XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Will there be an XCOM 3? I have no idea. All I know is: the first two games, and their expansions, were brilliant, and the XCOM formula is just too good to fade. Whether you preferred the sedate, sandbox pace of Enemy Unknown, or the tough guerrilla fightback scenario of the second game, the differences in the two show how flexible the XCOM format can be. There's surely another great game or five in the series, right? Here are a few things we'd like to see in a sequel.

A new setting

We have saved Earth a few times now. Paradoxically we have both saved Earth from being invaded and then liberated it post-invasion. We have broken the alien threat in city streets, sewers and green fields. Could you face doing that all over again, even with a different alien threat? It is time for a change.

The original X-COM games went to the ocean for variety. A modern take on Terror From the Deep could be interesting, but I need something bigger to really get excited. Could XCOM take the fight to the alien threat on their home ground? Would XCOM work on a solar system scale? It's a dangerous move. The transition from defender to unstoppable aggressor is an important part of XCOM's fantasy, and you risk losing the personal touch that you get managing a small group of elite soldiers. Maybe a move to a smaller city-scale game in the mould of X-COM: Apocalypse would work.

In this regard the series is a victim of its own success. XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2 are so replayable XCOM 3 would need to be bold to tear me away.

Even more squad customisation

Firaxis' XCOM has loads of squad customisation, and War of the Chosen added bonds and a surprisingly great poster-making tool to better capture the successes and cruel deaths of our favourite soldiers. XCOM does plenty to let me turn my soldiers into heroes with backstories and relationships, but I cannot get enough of this sort of thing. The squad bonds system in War of the Chosen is a great example of the sort of feature allows the game to tell more complex stories. An outstanding array of hairstyle options is also a must, of course. 

Clearer campaign mechanics

Chances are you've loaded an earlier save in XCOM to undo a horrible turn, or take another shot at a mission because you got wiped by an enemy you'd never met before. 

In the first few playthroughs of a campaign trial and error is an essential part of XCOM. The game wants to tell a story, with surprised and twists, which means holding back information you need to make sensible decisions. I don't mind being surprised by enemy reveals that kill a bunch of soldiers. I enjoy the horror of first contact, and the pleasure of learning how to deal with them—besides, you're supposed to lose soldiers in XCOM. However I wish that the games were clearer about campaign-level mechanics, where ambiguity can waste a lot of time. 

Take the Avatar project. The game very strongly implies that XCOM is screwed if it maxes out, but I found myself wondering what would really happen, and I was unsure about how fast it would grow and how easily I could bring it back down. Likewise the necessity of satellites in Enemy Unknown came as a surprise to a lot of players. These uncertainties can lead to five-hour rollbacks on an opening campaign, or an outright restart.

A changing story

The worst thing about restarting an XCOM campaign is the static story. You can skip cutscenes and breeze through all of the exposition, but you are locked into a series of story missions linked by periods of compulsory research. I like XCOM's characters, world and art style, but I wish that there was a way for campaigns to branch or change to keep the surprises coming after several campaigns.

I think XCOM benefits a lot from the inclusion of a story, beyond the entertainment value of the Chosen's delightfully cheesy intro scenes. Story creates impetus, and on the strategy layer level XCOM is a game about racing the campaign's beats. I'd love an XCOM 3 campaign that allows those beats to change to keep me in a state of terror and despair for longer.

Better base building

The rooms look cool and I like being able to see XCOM members working away in the hive, but hollowing out the Avenger never really felt like I was building a base. The long excavation and build times made it feel as though the base was denying me cool stuff rather than unlocking it for me, and the layout never seemed to matter hugely, even with adjacency bonuses. The base functions felt as though they were spread out over too many rooms. Whatever shape an XCOM 3 base might take, I'd room placement to involve more interesting decisions with less waiting around.

Continued mod support

Another 'more of this please' entry. The Steam workshop has been great for XCOM 2 and The Long War campaign—a must play, comprehensive redesign of XCOM 2—adds dozens of hours of value to the game. There are loads of new enemies and weapons out there, but my favourite mods are the ones that make small UI tweaks to meet my preferences. Here's a selection of our favourite mods for War of the Chosen.

