Sunday, February 7, 2016

Screenshot of the Week #70: Walls, what walls?!

                The XCOM 2 launch from Friday isn’t much different than the AAA releases we got in the latest years. A barely optimized game with a ton of performance problems, crashes and bugs is what Firaxis released after three months of delay. On top of problems that are becoming more and more common with new releases, XCOM 2 has some more serious issues which are harder to fix, some are carried from the previous game. With the sequel release shooting through walls has returned as well, as apparently Firaxis didn’t find a way to get rid of this pestilence. The camera still requires a mod to have a fluid 360 degrees rotation. The AI isn’t the greatest and the game tries to compensate in difficulty and thrill through time based missions which lead frustration instead of tactical ingenuity. The pathfinder also had to suffer as sometimes the units need to have their paths manually set so they avoid the obvious dangers along the way. These are some of the often met problems in XCOM 2, problems that more or less missed many of the professional reviews out there.
                On the plus side of things, XCOM 2 does improve on a lot of the features that were skimpy in the previous game while retaining a very familiar image. The base management and the UI are almost identical to Enemy Unknown, what changed for the better are the options. The research system has been greatly improved with more technologies and items available to choose from. The skill system is also slightly better and much more balanced as each unit promotion provides skills of almost equal value that fit into different play styles. The Geoscope has been diversified and aside of the missions now there are events on the global map and a Black Market to buy and sell alien technology.
                But those who liked Enemy Unknown have been fascinated with the game’s combat system and there are a few neat little tricks that Firaxis has pulled into the sequel to make the combat more entertaining. Aside of the classes changes which play directly into the combat system, the biggest change comes from level design. XCOM 2 has a procedurally generated maps with certain aspects randomized for a more different experience each time. The maps feature intense physics which allows the destruction of various objects that could serve as cover and even huge chunks of buildings. The variety of alien enemies has grown in the 20 years since the action of Enemy Unknown and their diversity makes the battlefield interesting testing, at times, the tactical limits of one’s mind.
Now the enemy’s spawns have been randomized and they work in groups patrolling the areas around objective. To deal with this the XCOM units can now infiltrate in most of the missions in order to get to get to a vantage position and take the enemies by surprise. The list of improvements brought to the combat is much bigger and more than welcomed. These improvements will most likely extend the game’s life for as long as Firaxis needs to come up with XCOM 3 and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a shame that the game had to be stained by so many problems.
                In all fairness XCOM 2 has some pretty good features in, but some poor design choices coupled with a rushed release and a story that doesn’t seem so interesting chipping away from its achievable greatness.
My best sniper is clearly a cheater.

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