Maybe it’s because I’m a perfectionist or just not used to this type of game, but XCOM 2 is as hard as trying to juggle a bowling ball, an orange, and a six sided die—and I can’t even juggle three regular juggling balls. For the uninitiated, the more recent XCOM series consists of turn-based style strategy games. If you’ve ever played Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy, many of the elements in those games are present in XCOM 2. The backdrop is 20 years after aliens have invaded and taken over the world. Resistance fighters have stolen an alien warship and are currently on the run. Employing guerrilla tactics and stealth mechanics, the player—or commander, as you are known in game—can drop a four to eight person squad into the battlefield. Most of the time, the soldiers drop in concealed, giving the player a chance to set up effective ambushes. Then, there are certain objectives to achieve, such as securing a certain number of civilians, gathering intel from a data point, or destroying a base.
Turns alternate between human and alien forces, and all shots taken have a percentage chance to hit. Based on distance to target and relative cover, the hit chance can increase. However, what frustrates me about this game is that, even though I move my soldier to one meter behind an enemy, there will only be an 85 percent chance to hit. Only 85 percent! From certain angles, it actually looks like the gun is touching the target. But, since I’m so unlucky, when I order my soldier to fire, he or she will aim directly at the target, purposely turn the gun away, and then fire. I guess I mean that’s where the difficulty of the game stems from; there are many opportunities to flank smartly in cover and position the rest of the squad accordingly. But still, I just can’t get over how unforgiving the game is. If one of my troops is overextended even slightly and a pod of aliens are discovered, they can all gang up on that one soldier. A single alien turn later and my captain–ranked soldier has bitten the dust. Soldiers are one of the most valuable assets in the game; higher ranking ones have better abilities and take a while to level.
Outside battle, the player manages research, production, and soldiers in the alien airship. Resources such as supplies—the main in–game currency—alien alloys, and corpses are used to purchase research projects, weapons, and armor. Parts of the ship can also be excavated, and specialized rooms built in order to gain an advantage or increase production power. In the geoscape, the player chooses where the ship travels in the world to complete missions and make contact with other regions. Supply drops and sites can also be traveled to and scanned to collect resources. I like this part of the game because it allows me to focus my manpower on my strengths. I’m really good at combat, so I research weapons and military tactics first. Additionally, I prioritize supply drops so that I always have money to spend on buying those weapons.
All in all, XCOM 2 is well put together, though excruciatingly difficult. I love out–maneuvering the enemy and planning ambushes, but afterwards I always feel mentally drained. Two or three hours is all I can play at a time. After more than two weeks of playing, I can safely say I haven’t jumped the gun on this review and that I understand exactly what playing the game entails. If you haven’t tried the game, I suggest watching someone play it, whether it be a friend or on twitch.tv.