Malleable classes

Firaxis' XCOM tends to give you a choice of two upgrades when you level up. The left and right skill columns represent different builds of that class, which ultimately encourages you to come down one way or the other to hit the best synergies. 

War of the Chosen introduced training that let you unlock a few extra abilities in each class. The introduction of just these few extra options made the classes feel deeper and more flexible. I appreciate XCOM's determination to keep levelling simple, and to carefully define class roles to keep them distinct and interesting, but a degree of class cross-pollination could encourage more build-tinkering and squad experimentation. We'd want to see some new classes too, of course.

Factions, rivalries

War of the Chosen introduced several organisations that existed beyond the remit of XCOM. The resistance factions had their own tactics and fashion sense, and you had to work to earn their trust and get their cool toys. 

It worked great, and there are many ways to expand upon factions more broadly in a sequel. It's easy to imagine mercenary factions that could join the aliens or the humans, for a price. Firaxis experimented with EXALT in Enemy Within, so there's precedent for these shady, ambiguous factions.

I can't ignore how effective the Chosen were in War of the Chosen either. In fact, we reckon they are some of the best gaming villains out there. Having powerful villains that taunt you face-to-face creates great rivalries, and if a new XCOM didn't have a take on this, I think I would seriously miss it. Whether the game generates alien bounty hunters to hunt you down, or adopts a Shadow of Mordor style nemesis generator (a wronged Sectoid ties a bandana around its forehead comes back with a vengeance), I want strong antagonists whose defeat I can truly savour.

A new threat

XCOM's aliens are too familiar to be the sole focus of another game. The second game smartly revamped Sectoids and turned the skinny poisonous men in black into giant orange Cobras. Ultimately, though, Sectoids are going to mind control stuff and Muton's gonna Muton. For a third game I want to face enemies that feel alien again. I want the thrill of watching a unit's intro animation play in a battle and thinking 'what on planet Earth can that thing do?'

The return of shadowy "Hello, Commanderrr" guy

Other than the G-Man, is there a more ambiguous and intriguing figure in PC gaming than the mysterious silhouette guy who phones up to judge you once a month? I don't even know why he's in charge in XCOM 2, but I'll always pick up the big man's calls to hear him say "well done, commanderrrr", or "you suck, commanderrr". If there is to be an XCOM 3, he must reprise his role, and nobody tell him where the light switch is.

Hollow Knight

Evan: OK everyone, let's have a civil, sportsmanlike discussion about the PC games of 2017. All jabs at Mass Effect: Andromeda must be above the belt, and aimed directly at its poorly animated face.

James: Thankfully it's quite simple: it's Hollow Knight. It’s everything I love in games: challenge propped up by excellent controls and character abilities that make traversing the huge map a joy. The level design is so subtle that it doesn’t rely on collectibles to tell you where to go next. Every environment is dense and alive, as lively and foreboding as any real forest. And the story uses the form of a 2D side-scroller with utter grace, embedding tiny revelations in the gorgeous art and filling in details through small doses of ghostly dialogue. Seriously, if this game had the marketing reach of The Witcher 3 or Call of Duty, you’d all be in this tiny bug bed with me. Am I sweating?  

Jody: Bless you for suggesting an indie game right off the bat so I don't have to, James. But if Hollow Knight had more marketing reach I would just put off playing it for another year out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Hollow Knight's a good shout-out but I don't think it's going to be our GOTY.

We loved The Chosen, but can an expansion be GOTY?

Tim: Haha, it's definitely not Hollow Knight. Good try, though. I actually don't know if I'm allowed to pick an expansion, and I know PUBG is actually going to win, but for me it's XCOM 2's War of the Chosen expansion by the length of a comet's tail. It's not that I didn't love the game first time around, but the addition of these three gloriously annoying antagonists transports the experience to another level. Aside from the brilliance of sparring with them as the campaign unfurls, War of the Chosen also adds a raft of sweet new systems, characters and unique weapons. Sending two of your favourite soldiers out on a covert mission only for them to get ambushed makes for heart-stopping escape sequences, and the waves of Lost which assault you on some missions also create a zombie-style horde mode vibe that XCOM has never delivered before. 

