By Corey Lack
The second XCOM game was a 2016 sequel to the previous game XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which was a remake of a much earlier game series. For those that are unfamiliar with the series, XCOM features an invasion by a powerful alien force with the titular XCOM being a globally funded organization created to defend against such threats. Now, before I get into the second game, let’s go into the first one a little. In the first game, the invasion happens without warning and the various governments are scrambling to mount a defense. People are being abducted, cities destroyed, and any conventional force is proving incapable of dealing with the threat. XCOM is charged with studying, learning, and destroying the invading enemy threat with the player taking command of the whole organization as they build the base, train soldiers, and create new tech for them to use. The second game takes place twenty years after the first and XCOM failed to stop the invasion. With their failure, the various governments of the world surrendered to the new Overlords and supposedly brokered a peace. The remnants of XCOM have become a resistance force, still focused on their duty of stopping the aliens as they tighten their hold on mankind’s throat. War of the Chosen is a story-focused dlc that expands the second game by adding a new alien threat on top of the ones the player already has to deal with.
The game has the player building their base and creating facilities to gain new technologies, train soldiers, and gather intel. During the missions, the game is a top-down view with the player issuing orders to the soldiers in the field while they deal with different mission objectives, like hacking data from a terminal or killing a commander. In a lot of ways, the second game is the reverse of the first. Where in the first game, XCOM was a defending force in an underground bunker, in the second one, it is flying around in a stolen ship and using guerilla tactics. Also, in the first game, the characters and the player were surprised that there were aliens attacking, but in the second game, both take it in stride and focus only on dealing with them before they take out their soldiers. Also, with the environment a lot more destructive than in the first game, you can really plan new ways to deal with enemies. Think there’s enemies behind a door that’ll bottleneck your troops? Toss a grenade and blow out the wall. Then, you’ve got a view of the enemies and all of your troops can attack. Now, let’s get into the big changes, specifically the new factions.
The Chosen are a trio of very powerful special soldiers created to fill different roles. Each one is known best by the role he or she plays. There is the assassin, the hunter, and the warlock. The assassin is the ambusher of the group. She has the ability to turn invisible and attack from virtually anywhere with her katana. The hunter is a sniper without equal. Able to fire from extreme ranges, the player will need to close the distance in order to attack him while still avoiding his attacks. The warlock has powerful psionic abilities, able to control your soldiers and summon exploding ghost warriors. What makes this group especially dangerous is that they evolve as the game progresses. Each is assigned a strength and weakness, like taking extra damage from a specific type of soldier and being immune to explosions. That with their armor and extremely large health bars can make them the proverbial monkey wrench in any plans the player makes to deal with the mission objectives. The absolute worst part about them, though, is their near immortality. Even if you manage to take them out in a mission, they will always come back until the player attacks each of their personal fortresses and defeats them there.
The aliens aren’t the only ones with new allies however as the War of the Chosen DLC introduces three new factions. The reapers are scouts and snipers that are best at picking off enemies one by one. The skirmishers are former ADVENT soldiers that have broken out of the aliens’ control and now fight using short ranges submachine guns and grappling hooks. The templars are powerful psionics that can do things no other soldier can with their psychic powers. Each force adds a new set of tactics to what the player already has available, as well as new bonuses. The skirmishers and the reapers were the two that I always had in my squad. Their abilities worked best with my playstyle.
What makes this one similar to the first game is that a lot of the issues that were prevalent in the first game are still prevalent here. For example, the ability to hit something comes down to a percent chance hit, so you can be at a 99% chance of hit and still miss even if your soldier is close enough to smell who the alien had for breakfast that morning. Also, the random minor missions that pop up, like attacking ufos, can be godsends in the early games when the player needs resources to upgrade their facilities and soldiers, but by the end of the game, you’re likely drowning in alien alloys and elerium. Even in that case and you want to give your soldiers time to heal up for a difficult mission you plan to take, if the minor mission comes up and you say that you don’t want to do it, the game goes “Are you sure you don’t want to do this extremely repetitive and likely not rewarding enough mission?” If you still say no, it’ll go, “Are you absolutely sure?” There are also a few frame rate problems that pop up, but they’re usually easy to ignore. If not, just save and reload and the problem goes away. Another way that this game is similar to the previous one is that it is extremely stressful for someone like me who needs to have everything just right before they can dive into anything. This proves difficult when you eventually feel overwhelmed by the steadily increasing difficulty and the various events that impede your progress.
Despite my little issues with the game, this is definitely one to try. It is an immensely fun game and is open to out-of-the-box strategies. With the introduction of the new troops, the player had to learn to adapt to the game changing, not only mission per mission, but turn by turn. I’d give it 10 shattered sarcophaguses out of 10.