Saturday, February 27, 2016

Review - XCOM 2

Finally finished XCOM 2 and this is my first review on my blog. So here it goes:
I never played the original XCOM game from the 90s. My first encounter with the XCOM franchise was the reboot from 2012 called XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Ever since then I have been hooked. So, it is no surprise I couldn't wait to play XCOM 2, the sequel to the 2012 reboot.

The burning question is, does it live up to expectations? Yes, yes it does. XCOM 2 is an improvement over the original in many ways, but it is not perfect and has some flaws. Where the sequel improves from the original most noticeably are in graphics and customization, as well as story. Three things they did a hell of a job on. The level of detail on how you can customize your soldiers is awesome. Loads more options then XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The graphics in XCOM 2 look really great, lots of good detail on the weapons, armor, and even the environments look good too. There are some small areas of poor detail in textures, but you have to really nit-pick to find them. Other great improvements to the game are the upgrades you can get for your weapons. Each soldier can have a different combo of upgraded parts, and these parts really can help you in your battles against the aliens.

The story in XCOM 2 is where the developers improved over the first game. I kind of thought the story in XCOM: Enemy Unknown started off well enough but fell flat towards the end of the game. XCOM 2 doesn't do that, the over all story drives you through the game and keeps you fully invested in saving earth from the alien scum. I must also say that they added more cut scenes as well. It kept me very interested, all the way till the end.

XCOM 2 is brutal. It doesn't hold your hand or guide you through the game. It pretty much gives you a small tutorial in the beginning and then sends you off saying good luck. Not that the first game was easy, but XCOM 2 doesn't tell you much on what to do to save the world. You are left to find out what each of the alien units will do to your soldiers in the field. Basically it will say UNKNOWN ENEMY and you are left to find out what it is. this can be fun and scary at the same time. If you are playing on higher difficulty, you will lose soldiers guaranteed. Not that it is easy on normal, just very pushing if set above the normal difficulty setting. Also, it doesn't tell you what to do in the building and research parts of the game. I was left wondering what I had to do and where to go only asking my self, how do I get more income. But if you take your time to figure things out, this is easily over come. Speaking of income, gone are the days of satellites over countries, where that was your only income in 2012 XCOM: Enemy Unknown (later in the expansion adding Meld). In XCOM 2 you have to move from country to country making contact with resistance cells. Income is now called Supplies and now there is something called Intel. Supplies allow you to buy upgrades, armor, weapons, soldiers, etc. Intel is what is used to make contact in each country with their resistance cell. Once I figured this out, it was pretty clear on what I had to do to fight the Aliens.

I feel the direction they went with XCOM 2 was the right one. XCOM 2 takes place 20 years after the events of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Earth lost to the Aliens. Now the XCOM project has gone underground and has to rebuild to take Earth back from the Alien scum. This is the reason why I feel the story was much better in XCOM 2. You have to wage guerrilla warfare because the Aliens have taken over everything since you lost the Alien invasion 20 years earlier. But for how well this concept works in XCOM 2 it does have it's flaws.

Lets talk about the negatives in XCOM 2. First off, XCOM 2 has some bugs through-out the game. Nothing game breaking in my play through, but I noticed some bugs that should have been fixed before release. Example of one, my soldiers would try to break the glass of windows they already broke before. Why are they repeating that animation, my soldier broke that same window last turn? Another major issue and negative in XCOM 2 is the poor optimization of the game. For the most part XCOM 2 ran well for me, but during combat it could slow to a crawl and even freeze for 20 - 30 seconds before finishing some animations, alien turns, or combat calculations. Not sure why this wasn't found during testing, but it seems to be wide spread across most players right now. I have heard of XCOM 2 crashing, but it only happened to me once during a load of a save file. So, as this was still a negative, crashing was nonexistent for me except for once during my 60 hours of play time. I have also heard that 2K Games is working on patches that should fix most of these issues. As of doing this review no fixes of these issues have been released yet. 

Another big negative for me was the need to have almost everything on a count down clock. What I mean by this, is most missions have a specific amount of turns before you lose, and the over all world count down to dooms day (Avatar Project) made me feel like I had to rush through everything, instead of taking my time planning things out. It wasn't a huge deal breaker for me, I just felt the developers used this way to much. But once you get use to it, you easily figure out how to counter all these limited turns and count downs so you can take your time and finish things on your terms.

In Conclusion: XCOM 2 is a great sequel to the 2012 reboot, but it is not perfect. I really enjoyed my 60 hour play through of the game and can't wait for expansions. It is also worthy to note that XCOM 2 shipped with full MOD support. So I do plan on revisiting this game later in the year. My final score for XCOM 2 is:

JB The Gamer's Final Rating On XCOM 2:  4 out of 5 - Great Game

I couldn't give it a five because of the negatives I mentioned above. If you haven't bought XCOM 2 yet, it is a must buy in my opinion. I also must point out that it is not required to play the first one before playing XCOM 2. So, if you never played any of the XCOM games in the franchise, you could start off by playing XCOM 2. Good luck, commander.

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