Heroes of the Resistance

The ADVENT coalition doesn’t own this world. Not yet.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is an incredibly engrossing and thoroughly satisfying sequel to the quite wonderful XCOM: Enemy Within. Featuring an ever-increasing number of unit classes, myriad facilities, a flying fortress of doom, updated mechanics, multiple resistance factions to join, and a Geoscape that has more notifications than the Windows 8 operating system. War of the Chosen also harkens back to the days of old where expansion packs added new units, new mechanics, and new ways to access the existing content in the base experience.

It’s quite an impressive feat overall.

It can certainly be slightly overwhelming working through everything that happens in the first few hours. In fact, that’s probably the only (minor) criticism I could offer against the War of the Chosen expansion pack. It is a little too busy and the first five or six hours feel very linear and forced, but otherwise it is a truly enjoyable experience.

I was most impressed by the variation in (and number of) unit classes. Each feels unique enough to fit into a particular role, but broad enough to fill several roles when they need to. Rangers provide the perfect balance of mid-range combat with the ability to slice and dice in close quarters, Specialists pair their combat prowess with either healing or hacking units to provide different bonuses, Grenadiers have the potential to rain continual death upon areas of the battlefield but also shred armour with their cannons, Sharpshooters take the high ground while firing mercilessly on all those who cross their field of vision, Psi Operatives can utilise their otherworldly powers to embolden allies or debilitate foes, and SPARKs offer either exceptional destruction or impenetrable defence as they fill either role with utmost ease.

Those who have given much for the many.

If that wasn’t enough there are three additional factions (the Reapers, Skirmishers, and Templars) which offer their own unique abilities and bonuses, too. Then, to add more layers to this delicious gateaux of customisation, each of these unit classes has the ability to build towards different styles of play, and then even unlock additional abilities via the facilities you build. Such as the Training Center which allows you to unlock additional abilities from the same unit class or even some abilities that belong to other unit classes. It’s quite ridiculous, really.

You’ve also got access to much more unique equipment in the sequel.

There are more powerful variants of existing weapons, armour that is (quite literally) made from the skin of your enemies, entirely new and unique weapons with their own benefits and drawbacks, and even utility items that utilise unique mechanics. Also, via Modular Weapons, you can even add weapon modifications to your standard weaponry.

In many ways that’s what I feel is the best thing about XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. The depth of customisation is staggering. There are so many opportunities to further develop soldiers and create truly unique characters, which, alongside the ever-evolving nature of the main campaign, leads to exceptionally unique yet coherent content. It feels as if every part of the experience has been written into the code. Yet, in truth, it is the many layers of customisation which have come together to provide this outcome. It’s a very refreshing and very welcome change of pace. I can only imagine that each subsequent campaign would introduce more unique, more challenging, and more interesting variations of missions and soldiers. For that reason I highly recommend both XCOM 2 and the War of the Chosen expansion pack!

Have a nice weekend, all!


By The Skin of Their Teeth

Not all losses are acceptable.

One of my favourite gaming experiences in the last few years is XCOM: Enemy Within. It’s not that surprising as I do enjoy turn-based strategy, but I really enjoyed the depth of mechanics present in the modern XCOM series and how infuriating but simultaneously fun it could be. I’ve long considered multiple campaigns with increasingly brutal sets of conditions. That said, I’ve yet to play XCOM 2. I’ve also yet to experience the many wondrous things that I’ve heard about the War of the Chosen expansion pack. So I decided to do both at the very same time.

Despite having no idea how either one works.

Initially it can be quite an overwhelming experience. For those entirely new to XCOM 2 there’s a lot to learn about the various unit classes, the new (and rather powerful) unit development mechanics, the different facilities that you can build, the different kinds of missions (and rewards from them), and so many other things.

There’s also the minor issue of the Chosen appearing on missions and basically ruining your day. Easily surmountable once you’ve discovered what they can do and developed a strategy for dealing with them, but absolutely terrifying in the first encounters. Where the Assassin runs across the entire map to stab and daze a soldier, then vanish, and retreat into the fog of war. While you’re under fire from an ADVENT MEC or two. Totally normal day in the life of an XCOM operative and I won’t hear otherwise. That said, it is an oddly satisfying experience. It becomes significantly easier as you hunt down the Chosen, as you progress through the main story, and as your soldiers become increasingly more powerful but it’s still deeply enjoyable.

