We lost, folks. Sorry.
XCOM 2 picks up 20 years after the original, and while you may have led your human soldiers to a unified defeat of the alien forces in 2012, that’s not how it really went down. In the sequel to 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown (which you should check out on mobile), players are tasked with leading an underground resistance against an invading alien force that has already taken over humanity and rules its new human slaves with an iron grip.
As the team leader, it’s your job to board the team’s mobile base — the Avenger — and kickstart the overthrow on an impossibly powerful enemy keeping to the shadows and using hit and run tactics to topple their empire. This time around, the resources are fewer, the skirmishes are fiercer, and the enemy is more cunning. On September 6, Xbox One and PS4 players will finally get their chance to join the battle.
More has changed than just the odds in XCOM 2, so here’s what you should expect when you’re booting up Firaxis Studios’ latest strategy title.
A Lot More Customization
One of the few areas that some players may have found lacking in Enemy Unknown was the game’s customization. As you progress through the game, you’ll need to recruit a variety of soldiers from countries around the world.
Enemy Unknown allowed gamers the opportunity to change these people’s hair style, race, and name, but not much else. XCOM 2 on the other hand, provides a much deeper team customization experience (which will undoubtedly make it more horrific when they inevitably get ripped apart in battle). Unlike the previous title, XCOM 2 even allows users to cherry pick the soldiers they want on their team instead of getting assigned a random allotment.
It’s not just hockey masks and pink hair (you can really get creative, though). Players will find XCOM 2 delivers tons of new team abilities with more varied branching paths and combat specialities, which should result in a wider variety of soldiers hitting the field.
The Mobile Headquarters
All the action starts on XCOM’s mobile headquarters, a repurposed UFO called the Avenger. While the actual gameplay experience aboard the Avenger plays out in much the same way as Enemy Unknown, via a top-down view that allows gamers the opportunity to see their base grown from its infancy into a bustling rebel station. Of course, players will find plenty more options when picking and choosing their research paths.
Much like Enemy Unknown, however, you’re going to be looking at defending your Avenger at one point in the story, so be sure to prep those defenses and make sure you build up a diverse squad. Just as in the original, relying on a handful of soldiers to get the job done is a big time mistake.
It’s Harder than ‘Enemy Unknown’
Posture all you want to about how “easy” the original was, the fact is XCOM: Enemy Unknown was pretty damn tough at the harder difficulty levels. If you were expecting the folks at Firaxis to ease up on the title’s second outing, you were sorely mistaken. Players have devoted a lot of territory online to discussing the game’s pumped up difficulty.
Not only is there a wider variety of aliens who are ready to tear your team to shreds, but the invaders smarter, more aggressive, and better prepared this time around. (“Rookie” difficulty is still easy, though].
It’s Not Just Action
In Enemy Unknown your option in battle was pretty much straightforward combat. It was moment-to-moment strategy that ultimately won the day. In XCOM 2, Firaxis has added Concealment, which essentially allows your team to scope out the map before an attack and then wallop a damn alien with your first move.
It’s a natural evolution on the gameplay considering that in XCOM 2, you’re the invader.
Not only does Concealment provide a new gameplay tactic, it eliminates the sometimes frustrating task of scouring a map to hunt out prey that was often present in the original.
Okay, But There’s Plenty Of Action
Just because some missions allow you the opportunity to plan your first attack with something approaching leisure, that doesn’t mean that the action in XCOM 2 is any less fast-paced and punishing than it was in the original.
Firaxis has also added a time element to several more missions throughout the game. Similar missions made an appearance in Enemy Unknown’s kind of expansion Enemy Within and their prevalence in XCOM 2 has been a matter for debate, but they undoubtedly make the game more tense, because caution isn’t an option.
It’s Going To Freaking Rule
On September 6, you’re going to get to plan the invasion your way. Your soldiers will be yours, your tactics will be yours, and defeat will almost definitely be yours (a lot).
A lot will be different when console players pick up XCOM 2, but what will remain the same is the original’s addictive combat and compelling story. When it released in early February, XCOM 2 released not only to massive launch bugs, but rave reviews. When XCOM 2 hits shelves in early September, console players will get all the critical gold without all of the bugs.
It’s going to be a good day to mount a rebellion.