We gotta save the world from an alien menace – again?
There can be no denying that XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of the standout games from 2012. Creating a strategic game that works well on the home consoles is one thing, but providing an experience that was both deep and satisfying, and almost as good as the PC version, is quite another. XCOM: Enemy Unknown managed to swallow up huge amounts of my time as I commanded my squad on the battlefield and managed an ever growing base of operations.
And now Firaxis expect me to do this all again with their new expansion XCOM: Enemy Within. It is hard to imagine what could be added to improve on the game, and worrying that whatever is added could disrupt the delicate balance that made the game hard but fair.
XCOM: Enemy Within brings with it a healthy number of additional features, all of which add new possibilities for the player, and new obstacles to overcome. However, and this is perhaps most important, the core game has not really changed. The balance is maintained, as the new additions which may make the player more powerful and the game easier have been countered with additional threats. XCOM: Enemy Within is still a very difficult game, but one that will still satisfy. And you will still cry when you lose your most advanced squad member through a stupid mistake.
Working in the players’ favor are loads of new toys to give your squad an advantage on the battlefield, and paying for these new toys will require a new resource to the game – Meld. This new resource can be found and collected from the battlefield, but the kicker is that it only remains available for a limited amount of turns. As you can imagine, this leads to perhaps taking more risks than are advisable, and can be decidedly vexing for the more cautious player. Players will find themselves moving quicker and deeper into unknown territory in order to retrieve this much needed resource, frequently alerting multiple enemies and finding themselves in sticky situations. The game now pushes even harder for players to put their favorite soldiers in harms way, and results in some deliciously tense decisions.
However, reaping the rewards of collecting Meld is certainly worth any moral quandary that the player may experience as they send their troops into dangerous and often unknown situations. The new resource gives access to some wonderfully effective Biotic mods for your team. The mods can be equipped to provide all manner of battlefield aiding skills, such as additional defense against the dreaded mind control, being able to sense hidden enemies, or even a cloaking ability which makes flanking far easier. These mods offer players more choices in battle, and will give way to new strategies.
But the most new addition for the player will surely be the new MEC class. Oh yeah, we are talking about massive, heavily armoured suits that carry enough firepower to make any alien autopsy tricky. These guys will quickly become a favorite on the battlefield, and upgrading them makes them just as important as the rest of the team, if slightly more effective. If you are heading into battle against aliens, then you will want at least one of these guys covering your back.
But it is not just the aliens that offer a threat this time around. As is always the case, some human group has been formed who have decided that the alien way of life, y’know, with all of that death and destruction, is far superior. The group is called Exalt and they carry with them similar technology to the human forces, offering some exciting battles of a very different flavour. They even have their own little storyline expanding the experience.
But don’t be thinking that the alien menace will just be your whipping boys now that you have a new enemy and loads of shiny new tech to play with. It seems that they have received an upgrade from the mothership, or wherever, as well. Seekers will make life difficult for any player who leaves a soldier behind on overwatch as they move around unseen, only to appear by a soldier and start strangling them, at least until help arrives. And of course the aliens have to have their own version of MECs as well. The Mechtoids are also heavily armoured, well armed and thoroughly devastating on the battlefield, and will undoubtedly add names to the memorial until the player works out some new strategies.
Despite all of these new additions, the game hasn’t changed. If you are one of the very few players who couldn’t get on with XCOM: Enemy Unknown when it launched last year, then Enemy Within will not change that. But for many players this expansion will just feel like a natural extension to the main game.
While XCOM: Enemy Within may not change anything on a dramatic level, it adds more choice to the game. With more choices comes new strategies and variety that will keep the player coming back yet again. If you enjoyed XCOM: Enemy Unknown, then you owe it to yourself to pick up Enemy Within. It is more of the same, which is no bad thing.