Xcom 2 Is Coming Soon. Here Are 10 Things To Be Excited About

XCOM 2 gameplay
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Here Are 10 Things To Be Excited About For The Upcoming Xcom 2

With the dust from E3 beginning to settle, we can sift through the hype and figure out what games legitimately deserve our attention. XCOM 2 is one of those games. XCOM: Enemy Unknown was easily one of the best and most original games of 2012 (perhaps even the decade?), and any sequel to a game of that caliber deserves some attention. With its November 2015 release date still 5 months away, it is too early to be reviewing this recently announced addition to the XCOM family, but between its strong lineage and newly announced features, this game deserves some serious excitement.

Here are 10 reasons why this game must be on your radar in November:

10. A Fresh Dose of Everything Good About XCOM: Enemy Unknown

If you enjoyed XCOM: Enemy Unknown's turn-based and odds-driven strategy, chances are that you’re already eagerly anticipating XCOM 2. There is a famous saying about not fixing something that isn’t broken, and Firaxis Games seems to understand this. This means you will be back in charge of a squad of soldiers, looking for the best cover you can find, and you'll still have plenty of opportunities to improve your troops as the game progresses too. Although not yet confirmed, it would be surprising not to also see features like "ironman mode" return, since the developers seem to fully embrace the series' heritage. XCOM 2 will feature plenty of enhancements and new ideas, but these will be for the purposes of refining rather than reinventing the core gameplay, and that is wonderful news.

Looks like somebody has a new ship. It's called Avenger.

9. XCOM 2 will be Built for Modding

XCOM: Enemy Unknown had some popular mods available for it, such as The Long War, but the developers did not release the game with user modifications in mind, and the process was slow and difficult. This time around, XCOM 2 will allow users to make extensive use of the Steam Workshop to create even more exciting content for the game. Given the investment people made in modding the original, expect some great user contributed content to start popping up quickly after the games release.

 

8. A Compelling Storyline

Although XCOM: Enemy Unknown made it possible to beat back the alien invasion, XCOM 2 assumes that players failed to do so. For players of the original game, it may come as a surprise that their hard won victories are now alternate history, but this is a great direction for the franchise to take. Now Firaxis Games gets to imagine a world where the alien invaders have been ruling Earth for 20 years, and they put this idea to wonderful use. The new alien overlords have created an image as benevolent rulers, and have even added a human branch to their forces, the Advent soldiers, to help keep the peace. XCOM has been seriously humbled, and players now play as a small group of freedom fighters on the run, trying to expose the secrets of their alien occupiers and to send them back to where they came from…or kill them. This means new enemies and new strategies to accommodate the changing nature of the battle, and Firaxis Games has given us every reason to believe that they know what they are doing. This is far more interesting than yet another alien invasion, because now there is an entrenched and mature opponent that is fully integrated into society. If done properly, this could add some needed variation to XCOM’s already strong core gameplay.

Security checkpoints are just part of life now.

7. More Mature Enemies

How many game sequels have you played in recent years where the enemies are, at best, skinned slightly differently? XCOM 2 refuses to rest on its laurels in this regard. These enemies were not just sitting around doing nothing for the past 20 years, which means that players will need to adapt as well. In addition to adding new enemies, including a human face to the occupation, all of the major enemies were dramatically reimagined, so don’t expect the tricks and strategies you picked up in XCOM: Enemy Unknown to help you out here. The thin men have shown their true form, and these reptiles would be enough to cause Indiana Jones to flinch. And those stereotypical little gray men, the sectoids, have grown up considerably since we saw them last, making them far more dangerous.

XCOM 2

Somebody is going to have a headache in the morning. The thin men never did that.

6. Procedurally Generated Maps

Thanks in part to Firaxis Games’ decision to release XCOM 2 only on computers, unlike its predecessor that also saw a console release, they are able to refine things a little more, and part of that is the inclusion of procedurally generated maps. For some games this can mean levels that are highly repetitive and generic, but for XCOM 2 this should be seen as a very good thing for two reasons. First, XCOM: Enemy Unknown was criticized for simplistic level designs, and this is a clear attempt to add interest into their maps. Second, procedurally generated levels can help spice up the game’s single-player and multiplayer modes, because having maps that cannot be memorized beforehand makes a big difference in the strategy genre, because every time you play, you really won’t know what is around the next corner.

