Turn-based tactics, Turn-based action!
This year at E3 2015, 2K invited us into a private theater in order to check out XCOM 2 , the sequel to the turn-based PC revival of the classic XCOM series. XCOM 2 takes place several years after XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Within , assuming that you failed to prevent the alien invasion. Aliens have fully integrated themselves with humanity and now they rule the world, under the pretense of being benevolent overlords. Much of the human race has been brainwashed and deprogrammed to love them, and constant propaganda portrays the alien visitors as our new saviors. Humanity is lost, that is, if it wasn’t for XCOM.
XCOM 2 switches things up by putting you in the role of an underground terrorist resistance force instead of a high profile government-funded agency. It’s not entirely clear how your base management is going to change because of all this, but the missions you go on will change a lot. Aside from the “kill all enemies” and “get to a certain point” style of mission that you had in the original XCOM , XCOM 2 mixes it up with stealth infiltration and reconnaissance missions. There are even missions you can complete without ever firing a single shot.
The mission we were shown, however, was not one of them. Instead, our job was to cause some good old fashioned property damage. We were to destroy a statue that was erected 20 years ago as part of a Unification Day ceremony (the day that celebrates when the aliens took over the world, of course). Our goal was to get in with a small group of terrorists, blow up the statue, and get out.
You’ll see a lot of enemies from the previous XCOM installment, including humans who have turned over to the aliens’ side. Aliens tend to have lesser HP than humans, and humans can also deal a lot more damage with their weaponry that is comparable to yours. In general, though, HP totals are much higher than they were in XCOM: Enemy Unknown , which means you are much less likely to get randomly one shot killed simply by leaving your cover.
A new enemy unit called the Viper was introduced, and as you would expect, this unit is a giant snake. It can grab your units at range, biting them and taking huge chunks out of their health. The Viper only showed up several turns into the map, and only after the resistance’s cover was blown. Many missions will change dynamically in this fashion, turning stealth missions into battle missions and vice versa.
A new human unit was also introduced, the Ranger. The ranger is basically a short range unit that uses melee attacks. She has a lot of HP and a very powerful attack, but of course she will be taking the most damage. She works incredibly well against enemies in cover, and can rush in after frag or smoke grenades to mop up enemy forces. It’s unclear whether or not the mech soldiers and genetically enhanced soldiers from XCOM: Enemy Within will be making a return, but if they are, you can consider her much like a close range mech with its mech punch, but more mobile and more fragile.
The coolest new element in XCOM 2 is the ability to save dead units. XCOM is renowned for its permadeath, perhaps the most frustrating and loathed part of the game, yet still a mechanic that XCOM just wouldn’t be XCOM without. Well, in XCOM 2 , you still perma-die if you are left behind on the battlefield. But if your HP gets reduced to zero, a fellow troop can pick up your corpse and, for a movement penalty, attempt to extract you from the area. If successful, your troop won’t die, but will instead just have to recover back at base.
XCOM 2 looks like, well, XCOM . There are a few new units, a few new enemies, and a whole lot of new missions, but it still looks like the XCOM we know as love. In this aspect, it’s a bit more like an expansion pack than a sequel, but it’s an expansion pack well worth getting.
XCOM 2 will release this November.