One final shot to bring it down. Or you’ll miss and be annihilated.

The notion of encountering a Sectopod on a mission is still daunting (albeit less so) even when you have the most advanced weapons and armour. Just ask the entirely unaware Ranger who helped me figure out what Wrath Cannon is and how much damage it does. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting the outcome that I got. But that’s the way that you live and learn. Or, more accurately, that’s the way I lived and learned. I can’t say the same for that poor, unfortunate, remarkably selfless soul. On the other hand, Sectopods are quite useless when you’re controlling one.

I am quite impressed with the variety of aliens, though.

It feels as though there are multiple aliens which offer an individual challenge with individual mechanics. There are far less simply hiding in (and firing from) cover and more that utilise unique abilities, take to the skies, rain death upon you, or lay eggs in the corpses of deceased civilians. Yes. They’re back. With armour.

I’m planning on writing a more comprehensive post soon which details the different classes, mechanics, and other interesting things that I’ve enjoyed about XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. But this seemed as good a time as any to write about the modern XCOM series as I’ve greatly enjoyed both XCOM: Enemy Within and XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. I’m also looking forward to seeing what the Tactical Legacy Pack has to offer. It won’t mean much to my current campaign as I’ll be doing it after I finish the main story, but in any future campaigns it would be nice to see how the unlocked equipment affects my progress and ultimately whether it’s worth having. That said, I highly recommend both XCOM 2 and the War of the Chosen expansion pack. They’re pretty awesome!

Have a nice week, all!


Extraterrestrial Extermination

Never become too complacent with your position for you never know what’s to come.

XCOM: Enemy Within is a title that I picked up rather hesitantly after watching some Let’s Plays of Long War, which, if I am not mistaken, is a fan mod of the original game. It looked fun and it looked like it would scratch the futuristic science fiction itch that remained after enjoying the visual styles of Mass Effect. However, once I started playing I became engrossed with ending the alien threat and balancing the fickle nature of global politics to a satisfactory resolution.

I was also pleasantly surprised that you could actually lose the game if you lost enough countries.

It’s rare to find a modern game where you don’t have a near perfect chance to see the ending if you keep playing. In this case, every action, from responding to alien threats to using resources, has an effect somewhere somehow on some country. It can either be a positive effect to reduce panic or a negative one to increase panic. Or, in the worst case, to cause the country to withdraw from the XCOM project. This cuts funding, resources, and removes the chance to get the continent bonus. So, yeah, this is not a thing to be taken lightly. Every decision you make has repercussions somewhere and sometimes it’s purely because you can’t be in several places at once.

The good news is that you have all kinds of awesome things you can do to make sure you don’t lose these countries! Including, but not limited, to: building base facilities, hiring soldiers, training soldiers, building MEC Troopers, developing Psionic soldiers, doing covert operations, doing foundry projects, doing research projects, and much more.

It’s quiet. Too quiet. I don’t like- argh! Sectopod!

The squad management is pleasantly refreshing. As, for the most part, with the regular soldiers, it’s just assigning armour and weapons which you can improve with research and foundry projects. But then you start to get into the delicious meat of building MEC suits for your MEC Troopers with their (ridiculously huge) miniguns and particle cannons, unlocking new and useful Psionic powers for those who are gifted, and even building some neat little killer robots referred to as S.H.I.Vs.

You certainly won’t run out of things to do with the number of options available. I mean, it’s not like anything bad will ever happen to them- right?

Wrong. One of the many things that XCOM: Enemy Within does to torture you is to make every soldier that dies in the field permanently lost. You really liked that Assault, huh? Well they’re dead now. That Heavy made it all the way to Colonel? Shame she’s a blood stain on a UFO now. It’s a distressing experience to lose someone who you have invested a lot into. Especially early in the game where you don’t have too many heavily armoured and well trained soldiers to throw at the opposition.

It’s a title that definitely boasts being able to replay it several times with the Second Wave options, the different choices you can make, the different missions you can get, and generally the whole experience being different every time you start. Which you might need to start a few times before you actually see the ending. But, let me tell you, there is nothing like getting to the final mission and feeling a wave of satisfaction to wash over you. Especially if your Doom Tracker is at 50% or less and all other countries are relatively happy with you. It’s like you got a massive hand and flipped the bird at the alien threat.

Have a nice weekend, all!