?
    Can I finally get the uberweapon only to have it permanently taken away at the end of the mission?
    Is there a treasure room with a “load-bearing” Boss?

    I think devs can skip “bad gaming moments from the 90s” in the future.

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 years ago

      My least favorite parts of X-COM and TFTD were spending what felt like hours finding the last panicked Sectoid or Aquatoid on a giant terror mission map. Usually he’d be cowering in one corner of the map. If I was lucky, he’d have dropped his weapon, if I was unlucky, he’d be ready with a reaction shot.

      The turn limits in XCOM2 have been pretty fair, I’ve usually ended most timed missions (on Hard/Commander difficulty) with 3-4 turns to go.

      Having said that, I ran into a grueling VIP rescue mission last night, where having found the VIP with 5 turns to go, was feeling unduly confident. Then activated a Gatekeeper Pod, and running away from them, activated an Archon Pod. Then, just to rub salt in the wound, reinforcements got dropshipped in with 2 turns to go. It was pretty brutal, but then, that’s XCOM, baby.

      One thing the turn limits do well is to force the player to manage their objectives. In my example above, it was no longer about killing every alien on the map, but about getting the VIP and my team safely to the evac zone. We made it out with 1 turn left on the clock, and the mission was a success. It really does capture the feel of guerilla ops against an overpowering enemy, and it feels a lot less annoying than the timed missions in XCOM1 (I still hate those train station bomb missions with a passion), because it feels less scripted and more dynamic.

    • burntham77
    • 4 years ago

    You are spot on about the difficulty level. Even on easy I feel like the game is punishingly difficult, even more so than the last game. Also, I feel like early on you are already been assaulted by very advanced enemies, and they throw a lot of them at you. I get that we lost the war and all that, but good lord, it’s a video game!

    I hear the choice to push up the challenge happened late in development, so maybe they didn’t have time to full test it.

    I still like the game a lot, but part of me wants to stop playing and wait and see if they lower the difficulty. I know they’re already working on some DLC, so maybe that’ll fix things.

    • mkk
    • 4 years ago

    I expect future greatness from this game, yet after some 25 hours intense playing over an extended weekend I felt pretty much done with it. In its current state I would have quit within 10 hours were it not for mods like TimerTweaks or StopWastingMyTime. The performance issues are not a real problem compared to the gameplay weaknesses and a smattering of bugs. This review is spot on, well done. I wouldn’t recommend anyone buying it today.

    • Cuhulin
    • 4 years ago

    I am absolutely loving this game – 55 hours into the campaign and about to run the final mission.

    The turn-limited missions are a pita, but they require variations in the player’s strategy that keep it from getting too rote.

    I have played all the XCOM games when they came out, including the version for my Ipad last time, and I think I like this one the best.

    I definitely will play again when they get some of the bugs worked out!

    • Shoki
    • 4 years ago

    Just finished the campaign. Played about 75% and restarted. 88 hours. Phew! 4.4 hours a day average… The story was so so but the missions are fun as heck. I had some performance issues but not bad overall.

    • jokinin
    • 4 years ago

    turn limited missions? that is a deal breaker for me.
    One of the things I enjoyed most in XCOM EU was to slowly gain position in the battlefield, so, I think I won’t like this new rush-in prespective.

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 years ago

      This was exactly the way I felt, as I, too, hated timed missions in XCOM.

      Until I got XCOM 2.

      For starters, not all missions are timed; I’d wager somewhere around 60-70% at most. What’s more, I found I enjoyed the the vast majority of the timed missions, because it added a sense of urgency and represented a challenge on top of an already difficult (in a good way) game.

      Furthermore some timers will deactivate when the mission objective is reached (hack the computer, defuse the bomb, rescue/kidnap and evac the VIP etc), whereas some missions will require you to finish all the objectives within the timed limit. Many missions can even be completed by bypassing combat completely with a stealthy character (like a Ranger with Phantom and conceal), leaving you to evac out or mop up the enemy at your leisure.