Evan: I'm grappling with the same thing. Moments of War of the Chosen were some of the happiest I've been all year. The Chosen are exquisitely annoying villains that enhance every aspect of XCOM 2. We'll have to talk about how we judge expansions in the context of these awards.

Anyway, is it PUBG? We don't hand out GOTYs based on popularity. It's still in Early Access, and it has plenty of issues. Half a year in, I've stopped playing it. I find the art direction lifeless, and I think they'd have to perform a League of Legends-grade facelift for me to feel differently.

PUBG is fun whether you win or lose, but does its Early Access status disqualify it?

Chris: I'll climb out on that shaky limb and say an Early Access game like PUBG can be GOTY. I played DayZ standalone like crazy during its first year in EA, and at that point it was basically just the framework of a sandbox. But despite glitchy zombies, buggy ladders, and a spotty ballistics system, it spawned so many great stories and interesting experiences for me that it became my favorite game that year (and one of my favorites of all time). PUBG is drawing people into a genre many of them have never played before and it's resulting in lots of fun experiences and stories, too. For my money, that's what makes a game GOTY-worthy, even if it's unfinished.

Jarred: PUBG could've only happened on PC first. I know it's coming to consoles in the future, but most influential genre changes come from PC games. Anyway, I would vote for Star Citizen, just for Chris' stories on the subject, but that's for 2020.

James: PUBG is going to be one of the most influential games of the century, but is it actually the best game of the year? The physics are still in complete rebellion, performance is far from ideal, and in the end it’s still another game about people shooting each other. It’s a very good one and features 100 people, OK, but I’m not sure it’s the game I want to scream about from our collective mountaintop. Are we still drunk on Divinity: Original Sin 2? We’re big RPG people here, what with a nude RPG man as our unofficial mascot. 

Joe: Sort of echoing James, I’d say PUBG is my shout so far as influence and impact is concerned—but I think Divinity: Original Sin 2 deserves it, all told. Totally different games, but there’s just so much to D:OS 2, and everything it does it does so well. As Evan says, PUBG is still an Early Access game. I reckon there’s every chance it’ll top next year’s list, but I’m not so sure it deserves first place in 2017.

Jody: Games like D:OS 2 that come out later in the year and take like 60 hours to play are always going to suffer for it. I mean, my pick is Total War: Warhammer 2 but I know not everyone has time to play through even one campaign of that—let alone try out all four factions and, when the Mortal Empires update comes out, combine it with the first game to play again. That's a shame because everyone should have the chance to summon a swarm of angry rat dudes underneath a unit of archers or charge a dinosaur into some elves. 

Evan: [initiates Steam download]

The addition of the Skaven and other fun races helped make TW: Warhammer 2 one of the best games in the series.

Jody: Look, I think PUBG is going to top lists when it comes out of Early Access, and D:OS 2 and Warhammer 2 are probably going to make the lists of "Games of 2017 we didn't have time to play until 2018". Or in Warhammer 2's case, "Games that took all of 2018 to actually play."

Tyler: Wait, Original Sin 2 is supposed to take 60 hours? I've played 66 hours and I'm maybe halfway through. I've also put 32 hours into the Divinity Engine 2, learning how to make my own levels. They give you everything you need to mod the campaign or make your own, if you can bear the crashes. It's so good. It's my game of the year for sure. 

Jody: I looked it up on howlongtobeat.com and apparently a completionist playthrough averages 102 hours. Please talk me out of committing to that. Tell me some reasons I shouldn't spend more time in Original Sin 2 than Sunless Sea and Prey combined.

