Hello again! As you people may or may not remember, I already did my "bullet point review" of this game back in 2016. Yet now (Jan 2022) I finished yet another campaign and have started a LWOTC campaign. So I thought it would be cool to revisit my own post ITT and see whether or not the game changed for the better during those 6 years.
But first I would like to point out mastroego
was right on the money when he told me to start with UI/QoL mods. Roughly six years have passed and Firaxis did next to nothing to improve the game's horrendous UI and inexcusable time-wasting mechanics. It's worse actually, with WOTC they took a step further and added enemies whose plans are CLEARLY all about talking XCOM to death-by-boredom. THANKFULLY there are plenty of mods out there to completely fix this issue. I wish I didn't have to install roughly 50 mods for a "vanilla" experience, but the devs unwillingness to put something as basic as disabling pod activation cinematics means modders need to pick up the slack.
The good news is the core gameplay of Xcom 2 remains solid and enjoyable. The new Chosen managed to succeed where the garbage
rulers failed miserably. Even though I agree with the guy above, I would argue the Chosen are decent cartoon villains. With WOTC nu-XCOM takes a step further to differentiate itself from UFO:EU and like I said before: this game would be a codex favorite if it was called "Alien Shooter" instead of Xcom. Lost are straight up garbage tho.
In case anyone else is still playing, here's my AML profile for my "Vanilla+" modded experience (neatly separated into categories, so you can skip actual gameplay changes if you wish):
With that out of the way, we can start the
- I like the new aliens. A lot, actually. I think they're pretty cool concepts. The Andromedon, the Gatekeeper, the faceless...they are proof that Firaxis is capable of delivering entirely NEW aliens that fit the setting and do cool things. The Avatar angle is also nice, the Ethereals in the first game looked VERY decrepit and the avatar plot makes perfect sense.
Despite being based of a simple "Darklord's Minions" premise, the new Chosen bring distinct design and mechanics to the table while also being OK as persistent antagonists. But you srsly need the "hush little chosen" mod. The resistance factions are also a nice addition, but the generic zombies are nothing but time wasters and make the game EXTREMELY slow and boring if you allow pod opening mechanics to stay in the game. If anything, the Lost make the game easier by providing free farming opportunities. Some guy made a mod that adds a rogue Chryssalid Queen into the game and probably did what Firaxis was aiming for with the Lost much better.
The new Chrysalids are actually challenging. I like them! One of them even killed my gunner in the final mission.
Is burrowing a new skill? Anyway, using mind controlled Advent to proc Chrysalid minefields is pretty fun.
- No more LOLRANDOM rocket misses. Sadly, still no accuracy system for explosives.
LW kinda fixes that, but nerfs damage to cover super hard. Goes to show there is no "fix" for Xcom 2 being mostly about using guaranteed damage from explosives to blow up cover and kill whoever was behind other than straight up making the strategy weaker overall.
- The Guerrilla/Dark Event angle is interesting. I just wish there was actual PLANNING on the Guerrilla Ops. Maybe mods will fix that?
LW brings a ton of planning to Guerrilla Ops and WOTC introduces the resistance ring. Wish granted, I guess?
- Weapon upgrades are better than having a "SCOPE" on your backpack, but I still think it's way too shallow. I hope mods make a JA2 style upgrade system.
Now it's mostly the same. LW "improves" this by nerfing all attachments but making them more common and replaceable. Not a great change IMO.
- The new maps. That's the big one, IMO. NuXcom had very few maps, and by the time you finished the game ONCE you already knew every single map, so it's mostly a slog. The new "random" maps add a lot of replay value to the game, IMO.
And mods bring even more map packs. The ones I put on my txt blend incredibly well with the vanilla ones.
- Whoever came up with "yeah, free flight is bad. Let's remove the Flying Armor" deserves to be shot.
Unchanged. A sad case of FUN being set aside for the sake of "muh balanssseeeee".
- Squad-wide upgrades AND instant production? Wow...guess the whole "PC exclusive" thing was too good to be true, eh? I hope mods make upgrades cheaper, but individually produced. AND actually take time to produce.
