XCOM: Enemy Upgraded
I will admit I missed XCOM first time around.
Way back when the series first appeared, in the critically acclaimed X-COM: UFO Defense of 1994, I was 8, and rather more interested in my enormous Action Man collection.
So, the release of 2012’s XCOM reboot, also called Enemy Unknown, was my first contact with the secretive agency – and I loved every minute of it.
A game hasn’t absorbed me so much in years – since the original Deus Ex, in fact – and even after I beat the (admittedly short) campaign, I played it again, with all the difficulty settings turned up to maximum, and the ‘second wave’ (modifiers to difficulty and things like critical hits), turned on.
The carnage was, naturally, horrifying – I still mourn the loss of my top-rank sniper, who singlehandedly fended off an entire wave of enemy aliens on her own.
So, the announcement of XCOM: Enemy Within brought a smile to my face – a smile which slipped only slightly when Firaxis detailed the package.
More an expansion than a game in its own right (sadly), Within will offer more maps for both the single and multiplayer modes (much-needed, as playing the same environments over and over was annoying), and many other tweaks which fans have been calling for since Unknown made its reappearance.
Retailing at $30, the November 12 release will offer more enemies to battle, upgrades to research and an entirely new type of soldier to send to their deaths.
On offer this time is the ‘Mech Trooper’ – a new class that needs to be researched from the corpse of a ‘Mechtoid’ – a Sectoid (think ‘Roswell’) in a mech suit.
Rather than being born into this role, your troopers will have to be ‘volunteered’ for the role of Mech Trooper, and will be granted a new skill tree and weapons as a reward.
It also looks like he or she needs to give up their human legs… Ouch.
Other tweaks include genetic manipulation, which can offer perks to your troopers in certain ‘body slots’ for the head, chest and legs etc, and a rebalancing of the current skill trees.
Often, certain abilities available to a certain soldier class were never chosen, as the other option was better – such as the sniper’s ability to fire at foes within the squad’s sight range, not just their own.
My sniper, ‘Solo’, was a veteran of this, God rest her grumpy French soul.
Other research options will be available, for both new weapons and equipment, including ‘needle’ grenades researched from Chryssalid corpses (think, walking pincushion).
Other aesthetic tweaks include the ability to assign your troopers international voices – so the Germans will sound German and the French will sound grumpy (I do hope the Brits don’t sound too stereotypically posh…).
Another strategic resource will also be available in the form of ‘Meld’, which comes in containers scattered randomly throughout the battle areas. These will self-destruct if not found quickly, and seem to be an effort to get players out of the slow, methodical and reliable method of XCOM play thus far – an interesting choice, as this is a core dynamic of the reboot of XCOM thus far.
However, all this bounty is overshadowed by one key fact – the essential core story of Unknown will not be massively changed by Within – there will simply be more to do and see before you reach the end-game.
I’m disappointed with this choice, in all honesty, as I would have liked a prequel or an expansion set after the Unknown story, and find not including such a story-lengthener something of a cop-out.
That said, if these gameplay additions and changes offer as much mileage as they seem to, I’m likely going to be dragged right back into the battle for another two months.
I’ll be watching this one with great interest, as more information is made available.