Tyler: I can't do that. I mean, it could probably be debugged forever, but most of Original Sin 2's problems stem from its commitment to freeform play. There are a lot of incongruities, like how my friends think necromancers are evil but never seem to mind when I raise a bloated corpse, but that's the price paid for how often it makes me say, "Wait, that worked?" Even if we don't all finish it, I hope everyone plays enough to have at least one or two experiences like that, where they accidently do a quest backwards and it all somehow works out amazingly.

Jody: Tyler, that is the opposite of what I asked for.

Tyler: Let me tell you about the time I got into a fight with a bunch of undead guys, and then realized a few turns in that I was carrying jars containing their souls in my backpack. I'd picked them up in a cave hours earlier and forgotten. So I defeated them by chucking their own souls at them. Perfect.

"A rousing tale of rebellion and exceptional boss fights aren t just exquisite by MMO standards, but rival even the most beloved Final Fantasy games," according to our review.

Steven: Listen, I would love nothing more than to take this moment to begin shouting madly about the virtues of Final Fantasy 14: Stormblood and how bonkers it is that an MMO expansion almost made me tear up at one point because the story is so emotionally captivating. But who are we kidding here? No one cares. And that’s fine, because Original Sin 2 is clearly our GOTY. The only way I’m changing my stance is if Jody agrees to go all in on Total War: Warhammer 2 with me (maybe after the mortal empires campaign is out?)

Wes: I'm still enamored with Divinity, but let's not forget about Nier: Automata, one of the most weird and creative games of the decade. Also, if Shaun was here, he'd remind us all that the Nazi sniping in the underappreciated Sniper Elite 4 is extremely good.

James: [Gives everyone voting for D:OS2 a wedgie] It’s Hollow Knight, nerds. But because your dragons and dungeons and wizards and whatever will always win, I’ll at least drop a few names before dipping out. What Remains of Edith Finch just about made me cry from chopping off fish heads. Cuphead looks incredible, but also contains some really intricate boss design and the best soundtrack of the year, easily. And Thimbleweed Park was one of the funniest games I played this year, and it’s a throwback point-and-clicker. I’m going to close by typing OIKOSPIEL in all caps here too, because it’s my actual GOTY. Describing it is futile. (Psst, dog opera.)

Between Rising Storm 2: Vietnam, PUBG, Quake Champions, LawBreakers, and meaningful updates to games like Overwatch, Day of Infamy, and others, it's been an amazing year for FPSes.

Tyler: Fine, I'll play Hollow Knight. But I'm not sure anything could pull my vote away from Original Sin 2 at this point. I did enjoy Absolver and Rising Storm 2 this year, but only enough to nominate them for awards in their genres. On that note, the shooter category is going to be a tough one. PUBG was already mentioned. I don't want to forget about Sniper Elite 4 from February—it was really good, though I don't think Evan believes me. I'm betting he'll pull for LawBreakers.

Steven: I’m sure that vote will be appreciated by the eight people still playing it.

Evan: PC gaming isn't a popularity contest, buddy. Anyway, I'd actually give my FPS vote to Quake Champions, even with its imperfect netcode. It's the second coming of the railgun and rocket launcher!

Tim: On the topic of second-comings, if you'd told me earlier this year I likely wouldn't be voting for Destiny 2 when GOTY rolls around I'd have assumed the explanation was that I had died. (RIP me.) But the truth is that although it offers a peerless alien-shooting experience, having sunk ~150 hours into the PS4 version I've been startled by how hollow the endgame feels. A huge part of that is due to the switch from random rolls on loot drops to static perks, which as I feared has all but completely sucked the grind for gear out of the game. It's far from the only issue too, and this video by Destiny YouTuber Datto sums up a lot of them neatly. I expect Bungie will gradually rectify the problems with patches and the December DLC, but it really is baffling how for every quality of life improvement the sequel makes, another system has been made demonstrably worse. Be warned I'll be writing quite a bit more about this towards the end of the month.

Destiny 2 will be best on PC, but will it have enough endgame to keep us playing?

