Last time I wrote about the things that have frustrated and annoyed me about XCOM2. This time, a bit more positivity! I couldn't leave people thinking I dislike XCOM2, especially since I've already put over 50 hours into it, and will surely keep playing for a while yet.
1. The Mods
So many games these days are improved by modding, and indeed some games would be quickly forgotten if those amazing modders didn't put so many hours into creating, tweaking and improving the main game. Everything from cosmetic changes, bug fixes and new guns and classes are available, and more are being added all the time. I've yet to dip my toe into this expanding sea of content, but I look forward to trying them out.
2. The Geoscape
The world map, or in this case a big holographic spinning globe, is the way you monitor your progress in the game. Different from the previous game, all the information you need is there, from the big countdown for the Avatar project to various things that can be interacted with, from resource caches, mission sites and resistance groups. It's all basic information, but it's displayed clearly and concisely and you don't have to worry about satellite coverage.
3. The Avenger
The idea of a mobile base is great. It provides a way to stay one step ahead of the hunting aliens, it allows you to explore the map, but it also leaves you potentially vulnerable to a UFO spotting you. and forcing you into a desperate fight for survival (if that happens early on? Very bad news!). It also makes the setting and story more believable. In the previous game you are an international agency who seem to be criminally understaffed and underfunded, but those very restrictions make far more sense as an insurgent group taking back a conquered Earth.
|Inside the Avenger, complete with ant-farm visualisation|
4. The Class System
As in the previous game, Rookies get assigned a class randomly when they get promoted to Squaddie. However, this time you get many more opportunities to mould your squad as you want them. There are ways to create characters and set their class, and ways to retrain your squad as you see fit. Getting new staff is easier too, with rookies that can be trained, or experienced soldiers that can be bought or rewards for missions. They've also balanced the classes very well, meaning there's not really a bad selection to make. Even an unbalanced squad can still be effective, if you choose the right equipment.
|These loading screens are incredibly well made|
There was an ability in the previous game to sell items, but this Black Market lets you buy things instead. Using a different resource: Intel, you can get game changing rewards. Make sure you don't spend all your intel at once though, because while those research boosts and supplies might help you now, that intel might prove far more useful to establish communications with new resistance groups.
I've moaned about this in my previous post, but it really is a great system at certain times. There's a particular mission type that involves a grounded UFO, in which you remain concealed until the aliens spot you, and the distress signal countdown doesn't begin until you exit concealment. It rewards you for being sneaky, but doesn't punish you too hard if you choose to get your guns out. All the concealment missions should be set up like this, and indeed there is a mod which makes the appropriate changes.
|Too many aliens!|
In a change from the usual route, with the PSI lab in this game you can select one from three randomly chosen skills for your soldier. Each one takes time to learn, and eventually you can learn them all, but it means that your PSI soldiers can be useful relatively quickly and become very powerful later on. They're definitely my favourite class in this game.
8. Weapon Upgrades
There's a range of items which can drop from a dead alien soldier, usually 2-3 per mission. You have a limited window to grab them, but they can be game-changers. These upgrades are attached to your soldier's weapons, and provide bonuses to aim, critical hit chance and so on. The best ones are surely the ones that potentially give you a free shot (5-15% chance depending on the quality of the upgrade).
9. Elerium Cores
Another pickup on the battlefield, Elerium Cores allow you to craft special upgrades or special equipment. This is sometimes randomised, but can provide your squad with a variety of interesting equipment choices. Armour-piercing ammunition, specialist armour sets that heal you, and so much more is available. It can provide a very useful boost to your team.
|An ADVENT captain, freshly arrived via the reinforcement mechanic|
The variety of the mission maps is vastly improved this time around, from desert canyons to arctic tundra. The best though, are the city maps. ADVENT (the alien organisation that is ruling the Earth) has created wonderfully modern cities to house the unsuspecting humans and make sure everyone is comfortable and distracted. The city locations look clean and high-tech, with electronic billboards and plenty of carefully cultivated gardens. Those very billboards can show your more notorious soldiers, as ADVENT tries to wage a propaganda war against you.
11. Destroying Alien Facilities
Your main mission in XCOM2 is to halt the Avatar project, and as part of this you get the opportunity to destroy alien facilities as they pop up around the world. Not only does this give you a reduction in the ominous Avatar countdown clock, but it really makes you feel like you're making a difference (the first half-dozen do, at least!). I always love that overhead shot though, as the Skyranger whisks your soldiers home, the facility is shown exploding beneath you.
|A lovely ADVENT city, before I blow half of it to rubble|
The game mechanics are as solid as ever, with the guns and grenades you use damaging the environment and the aliens in equal measure. Knowing when to use an ability, take a shot, or just try and manoeuvre into a better flanking position is crucial in this game. Sometimes though, you just have to take the shot, even when it's 37% to hit and the alien is in full cover. When that shot connects, when you can finally relax, the feeling is incredible. It's moments like that which keep you coming back for more.