XCOM 2: 15 Things You Probably
Around a week ago developer Firaxis Games and publisher 2K Games announced a sequel to their Game of the Year award-winning turn-based tactical strategy game, XCOM: Enemy Unknow, which released back in 2012, via the Moment of Truth announcement trailer. The cinematic teaser didn’t boast in actual in-game footage, but whet fans’ appetites and teased at what gamers can expect when it releases later this year.
The trailer reveals a bit about the game and its story, though there are some clues within that most might not have noticed.
In a trailer analysis and interview with IGN’s Dan Stapleton, Jake Solomon, creative director for the game, and Garth DeAngelis, lead producer, pulled back the curtain and gave us a few more tidbits about XCOM 2, some of which were shown in the trailer, though weren’t yet confirmed or clarified beyond viewer speculation.
Alien-built cities and familiar locals:
Solomon reveals that the city we see at the very beginning of the trailer was in fact created by the aliens, in order to entice humans to live there, promising security and a life of ease. These cities have replaced our own, being built over the “bones” of the ones that were once there. Similar to what we saw in XCOM: Enemy Unknown—and the expansion, XCOM: Enemy Within—the game will offer maps based on real-world locals, keeping things grounded in reality.
The aliens are also offering humans gene therapy, as depicted by the building with the double helix signage, which will likely tie into the story somehow and may even be a means of genetically modifying our soldiers, as we saw in Enemy Within.
Solomon describes the Advent as the new world order of Earth, acting as the government and security for its people. The guards we see sporting futuristic armour and weapons are Advent soldiers: humans who are working for the aliens in some capacity, some who may be fully aware of their insidious intentions, some who may not.
New Stealth Gameplay:
The creative director goes on to explain that your squad will begin missions in concealment, attempting to stay hidden from both the enemies and civilians, which is a brand new type of gameplay aspect that didn’t exist in the past two games. It appears this will tie into the story of XCOM having lost the war against the aliens, now acting very much as a ragtag group of resistance fighters who are now forced to use guerilla tactics, scavenging to get by, as opposed to the all-out assaults we undertook previously as the commander of a massive organisation with plenty of funding.
The red laser scanners shown as the camera tracks the woman walking down the street while a man, accompanied by two Advent soldiers, is being scanned by its beams, will actually be incorporated into the gameplay itself and should be avoided by those intending to remain concealed.
Solomon and DeAngelis confirm later in the interview that players this time around will get the opportunity to choose when, where and how combat engagements happen, being able to tactfully position units and set up ambushes before the enemy even knows you’re there. It is described as a “typical gameplay moment”, which means it won’t just be during special story missions; the ability will be integral to regular missions you embark on.
This is a far cry from discovering and triggering groups of enemies, forcing them to scatter in the same turn, as we saw in previous games. This combat mechanic wasn’t well-received by fans, with Solomon noting that they heard the complaints loud and clear. Fan feedback has obviously helped shape at least some of the development and design decisions in XCOM 2 and that’s rarely a bad thing.
The humans welcome their new alien overlords:
Just a moment after the camera stops tracking the woman and remains stationary, it reveals a Sectoid in the shadows, the creature’s reddish-pink glow making it visible, as a human Advent soldier stands idly by, giving a subtle nod to the alien as it peaks out of the darkness. This tells us—along with some comments from DeAngelis—that the aliens have fully embedded themselves and are either manipulating humans with some sort of mind control or brainwashing, or that the people working for Advent truly do welcome the aliens with open arms, akin to the alien extremist members of Exalt, who we fought against in Enemy Within.
As we see the group of XCOM soldier heading through and stopping at the entrance of an alleyway, we learn that we won’t be seeing the same classes we had in previous games return, though there are some similarities.
This class is on the far left, with the soldier boasting a grenade launcher. He “sprays bullets and blows things up” as Solomon puts it, which seems to be very much XCOM 2’s equivalent to the Heavy class in Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within.
This class is pictured next to the Grenadier and is holding some kind of assault rifle, along with a sword. Solomon confirms near the end of the interview that we will in fact be able to use the sword as a melee attack. The sword attack will do a lot of damage, but is a risky move, presumably due to the unit being out of cover.
This class is crouching down next to the Ranger. The floating drone over her shoulder is called a Gremlin. It is directly controlled by the Specialist and can be used to stun enemies for a turn, delivery what looks to be some kind of electric shock from what we see later in the trailer. The class seems equivalent in some way to the Support class from previous games.
DeAngelis later describes the Gremlin as a “pet class”, acting as a scout and being able to heal and buff your soldiers. The drone can also be assigned to a class other than the Specialist, with an example being given of assigning it to the Ranger, if you’re wanting to get up close and personal, making the unit stronger and harder to hit.
This class is shown on the far right and is brandishing a sniper rifle. As you might have guessed, this is the new Sniper class.
Customisable weapons and armour:
This isn’t something most will have noticed watching the trailer for the first time, but if you look closer you’ll notice that some of the weapons the soldiers are carrying clearly have attachments, such as a laser pointer and a holosight, with the Ranger’s weapon attachment actually being taped on.