      It’s helped a very interesting and balanced mix of classes and special abilities that give you tactical and movement options. Examples: characters that can avoid being discovered or enter into concealment as an action, abilities that give another unit overwatch, abilities that gives you an extra action if you kill an enemy, an ability that grants a party member an extra action, being able to hack computers, enemies and mission objectives at a distance with a remote drone, etc.

      I’ve been a TFTD fan for a long time; it was my favorite game in the series. Until now.

      • TwoEars
      • 4 years ago

      There is a mod for it on the nexus if it’s a deal breaker.

        • Ninjitsu
        • 4 years ago

        I think you can simply edit the ini files to increase turn limits.

      • burntham77
      • 4 years ago

      The turn limited missions go against the very essence of the genre, which is based around patience and discipline. I don’t like being forced to dash my way to the finish line. It feels sloppy.

      • Meadows
      • 4 years ago

      Yahtzee made some good points regarding just that.

      [url<]http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/116803-XCOM-2[/url<]

      • Pumapaw
      • 4 years ago

      The turn limits are not that bad. With a bit of planning you will master this.

        • Voldenuit
        • 4 years ago

        Yeah, the global stats popup from my last completed campaign said that the average gamer had ~2.5 turns left at the end of their missions, which sounds pretty well tuned.

        Although that might include ppl who have mods for extra timer turns?

    • Entroper
    • 4 years ago

    I’m really disappointed to hear about gameplay bugs. XCOM EU had plenty of these too, and the fact that they’re using a largely similar engine several years later and still have game-breaking bugs is just unforgivable. I lost more than one Ironman save to bugs in EU, not interested in shelling out $60 to repeat that experience.

    • Shobai
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]Now XCOM 2 is here, and it faces the specter ...[/quote<] Is 'specter' an American spelling of spectre?

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 years ago

      Pretty much everything in US English is -‘er’.

      We also don’t distinguish between ‘meter’ and ‘metre’ or ‘center’ and ‘centre’.

        • Shobai
        • 4 years ago

        Interesting! How was the latest Bond film advertised over there? Which spelling did they use?

          • Airmantharp
          • 4 years ago

          Spelled with the Queen’s English, given the source of the property 😉

          [url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2379713/?ref_=nv_sr_1<]IMDB Link[/url<]

    • odizzido
    • 4 years ago

    Do civilians still have heart attacks on terror missions? That was so disappointing when I found that out. And the alien squad activation thing….and the ability to shoot aliens which just stand there till they die if you move just right…./sigh

    I will be waiting for this to go on sale for like $5 before I get it.

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 years ago

      [quote<]Do civilians still have heart attacks on terror missions? That was so disappointing when I found that out. And the alien squad activation thing....and the ability to shoot aliens which just stand there till they die if you move just right..../sigh[/quote<] I don't think your fears are a problem - civilians get hunted by aliens on terror missions and are vulnerable to environmental damage like fire, explosions and collapsing structures, but I've never seen one just keel over and die of panic. Aliens will rush for cover if your team is spotted, they do not stand out in the open unless your team or unit is in concealment, during which said aliens have a reduced spotting radius. Nearby sentry towers and certain actions - kicking in doors, breaking windows and throwing grenades can break concealment for your team/units, though. If you're smart, you can set up concealment ambushes by putting most of your squad on overwatch, and triggering an (unaware) pod. When the aliens rush for cover (note that both you and the aliens have to move at least 2 squares in an overwatched area to trigger overwatch), you get to take potshots at them as they rush for cover (note also that a dashing unit gets a +10 defense bonus [i<]while dashing[/i<], and that non-concealed overwatch shots have a -15% (iirc) aim penalty, so it's not OP).

    • Ninjitsu
    • 4 years ago

    I don’t really agree much with the difficulty. I played it on Veteran because the game clearly stated that it was for XCOM veterans. I have 77 hours of XCOM:EU/EW and about 10 or so of Xenonauts – and while by the time i was in mid game the avatar counter had gone up to 8/10, I could turn it back fairly quickly after that.

