So at long last, Firaxis released XCOM 2 last night, and I’m here to report my first impressions of what–so far–feels like a worthy successor to the original. (Or, rather, the remake of the original, if you want to get really technical about it.) I’ve only had a chance to play a little, but what I’ve seen is fantastic. For the moment, I’m selflessly taking a break from it to give you my first impressions. Aren’t I wonderful?
It’s hard to tell exactly how far I am–or, at least, where the tutorial ends and the game proper begins. As with its predecessor, there’s a mission at the start where you’re literally told exactly what to do in order to introduce you to the game interface and tactical combat basics. Your objective in this mission? Rescue yourself! Or, at least, rescue your point of view character of the “Commander,” who controls all of XCOM, whom the aliens have held in stasis since the loss of the war 20 years prior.
Once that is done, there’s still a little ways to go before you’re given full control over everything as you’re introduced to how the strategy portion of the game works, along with the features of XCOM’s new Avenger mobile headquarters. So while it might not seem like you’ve got much choice in anything at first, just give it a little time.
As I said, I’m enjoying it so far, both for the feel of the original and the added layers present in the sequel. Here’s some of what I’ve liked (avoiding story spoilers):
Grenadiers: They fill roughly the same role as the Heavy soldier class in the original, with one immediate improvement: They’ve got grenade launchers rather than rocket launchers, and–more importantly–firing the grenade launcher does NOT take the entire turn like the rockets used to. In other words, you can move and fire a grenade now, and the grenades themselves still give a decent blast radius.
Sectoids: We knew from the pre-release images alone that they’d be different, augmented with human DNA to make them taller, and stronger. But yeek! They’ve got some nasty new powers that can easily ruin your day. Plus they’re creepier.
Music: I’m not one to usually notice a game’s music in a positive way. I’m not really sure why. In fact, in most cases I just turn off game music about an hour after I start playing and never turn it back on again, since I find it distracting. I don’t think I’ll be turning off XCOM 2’s music. Why? So far it feels perfectly written to tap into the concept of retaking the planet from an alien invasion: Risk, bravery, and the glory of standing up for those who can’t fight for themselves. Flying off to ruin an alien operation or save a group of defenseless civilians from destruction? This music will get you fired up.
Smarter Overwatch: Possibly my favorite thing so far. I’d read about it beforehand, of course; Your soldiers would no longer all fire on the very first alien that appears when on overwatch (often resulting in 4 people all ventilating the same unlucky drone while another drone and a far-more-dangerous cyberdisk zoom past with impunity). Now, they fire on different targets if the first one spotted is killed by another soldier’s shot. This, combined with XCOM 2’s new dynamic of letting you sneak up on alien patrols, makes for some fantastic ambushes. I can’t tell you how satisfying it was to get three soldiers parked just outside of the aliens’ visual range, set them to overwatch, and then have my sniper take out their leader. The sniper’s fire triggers alien awareness of XCOM, and as they dash for cover, out pop the rest of my troops, taking them down with overwatch fire before they can get to safety. As someone who loves being sneaky, I love it, even more than I thought I would. And speaking of snipers…
Squadsight: Squadsight, the special ability in XCOM to let a sniper fire on any target within line of sight spotted by a squad member (regardless of distance), is now standard for any sniper. It makes sense, after all. Now, you still can’t fire during overwatch on a target that’s out of your sniper’s personal visual range, but that’s an ability you can give them soon after. It’s just really nice not having to shepherd a sniper through her first promotion in order to get her to useful status anymore.
Faceless: Eeeeeeeeewwwwwww. And that’s all I have to say about that. (You’ll know ’em when you see ’em.)
That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about XCOM 2 in the future. I expect I’ll be playing this one for a very long time. Bottom line, if you liked XCOM, you’re bound to enjoy the sequel. …Unless you don’t have a PC, because this one’s not out on consoles.
Not yet, anyway.