“Vigilo Confido, Commander!” XCOM 2 Does So Much Right

I just finished my first successful XCOM 2 campaign. Loading times and a couple of glitches aside, I loved it. Lets talk about what it does right, with screenshots. Spoilers for the campaign in some of these. You’ve been warned.

Soldier Customization

They said that customization would be dramatically improved. They were telling the truth. I didn’t even make much use of it yet, but here’s my end game squad.

End Game XCOM 2 Squad
Yes, I really do use all those grenades.

I may tweak the squad composition next time around in terms of classes, and I’ll play more with custom options. But even with the little I did, I love the personality on display here. There’s the general color theme that my core team has, who I carried through the entire game. There’s the firebrand Psi Op who came in late and looks like an outsider, becuase she really was, to this squad. The other five were my core team for the entire game. My poor Ranger in the corner is wounded, but this is for the final mission and you can take wounded soldiers with you. I wouldn’t go without my frontline badass swordswoman.

The really cool thing is that I can put these people I love so much into the character pool, and they may appear again in future games. They all have different voices and accents, and it’s delightful.

Gun And Loadout Customization

Gun customization is also a thing now. Both in looks and name, but also in terms of function. Enemies will sometimes drop loot, and if you collect it, you’ll find things like gun mods and Elerium Cores, used to do research on new items.

My sniper, for example, had a gun with a scope for boosted aim, and a superior auto-loader so that he could get 3 reloads without costing an action. That is very important to a Sharpshooter, as you can’t fire your Sniper Rifle if you take another action. Free actions don’t count.

My Ranger’s gun is instead focused on more critical hit chance with a laser scope, increased ammo for fewer reloads (no time for that in the thick of it!), and a stock so that missed shots still do some damage. They’re very different guns for very different purposes.

Loadout options also feature different kinds of grenades like gas (organic troop poison), EMP (robotic troop disable/damage), Flashbang (disorient), Smoke (defensive), various kinds of ammo modifications, armor vests (more health/HP regen/reflected damage on melee/terrain hazard immunity), and in the case of the heavy armor my Ranger is wearing: mounted weapons like the Plasma Cannon. That’s all on top of the character skill tree, which itself has some highly varied options.

There’s a lot of room to customize to suit your style and the mission requirements, here.

Use More Grenades

Grenades were somewhat underutilized in XCOM:Enemy Unknown. The main reason is that they destroyed corpses, and you needed those to do research and upgrades.

That can still happen in XCOM 2, but it’s much less frequent in my experience. In addition, some missions you can’t recover corpses anyway because you have to Evac out. In that case, grenades carry no real downside.

It’s a good idea to use them liberally, because blowing up enemy cover and shredding off enemy armor makes them much easier targets for everyone else in the squad. This is where Grenadiers really shine as a class: that grenade launcher is worth every resource¬†I spent on upgrading it. Plus they can carry two (or three with a skill) grenades.

Finally, falling damage is a thing. If you blow up the floor something is standing on, it falls and takes damage. You can kill enemies using this trick, and it’s incredibly useful. Even if they don’t die, they’re now on ground level and easier pickings for your troops.

XCOM 2 wanted sign
Hey, I see myself, next to that car ad! Now throw a grenade at it!

Lots Of Things Worth Doing and Buying

The strategy layer also got an update here, and logically it just works better. It was always unclear in previous XCOM games why you had such a tight budget and so few people, given you’re funded by the richest nations on Earth as their most elite defence force.

Now? You’re a resistance force. You scrounge up whatever you can use. The limits all make sense now, and it makes things just work better. There are many options for things to collect on the strategy map, but there isn’t time to do them all and stop the Avatar project. Sometimes, you will have to ignore that battlefield full of alien metals because you just have more important things to do.

The new base building layer is now the inside of your ship (the Avenger), and it also got some tweaks. Gone are the days of building several engineering workshops and getting everything in the game for half off. Workshops now give you more engineers to slot into buildings, which is useful, but not as overpowered. You can choose to build a defensive building to help you when your ship is attacked, or not. You can retrain soldiers. You can upgrade rooms to make them more powerful, if you have the supplies, or not. I never did upgrade my Psi Lab to train more than one person at a time, but that’s an option.

There’s also weapon upgrades to buy (like new gun levels, which everyone gets automatically), and experimental things to do in the Proving Grounds, where you get one of a thing each time you do it. Until the very end of the campaign, I had more stuff I desperately needed than I could afford, and had to make tough choices. Even at the end I didn’t have everything unlocked, but I had everything I needed, finally.

Glitches

In the last mission, when I blew up some terrain, this happened.

Glitched graphics
Wow that’s glitchy!

Sufficed to say that it made targeting area effect abilities very difficult, and I had to save and reload to clear it. That was the worst glitch I saw, and none of the others were enough to diminish my enjoyment at all.

Load times are slow, and I hope they improve that in a patch. I’m not really sure what it’s even doing during those waits.

Mission Load Screen
I like the screen, music, and character mannerisms… but could stand to see less of it.

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