I Choose You!
HIGH The tweaks revitalize the campaign. Finishing several missions with a 100% hit rate.
LOW Getting all of the DLC properly activated is counter-intuitive. Performance issues.
WTF Seriously, don’t play Iron Man mode.
When I played XCOM 2’s original, vanilla version from 2016, I felt much the same way that Darren did in his review. Despite being a huge fan of tactics titles and of the previous XCOM games specifically, it just didn’t grab me – it didn’t seem better or different than what had come before, and worse, it felt repetitive and tired. I was disappointed, bailed out, and put it out of my mind until I heard some people singing the praises of the War of the Chosen expansion.
What a difference an extra 18 months of development makes! While the core experience shared between XCOM 2 and XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is essentially the same, the details, tweaks and additions make a world of difference.
The biggest thing, obviously, are the Chosen themselves — three super-powered alien foes who pop up at the worst possible moments to cause trouble for the player and their crew. Anytime they appear, a successful mission running smoothly can turn into panic after a single turn. Not only are they a dangerous wildcard, the devs did a great job of making them villains that got under my skin. They sneered, they quipped, and they were a colossal pain in the ass – and they were great. After all, there’s not much excitement to a story that doesn’t have a noteworthy enemy, and WotC has three. Killing them felt marvelous after being at their mercy for hours and hours.
On the other side of things, WotC also offers a set of ‘heroes’ – new classes that are capable of incredible feats on the battlefield. The Skirmishers are alien hybrid troops who’ve broken away from the overlords controlling earth, the Reapers are a sniper class who can remain hidden on the battlefield and sneak into anything, and the Templars are a psychic melee class capable of ripping enemies apart with energy blades and parrying any attack. Each one of these is an ace in the hole and they saved the asses of their fellow troops time and time again.
Other aspects of the expansion are equally well-done, especially the expanded mission variety offering several new map and objective types that kept the gameplay fresh – sometimes I’d be setting up an ambush with the enemy completely unaware, sometimes we’d be rushing headlong towards a goal while a timer was ticking away, sometimes it was a smash and grab, a straight-up assault, a rescue, or something else entirely. Each new challenge made me use my troops in different ways under different kinds of pressure, and the quality of the tactics easily sustained my interest from the first mission to the last.
Honestly, the attention to detail in WotC is outstanding. Characters can develop bonds with each other over the course of several missions, and this camaraderie awards them special abilities like taking extra turns, or being granted buffs. After a battle, the player can create their own anti-alien propaganda posters that pop up in the game’s environments, and I spent far too much time creating each one. There are tons and tons of tech to research and develop, which means that new elements are constantly being added to the mix over the whole course of the campaign — a powered exosuit that can create its own cover or a guided smart bomb that can go around corners and straight into a group of alien berserkers? Yes, please!
While the game doesn’t run optimally (some framerate chugging and stutters are quite prevalent, especially in areas with a lot of special effects) the upgraded, enhanced formula that XCOM 2: War of the Chosen offers is absolutely superb. I was fully engaged in this rebellion against humanity’s extraterrestrial overlords, and I’d have no hesitation recommending it to anyone in search of a top-tier tactics experience. And for those, like me, who bounced off of the original XCOM 2? It’s absolutely worth coming back.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Firaxis and published by 2K Games. It is currently available on PC, PS4 and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 65 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Use of Tobacco, and Violence. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is a strategy game in which players attempt to save Earth from an alien invasion. From a ¾-top-down perspective, players manage resources, engage in combat missions, rescue characters, and terrorize alien installations. Players use rifles, machine guns, pistols, and grenades to kill enemies (e.g., human-, insect-, beast-like characters) in turn-based combat. Attack moves occur in brief cutscenes that depict characters getting shot or wounded/killed by explosions. Splashes and pools of yellow and red blood sometimes appear when characters are injured or killed. During the course of the game, players can customize soldiers with accessories, including lit cigarettes and cigars.
Colorblind Modes: There (are/are no) colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: It’s a turn-based game, so no audio cues are necessary. All dialogue is subtitled. The text is not resizable. Additionally, there are tons of on-screen indicators for nearly everything including alien sounds and the status of troops. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable and there is no control diagram. Although the game is complex, players will use the left stick to select objects or move a cursor, face buttons to confirm or cancel, and occasionally a shoulder button to change between menus.
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway