#XCOM2 – Aliens Abundant

I’ve spent a fair chunk with XCOM2 so far, enough to have the Archon enemy show up on a recent mission and I’ve just unlocked Plasma rifles.  I think that’s a fair chunk of progress.

First off, the game is good, if not great.  A lot of improvements are found over the Enemy Within expansion and some key pieces of the Long War mod have been added for flavor.  The overworld map interface has been updated, so that you always have something to do rather than just run out the clock.  When a player gets injured on a mission, they sit out a very long time (which can be drastically reduced with the appropriate shop in the ship).  Most missions have a timer attached, which forces you to move forward, without really knowing what’s up ahead.  All these combined make for a significant risk/reward decision on every move.

I’ll give an example.  One recent mission had be counter an Advent attack on a rebel base.  These missions always have you rescue at least 6 people out of 13, and also require you to clear the map of enemies.  There’s no counter to the mission but the aliens will kill at least 1 person per turn if not discovered, and even when discovered will often go out of their way to hit a friendly.  This means that you have 7 turns or less to find every enemy on the map, or you fail a part of the mission.  Sometimes this works out and you find the enemies in small groups.  Other times it turns into a game of dominoes.

This particular mission I found two Mutons on turn 2 and they had a Berserker run away from view.  I take the first two down and while the enemies are moving the Berserker comes back and an Advent MEC shows up with 2 support in tow.  It takes 2 chain shots (double shots really) to take down the Beserker and I successfully hack into the MEC to take control.  Well, that MEC now has additional field of vision and triggers one group of section+support and another group of 2 Muton and a Berserker.  By the end of turn 3, I have found everyone on the map and I have 3 characters (of 6) that have used their turns. Did I mention I was hunkered down inside a gas station too?

Things ended up OK, with just 2 soldiers wounded.  I was lucky in that I had spent time/money on improving my gear and loadout.  If I had the gear of the previous mission I would have been washed out.

The game is full of these types of moments, where you think things are going OK and then it piles more onto the plate.  And all the time you’re thinking “just one more turn”.

Base Building

Base progress is limited to two factors – scientists and engineers.  The first do all the research and the latter excavate rooms, build new ones, and provide bonus to operating rooms.  You can acquire either through missions, through the monthly HQ store (go to home base to find them), or through the Black Market.  You need as many as you can get, particularly engineers.

Power consumption is a problem and to get all rooms to work as you want them to, you need 3 power plants, two of which on the special Coil Rooms, with upgrades. That’s 6 engineers working full time on those rooms.  I only have 6 total, so that’s a problem I’m trying to sort out.

Random Numbers

I’m sure it’s nostalgia talking but the original XCOM in the 90s had an aiming system that seemed to work more than not.  If it said 90% chance, then you were going to hit 90% of the time.  The reboot had turn-locked rolls in place, where once you started a player-controlled round, the odds of every shot were pre-determined.  (This is easy to prove as reloading a save and retaking the shot has the same results).

XCOM2 seems to have tweaked aiming a fair bit, where the odds are more in your favor than not and misses are infrequent enough to avoid frustration.  The enemy has similar aim penalties to you, so it does feel generally balanced.  That doesn’t mean you don’t find situations that make you scream though.  Cripes, I had an Archon stunned with 2 people point blank who missed and grazed the guy.  The heck?

Hacking and Skulljacking (a sort of unpleasant battle mind-probe) both have RNG as well, with multiple outcomes possible, based on chance and skill.  Aside from 1 item that’s class restricted, I haven’t found another way to increase that ability.  It’s frustrating to continually see a 10-20% chance of success, even after a dozen missions.  I need to figure that out…

Enemies Abundant

There are about 15 enemy types I’ve found so far, of varying degrees of challenge.  Where the previous game was either a Sectoid or Mutoid map, this one has multiple types per map, usually a dozen individuals per.

The Advent troops are military-like, though the Stun version is annoying as high hell due to his massive range.  Sectoids, so far, have a weak mind attack and ability to summon zombies.  Mutons are smarter than Advent troops and immune to melee attacks.  Faceless take the shape of normal humans until you get too close. Vipers can pull you into melee range and choke you to death.  MECs can shoot a rocket barrage and have decent armor.  Codex split into two when attacked, can teleport (which prevents Overwatch from working) and have a bullcrap AE attack that removes all ammo and blows up in a turn.  They are very annoying.

All combined, they pose an interesting challenge in every fight.  One group you might be able to pick off, another you may need to hack and melee down.  There’s always a priority target too, so there’s choice in the decisions.  The AI is also reasonably smart, making some fights difficult to predict.

End Goal

After a couple missions you encounter the Avatar project, with is the enigmatic goal the aliens are trying to achieve in 12 steps.  They move 1 step closer per month (sometimes 2) and you counteract progress by completing specific missions.  Think of it as a game clock, where you need to complete all your progress before they reach victory.  The issue is that you have no idea what progress is required on your end until you’ve completed your first play through.  When you’re given the choice between researching better armor or moving that game progress, which is the right choice?

So far, I’ve opted for personal research and player upgrades and deferred a lot of the high level goal progress.  My Avatar bar is at 7/12 and I’ve been able to keep it at that spot for a few months now. I know in previous games, Plasma weapons were the top of the chain, and I’ve just unlocked the first batch.  I don’t have any Psionic crew yet, though one’s in training.


Clearly, I like the game.  It’s an improvement over the previous iteration and the expansion.  There are some minor gripes (hiding information to make decisions is the biggest) but the general pace and feel of the game is excellent.  It requires a stability patch as I’ve had the game crash a dozen times so far, but there are no in-game bugs that I’ve found.  The highlights are the randomly generated maps, a better overworld map, the countdown clock on missions, improved skill trees, stealth/melee upgrades, and the overall risk/reward structure found in nearly every part of the game.   Highly recommended.

2 thoughts on “#XCOM2 – Aliens Abundant

  1. The engineer staffing issues can be solved with a workshop, especially if your shielded power rooms are positioned such that one workshop can be adjacent to both of them. The workshop lets you put an engineer in it, and then gives you two drones that act as engineers in adjacent rooms. I have one engineer that’s acting as 2 in the Comms room, for example.

    If you upgrade the workshop to add a second engineer, you can get 6 drones total. That will cover a lot of production. The main difficulty is that adjacent is on the four cardinal directions only, so positioning your rooms is very important. I made a hash of that in my first play through and can’t use it to optimal efficiency.


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