Category: Games


In our last installment, I mentioned that XCOM 2 should be have been called “Tom Cruise’s Live, Die, Repeat:  The Game” for all the save-scumming required to beat the thing.  Last night I finally reached the end of the road and successfully completed the final mission, which sure felt like an achievement (of sorts.)

In the end, though, I had to restart the campaign three times to finally find the right mix of balanced buildup of squad armor, weapons, and miscellaneous capabilities to be able to survive into the later stages of the game where some of the nastier enemies start to show up, like the Sectopods and Gatekeepers.  A critical element of mission strategy was to always have a grenadier on hand with EMP Bombs or Gas Bombs gained from Experimental Grenade research.  These were good for inflicting large amounts of damage from range to the nastier groups as they arrived, rather than having to do protracted gun engagements with them to wear them down over time.  The latter was frequently a recipe for someone in the squad to wind up dead or heavily wounded.  I also didn’t start to train Psionic soldiers until relatively late in the game, but they became pretty indispensable for mind control once I did have them, allowing me to frequently pit enemies against each other and keep my own guys out of harm’s way.

The final game stats showed that I had won somewhat more slowly than average, in terms of simulated days of game time, and having spent nearly a thousand supplies (credits) less than average along the way, so I’ll consider that a compliment of extreme efficiency and thriftiness on my part.  The problem, in reality, was that I was slow to establish contact with new areas, which led to a low monthly income, and I wound up spending a lot of intel to purchase supplies on the black market.

So final verdict? Maddeningly frustrating, but very satisfying to finally beat, even if I did have to rely too much on restoring the game in the early stages, after particularly unlucky pronouncements from RNGesus.  As the troops leveled up, I found that I was being significantly more successful in-mission and not relying on restores nearly as much.

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XCOM 2 is awfully hard!

I’ve played virtually all of the XCOM games, going back to a “lost weekend” in the early 90’s playing the original DOS version.  The new XCOM 2 better re-creates the urgency and “just one more mission” crack-addict feeling better than any installment since the original, with just one small difference:  this one is freakin’ hard.

I consider myself a reasonably good player, but they really could have called this one “Tom Cruise: Live. Die. Repeat: The Game.”  Even on just the “veteran” level, one up from “Rookie”, I’ve found myself having to play many missions out exactly as the movie unfolded:  Tom takes a turn.  Dies horribly.  Reloads.  Takes a slightly different turn.  Dies horribly.  Reload.  Repeat… until finally I’m able to just barely survive an encounter without half my squad being rendered unconscious or dying in the process, at which point I save again and edge forward to the next encounter.  Maybe several hours later, I can finally complete the mission in a reasonably successful manner after countless reloads.

Furthermore, the game heavily penalizes “mostly succeeding” in a mission, because it enforces lengthy game-clock delays to heal gravely wounded soldiers back to usable status for future missions.  Combined with the high “supplies” (currency) cost to add new soldiers to your roster, the penalty for allowing yourself to complete missions with wounded, killed,  or captured soldiers is very steep.  The overall result is that allowing soldiers to be killed or captured is a recipe for having to take on increasingly difficult missions with an understrength squad, and you dig yourself into an unretrievable deficit in the overall campaign.

I’m enjoying the game, but overall I just feel that the balance is tipped a smidge too far in favor of true diehard players – I honestly can’t imagine trying to play this game in the higher difficulty levels or in IronMan where there are no restores allowed.  I know there are 22 year olds who must laugh at my pain, but I think Firaxis missed the mark here.  #LoveHateRelationship

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