LW fixes that and half-upgraded squads are back in the game. That does, however, increase the micromanagement involved exponentially.
- No more interceptors. An entire layer of the game was simply removed. Fuck that! I don't care about excuses, we got nothing in return. It just feels like the game got dumbed down even more.
LW adds Haven management and infiltration. No interceptors but an extra layer of autism was added so...there you go?
- Free actions. Free actions everywhere. DERP!
In Xcom 2 your squad grows in power by breaking the turn economy into pieces. And that means free actions. I think the powerspike from Major to Colonel is enormous in this game but I don't really see that as a big flaw. LW introduces a slower burn progression. Actually, everything in LW is slower (aka a slog)
- Alien Hunters. Everything about this DLC deserves to die in a fire. Ruler reaction is a terrible mechanic that forces you to cheese, the new items are OBJECTIVELY better than their vanilla counterparts and the new armors look very, VERY silly. And on top of that we never get an explanation for Vahlen's actions other than "she did it for teh lulz".
I LOL'ed when I learned Firaxis themselves were forced to nerf the rulers. There's a ton of articles about them and for good reason: rulers CHEAT and any losses they caused feels like being robbed at gunpoint. "My turn, your turn" is a BASIC and FUNDAMENTAL concept of TBS and it never ceases to amaze me how a DLC that made a mockery of that concept ever saw the light of day. Alien Hunters still has a very low score on Steam, despite a being mostly "dealt with" issue. Thankfully they learned SOMETHING from this abomination and the Chosen don't repeat the Rulers mistake.
- LOLRANDOM continent bonuses. And a lot of them are p. useless.
Same/LW improves that.
- Smaller tech tree. Three tiers of weapons instead of four.
LW changes it to 5 but I think the vanilla campaign suffers from being 70% about Mag Weapons. EW had better tech-pacing.
- The new combat seems to be more disable-focused and less damage-spammy. I think that might be a good thing? I dunno.
Err...not really. In higher difficulties the game quickly degenerates into "don't let the aliens take a turn or you're screwed". The overabundance of guaranteed disables makes the game a bit too magicool and those new Advent Priests that go on stasis at 1 HP are pretty bad design IMO.
- Still no real character development. Why? Perk trees need to die in a fire...Also PCS is such a lazy way to add some extra depth. I hope they release an EW-like expac with some cool new options.
Nope. Unchanged. There are some mods that try to add gene mods like in EW but I didn't try them yet.
- I still think swords look silly, but mechanically they work fine, so I won't complain.
I decided to complain. Melee became a bit silly now with units moving 30 squares and attacking in the same turn (Advent Stun lancer + Ranger). It also sucks that this is mostly something that screws the player because despite the addition of a melee specialist (Templar), the fact remains that walking into melee range is a great way to accidentally activate a couple extra pods along the way, screwing yourself hard in the process. Pod activation mechanic is a terrible "gamey" concept and that really can't be fixed in a Nu-Xcom game.
- The new psi ops...I don't know what to think about it. They are still amazingly powerful and I think making them a separate class was a good decision. But a soldier that can be trained all the way up to Colonel w/o seeing ANY action? I don't know...
Psi Ops are now even weirder as they can't use AP. Test-tube-baby-space-wizards are meh.
The game is better than NuXcom, but worse than either EW or LW. I think it has great potential and IF Firaxis + modding community play their cards right, X2 might even become a GREAT game. As of RIGHT NOW...it belongs in the "good for what it is" tier. I don't regret pirating it, but I sure as hell am in no rush to buy it. Firaxis needs to stop wasting time with bullshit customization options and get around to adding more depth into the game. Jake Solomon is a massive cuck, he praises Long War on Twitter but refuses to take ANY step towards making the game more complex. He KNOWS such a move would alienate his console audience...
My conclusion is thankfully a positive one: the game did improve tremendously and it's now in a better spot than EW. The reasons boil down to destructible environments, great usage of verticality and moddability. Doing things better than its predecessor is the main duty of a sequel and I think Xcom 2 is a great sequel to EW. I don't regret my purchase and I would definitely recommend this game nowadays.