Should you buy XCOM 2 – Reviewing the reviews.

The embargoes are lifted and the XCOM 2 reviews are in. What is the consensus? How good is it? More importantly, should you buy it? While I, along with most of you, haven’t played it yet, various websites and let’s play streamers have. Here SideQuest reviews the reviews and teases apart the important elements for you to decide whether to purchase it now, later or never.

 

Alien HelpFirstly, can you run it and how well thereafter?

For brevity’s sake you’ll at least need:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E4700 2.6 GHz or AMD Phenom 9950 Quad Core 2.6 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770, 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 or better
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 45 GB available space
  • Steam Connection: Initial installation requires one-time Internet connection for Steam authentication.

These are the official minimum system requirements and appear quite forgiving to older and mid-level pc’s.  Since XCOM games are turn-based shooters the graphics and frame rate count is largely overlooked when in-game. Who cares how high the resolution is when you’re frantically racing to stop the genocide of humanity by leading an upstart motley crew of resistance fighters against our alien overlords? Moreover several reviews have noted slowdown, glitching and freezing in combat and cut scenes. While a later game patch and graphic card updates will probably address this – XCOM games agonise players from tactical decisions concerning troop movement and allocating scarce resources rather than maxing their resolutions. Chill.

Xcom Choices

To pre-order, or not to pre-order..

In the remaining hours until release it is still possible to pre-order XCOM 2. If pre-ordering the benefits include the “Resistance Warrior Pack” and the ability to unlock and recruit a survivor of the old war (XCom Enemy Unknown / Enemy Within).  I’m guessing it’s either Annette Durand or Shaojie Zhang whom were similarly recruitable, from the ‘old war’ and non-changeable.

Additionally, and likewise to Enemy Within, their stats are higher comparatively to the average selectable rookie and could be invaluable early-to-mid game. Reviews have warned the difficulty is high, limited turns within missions have increased (i.e. think more ‘save the hostage’, ‘defend your position until evacuation’ etc), along with limited turns at your base to research weapons or gather intel, along with slowing a permanent doomsday clock prophecising the end of the world! As for the RWP, this merely adds more customising features to soldier outfits, headgear and facial war paint. From watching developer videos the customisation options are already myriad and fastidious and as such this is a welcome novelty but really should be included in the base game regardless.

Xcom TargetingDeluxe edition?

The deluxe edition offers the base game, digital soundtrack and the “Reinforcement Pack” for an extra $19.99 USD ($15 USD if bundled with the pre-order). The RP is ‘light dlc’ and expands upon the base game with ‘rebellion themed content’ and more (!?) soldier customisation (available within the next 3 months). The other two dlc packs contain x2 more classes, x2 more missions and maps, and, you guessed it, more soldier customisations (!?!?) along with armour and weapons (available in the next 6 months). Altogether – and disregarding the digi soundtrack – the RP content is unavailable until 6 months and only features 2 new classes and 2 new missions! From the descriptions of upcoming dlc, this suggests a multiplayer focus equal to if not greater than catering for narrative based single-player content.

Admittedly the maps in the base game are now procedurally generated (i.e. random each time) increasing the longevity of the campaign past the previous XCOM: EU and EW titles. However, it is unlikely new dlc skins and a new mission every 3 months will motivate me to keep playing unless multiplayer is a regular part of my XCOM2 experience. Most reviews of XCOM2 currently have not tested the MP element yet. Hopefully it holds up, as otherwise, your carefully considered and artistic customisation choices will be lost on the aliens when parading a sequined skull and crossbone cravat, an 80’s thin tie with vertically striped piano keys, or your shining Spartan helmet with fiery red Indian peacock plumes.

 

Geoscape_thmDigital keys and installation.

Australian retail copies:

  1. In Australia, the cheapest physical copy is at The Gamesmen selling at $74!!

  2. JB Hifi offer it at $89 with delivery from $3.50 additional. It’s unclear whether you cannot pick it up and must be delivered to your address. Confusing and unnecessary.
  3. Lastly, EB Games includes a steel book and is priced at $89.95 and confirmed  to be available for pick-up from their store.

Digital Steam keys:

Prices are cheaper if you prefer purchasing via online sellers of Steam digital keys and can be as low as $50 and rise to similar retail prices.

If hunting a bargain online, be aware the download from Steam is around 45GB which can impair your patience, other online activities and your monthly download allowance from your provider.

 

Finally. Reviewing the reviews. A.. meta-review.

Xcom ShootingBased on 39 reviews by critics from Metacritic the average score is 90. The high score unanimously proclaims XCOM2 as an enjoyable, strategic and content-heavy successful sequel. Expectantly, the visual upgrades are appreciated, along with the return of previous enemies and soldier classes that have both evolved and are now more varied. In fact, similar tweaks to the predecessor are found everywhere, from slight alterations to your base (it’s now mobile) yet still requires area’s to build for research, engineering, etc; traveling to countries for various missions takes time however may be halted before completion to deal with other interruptions; and sneaking for surprise attacks (e.g. ‘Overwatch’, and full cover) has been readdressed thanks to sneaking known as ‘Concealment’ further expanding the element of ambush. This is particularly useful as the combat (and indeed the entire feel of the game) has streamlined into feeling more sleek, unpredictable and organic. Owing to this change, options are more diverse and critical while at base. Now combat involves sabotage and resembles guerilla warfare moreso than fire-fight pitched battles. Overall XCOM2 has retained the fundamental aspects of base-building, strategy and combat from XCOM and energised and improved all the little details.

Criticisms against the unbridled high scores of most reviewers suggest the unfair shooting mechanics takes away from the ‘certainty’ of hitting a mark with 95% accuracy; and the limited player guidance for traversing the ‘best way’ to play the game. Antecedent to this, some label the consequential mechanics to be impartially cruel when a couple of bad judgements can decisively shift the prospect of winning. Some don’t like having to start the campaign over again after discovering their play style has not worked. Or a key squad member has been dramatically killed. Others cite the glitches, freezing and slowdown detracts from the building tension.

 

Buying verdict for types of players:

Conclusively it is undeniable XCOM2 appears to be a great game. Currently it sits in-between the Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid V from averaged scores on Metacritic. Each popularly rank as the one of the best games of 2015. However it is early and XCOM2 has only being released to the media mere days ago. The public may soften the hype-train and bring the user scores to 8-8.5. Especially given the multiplayer is an unknown quantity. However from the reviews of just the single player campaign – it’s worth it. Below is my recommendations based on your prior experience with the XCOM world..

Previous campaigners in Single Player XCOM: EU & EW Preorder / Postorder.

Previous campaigners in Single and Multiplayer XCOM: EU & EW – Preorder / Digi Deluxe

Non-previous campaigners in XCOM: EU & EW – Wait till XCOM2 is patched; read/watch community reviews and video’s; then decide to buy Postorder or wait for a discounted copy.

Alien

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