James: I’ve already put about 100 hours into Destiny 2 on PS4 because I couldn’t wait two goddamn months, but I’m ready to put hundreds more in on the PC in a few weeks. It’s going to really land with PC players, I think. Finally, we get to complain about a thing we begrudgingly love on the best platform there is. 

Tyler: Aside from Destiny 2, there's a lot still to come this year. Looking forward to anything?

Tim: Tom's piece on how the new Assassin's Creed is now a bona fide RPG has me interested in that series for the first time since Black Flag, particularly as Origins is being developed by the same team. Plus I'm a sucker for the Anubis-flavored setting, as Evan can confirm. 

Evan: Who doesn't love Anubis, wolf god of the afterlife? Anyway, speaking of canines, I think Wolfenstein 2 is probably going to be great, given that BJ will have Inspector Gadget-style extendable stilt-legs. And though we've played a bit of the multiplayer beta, Battlefront 2's Empire-focused campaign could be special.

James: Well, I’m glad we decided Hollow Knight is the winner so far. Great work, everyone. Until next year! 

Despite James' manipulative last-word, this is only the beginning of our GOTY discussions.

XCOM® 2 - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

We already knew that Pavonis Interactive, the team behind the RPS-approved, game-changing Long War mods for XCOM and XCOM 2, were working on a complete new game of their own, but seeing as Long War 2 has been in the wild for a while now, I thought I’d catch up with ’em about Terra Invicta. This takes the essential XCOM concept – humans fending off an alien invasion – then expands it to a grand strategy scale.

“It’s a little like what you might imagine the XCOM spokesman’s job to be,” Pavonis head John Lumpkin tells me, “trying to unify Earth’s nations against an alien threat.” And then> it moves to cover the entire solar system.

Long War? More like longest war. (more…)

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (John Walker)

This week we finally learn who the killer is, but will the answer provide more questions than solutions? Read on for this week’s hair-raising installment of… The Steam Charts. (more…)

XCOM® 2

If you’d asked any of us if XCOM 2 would be better with mustache-twirling villains when it came out, we’d likely call the strategy game police. As goofy as XCOM’s Advent enemies are—a motley crew of little green men, snake people with boobs, and shape-shifting slime monsters—we’d cry out, ‘Strategy games are driven by cold, hard logic, not emotion!’ And yet, here we are, all angry at our own purple bad guys. Now we can blame our losses on the Chosen, three characters introduced in the recent War of the Chosen expansion that have hijacked XCOM 2 completely. They’re the best thing to happen to the series since its reintroduction, and some of the greatest videogame villains since Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system. We had to talk about them. 

Tim Clark: I've honestly been blown away by the Chosen. Literally, on many missions, but figuratively by how fun they are to fight. Prior to jumping into the expansion, I had vague concerns that being menaced on already stressful missions by super aliens would be like getting sand in your spacesuit. But although the Chosen are irritants by design, there's such a thrilling build-and-release of tension to beating them that I actually looked forward to the encounters. Like all the best pantomime villains, the Chosen are chatty sallys—yammering on during missions, and even spilling over into the menus, telling you how much you suck and how you're doomed to failure. 

And it's far from just talk. XCOM has always traded on the attachments you build with your favourite squad members, so the fact they can now be kidnapped during missions—and potentially rescued later—is a brilliant addition. I swiftly developed such a delicious mutual dislike for the Chosen, and burning desire to mount their heads in my trophy room (another brilliant addition), that even early on I was happy to call them the best bad guys since Shadow of War's Nemesis-enabled Warchiefs.

Evan Lahti: Their best feature is that they don't shut up. The Chosen finally give XCOM's bad guys a voice, an identity. The Advent are squawking clones; The Chosen have personalities. They harass you. They rub salt in the wound when you lose a soldier on a mission. When you steal one of their weapons, they have something to say about it. Their lines are often cheesy arrogance, but I love the way they perpetually interrupt your world-saving.

James Davenport: It’s funny, because I think in any other medium I’d be annoyed by how overtly Bad™ these villains are. They’re remorseless, cruel purple bullies and the planet is the schoolyard. Rarely do they say anything that gives them some kind of redeeming quality (that said, I haven’t finished the campaign), but I don’t care. Finally, I have some faces to attach my certain and plentiful losses to besides my own. The Chosen appear and mess my life up with such frequency that everything is their fault, surely. Right?

Tom Senior: Top tier enemies and heroes in XCOM 2 are so powerful they feel as though they are breaking the game—the Alien Hunters bosses can move every time one of your squadmates move, for example. The Chosen bring that illicit tomfoolery into the game at the very beginning, and keep raising the stakes throughout the campaign. 

Their best feature is that they don't shut up.

Evan

They also hit you where it hurts, not by blowing up the Avenger (though that is on their to-do list), but by kidnapping your soldiers, which is somehow worse. XCOM 2 does a great job of making you care about your troops, and just when you’ve forged that attachment, the Chosen teleport in and steal your precious heroes away.

The Chosen also show how flexible XCOM’s combat spaces can be. When you fight the assassin, there is no point in taking cover because she always strikes with her sword. That encourages you to form a close formation so your soldiers have each other’s backs. You get the fantasy of a bunch of soldiers standing back-to-back to face down an invisible foe. 

Their power is perfectly tuned as well. They are difficult and cause problems, but you still regularly take small victories off them. One of the best moments of my campaign involved one-shotting the assassin with a reaper, who targeted a nearby piece of explosive scenery. For a Chosen that’s weak against reaper attacks and explosions, this meant game over and a swift retreat to her sarcophagus. 

As always, the strategy layer is a race against time, but now three purple people harass you throughout.

Bo Moore: The thing I love most about the Chosen is that they reliably translate the mechanics and combat of XCOM into an interesting boss fight. Too often, games with great regular-mission combat totally fail to produce interesting boss encounters (many immersive sims like Deus Ex and BioShock have this issue). XCOM had this issue too, as most of the "boss fights" you come across are just giant enemies like Sectopods—essentially giant bullet sponges with devastating attacks. Sure, they're difficult encounters, but they don't really feel like XCOM. Meanwhile, the Chosen move around strategically, take cover and flank you, and strike when you're most vulnerable. They're exciting enemies that I genuinely fear coming across—and absolutely love killing. 

James Davenport: That’s part of a bigger reason they’re so fearsome to me. Besides feeling as capable as me, the Chosen give the impression of someone else playing the game against you. And I’m not just talking about combat encounters. While the days fly by in the strategic map as I research new technologies, so too are the Chosen researching their own ways to weaken my forces. The race to prevent the completion of the Avatar Project used to feel like a race against time, but now it’s a tug of war over efficiency with three gruesome jerks. 

Evan Lahti: Three tall gruesome jerks. They're very tall, James.

Tim Clark: Lean in and let me tell you about my first kill. It was the Assassin, who'd previously kidnapped Alison Brie and Shailene Woodley, and had been indirectly responsible for the death of Clive Owen. (All my soldiers are named after actors and actresses.) This was a substantial score to settle. After meticulously picking my way through all the surrounding rooms—draw your own conclusions about how often I was saving—we finally found the sarcophagus chamber. 

The battle went better than hoped, thanks to the double Reaper team comp I'd picked, and grenadier Maggie Qs disgusting damage output. But by the time the Assassin did its cheeky Jason from Friday the 13th respawn, a lot of my heavily armed thespians were badly hurt. Step up the hero of the hour, Jean Reno, a specialist who'd become renowned for missing every single clutch shot, but still made the cut on big missions because he'd rolled a bunch of good bonus abilities, including automatically going into overwatch even after dashing. Up he pops and: BLAMMO! A gigantic crit, the first I can recall him landing before or since, cleans the Assassin out in one shot. You better believe Jean got a poster that day. Bien joué, you sexy French bastard.

James Davenport: I skulljacked a Codex before my big fight. That was a bad idea. No one got a poster that day.  

