It’s a bit of a dream come true, isn’t it?
Having XCOM 2 on the Switch seems like a port that should have been commissioned when the console first launched because on paper it’s a marriage made in heaven. XCOM 2, a game about both minute-to-minute tactics and large-scale strategy is the perfect game to play in bed. Whether it be running a mission before lights out or just planning the next expansion of your base while the covers, XCOM 2 is just the perfect fit for the Switch.
Which I suppose is helped due to how segmented the game is in terms of how it distributes it’s various elements, because XCOM 2 is a title that oftentimes feels like you’re playing two different games at once, both of which are thoroughly engaging to their core. At this point it feels like I’m overstating a fact about how XCOM 2 is a fantastic time, because it’s something we already know, right? Having said that though, we’re not here to talk about how good XCOM 2 continues to be but rather how it fares on Nintendo’s current console and the discussion might be a little disappointing if not entirely expected.
Remember when XCOM 2 launched back in 2016? It was hailed as one of the greatest turn-based strategy games of all time with one slight problem: It was an absolute technical mess. Constant visual and mechanical bugs, crashes to desktop and just so many performance issues. Now, we’ve come a long way in terms of PC hardware since 2016 yet the same might not be said for the Switch. While it’s maybe my favourite console of all time and the ports being done for the little hybrid machine that just keeps on chugging are well impressive, so I have to wonder if the poor performance of XCOM 2 on Switch is the platform’s fault or an issue stemming from the software.
Don’t get confused, because XCOM 2 works on the Switch but what should be the ideal way to play is unfortunately let down by some rather glaring performance issues. In the hours that I’ve spent with the game it chugs, stutters and ever so occasionally freezes altogether. I’ll be honest, it did detract from the experience, especially when playing on handheld mode. It can be a pain to watch everything slow down, often obscuring your view of the battlefield and making things feel just a little more frustrating than they ought to be.
Which is a real pity, given that all the patches that the PC version of the game received years ago fixed these issues, leading one to expect that the problem lies with the Switch itself. XCOM 2 is a dense game, with so many moving parts clicking over at any one point that it’s often difficult to keep track of it all. Having to process and run all of that, I have to imagine the Switch struggles a little. I’m no engineer or hardware designer but I have to believe that given how the game both looks better than you’d expect and runs at all means that the Switch is already under loads of pressure. So bear that in mind if you’re thinking of leading the revolution against the alien overlords. If you’re looking to play XCOM in the most convenient way possible, you’ll have to make some sacrifices along the way.
Which, arguably, could be worth it. XCOM 2 is still a tremendous game and the fact that the Complete Edition, which includes the excellent War of the Chosen expansion pack, is just an added bonus. The same tense, turn-based battles with upgradable units, base-building and resource management is all right there, closer to your finger tips than ever before. What’s even more impressive is how well the controls have been mapped to the Switch. I’m aware that XCOM 2 has been playable on controller for years now but I’ve always played it on mouse and keyboard because it just felt…right. Felt like a better fit for a commander overseeing the entire battlefield, I guess. Yet everything still feels fluid and cohesive using the Switch’s Joycons, something I wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you not to buy one of the best strategy games of all time. XCOM 2 is still a fantastic experience on the Switch but it’s a recommendation that obviously has some caveats. It’s certainly not the optimal way to experience XCOM 2, unless you want the constant performance hitches and graphical bugs to provide the definitive 2016 day one launch experience.
Yet I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take immense pleasure from spending hours trawling through research projects and naming my squad of soldiers after iconic 70s pop stars all from the comfort of my bed. Maybe I’m a niche case but I’m far more prone to enjoying a game if it doesn’t remind me about my cripplingly poor posture and slowly crumbling spine.
Last Updated: June 19, 2020