    The strategy layer was much more involved than EU, in the sense that you had to manage time, intel and supplies primarily along with engineers – instead of just satellites. As far as base building was concerned, where you sent an engineer was fairly important. And workshops produced gremlins that could go to adjacent labs, so deciding how to excavate to manage time and facility placement became important. The timing of each facility was also important, e.g. do you prioritise the GTS over the AWC? How quickly do you make the psi lab (and use psionics)? When the UFO intercepts you, will you have your turrets ready and controlled by an engineer?

    I don’t get the complaint on the utility items thing – it’s obvious that a utility item is not necessarily a grenade, but a grenade is a subset of a utility item. And the “Random Gal” you mention was likely a grenadier – I don’t remember any other classes having grenade slots.

    I managed the timed missions pretty well too, and usually had 3 turns left over. I felt it was a fresh change to the formula, and the number was a good balance with non-timed ones. A lot of the timers would terminate after an alien relay was hacked or destroyed, too.

    The free turn thing was a bit annoying, but you could still set up a decent ambush. Biggest offenders were chryssalids. I’m not a fan of stumbling onto new pods and enemy types in the middle of a firefight, though, which did cause me to rage quit twice – but overall it was manageable.

    I didn’t have many bugs. Sometimes, the game would get stuck between the after mission loading screen, and the only fix was to either load the last turn of the mission, or restart and try the same. Fixed after the first patch. The other was the UI disappearing, which was one of the more irritating ones, but also fixed most of the time by restarting the game. I was using a GTX 560 and still managing 35 fps in game, with fairly high settings. Base was at 22 fps, and to answer your question, I think it’s the trees and stuff in the background that’s causing the performance drop.

    EDIT: The psi ops training was clear too, they said it in the game as well – leave them here to train and take them for missions if you want. I used psi soldiers very late in the game, which is a shame because they’re quite OP.

    EDIT2: Sectoids are stupid. They always induce panic or raise a zombie or something. Then you kill the sectoid with a single slash (or use a flashbang to cancel their effect) and all is well.

      • morphine
      • 4 years ago

      The Psi Ops and the grenadier thing were examples to illustrate how I feel the game doesn’t give you enough information. The “issues” in themselves are fairly unimportant, of course.

      As for the bugs, I understand that a reviewer having bad luck (as was my case) may give out the wrong impression. However, it’s still preferable that people know what may happen with their copies than pretend it’s all good.

      Thanks for the feedback.

        • Voldenuit
        • 4 years ago

        [quote<]The Psi Ops and the grenadier thing were examples to illustrate how I feel the game doesn't give you enough information. The "issues" in themselves are fairly unimportant, of course.[/quote<] I missed the Psi Ops thing myself because I was simply assuming that psi worked the same way as in all previous X-COM/XCOM games (and it didn't). There were in-game prompts that told you about it, though, I just wasn't paying attention, so that's on me. I did have to do some googling and in-game experimentation to figure out that Psi Ops don't gain levels from combat kills, though. Re: grenades vs utility items, I thought the interface was fairly easily understood - the in-game prompts made it very clear that the grenadier's extra grenade slot was [i<]only for grenades[/i<], going so far as to label it a 'Grenade Slot' vs 'Utility Slot'. (It also accepts Bombs - which are the T2 grenades - and Proximity Mines, FYI). Meanwhile, everything that wasn't a 'grenade' slot was a 'utility' slot (pretty much every other class other than grenadier). I have no strong stance about how much or how little information the game gives players. I do like that outside of the first scripted tutorial mission, the devs don't hold your hand (there are a few prompts here and there), which is refreshing in the age of heavily scripted games (hello Tomb Raider 2013).

    • blitzy
    • 4 years ago

    xcom2 is a big improvement from xcom1 in my opinion, line of sight can be a little weird sometimes but aside from that haven’t had too many problems with the game

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    Give me Terror from the Deep or bust.

    You don’t know pain until you have to do a Lobstermen terror mission with Gauss and Harpoon weaponry.

      • gbcrush
      • 4 years ago

      Done it.

      I think around that time I decided to use a save game/file editor to turn my Harpoon guns into sniper rifles.