Tim Clark: Oh, and one more thing on the Assassin kill. How good are their unique weapons you then get to research? Hugh Jackman is now running her shotgun and katana plus a Wraith suit and absolutely wrecking shop with it. I love that Firaxis give you what's effectively a substantial loot payout for pulling off the big kill. The glow of victory should be satisfaction enough, but truthfully I'm all about sweet new guns.

Bo Moore: Oh hell yeah, the rewards are so rewarding. I slapped the Assassin's Katana on one of my star Rangers, modeled after FFXIII's Lightning. Another of my Rangers, LCD Soundsystem drummer Pat Mahoney, was stuck out of position on a VIP extraction when a group of ADVENT Mec troopers ambushed my team. He was pretty much boned, especially since I was out of grenades and all my shredders were out of moves. 

All I had left was Lightning and her bondmate, but they were both out of range from impacting the fight enough to save poor Patrick. Luckily, Lightning's bondmate was able to lend her an action, which combined with Run and Gun gave her enough legs to get in range of the ADVENT squad and do some damage. She queued up her Reaper ability, which refunds actions if you score a melee kill, and went to work. The Assassin's Katana ignores armor, letting her slice through all three heavily-armored ADVENT Mecs in three fell swoops. Mahoney lives to drum another day. 

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

It hasn't taken long for modders to start tweaking XCOM 2 mods to work with War of the Chosen. You can find all them using the War of the Chosen tag on the Steam workshop. To install, make sure you are logged in with your Steam account and then click the 'subscribe' button on the mod page of your choice. When you start the Steam client mods you've subscribed to will automatically download. When you start XCOM 2: War of the Chosen you can then turn individual mods on and off using the mod checklist. 

Always check the workshop descriptions for details on bugfixes and additional mods you might need to keep things working smoothly, and bear in mind that turning mods on and off in the middle of a playthrough can cause problems with the save, as you might expect. Without further ado, here are my favourites mods so far, featuring a mix of quality of life changes, AI overhauls, and cool character and gear mods.

Stop Wasting my Time

One of the very best XCOM mods returns for War of the Chosen. Stop Wasting my Time gets rid of all the little pauses you'll see in battles after soldiers shoot, throw grenades, get a kill, hit cover and so on. Unskippable Bradford VO has been snipped. The mod also speeds up the Avenger on the strategy map, increases the speed of your Gremlin drones by 150%, and even makes colours on the colour picker appear faster. The mod doesn't affect game balance in any way, it just speeds everything up by cutting sluggish movement throughout the game.

For even more time-saving measures, consider installing Instant Avenger Menus, which removes the dissolving holo globe animation during transitions from the Avenger to the world map, reduces pauses during Avatar updates, and instantly snaps between rooms in the Avenger so you can get to building upgrades and equipment quickly.

Resistance Firearms

I love XCOM's big chunky futuristic weaponry, but if you prefer a more realistic suite of firearms, this adds a collection of 60 weapons with custom animation and sound effects. To apply the mod you need to download the main module, the assets, and the Missing Packages Fix + Resource update.

XCOM EU/EW Helmets and Armour

Remember the top-tier of armour in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. You don't get back-of-the-neck humpback protection like that these days, unless you install XCOM Helmets and Armour series of course. It adds each armour tier from Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within in three separate mods: tier one, tier two and tier three. You'll need the Empty WOTC Deco Slots update to see the armour pieces properly.

A Better AI

Whether you think this suite of AI changes is 'better' depends on the XCOM experience you want. A Better AI removes the safety catches that stop an entire map of enemies wandering into a battle at the same time. If you enjoy that level of challenge, you may also enjoy the other changes, which stops enemies from roaming about if they're safer where they are (that means fewer overwatches for your soldiers). Enemies will also shoot at panicked soldiers and get more creative when trying to get out of positions where they're flanked. One for XCOM experts.