Weapons upgrades were a thing in previous games, to a degree, with soldiers starting off with conventional weapons and later being able to manufacture laser and plasma versions with the necessary researching having been conducted. It’s clear XCOM 2 will offer some form of customisation, which will add a cosmetic layer along with any buffs or debuffs to the damage output and usage.
As far as armour is concerned, there is no baseline uniform for your soldiers. In keeping with the ragtag resistance fighters theme we see in the character and weapon design, we’re going to see customisable armour for each individual soldier. This was present to an extent in Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within, though it was very basic, offering only a change of colour or the addition of a helmet, hat or cap if you had the Elite Soldier Pack DLC.
You will now be able to loot dead enemies for their weapons and components, using the scavenged parts and equipment to upgrade and improve your own. This explains the weapons attachments we see and should offer more complexity to resource recovery and management.
The Thin Men are really snake people:
During a shootout with Advent forces, a snake-like alien called the Viper is present. In a plot twist no one saw coming, Solomon reveals that the Viper is actually the true form of the Thin Men, explaining Earth is practically their planet now and they have no reason to hide.
Better and more destruction:
Destructible cover was present to an extend in previous games, but now advanced weapons fire will “wreck” the environments, with floors and ceiling now being destructible. This is sure to be a new level to the tactical element of the game, adding realism and more choices in combat.
In-game graphics will look just as good as the trailer:
During the end scene with the Specialist and the new humanlike Sectoid, DeAngelis explains that the trailer was actually created using in-game assets, with what can be seen here being reflective of that.
This one is somewhat up for debate within the XCOM fan community, but we won’t know for sure until we get our hands on the finished product. In the meantime, Firaxis have released the following screenshots.
Sectoids are now total badasses:
In previous games the Sectoids were short humanoid creatures, more akin to a small child, rather than the tall, humanlike version we now have. They were the very first enemy encountered and the weakest by far, with the exception of the Sectoid Commander, which boasted a bigger health bar, better stats and the ability to mind control your soldiers. Solomon explains that the Sectoids will wreck low-level soldiers that face them on their own, and that they will have the ability to mind control your units. They’ll also be the first alien encountered in the game, which should be a tough fight when they’re now so powerful.
You can carry bodies:
A soldier is seen carrying the body of the soldier who had been attacked by the Viper. It is explained that soldiers will now be able to carry allies, whether they’re dead, unconscious or simply too wounded to continue the fight. There will still be a benefit to recovering a dead soldier, with comments from Solomon that suggest that a soldier’s gear and items will be lost if they are killed and aren’t carried back when evacuating a mission. It is unclear if this will be by default or whether this will be a special option for hardcore players or accessible only when playing a particularly high difficulty setting.
The idea of having to abandon a mission isn’t new—soldier death is permanent in XCOM and players of previous games sometimes had to make hard decisions on whether or not to abandon a mission and keep a soldier alive, or to push through and risk casualties that will have an impact long after they died. It does appear, however, that the idea of making such hard decision may be baked into some of the missions in the sequel, as we are told that sometimes you won’t be able to complete all objectives and will have to cut your losses.
Evacuating could now be mandatory:
While it is not completely confirmed, it is highly suggested that most missions will now require that you evacuate after completing the objective(s). In previous games, once you completed the mission objective, it was done and didn’t require you to evacuate, simply returning you to the XCOM base. It sounds as though we will now have to actually evacuate our soldiers during missions, though we have now been given the freedom of choosing where the Skyranger—XCOM’s VTOL that transports troops to and from mission locals—will land to pick us up, assuming the map geometry allows it, of course.
The XCOM base now flies!
XCOM’s new base is now called the Avenger, which is a converted alien supply craft. Did I mention that it flies?!
Here are a few things that aren’t quite big enough to earn a place on the main list, but are interesting nonetheless.
Ethereal subliminal messaging?
The Ethereals were an endgame unit in the previous games, capable of using powerful psychic attacks. Speculation among fans suggested they were the highest-ranking aliens and were running the whole invasion of Earth operation.
An image of an Ethereal flashes on the screen, replacing the double helix. Does this mean we’ll see them return in XCOM 2? Or could this be teasing a plot point in the game’s story? Or maybe it actually just a cheeky cameo put in by the makers of the trailer.
The statue has two meanings:
At first glance this statute appears to depict a Sectoid helping a human up from the ground. It could also be interpreted as the alien leaving him behind, as it seems his stance would be of something that is moving away. Notice that the alien is not actually facing him with his body.
This speculation is partially backed up by a teasing comment from Solomon after the interviewer pointed it out, which would suggest this is the case.
XCOM 2 is an upcoming turn-based tactical game in developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games. It is the sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM: Enemy Within, which released back in 2012 and 2013 respectively, and was an a re-imagining of the classic 1994 real-time strategy game UFO: Enemy Unknown, developed by Mythos Games and MicroProse and published by MicroProse for PC.
It’s slated to release exclusively for PC sometime in November 2015. In a separate interview with the same publication, Solomon didn’t completely rule out the possibility of the game making its way to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 sometime in the future, saying, “We’re certainly not opposed to that, but I can assure that’s something we’re not even discussing yet.”