      That didn’t stop half a whaleload of squaddies from becoming pressed hamburger meat in their evil little claws, but it did even the score a little more. And boy did it feel good to put a hole in a lobsterman from 400 yards away. 😀

      • odizzido
      • 4 years ago

      Always a single lobsterman hiding in a closet somewhere on those ships. So annoying.

      • anotherengineer
      • 4 years ago

      Buy it yourself
      [url<]http://store.steampowered.com/app/7650/[/url<]

      • Tirk
      • 4 years ago

      *******SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT*********
      The ending hints that you may get your wish in a future dlc or next Xcom game.

    • Voldenuit
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<] Only when you start to collect a variety of alien corpses and technology for research can you start actually thinking of a direction to take with your game style. As a result, the early game feels very much play-by-numbers.[/quote<] I dunno, Bruno, I'm feeling the opposite here. The continent bonuses are randomized every campaign now, and I've found myself modifying my early game strategy based on which bonuses are most accessible. For instance, on a Commander difficulty playthrough right now, North America had a bonus granting instant Proving Ground Armor builds, so I bullrushed Plated and Power armor while sticking with Magnetic weapons; as a result, I have warden armor and wraith suits in May but still gauss weapons, and this has changed how aggressive I get with my guys. Also, I love that it has procedurally generated levels (like X-COM, and unlike XCOM); it makes the levels and enemy pods less predictable than in XCOM, and I'm enjoying the variety of missions and mission objectives.

      • morphine
      • 4 years ago

      Agree to disagree, that’s fine. If we’d all had the same tastes, it’d be boring.

      I guess it’s a matter of expectations. For me, it feels the strategic portion has been consistently getting simpler. Perhaps my phrasing of “play-by-numbers” may sound too literal. It obviously requires some degree of thought, but not as much as I had hoped.

      Base management got simpler with 2012 XCOM, and this is simpler still. I’m not a big fan of that 🙂

        • Voldenuit
        • 4 years ago

        Hey at least we got a (pseudo) base defense mission this time (even if it is just holding the enemies at the gate) 😛

        On a strategic (as opposed to tactical) level, the game certainly is not as open-ended as the Microprose originals (even Apocalypse), but I actually don’t mind, because the gameplay ramifications of strategic choices in the earlier games were very poorly telegraphed (especially in TFTD). You had little to no indication of whether base locations in 1 or 2 were suboptimal except over multiple playthroughs, and the same goes for supporting corporations and factions in Apocalypse.

        I thought long and hard about picking up Xenonauts, but I’m not sure I want to go back into micromanaging bases and Time Units again.

          • morphine
          • 4 years ago

          You do. It’s worth it.

          Beware, though: in Xenonauts, cover is king, cover is brutal. The combat mechanics have more variables so keep that in mind.

    • Voldenuit
    • 4 years ago

    G***amnit, Bradford,
    Civilians die in battle.
    Quit nagging me, ‘kay?

    /Commander Haiku

    • Nictron
    • 4 years ago

    Love XCOM 2 and worth the money.

    Overthrowing and entrenched alien menage was never going to be a cake walk. I personally experienced very few bugs, can’t recall too many but I do have high end hardware and GSync.

    I finished XCOM 1 on Ironman, normal difficulty on the first try without loosing a soldier – did not play the tutorial. XCOM 2 was a Dark Souls difficulty level. Four of my friends joined me for the weekend of launch. All around the table the mouns and growns continued for 3 days strait as we all lost soldier after soldier. One thing that I realized is that there are missions that you just have to retreat as you can’t win!

    Agree that the game can feel brutal and unfair, but then that is war!

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 years ago

      [quote<]Overthrowing and entrenched alien menage was never going to be a cake walk. I personally experienced very few bugs, can't recall too many but I do have high end hardware.[/quote<] Yeah, I've been lucky not to encounter any game-breaking bugs, or even major bugs to speak of. There are a few things which are universal, such as smoke grenades currently not working [i<]at all[/i<], and car explosions (and the extra damage from volatile mix) not being typed as 'Explosive' damage, so damaging units which should be immune to explosions (eg Psi Ops with Fortress). But the game itself has been brilliant (another UFO: Enemy unknown alum here), and following [url=https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2016/02/11/xcom-2-performance-fix/<]RPS's performance tweaks article[/url<] really helped with my framerate (GTX 970, 1440p). Running a few mods such as Stop Wasting My Time and True Retroactive AWC has been icing on the cake, but the cake itself is pretty danged good.

        • Ninjitsu
        • 4 years ago

        Oh so I’m not the only one who thought smoke grenades weren’t working? I remember seeing my soldiers get a stat boost but they seemed to be drawing more accurate fire.

        There’s also the slightly funny issue where the game things that the mimic hologram is an actual soldier – in one mission a Gatekeeper raised the mimic as a zombie lol.

          • Voldenuit
          • 4 years ago

          Reddit had some funny posts about that: [url<]https://www.reddit.com/r/Xcom/comments/4752z6/psa_smoke_grenades_and_smoke_bombs_do_not_work/[/url<] [quote<]Commander: It's called the Proving Grounds not the "I just assumed it would work grounds." [/quote<]

    • gbcrush
    • 4 years ago

    I gotta agree and disagree…

    I love XCOM2. When it does what it does well, it puts XCOM (Enemy Unknown) to shame. If all the bugs were fixed, I think it would easily stands as an equal to Enemy Unknown + all the DLC.

    I really do think it’s a different game…it moves some of the same elements to a different formula, but you can’t just pick up the elements from 1 and drop it into 2 with a reskin (they way you could with UFO Defense / Terror from the Deep). Aside from the “can only solve one problem at a time” the Strategic Layer plays out completely differently. Also, here, the base game feels like there are plenty of elements to keep track of–where as I think EU is a better comparison to Civ 5. (Pretty. Fun. Nice take on the formula…and I’m done before I beat the game. Give it two years and a couple of expansions later, now it has enough depth to really engage me).

    The bugs though, oh the bugs. I have to say, on my 5th game I seem to have gotten lucky. The performance slowdowns don’t bother me much (I never feel like I’m waiting longer than I should)–and I mostly have gotten by without getting crippled by anything. I did have a flying Archon drop its loot in a big ravine I couldn’t get to–but really, I blame my soldiers for killing it as it was flying over a bottomless pit. 🙂

    But damn, I decided to start my first game in ironman mode. Big mistake. Not only is XCOM2 a step up on the difficulty level from EU, but I got hit with the negative time counter mode on the world map. I hit about -32 days on everything before things would activate again, which of course meant 3 Advent sites got added and …along with six pips to my doom counter. D’oh!

      • TwoEars
      • 4 years ago

      I’ll give you credit for starting your first game in ironman mode… but honestly, what did you think would happen? Haha.

    • southrncomfortjm
    • 4 years ago

    Love the game, hate how it performs. I also don’t like how Firaxis is playing dumb saying that they didn’t know about ther performance issues. Every person I’ve talked to and every review/comment I’ve seen talks about performance issues. This is a PC exclusive game, it should be well optimized. Hope they fix it soon.

      • GrimDanfango
      • 4 years ago

      Well, that may very well be because the people shouting the loudest are the people finding performance issues. I’ve been playing it on a 970m-equipped laptop, with max settings except for AA (FXAA rather than MSAA), and my framerate rarely drops below 40.
      It’s certainly a heavy game, and could use some optimisation, and there are most certainly a bunch of glitches and bugs plaguing some people, but don’t assume it’s a crippled game just because a bunch of people rant about it.

        • southrncomfortjm
        • 4 years ago

        Look a bit more and you will see people have done test on the game to see that certain graphics settings are just not optimized. Turn them on, and GPU usage drops instantly along with FPS. The game is busted graphically and that is unacceptable for a PC exclusive – one they said was PC exclusive so they could make it better.

        Firaxis released an unoptimized game they had to know was unoptimized, the settings just don’t work the way they are supposed to regardless of hardware. They can’t get around that, and now they are lying to us. Just own up and fix it.

          • Ninjitsu
          • 4 years ago

          [quote<]Turn them on, and GPU usage drops instantly along with FPS[/quote<] You mean GPU usage increases while FPS drops? Because I've never seen both drop.

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