XCOM 2 is shaping up to be a similar, albeit polished, experience that we already got the chance to play with Enemy Unknown. Sure the aliens might have won that war, shifting the narrative grounds into guerrilla warfare for the sequel, but the systems at play are extremely familiar. Such as the Avenger – your new base of operations that I got a close look at last week at Gamescom.
Your home base was central to your operations in Enemy Unknown, and its importance is no less stressed in this sequel. The Avenger is a repurposed alien ship that bears a striking resemblance to the actual Avenger’s helicarrier from the Marvel films. It’s your mobile base of operations, allowing you to co-ordinate and launch strike missions around the globe with efficiency – although XCOM 2 will still limit you to a single mission at a time.
But without a World Council looking over your shoulder, who cares right? Wrong, as resources and troops for The Avenger are directly linked to which missions you take and which you leave out for the now establish alien race to decide. Without a global council you’re also prohibited from getting reinforcements on a dime – making your platoon management far more important in the dire war for survival humanity now finds itself in.
Thankfully, the Avenger seems to be bringing back the addictive other side of XCOM that I often found more engrossing than the actual tactical combat. The aircraft is massive, but only malleable in certain ways from the start. A rogue alien AI is still surfacing around the ship from time to time, barring expansion into new areas and hindering scientific and engineering progression. It’s a neat way to contextualise why you can’t immediately repurpose the entire craft from the get go, and also offers a nice narrative detour should the writers choose to use it (alien AI containing the secrets to victory anyone?).
Expansion looks similar too, with upgrades to your various bays providing in-field enhancements to gear, soldiers and accompanying drones. What was striking was just how much detail has gone into creating what feels like a living, breathing rebellion. Navigating to the barracks shows off troops in training, while the engineering bay is constantly alight with blowtorch sparks and bustling activity. The Avenger feels like a force at work, with your overview as the Commander and Chief of the program rarely being understated.
It also allows for more personal relationships with some of the leading staff you’ll work with, with Enemy Unknown often skimping over these interactions far too quickly. In the short demo we were shown past comrades were acknowledged, while playful banter between different sections of the base was commonplace. It’s an intriguing outlook into the lives of the personal that are making your planet saving missions a reality, and an endearing link to people who might not see the future they are so desperately fighting for.
The Avenger also offers up a plethora of more customisation options for your troops themselves, who are even more likely to fall in battle than anyone back home. You can change the colour of individual pieces of armour, edit their names and just continue building emotional connections in avatars that will likely break your heart continuously. It’s an expansion of systems that were already there, but it’s nice nonetheless.
And essentially, that’s the idea I’m getting from XCOM 2 right now. Its procedural levels and enhanced combat are all layers of polish on an already really great system that was established with the previous game. Considering how great it was, that’s the best direction this sequel could possibly go in – even if things feel rather familiar from the outset.
Last Updated: August 12, 2015