xcom 2

Having Trouble Finding the Fun in XCOM 2

Over the weekend I’ve played a generous amount of XCOM 2, and I’ve also restarted after 10 hours into my first playthrough. I’ve named soldiers, customized them and watched the die to hilariously biased random number generation (RNG) and pulled off more than a few clutch victories. But for all of that, I’m just not enjoying my time with XCOM 2 all that much.

20 years after the events of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, in which the alien invasion was successful, you and your ragtag band of resistance fighters are striking back against the extraterrestrial overlords that control Earth. XCOM 2 flips the formula a bit by making you the invading force and you start most missions with a concealment bonus. You can actually plot ambushes this time, a welcome change from the free move the aliens would get when you encountered them in the first game.

Sadly for much of the early game your soldiers are not that effective and will laughably miss even the easiest of shots. The beginning difficulty hump can be very unforgiving and XCOM 2 is a much harsher game than its predecessor. While victories can be thrilling, most of the time I’ve spent with the game has been watching a carefully constructed string of Overwatches (a skill where you soldiers fire on enemies that move in their line of sight) completely wiff and all my soldiers being obliterated on the next turn.

Most missions also have a turn limit as well so not only are you under pressure because of the propensity the game has to make your soldiers less than effective in combat but you also have to balance keeping all of them alive while brazenly pushing forward towards the objective. This can often result in a cascade of alien patrols coming down on you, and the game will throw stronger enemies at you fairly quickly which only compounds the issue.

The most common response I’ve seen to the issues with early game difficulty is to “git gud”, but there’s only so much you can do to position your soldiers at optimal ranges and then pray to RNGsus that most of your shots connect (or that your troopers don’t get panicked, which seems to happen way too often). If I’ve moved all six of my troops into a flanking ambush and only one or two of the attacks connect and I get decimated on the next alien turn, there’s not much I can do about it and that experience is aggravating.

On the other hand, that’s exactly what XCOM is and some people love it for that. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and I found it had the perfect blend of difficulty that kept me coming back. With XCOM 2 I’ll often completely restart missions or go back to the world map entirely and hope that the mission generator will provide me with something that I actually feel I can accomplish. I don’t mind long odds, but XCOM 2 stacks the deck against you in ways that are rarely enjoyable.

Has anyone else had this experience with XCOM 2? Have you found your quest to defeat the aliens much more palatable? Any suggestions for struggling Commanders out there?

Written by

mitch@gamersushi.com Twitter: @mi7ch Gamertag: Lubeius PSN ID: Lubeius SteamID: Lube182 Origin/EA:Lube182 Currently Playing: Stardew Valley, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, Battlefield 4, Tom Clancy Double Feature: Rainbow Six Siege and The Division