Gotcha Again

Perfect Information for XCOM 2 hasn't been updated for the expansion yet, but if you're looking for a UI update that gives you more information about the battlefield then Gotcha Again is a good stand-in. War of the Chosen now lets you see when your soldier will be in a flanking position when you press Alt, but Gotcha Again gives you more info about which enemies exactly will be in sight range before you make a move. The mod also adds indicators that let you know when you're about to move through an enemy's overwatch. Plus if you have revealed an enemy but not caught their attention yet, Gotcha will show you if a move you're making will alert them.

Even More Backstories

Even More Backstories introduces 77 backstories to fill out the biographies of new recruits. The pack includes 18 reaper backstories, 11 Skirmisher ones, 14 Templar, and 15 engineeer and scientist stories. It's a small aspect of the game to update, but it adds more flavour and personality to the rookies you're sending into danger every mission.

Flawless

It feels good to complete a mission with no losses having killed every alien in the vicinity, but wouldn't it feel even better if you got a prize as well? Flawless rewards flawless victories with items and resources to let you get more out of your greatest victories. The rewards aren't extreme so there's little chance it will unbalance the game, it's just a nice way for the game to tell you you're awesome.

Camera rotation config

Another simple, useful update. Camera Rotation Config sets the default camera rotation to jump in 30 degree increments rather than 90. It's not quite free rotation, but it still provides the extra control that many players expect. The modder says that the rotation can occasionally align slightly out of sync with the grid, but you'll find instructions for correcting that in the mod description if that starts happening to you.

Wrex, Grunt, Liara and Mordin

Recruit your favourite alien Mass Effect companions to defend the earth as members of your XCOM team. The XCOM 2 mods for Wrex, Grunt, Liara and Mordin have all been updated for use in War of the Chosen. Give Wrex a shotgun and a sword and see how he takes to being threatened by the Chosen.

The modder recommends a couple of additional mods to help you get the most out of the character mods. Be sure to grab Empty Deco Slots and Invisible Parts for Hero Units. These let you set certain clothing slots as empty or invisible to let the custom armour pieces appear.

That's a few to be getting on with, but more will appear as modders update their XCOM 2 projects and start whole new ones especially for WotC (brand new Chosen, anyone?). If you're really enjoying a War of the Chosen mod, feel free to share it with everyone in the comments.

XCOM® 2

The [WotC] Overwatch Mercy Squadmate cosmetic mod adds a very convincing Mercy facsimile to XCOM 2: War of the Chosen with custom colours and wing variants. In the name of authenticity, "this mod adds Switzerland; Mercy's country of origin."

Check the description section of the Steam Workshop page linked above for a choice of downloads and some recommended mods that help Mercy to work smoothly. Missing Packages Fix + Resource sounds like an essential one, while the Mercy Voice Pack ought to be a fun addition.

It's a purely cosmetic mod, so don't expect the mod to add any of Mercy's abilities into the game. It looks good though. Check out a few of the colour variants below.

XCOM® 2 - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

xcom-war-of-the-chosen-mods

Now that the new, humungous XCOM 2 expansion pack has had a couple of weeks to bed in, the game’s mod community has been steadily fixing up their tweaks to work with War of the Chosen [official site]. Over time, there’ll be more Steam Workshop offerings which take specific advantage of the onslaught of changes WOTC introduces, but right now what I’m interested in is assorted quality of life improvements that remove pointless dead time from the game, offer more tactical detail and generally make the whole shebang slicker and quicker to use.

These, then, are the XCOM 2 War Of The Chosen mods that I just don’t think I could do without. (Well, I could, but I’d be complaining the whole damn time).

(more…)

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (John Walker)

Come one, come all, but not all at once or you’ll break our caching, and see the Steam Charts in all their glory! Which game will have reached the coveted #2 position this week?! (more…)

XCOM® 2 - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

xcom-2-base-mode

Though it suffers from having as many different tones as the last thirty years of Dulux catalogues sellotaped together, I found in my XCOM 2: War Of The Chosen review that the latest expansion for Firaxis’ game is an extremely effective remix of, basically, everything. But there’s one very small change in WOTC that I didn’t mention – a tiny thing with massive, massive repercussions for XCOM 2: War of the Chosen [official site]’s replayability.

(more…)

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