Of all the games I own, I’ve probably spent the most time playing XCOM Enemy Unknown (and it’s essential expansion, Enemy Within). So to say I’m excited about the release of XCOM 2 on PC this Friday is an understatement.
Playing through another chapter in this ongoing saga about the alien invasion of Earth is reason enough for most players to look forward to XCOM 2, but Firaxis has also added several new gameplay features to the latest installment of this turn-based strategy game. There are too many changes to list, but here’s a rundown of the improvements I’m most excited about.
Character Customization and Pool
XCOM EU/EW already included some customization options, but XCOM 2 is taking this to a whole ‘nother level with the ability to customize your soldiers a million different ways-from ethnicity to personality to voice to to weapon colors-and then save those players to a pool you can draw from in future games, or share with other players.
The customization options are almost overkill, given how rarely you see your soldiers close-up, and how often they die-but it’s exactly this kind of depth that turns players into ardent fans.
Procedurally Generated Maps
In past XCOM games, you saw the same handful of maps over and over, and you were almost guaranteed to have memorized at least a few of them by the time you finished your first game. This removed much of the element of surprise from future playthroughs, so it’s heartening to hear that XCOM 2 will feature an endless number of maps thanks to the magic of procedural generation.
The buildings are also highly destructible, with walls and floors both susceptible to damage, so the maps change even more depending on your play style.
A Sense of Urgency
XCOM introduced turn-based timers in EU/EW, and in XCOM 2 they’re rolling these out to more missions. They’re also introducing secondary objectives, loot drops and a win condition for the aliens-all of which require the player to make more tradeoffs and take more risks.
Enemies killed in battle will have a chance to randomly drop valuable loot (materials, weapon mods etc.), but the loot will expire after three turns if you don’t pick it up-similar to how Meld worked in EU/EW.. The same goes for loot from your own downed soldiers, and secondary objectives like hacking terminals will have an expiration on them, too. So you have to move quickly, go to places you might now otherwise, and prioritize.
A lot of people are unhappy about more turn-based timers being added to the game, but I’m a cautious player by nature, and without a timer or secondary missions I’ll go the slow and steady Overwatch-reliant route every time-which can make even simple missions drag on for hours, and make the game a little boring. So for me, being “forced” to take risks in all the missions is a welcome change.
Same goes with the aliens’ win condition-in XCOM 2, you can’t just take your time getting to the end game like you could in XCOM EU/EW, because if the aliens finish their project first, you lose.
Built-in Mod Support
Mods like The Long War added hours of gameplay to XCOM EU/EW, so it was great to hear that XCOM 2 will be so mod-friendly. Unlike its predecessors, XCOM 2 is not just mod-capable, it’s launching with mods-the developers who made The Long War already announced three mods that will be available at launch, including one that adds an SMG to your arsenal.
Other mods I expect to see soon after launch? Mods that add secondary classes, new environments, and new enemies.
Now if only there was a mod that made it Friday already.