The glorious relaunch of X-COM: UFO Defense, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, was easily one of the most well-regarded games of 2012. An isometric grid-based tactical game initially released on PC and consoles, the player was the commanding officer of Earth’s last line of defense against an invading alien army with sinister designs on the planet and humankind. Its subsequent character customization DLC, the substantial expansion Enemy Within and its mobile port, and the developer-endorsed mod Long War all helped prolong the lifespan of the XCOM relaunch. It only makes sense that the recent announcement of XCOM 2 was welcomed by fans.
With a planned release date of November 2015 exclusively for PC, XCOM 2 posits a scenario where humanity lost the war against the aliens, and handed over society to the green-blood menace. XCOM was abandoned after country after country fell, reforming 20 years later as a guerrilla force. No longer waiting for the aliens to attack, the player strikes first against the aliens and their puppet government known as the Advent Administration. It’s been confirmed that locales in the game include wilderness areas, alien controlled cities, and underground facilities where extraterrestrial machinations are concocted.
The player has even more control over their soldiers’ outfits and loadouts this time around, down to the ability to change soldiers’ genders, nationalities, and individual pieces of armor. In lieu of Enemy Unknown‘s Assault, Sniper, Heavy, and Support classes, XCOM 2 has the Ranger, the Sharpshooter, the Grenadier, and the Specialist, along with a fifth class that hasn’t been revealed yet (Hopefully, it’s similar to the cyborg MEC Trooper from Enemy Within). The psychic abilities from the Enemy Unknown’s later segments have not been confirmed yet, nor have the alien organ implanted G-Mods from Enemy Within. Interestingly, the Advent Administration’s practices of gene therapy have been focused on in the game’s promotion.
Because the player’s on the offense this time around, the gameplay encourages stealth and setting up ambushes. Furthering the differences between two games are the map setups—Enemy Unknown had premade maps to play encounters on, while XCOM 2 will have procedurally generated maps similar to UFO Defense.
New enemy units in the game include Vipers—snake women based on the Snakemen from UFO Defense, with the crushing ability of the Seekers from Enemy Within—and human/sectoid hybrids similar to the mutants from X-COM Apocalypse. In addition, the Advent Administration has human soldiers that ally with the aliens in battle.
There’s a base building aspect to XCOM 2, similar to the previous game. In lieu of an immobile base, you customize the rooms of a captured alien aircraft that’s been dubbed the Avenger (another reference to previous games). Many of XCOM 2‘s announced features appear to be based on lessons learned from previous iterations of the game series and fan input. More news and features are due to be announced for the next month, leading up to footage at E3. I’m excited to play this new XCOM if my laptop can run it—fingers crossed.