Looks like a lovely day for a firefight.

5. A New Stealth Mechanic

Enemy Unknown had a nicely polished system that required extensive and intelligent use of cover for protection, but cover is not the same as stealth. Stealth seems like an incredibly natural mechanic to employ in the XCOM franchise, so it is not at all surprising that they going to be implementing it in XCOM 2. This is a welcome addition that should help to give strategic depth to the game, by allowing for a more diverse range of options for completing missions. Do you run down the street guns blazing or try to sneak by undetected? Or maybe you’ll use a combination of stealth and pure firepower. The point is, in XCOM 2, it looks like the choice will be yours.

I'm not sure whether I should be more excited about the new stealth mechanic or that sword on that guy's back.

4. This is not The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

You are all now free to take a giant collective sigh of relief. The Bureau was terrible, and there is no point mincing words about that. Fans of XCOM would probably rather forget this unfortunate entry into the franchise, sort of like that uncle that nobody wants to talk to at family functions. The Bureau completely disregarded XCOM canon and had little to offer in terms of a coherent storyline or compelling gear. Fortunately, Firaxis did not make The Bureau, and the same people who created Enemy Within are creating XCOM 2. There are plenty of franchises that have a history of inconsistent results, which leave gamers uncertain until the game’s release whether or not the final product will be wonderful or terrible. That’s not the case here, and that’s cause to celebrate.

Red and black are very flattering colors. They should hide this Advent soldier's blood well when you shoot him.

3. Your Characters and Choices Matter

Of course, if you played Enemy Unknown, you already know that XCOM places a great deal of importance on many of the choices you make throughout the game. In that game, it wasn’t about the absurd so-called moral choices that are trending in games today, embracing instead issues of life and death, where people will die, and things will become more difficult as a result. Add in permadeath for your characters, and you’ve got a strategy rpg that will actually require strategy. This is not going to be a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all type of game. There will be different ways to play the game, and the results will be significantly different. You won’t be able to keep reloading until everyone gets to live, and this isn’t like season 1 of Telltale’s The Walking Dead game, where promises of different endings went almost entirely unfulfilled.

All hail our alien overlords who saved us from ourselves.

2. XCOM 2 Adds Secondary Objectives to the Mix

Secondary objectives have been around in gaming almost as long as primary objectives, but they are still a very welcome addition in XCOM 2. While Enemy Unknown made it possible to recover alien corpses for study and had items you could pick up to help customize your characters, XCOM 2 expands on this. Now there will be secondary tasks assigned that involve interacting with various elements in the procedurally generated environment, which may involve hacking, stealing, or destroying something in the level. More to do isn’t always better, but in strategy games like XCOM, extra tasks make a lot of sense, and build even greater interest for the keenest players out there.

Unification seems like a nice word for it, I can think of a few others.

1. This Game will be Hard, Really Hard

I still remember when games started auto-saving for players every 30 seconds or so, and I am grateful that the XCOM games do not embrace this trend. Enemy Unknown had a range of increasingly challenging difficulty settings, but all of them were tough. Roughly a quarter of players on Steam beat that game, and you had better believe that XCOM 2 is going to be equally punishing. It is no wonder that XCOM 2 is built on the premise that players failed to stop the invasion 20 years earlier, since that was the experience of most players. This isn’t a bad thing. The hand holding that many, if not most, modern video games engage in these days can be frustrating at the best of times, such as some Legend of Zelda games that begin with tutorials lasting between 30 minutes and 1 hour. It is always refreshing to see games that respect the intelligence and abilities of the person playing it and offer a real challenge. If success were the inevitable conclusion of every playthrough, then the need for deeper strategy as well as the sense of urgency within the game would both be greatly diminished. Beating this game will offer a real sense of accomplishment, and likely earn you some bragging rights.

A much larger sectoid is not my first choice for who I'd want to run into while walking down the street.

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