XCOM 2. © 2KGames

XCOM 2 is the latest turn-based tactical videogame developed by Firaxis games, released on February 5 on Microsoft Windows, Linux and OS X. 2K Games is the publisher of this new installment and it acts as a sequel to the game unveiled in 2012, XCOM Enemy Unknown. Action resumes 20 years after the events of that game and presents a world in which XCOM lost the war and is trying to pick up the pieces.

Key facts about XCOM 2

  • XCOM 2 continues the story of XCOM Enemy Unknown, in a universe where XCOM was defeated.
  • The game is highly customizable and players can shape the names, personalities, gear and uniforms of their soldiers.
  • XCOM 2 players who preorder the game enjoy certain advantages, as well as the downloadable Resistance Warrior Pack.
  • Players can improve their chances of success by upgrading their weapons, purchasing new equipment and acquiring new abilities.

The XCOM 2 games

XCOM 2 is not a clone of the previous installment, but fans of Enemy Unknown will discover that many of the popular mechanics have returned. The maps are different and players will need to complete an impressive variety of missions, each of them with original objectives. The game stays highly unpredictable and it is virtually impossible for players to know ahead of time where the opponents are located. Even the mission objective is occasionally shrouded in mystery to increase the fun factor.

The XCOM 2 games range from linear ones in which players are supposed to defend a fortified position or assault an enemy base, complex scenarios. Killing or extracting VIPs pose unique challenges and some missions require players to blow things up. Quite often they need to do all these actions within a short period of time and this requires players to act quickly because the window of opportunity can close without notice.

A particularity of the XCOM 2 games is that the maps play a larger role than they did in Enemy Unknown. Not only are they bigger and more complex, but the layout is not symmetrical and the actions performed by players can complicate matters greatly. Improper use of explosives or an unlucky turn of events can make it almost impossible to complete the mission at the first attempt.

What is XCOM 2?

XCOM 2 is a turn-based tactical game whose story picks up where Enemy Unknown’s narrative ended, in a world that has surrendered to alien forces. The invaders are now holding dominion over the entire planet and promise to bring prosperity and peace, while having their own sinister agenda. 2K Games showcases the advancements of technology in this latest release, without straying too far from the game mechanics that made the original popular.

Screenshot of XCOM 2. ©
Screenshot of XCOM 2. ©

Gameplay of XCOM 2

In XCOM 2 players assume the role of the commander of the military organization and try to reclaim Earth from the alien invaders. Many of the missions launched in XCOM2 start from the mobile base that goes by the name of Avenger, a place from where the leader coordinates the team. The resistance faces crushing odds and fights against aliens in various missions, with each of them requiring a certain team setup and a proper strategy.

Compared to the previous installment, the XCOM 2 gameplay is slightly more complex, with soldiers having their unique set of skills. The equipment available is limited at the beginning of the mission, but as the storyline advances players will have the option of upgrading the gear and weapons. Mods are also supported in this new installment which adds a new layer of complexity to the gameplay and makes the custom games more exciting.

The central characters are members of the resistance, some of the few people who chose not to surrender and try to expose the truth behind this occupation. They will face some of the classic enemies from Enemy Unknown, but also new alien types such as the Viper, wielding modern weapons. Players will be able to share the missions and enemy types they created using the Steam Workshop and compete in the original one versus one multiplayer mode made popular by easiest game.

A mix of stealth and brute force

The XCOM 2 gameplay revolves around the basic idea that when the mission starts the location of the players’ forces is not detected by the enemies. It is entirely up to the players to choose a stealthy approach and fly below the radar or take the fight to their enemies. They can recuperate the bodies of fallen soldiers and they can also be healed on the battlefield, as extraction is usually a solution of last resort.

The XCOM 2 combat is significantly faster than the one in XCOM Enemy Unknown, with players participating in several hit and run missions. In these scenarios, the goal is to complete the objectives as quickly as possible before returning to the extraction point. Another important addition to the new game is that players will be able to complete secondary objectives, in addition to the main targets.

XCOM 2 © VideoGamer 2KGames
Screenshot of XCOM 2. ©

Plot of XCOM 2

The XCOM 2 campaign starts in 2035, 12 years after the events of the XCOM Enemy Unknown, in a world ruled by aliens. In the wake of the Council nations surrendering unconditionally, the entire planet has fallen under the control of the invaders. They promise to build a better world but in secret they are trying to eradicate all pockets of resistance, while following their dark plan. XCOM forces have been reduced to the status of a resistance force and continue to fight both the aliens and the puppet ADVENT Administration.

The latter are trying to induce the idea that the aliens are not that bad after all, which further complicates the mission of the resistance. Central characters of the original game return back in the spotlight, aided by Dr. Richard Tygan and Chief Engineer An-Yi Shen among others. They refused to give in to the ongoing propaganda and under the ever watchful eye of the Central Officer Bradford, do their best to fight back. Overall the campaign is rather linear, but hitting each milestone is immensely rewarding.

Development of XCOM 2

XCOM 2 was announced in the second quarter of 2015 and it was officially revealed in a cinematic trailer, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015. Some of the key members that worked on Enemy Unknown have returned to assist the development team and to make the new title consistent with the original. They paid close attention to the feedback provided by the fans, to come up with a worthy successor.

The developers chose to build the story of XCOM 2 on the worst-case scenario and the game is driven by the gameplay rather than the narrative. Innovative concepts such as stealth were introduced, but without being a gimmick they are not going to provide players with an absolutely new way of completing missions. They will only help avoid obvious pitfalls, while making the gameplay slightly more complex.

XCOM 2 © 2KGames
XCOM 2 Building a Brighter Future Together. © 2KGames

Where can I download XCOM 2?

XCOM 2 fans will be able to download the game from the 2K Games website, where additional content will also be made available. Unlike Enemy Unknown which had no mod support, the new installment will allow players to create their own content, rendering it less important for the company to come up with DLC. The new system is going to expand the longevity and lifespan of XCOM 2 and encourage players to get creative, with destructible buildings and side missions.

What are others saying about XCOM 2?

XCOM 2 was embraced by both players and the critics when the teaser cinematic was presented and the previews are overwhelmingly positive. With a Metacritic score of 90 out of 100, it generated tremendous hype and the sales exceeded expectations when preorder was made available on September 10, 2015. The critics were also impressed by the DLC packages such as Anarchy's Children, Shen's Last Gift or Alien Hunters, introducing new missions and even more soldier customization.

XCOM 2 tournaments

XCOM 2 is essentially a single player game, so there is no possibility for large-scale tournaments in which players can compete against each other. They will have to find solace in the fact that the game is prone to customization and the new features introduced allow gamers to take a hands-on approach. For the thrills of multiplayer switch to eSports games such as League of Legends, Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm and SMITE.

My rating of XCOM 2

XCOM Enemy Unknown was a pretty difficult game, but so well-designed that each failure presented me with the impetus to persevere. I have high expectations from the new release and even if it will turn into a trial and error process, I’m sure I’ll enjoy every moment. I like the premise of XCOM 2, I’m keen on embracing my role as a resistance fighter and from what I can tell from my hands-on experience with this game, it could well surge above a review score of 9/10.

Overall Score